Saturday, January 17, 2015

Grumps

My memories of my Grumps are often hazy. I have lived away from him for along time, and now he is gone. When I search the recesses of my mind, I don't remember him as a chatty man but then if I push I remember his words and his deep voice thick with that Maine accent. Because of time, it was all too easy to remember not being close to him but with the memories of his voice came the memories of doing things with him. Riding beside him in a green truck with a big white stripe to visit his mother, my great grandmother Sarah. Sometimes he'd stop at one of those general stores that only exist now to lure tourists in and buy me penny candy. I remember sitting on his lap while he sat at the kitchen table. I used to help him do chores from cleaning out his work truck to helping around the yard. I can still remember how his Lucas truck always smelled like oil. I remember that he used to give up his space in the bed so that I could sleep with my Grams when I spent the might. Or how he would carry me inside after a long car trip, and I'd pretend to sleep. I remember that he always smelled like Old Spice, and that when I was old enough to buy Christmas gifts, I would always get him Old Spice gift sets. He always acted thrilled.

But the story I like the most about my grandfather is the only I can't remember. I only know the story because he loved to tell it. My earliest memory of the story starts with me leaning against my grump's leg, and saying "Tell me about the bathroom when I was a baby!" And he looked down with a grin.

"One night I woke up," he began, "Because I could hear you crying."

"I cried a lot right?" I interupted.

"Oh yeah," he chuckled. "You cried all the time except when Ginny was holding you."

And I'd turn to smile at my grandmother. 

"Well that night you were crying, and you just wouldn't stop so I got up to see what was going on. I walked down the hall and the crying got louder. I thought "why is the baby in the bathroom? I opened the door, and there you crying your head off in the tub!"

"The tub was full of clothes right?" I asked.

"Yup, and you were right there in the middle with your face all red and you were mad."

"What did you do Grumps?" I asked

"I picked you up and brought you to bed with Ginny and me." 




Monday, January 12, 2015

January Is Coming

"We should get that fur coat from the meme, and make one that says "January is coming." H jokes, and I am able, now, to laugh a bit. We watch each other across the sleeping bodies of the two babies still caught in that tender time after an intensely emotional  moment. Only recently have I been able to voice to H that I am finally falling into that not so sweet melancholy of winter. He always knows. Guesses when I start to develop my extra prickly edges. He reads it in my refusal to go out and do things; in the way I sleep just a little too much.  The problem with naming is that it brings the thing you'd rather avoid to the forefront, and while we get better at discussing the beast in my head, we still fumble in the beginning. H wants to fix, to make me better which I think is a pretty typical response, and I fall into the self imposed patterns of guilt...

Why can't you just be happy?

After 15 years of being together, we both know that I will come out okay. Spring will come just as winter does, and in the moist thaw when the buds of flowers stretch out of their tightly wound folds, I will stretch my own self in the warm sun, the rain, the fecundity of life. But the fear comes in that we both know that in my past that coming out wasn't a promise, and that sometimes, in the claw of my beast, I made not so wise choices. Dangerously bad choices at times. However those stories are in the past, and the pages before us our only half written, and tell of joy. I realized a few years ago that the darkness is never fully dark. If I peer closely, allowing for eye adjustment I can see the white hazy lines of joy.

The answer is that I can be happy. But...my beast always pads besides me. Quiet and waiting.

Last year I spent a lot of time exploring my own contours. It's been awhile since I spent time examining my own, what? Psychology? Mind? Those are all hideously inaccurate terms but they are what I have in our limited lexicon. I strolled through forgotten gardens, and long abandoned walkways. I swept the cobwebs off old memories. Those things which I thought were dead were not so dead. There is power in the things that one thinks are dead. But I had a new magic with me. The magic that comes from time to heal, time spent learning new ways of being in the world. Magic in the form of innumerable moments of joys. Spells cast unknown with each moment spent in the fullness of love. When I blew the dust off an old tome from my past, the hurt was the twinge of a phantom pain as opposed to the fresh pulsing of a new wound. I learned some new ways to approach the past, and through that the always present beast.

As I sailed through December buoyed by the Christmas season, and then caught up in weeks of colds and runny noses, I could feel my beast coming. Or perhaps just the nudge of a head under my hand the way a cat casually reminds you that they exist. As I felt the bump, I began to ponder something which had been gathering form in my mind for months now. What if one accepted depression the way that one accepted other neurological differences? I admit it's a thought that still leaves me cold, gasping, terrified. But I realized as January loomed ever closer that what I had thought of as acceptance was not really acceptance. The way I drowned, fighting and clawing for the surface, in the depression was not an acceptance. It felt like being pulled by a swirling eddy, a force beyond my control. No this time I wonder what would happen if I treated myself as the depression came not as someone who was ill or crazy but rather as someone who deserved care and love. What would happen if I saw the depression as not some alien thing but as something a part of me? What if my depression wasn't a monster but a beast? A beast that I don't fully understand and maybe don't quite trust yet but a beast that I do know.

