Just because someone isn’t doing what you think they should be doing, doesn’t mean they’re not doing anything.
Imagine going to a therapist who works out of her home. She tells you to use the side entrance, through the gate. But the gate is locked, so you go to the front door and knock.
The therapist, who specializes in trauma, whips open the door and screams in your face “GET AWAY FROM MY HOUSE! WHAT ARE YOU DOING IN MY YARD?”
If you’re seeking a therapist with a specialty in trauma counseling, it’s because you’ve experienced trauma.
How do you react?
Maybe part of that trauma is that you’ve been ignored your whole life, described as a criminal, pulled over and searched for no particular reason. When you walk by, people pull their purses a little closer. People say things to you that seem aggressive, yet they smile while they do it.
If you haven’t experienced these traumas, then perhaps you react. Ask the woman what her problem is? Ask her if she speaks to all her patients like this? Maybe you curse her out. And I’m definitely guessing, you don’t go in and pay her exorbitant fees.
But if you have experienced microaggressions and this is maybe just the third one that day, and it’s still early, you go in.
It’s not one black man who was brutalized by cops that hurts and angers large sections of our population. It’s the thousand little microaggressions that happen on a daily basis and it’s repeated brutality by those who should be setting an example in our society which makes it seem okay to other parts of our population. Further, it is those in charge who seem to shrug and say, oops, as if a cop didn’t just kill someone by kneeling on his neck for 8 minutes, but rather ran a stop sign or some other insignificant infraction.
Claudia Rankine describes hundreds of microaggressions perpetrated by colleagues, “friends,” strangers, and society. Citizen: An American Lyric is a book of poetry. I saw it enacted as a play at the Kirk Douglas Theater in Los Angeles some time ago – and it made and left an impression.
I’ve used it in nearly every literature class since. It is a work of art.
Articles, excerpts, and videos:
An Excerpt from the book Poets.Org
Stop and Frisk – video
I was going to say I’ve been largely silent in the last weeks, a post here and there, but I don’t want my lack of posting to be confused with silence about what is happening in the world these days.
I am left speechless at the horror of this year, of this last month, of these last days. But not silent. Not neutral.
To compound the coronavirus horrors, my only refuge – as with all of you – my house was invaded, my dog got skunked and brought the smell into the house.
Stay with me here…. this grows.
If you are unfamiliar with the smell save for passing a kill on a country road, the smell leaches into everything in a matter of moments. It’s not a matter of opening the windows to release the odor. The smell is thick, it has claws. It sticks around. Even with fans going, windows open, it lingers in corners.
The spray is an oil type substance that is embedded into my dog’s fur. The skunking is meant to do harm; therefore, it causes burning of the eyes, rash on the skin, nausea. And it is not easily scrubbed out.
I don’t only mean the dog. I was sick for days.
Now, let’s add to that a passing of a friend.
Layer that with the death of George Floyd. This hurts me because it hurts my friends, my students, my family. The brutality Floyd experienced is the brutality people of color experience EVERY DAY!
Top it with the protests, which would have been peaceful except for the agitators who want to use the protests as a front, to cause problems, and commit crimes.
So add looting and violence, the armed national guards, police, and curfews.
Do not take my silence as a neutral position. I am horrified.
Racism is that skunking. It is meant to do harm. It is an odor not released by opening a window. Racism is a stink that has claws, it has bite. It is a sickening, stinging, lingering presence. And it needs to be scrubbed out of the system entirely.
And the scrubbing needs to begin at the top.
I am an educator. I teach. One of the classes I have taught is The History of African American Literature. For the next few weeks, my posts will center around what I have learned and what I teach my students about communication, history, and growth.
Sending loving and healing thoughts to all.
I read an article which stated, there’s no need to feel you have to be productive at this time.
WHAT? Then wtf are we going to do?
I heartily disagree. I think during this time we need to set goals. We need to focus on something to keep us sane!
When this is over, I want to have something to show for it.
When this is over, in another month? another two months? giving us a total of 3 months or more alone in our homes, do we walk out with nothing to show but our muffin tops the size of three tiered wedding cakes?
I’m not telling you not to feel stress. I’m not telling you not to stress eat. I am saying – set a goal and focus on something positive while we’re doing the best we can to survive the pandemic.
This is hard. I get it. We’re scared. If you want to stuff your face full of maple bacon donuts, I’m totally with you. If you have a bad day and want to curl yourself into a ball under your flannel sheets and cuddle your cat – that was my Saturday. I’m not superwoman. I’m not asking you to do anything I’m not doing myself.
When someone asks me, what did you do during the pandemic? I want to say I accomplished something.
I’m setting goals.
I’m in the process of another draft – hopefully the final – of my novel. I want to finish that.
I have two fully drafted novellas that need work – those are next.
I signed up to take two classes. I may take more.
I painted my patio. No shit. It’s nearly finished.
I’m going to have a hell of a lot of rooted clippings – plant speak.
My yard will look amazing – well, for a week or so after the pandemic ends, then the weeds will be back.
I’ve written two new poems. I think I’ll start reading poetry live.
I have a live online reading scheduled for April 24th, if you’re interested.
If you’ve gotten this far, I’m planning on offering a free writing class to whoever wants to share some writing. I may recruit other writers to offer their opinions. I think we should workshop too.
So – speaking from the future – what did you do during the pandemic?
KUDOS and LOVE
to those who are serving,
police, fire, grocery clerks, doctors, nurses, volunteers.
You are my HEROES!
A number of people have mentioned the book Love in the time of Cholera to me lately. Ron Terranova, fellow writer and Poe lover, reminded me Shakespeare had a very fertile writing period during The Black Plague.
