How much is me and how much is you?
I was miserable the other day. I didn’t feel like being bothered with anyone and so I shut myself off from the world. I sat with my pain. Bathed in it. Wallowed in it. Ignored it when I didn’t want to stare it in the face. But it circulated above my bed as I lay in my room. Followed me into the kitchen. The shower. On my afternoon walks. It waited for me when I woke up in the morning. The fact is, hard times don’t always manifest themselves as financial problems or job losses or broken relationships. They appear to stem from outward sources but they sometimes are inner struggles. They are the lies your fears tell you about your level of ability or qualifications or even your physical beauty. I listened to my pain this time and it was dark. And intense. And at times, incredibly overwhelming. But I survived because something whispered to me “even in the midst of all that collapses around you, weighs your soul down, and lies in your ear…you have not stopped.” Whatever ails you will not last. Low points will occur. They are just part of your timeline. You’re enough to weather the storm. You’re enough to suffer through all of that and make it through to the other side. Just don’t ever give up.
I smile to myself periodically throughout the day. I catch myself in the act and think of a quote attributed to Julia Roberts: “You know it’s love when all you want is for that person to be happy, even if you’re not a part of that happiness.” Love isn’t about ownership or possession. I read that and it was at the heart of absolutely everything I am feeling right now. And it’s given me wings.
I want to live in a tiny house. All I keep hearing from people is “you’re going to have to get rid of a lot of stuff.” Well…yeah. If you don’t require much space, you don’t need many things. Imagine having an enormous house and not enough things to fill it. It would seem silly to have and you’d realize rather quickly that you don’t need it or you’d rush out to buy more and more things. Now imagine having a tiny house and too much stuff. You don’t need more space, you’d just need less stuff. At least I do anyway. In my soul, I need more space and less stuff. So shouldn’t my living situation reflect the freedom I desire? A house with too few things never stops searching for ways to fill it and a house with too many things can never move an inch forward because of the things holding it back. Don’t hold on to stuff or spend your life trying to acquire more stuff: learn to discard what you don’t need.
I was always my mother’s child. Still am. Allow me to elaborate. My mother was and still is one of the most militant black women on the planet. She taught us that our activism was to be achieved through knowledge. So we, my siblings and I, have always been very conscious people. And while I grew up in a much more integrated society than they did (they are slightly older), I was still aware of the disparities that have existed. My mother’s greatest gift to us, was teaching us that our brains work, and no amount of scientific studies or media coverage was going to convince us that we were inferior. And we never believed it. And people who wanted us to believe knew we didn’t believe it and hated us for it. The best way to convince someone of their inferiority is to pretend that you don’t see them. My city is trending upward right now. And whenever I walk into a new business or restaurant or gentrified part of town, I feel it. I can see it on people’s faces and in their behavior. I ignore the outright animosity, but what I can’t ignore is the subtle bias. The prejudice that creeps in on the faces of people who do not even acknowledge my presence. That more than anything says that “you don’t belong here.” That more than anything tries its honest best to render me less than human. It tries to suppress me into oblivion. I didn’t notice it before because I was never taught to believe that I was lower than anybody. I was taught that, yes I am black, but that I am also human. In a country where race matters too damn much, I’ve always been oblivious to the fact that people deny me access to “open” places by refusing to acknowledge my presence or my existence. Now I know why people protest. Why they march. And why they scream loudly into the deafening silence of complete and total ambivalence. If you want to be thought human, as someone who cares about others regardless of their race then don’t pretend that they are not there and that they do not suffer. It is the worst offense to be oblivious to another human being, whether she’s marching down the highway or whether she just wants a cup of coffee from a cafe in a trendy new neighborhood.
I left for the bookstore this afternoon because I needed to get out of the house and I was hungry. I thought I’d look for something to read or see what was new and then grab a bite on my way home. Thirty minutes in the bookstore and I wasn’t hungry anymore. I wonder what that says about the type of nourishment I needed.
Another unarmed black man was killed by the police and today it’s all over the news. People are splattering blue lives matter hashtags to cover the black lives matter protestors and I am so angry. When I saw this I fell into an ocean of despair, powerless to fight against the waves of helplessness. Seriously, I am drowning. Drowning in the taunts that “we are all human” when lives that matter less are lost. Lives that matter more are mourned while ours are excused. Rationalized. Buried atop the bones, and sweat, and blood, and tears of the ones that drowned, were enslaved, were beaten, were lynched. Here we sit with all manner of resources at our disposal and the most effective weapon is not the guns being used to kill us or even the legal system that protects the murderers… but the self-righteous indifference of those who spout most loudly “all lives matter.” No, they don’t. Some lives matter more. And it is those lives who are given the benefit of the doubt when our lives are worth little more than the notion that even in the absence of any culpability or guilt, still deserved to die.