What would January look like if I took care of myself and my beast? So when the urge to hermit came over me, I didn't fight it. I didn't push myself into being with others. Ignoring the old adage to surround myself with social activities to keep afloat, I have instead made sure I have books and yarn. I do enough social stuff after all with the beasties and their many activities. I didn't beat myself up for not wanting to be with people. Even people I liked. When the restless energy comes over me, I do yoga poses, or I walk around the house. I clean until the energy is spent, and then I sit and read or knit. I am gentle with myself. When the guilt comes as it always does, I try to shrug it off, reminding myself that my neurology is what is. Neither good nor bad. Just there. When I feel the impossibility of doing anything, I remind myself that I will make up for these days soon. I am never always without energy, motivation. Perhaps I must let those seeds sit deep in the earth before the push up with their green sproutings.

And I realized the other day as we tumbled in from a family expedition that I was breathless with laughter. I can be happy. Or perhaps I can feel happiness even in the midst of my beast. A beast that doesn't really walk beside me but inside me. Part of me. There even when the sun chases away the unbidden sadness of depression. I am not sure what will come of this new acceptance. I don't know if it will work say next week. Perhaps I will have to try other methods to care for myself. It doesn't matter. I will do those things but I will do them with a language that doesn't embrace eradication or destruction. Perhaps if I can move away from seeing myself as crazy or mentally ill, I can begin to write a different tale about a woman and her beast.


Sunday, December 28, 2014

Strike A Pose

When we've been out all day, we always stop at the bottom of the drive way to check the mail. Our house rests on a slight incline and while it no doubt would be great exercise to walk to do this task sometimes a long day begs a forbearance. One day, last year, Piper threw the mail on the passenger seat and ran up the hill to grab her one of her many cats. I zipped up, parked and turned to look at what we had gotten. Most of it was junk, and on any other day the Back to School flyer from Target would have qualified as junk as well. But that day as I looked through it, I found myself blinking back tears. Nestled in the middle was a surprise. A young woman, not a baby, a tween with Down syndrome was modeling a back to school outfit. She looked, as did her peers posed around her, stylish and cool. She was smiling, and yes she was beautiful. No, not merely because she had Down syndrome but really in a societal acceptable way beautiful. Shining brown hair, sparkling eyes, perfect skin, slender. Check and check. I was surprised to feel to the tears pushing against the back of my own eyes because I as those of you know me, I am hardly a fan of a the capitalistic, consumer culture in which we live. But there was something undeniably powerful about seeing someone who had the same genetic disposition as Jude on those pages. 

My relationship with advertising is conflicted. I do not pretend that I don't own things for example, and like many people I am often swayed by glossy ads. I own an Ipad and an Iphone for example. My list of sins in terms of consumerism are great and I won't bore you all with my confession but react assure I own things that sometimes make me feel guilty. Suffice to say I don't always buy organic and the underneath of our Christmas tree is not loaded with locally crafted things. But I am aware of how capitalism kills, and the destruction is wrought on all living things including our planet. For every wise choice I've made to askew the system, I've made another that buys right into it. I suspect for most leftist this the reality of our life. We are against a system in which we are embedded. Getting out is hard. Being aware is not.

When Jude was born, I became aware of a struggle within the Down syndrome community concerning the problems surrounding the sharing of images. Like many, I found it frustrating that I couldn't get many of my friends to "share" a news article about Ethan Saylor's death but could easily get them to circulate a picture of an adorable baby with Down syndrome. Even my small readership improved with a picture of Jude thrown into the text. Our society is often regrettably attracted to images; lovely people, cute children, puppies and kittens. And of course we are more attracted to images that fit what we consider beautiful which often means white, blonde, thin, glossy. I too found myself frustrated that not only were the limits of many activism dead ended with lots of photos but that those photos showed a rather untrue picture of Down syndrome (most babies being born with Ds are being born into Hispanic families yet we are still seeing mostly images of blonde, white children).  
And this is where my mind began to shift a bit when it came to putting up pictures of Jude. My daughter is not just a toddler with Down syndrome. She is a female, Latina child with Down syndrome. For some time, I have felt it important that her face is out there even as I feel uncomfortable with advertising and the limitations of advertising.  The reality is that all civil rights movement include branches that fought for control of image as well as political gain. There is no denying the problematic representations of both African Americans and Latino/as in the media both in the past and now. These battles over representation continue because image does matter. When a group is denied their face in the most powerful forces of our world, and make no mistake the media is a powerful force, they are not represented as fully as those who are seen. This is hammered home in areas in other than race as well. Look at the push for "real woman" in advertising. There is something stirring in seeing your face, your body, your skin on the screen or in a picture. I know, as a fat woman, in a thin centered society, it moves me to seeing performers, models, and actors who are fat. In them, I can see glimpses of myself, and wonder for a moment if I am more valuable than I was lead to believe. 