My writer and critique friend, Jo Rousseau, said she’s keeping a journal and thought many people should. It would be interesting, she said, to see the pandemic from different points of view.
There are people who are having trouble focusing on writing. I have to admit, I was one of them.
While others are saying they’ve never gotten more done. Perhaps they are in the minority? Or maybe they write well under pressure?
Just the day before Jo mentioned the journal, I started keeping my own. I’ve been plagued by disturbing dreams.
Our lives are changing, but not forever. We will come out of this, we will get through this, and I, personally, want to have something to show for it.
I started listing the things I’m accomplishing every day. I’ve added some other things, pandemic jokes and memes. Someone else is writing down the use of language, such as “social distancing”, and how those words are changing and shaping our understanding of society. It’ll be interesting how this comes to use after the pandemic.
Beyond all the free things being offered to keep us safe and sane, free yoga classes, free workouts, free virtual tours of national parks and art museums, there are a number of other things to keep us busy.
It’ll help us all to accept that, for a little while, we need to stay home and find alternative ways to sail through our days.
I urge all writers to keep a journal. Not to focus on writing to publish, but a personal historical account for your children, your grandchildren, or for the future. How will this time be remembered? Consider how we think of the Plague and The Flu Epidemic of 1918. What do you know about it? Do you know any people, any stories, any personal or family accounts of the day to day life? Encourage your children to keep journals too – in the future, compare them.
Journaling has helped me get back to writing.
Stay well. Stay healthy. Be safe.
Much love and appreciation.
I know some people are really nice, like super-duper, sticky sweet nice. And I like these people. I used to be one of them.
I used to bend over backwards to accommodate friends and lovers. I would go out of my way for an acquaintance or a stranger.
But you know what happens – People like to take advantage. How people stay so nice, I’m not sure. For me, I needed boundaries.
Therefore, I won’t be winning any popularity contests.
I am a nice person. I do go out of my way for people. But I also have incorporated boundaries. I no longer overdo and run myself ragged, and I don’t contort unless I’m in yoga class.
The thing is though – I didn’t win any contests being sticky sweet. Sometimes people took advantage, sometimes people didn’t trust me, and sometimes people mistook my niceness (although that still occasionally happens).
When a person makes a change to incorporating boundaries, people react. I remember one particular person got angry, another tried to manipulate me. Some people, unable to push beyond those boundaries, left.
I’m good with that. I’m good with not winning any contests. I’m really happy to have found a good balance.
Because a person changes and grows, the people around them have to change their perception and the way they interact. It makes some friends and family uncomfortable and might cause them to question their own behaviors and attitudes. In this insta-world, it’s easier to walk away. It’s probably for the best.
I realize I am fortunate, but not for reasons some may think.
Some people think I’m wealthy. 😂😂 Did they miss the whole teacher thing? However, I acknowledge many people have it more challenging.
But it’s not wealth, material things, or luck that makes me fortunate. Some people have those things and are unhappy.
I have some family, a few friends, a job I love, and those make life feel easier. However, like everyone I have my issues. Sometimes it feels as if I’ve had more than my share, but maybe we all feel like that at times.
Unexpected bills come up, broken this or that, car repairs. I’ve lost a few friends, been ripped off, scammed, and menaced.
I go to bed every night looking forward to the first hints of sunrise sneaking through my blinds, the whistle of the tea pot (seriously, my coffee/tea pot broke – I’m brewing it old school), that first sip of hot tea in the chill of the morning, then the launch into the day – whatever that may bring.
Outside my window, the birds sing in the trees, the sky is usually blue, I’m healthy.
Gosh – that last one – health: we don’t think about that until we’re not! We don’t think about how easily and naturally our bodies flow until there’s an injury, a stoppage, a pain.
We need to acknowledge the good things in our lives, no matter how small.
The bad things seem to outweigh the good only if we focus on them. Focus on the good things, every tiny, little, great thing that makes our lives beautiful.
In being more authentic, I want to be more open with readers. This story is something I’ve been working on – off and on – for years.
At first, the event was difficult to write about. It’s easier now. After all these years. Sometimes you need years to find the balance between tone, authenticity, and creativity. When you’re under pressure and in a bad situation, a lot of things happen in your mind and your body.
Here’s an excerpt:
In the bathroom mirror, my eyes are raccooned; make-up smeared from tears. My once pretty pink slip dress is wrinkled and smudged.
This doesn’t happen to girls like me. I did everything right. I was careful. Just hours ago I was out with friends; how many hours ago? It’s easy to lose track of time in Vegas. It’s built into the plan. Into his plan.
“Don’t try nothing’.” His voice is on the other side of the door; his thick hand, I sense, on the door knob. The house is empty except for us. I don’t know where everyone else went. But, suddenly, we were alone and his long hair hung in my face as he leaned in and whispered, “lots of people pay lots of money for young girls like you in Vegas.”
Reason and tears are wasted on psychopaths. There’s he and I, and only a hollow door between us.
“Ju…” The word sticks in a sob deep in my throat. I move closer to the door and put my fingers on the lock, turn it as I try again, “just washing my face.” I step back and flip the lever; the water rushes into the shell shaped porcelain filling the silence. I take the dampened towel and rub it around my eyes, lose some of the dark circles as I glance around.
Light pushes through the shower door and I slide it open slowly, quietly. There’s a small square window higher up, but I can reach if I stand on the edge of the tub. I don’t pause to remind myself I’m on the second floor of a two story house; all I can think is escape. My throat tightens, breath narrows.
“You’re stalling,” he growls.
My tears have dried, my adrenaline is pumping, and I can hear my heartbeat bounce off the porcelain. “I have to use the bathroom.” I toss the towel next to the door, push the window open and pull myself up.
It’s a work in progress – still a draft.