When I first decided to put up Jude's picture with the hashtag #Imready, I knew there would be whispers that I would not necessarily hear. And I have seen glimmers of dissent that as yet have no reared their head on my radar. I suspect many think I sold out, or even worst that I was selling my daughter. I did one photo and hashtagged Carter's as Jude was wearing an outfit from the store which is a favorite of ours. I wasn't going to do it. I though long and hard, and talked with H. In the end, after seeing many pictures of children who were white, we decided to add Jude's face. I struggled as her picture was shared by both friends and strangers. But in the end, as more and more pictures came rolling in, I started to feel more comfortable in our choice. The children, and ultimately tweens and teens, in the photos that started to penetrate my feed were of all colors and abilities. They were beautiful in their diversity. They were the faces that challenged the public to rethink what it meant ot have a perfect child; a beautiful child. Just like when I saw the first Lane Bryant models strut across a cat walk, I started to shift what I saw as beautiful.

Along time ago, when pregnant with Piper, a coworker asked me "Aren't you scared?" "Of what?" I asked her. "Oh you know," she said, uncomfortable, "You already have two beautiful children, aren't you worried that the next one might be," she paused, "Not beautiful?" We left it unspoken about what it meant to be unbeautiful but deep down we both new. We both were thinking, due to my age, of someone like Jude. Then I felt that deep trickling of fear. A fear that ran deep, dank and dark when I found out Jude had Down syndrome. I remembered that conversation when I was crying about my unborn child two years ago. I wish I could back to that moment, and say "All people are lovely." Because you know we are. But even more so people with disabilities are like us all. Most will not be models or possess the look that is required to be a model. However there are a few who do. Who shine with their perfect skin and clear eyes. I, myself will never look like a model. Nor have I ever possessed that kind of beauty. Yet in my own way I am lovely too. Jude, if you'll excuse my mother's bias is indeed lovely. She is as lovely as any of my other children. I am not sure how it happened but I was gifted with very beautiful children. One just happens to have an extra chromosome. No biggie. I doubt though that even with her beauty Carter will come calling. But I do hope that with every time her picture is viewed that someone will remember that beautiful has the ability to be reshaped, redefined, challenged. 


I end with an assurance that I have not lost sight of the political motivations that push me to fight for Jude and for others with disabilities. Representation in the media is important but it is not the end all of a push for equality. Losing sight of that goal would be a betrayal of all that I hold true. But I am not going to pretend that part of our push is about making people with disabilities more visible and more present. Pretending that being pretty isn't part of that push would be disingenuous. I would suggest that the push to represent all humanity in it's glorious unairbrushed beauty is much much bigger than the disability movement. To suggest that we shouldn't bank on appearance while ignoring how often we do just that in other areas is indeed problematic. 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Two Years and Rising

When Jude was born two years ago, I couldn't imagine NOT thinking about Down syndrome. From the moment the Dr. uttered over the phone "The fetus has Trisomy 21" my whole world seemed to stop and switch rotation. In those early months, it was always Down syndrome (don't believe me? Go look at those early posts). Don't get me wrong, I don't think it was a bad thing at all. I learned a great deal in those early days about disability rights, and I wouldn't give away that experience for anything.

I kept insisting that our world hadn't changed that much but the reality is that of course our world had changed. We were not the same people we had been even a year before. I never considered myself Abliest but I was in so many ways. The growth and the pain of that growth was hard but so important. How I saw the world went through a radical shift, and I became a better advocate for my children because the reality was simply that I already two children with a disability. I had just never acknowledged it, or rather I had acknowledged/accepted them for who they were but hadn't push that thought process to embrace a bigger arc of people. Jude's birth propelled me into that world, and for that I will be ever thankful. I've meet some amazing advocates, and count myself lucky to be an ally.

But still in the day to day aspect of our life, the change was smaller. The change was simply the way a family dynamic shifts with each new addition. Jude's integration into our family was not always smooth but it was mostly joyous. Now she is just another beastie which is quite something. I don't think any of us even think twice about the Down syndrome. It's not that we don't think about her having Down syndrome. We do. We know. It's just not a big deal anymore, or more it's just common place. She just is. She's here. She's loved. She's a part of the tapestry so smartly woven into the fabric that you'd have to flip things around to find where her thread started. Only then could you see the bumps, the missteps we made, the things we learned, the ways we changed. But from the outside, it's just this toddler. No longer a baby.

In the last year, Jude transformed from our sweet baby to a clever, mischievous sweet toddler. She's a whirlwind of energy that touches everything and everyone in the house. She is fierce and independent as she learns to do things on her own. She scorns our help, and figures out how to do things her way. She has become cautious about her smile, and doesn't offer it with the same abandon she did last year. Her smile is now a gift not to be won but to handed over at her will. But she is not afraid of the world around her. She walks as if she owns a room, shunning those who would block her or restrict her purpose. She is a queen, and it's clear in the way she holds her head.





For me these days of getting to know Jude do negate the kind of thinking about Down syndrome that soaked through the days when she was younger. Now it is simply an aspect of her. I no longer fear the future the way I used to when she a baby in my arms. Or rather I fear for her future the way I do with all my children. There is no hidden corners of wondering if she will not talk, not run, not be independent. Instead, I am leaning into the days of shaping as she grows into ever more being. The future is murky as those magic 8 balls from my childhood would tell me. No surprise there.

This everyday texture to thinking about Down syndrome--to living with Jude who has Down syndrome--has changed they way I write as well. I am not sure what I have to offer. I suspect my greatest use is to offer up the voices of those with disabilities. I am not a good blog writer, I suspect. I don't research enough nor do I have that knack for pulling information together in an interesting way. There are others who are much better than I at this kind of writing. And sometimes, I worry that I will tell too much of Jude's story. That in the end, I will have paved too much of her road. Perhaps, I think, it is best to let that murky future hidden in the inky depths of a Magic 8 ball reveal itself to who it will. 

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

What Completion Feels Like

Sunday was frantic. I had been out for most of the day Saturday, picking up books for the kids' Yule gifts as well as hitting up the yarn store. I try to make sure I hit our local businesses for Small Business Saturday so they can feel the love. But in the back of my mind, a little voice was screaming 'GO HOME WOMAN AND WRITE. I only wrote about a thousand words Saturday sneaking onto the computer in the little in between moments. We went out that night, and I tried to relax. Tried to look at books. Tried to knit but that voice wouldn't shut up. I paced a lot, recording in my mind my final scene. And I did go home to type until exhaustion drove me to bed. Thus Sunday after our weekly brunch (and for a bit before) I started. I wrote for ten fucking hours. When I wrote my last sentence: "I don't know if was him peeking through that veil or the painkillers but it felt like a benediction." I was so tired that I didn't even feel celebratory. I just felt like I needed sleep; like I might never want to write again. And then I felt restless, as if there should be more feeling. After all I had just finished my first novel. I wrote almost 97, 000 words in a month. I had "won" National Novel Writing Month by the 15th but I won my own goal on the 30th around 11:00 at night.

I'm not good for the long haul in most things. There were times honestly when I worried about being married, about being a mother because of this thing that I saw as a distinct character flaw. My teachers used to say I lacked "follow through." Indeed, I admit it honestly, it's always been hard for me to sustain interest in one thing for too long. I did two majors in college and a minor for which I suspect I had enough credits to be a major if they had offered one in Women's Studies. I managed to finish my MA but I'm convinced that was because my adviser made me do it. Last year when I decided to do NaNoWriMo, I knew there as no way I could do a novel so I did short stories and played around with the idea that I ended up taking up again this year. It was all part of my need for short projects. Even my knitting reflects this: hats, mitts, baby things. I've been whining about the sweater I've been knitting for Rowena whose is four and not big for months: "It's never going to end...."

I realized years ago that I place a lot of worth on the moment of finishing. When I lost a a shit ton of weight after being pregnant with Piper, I remember hitting my goal weight, and feeling really let down. I don't know what I expected to happen. Balloons and confetti I guess. This was the same thing that happened when I finished my MA. All this time spent towards the completion of a goal lead towards one moment that didn't live up to the imaginings I created of that moment. I always felt like a kid after opening up your Christmas presents. All that hype for maybe fifteen minutes of excitement.

When I decided to write this novel for November, I remembered both my past failures at going for the long haul, and the fact there's not always "satisfaction in a job well done." People always forget to tell you that sometimes there's a  depressing dip when things are completed as well. But I was determined to prove to myself that I could write a novel. After all I had dreamed of doing this for my most of my life. I needed to know that I could sustain a story for more than few pages. I told myself as I started that it didn't have to be good; it just had to get done.

As I wrote, I roller coasted through a variety of emotions. Days when I was in the valley looking up and knowing that the exhilarating climb was coming followed by days when the descent was wildly coming up to crash in my face. I wrote through self doubt, and frankly hate: hate for my story, hate for my talent. I pushed through my own snobbery at what counted as "good" writing including engaging in numerous debates with H (he arguing against the snobbery). I had to examine my own sense of weird self-worth: you should be writing the "good" stuff and you suck as a writer no one is going to read your bad stuff. I wrestled with the guilt that told me I should be using my writing time to blog about: racism, sexism, disability. While I wrote, I participated in a community of wonderful writers who gave menplot pointers, helped me through tangles, and shared in the delicious chaos that is NaNoWriMo.

When it was over, and I sat reading my last sentence, I realized that old feeling was coming. "You did it," this voice hissed, "and now what? Who cares? What a let down!" H decided we should do a celebratory ride through town to look at the Christmas lights, and as we drove, I struggled with the let down. I held onto the planning for the second novel. I thought about all the things I could do again: knit and read (okay and clean). But it didn't help. I sank into a kind of sadness. I bought a bag of candy and over indulged something I haven't done for a couple of months now. Luckily the nature of this season saved me from myself, and I was soon caught up in the business of things to do.

This morning as I was taking my shower, I thought about the two paragraphs to this post that I had written the night before. I had a total revelation as often happens to me when I'm showering (I'm convinced it's because there is no way to I can write anything down). The whole point isn't the end. It's the process. It's why little Ms. No Follow Through has been married for almost 15 years, and has five kids she hasn't abandoned. You see being in this family, my family, has always been about the process. There's no end to parenting or being a partner to someone. Things change, and evolve requiring multiple ways of addressing, being, and becoming. None of us are the same as we march through time, and being a parent to five very distinctive individuals has hammered this fact home. But I had never though to apply this philosophy to things like writing, or studying or reading.  When I really thought about the month, it wasn't about that one moment although it was a good feeling to meet my goals, rather it was the compilation of all those days, the doubts, the perfect sentences, falling in love with a character, having characters transform or insert themselves into your story no matter how hard you try to kick them out. It was the sprints with new friends at coffee shops, messages back and forth with problems, that one guy who saved my romance story.

When I thought back over my life, and the disappointment about completion, I realized that I had forgotten about the process. My MA did not just appear (sometimes I wish that was so). No, I wrote and anguished. I talked and learned. I made a good friend in my adviser. I had wonderful classes. I had wonderful conversations with H over theory. I meet some fascinating people. When I lost the weight, I learned a lot about myself and how I used food as a drug. I learned how to think about food in new ways, ways that actually enhanced my enjoyment of eating. And so it was with my novel. And so it is with all my writing. I am proud of my little book. Proud of what I accomplished. But what I will remember is the ride.




Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Someone's Son, My Son

A few weeks ago, my son attended a Zombie prom at the local library. He's a homeschooled kid so he looks forward to these events to make friends, reunite with already made friends, and now that he's older, to flirt with girls. When I picked him up that night, he was waiting for me inside a foyer sitting beside a pretty blond girl. You know the type: cheerleader, what people love to call "all American" because we all know America is white and blond. As I got closer, I realized they were flirting, both enjoying the attention of the other. I caught his eye and stood back to give him some privacy. But as I watched them, this white girl and my brown son, I thought "I wonder what her parents would think?" Because sadly in this world this is what I have to worry about. The perception people have about my son, and the fear that we live in a place where too often "biracial" anything is looked upon with fear and prejudice. I've noted that in our society we have a lot of cultural undercurrents about black and brown men, and with Hispanic men it's a fear that they'll rape, seduce, white women. I've read the fears too many times in the way white women talk about how Latino men area always "checking them out" or the way stories about rapists who "might" be Hispanic are written. And my son is a Latino male, and every day I am painfully reminded of the stereotypes that not just signify him but place in positions that could be dangerous.

When I first moved to the South from Maine, it was a life changing experience in many ways. You see, I didn't see myself as racist. I was married to a man of color, and I had a son of color. I was educated. I had taken the "right" classes, and I thought of myself as a liberal, open minded person who wasn't racist. And then I was in a place where white people were not the majority, a place that was frankly shaped by the blood of slaves. A place where people still dropped the "N" word as casually as saying "Good morning." For a time I allowed myself to feel superior. It was easy to do. Easier than examining my own hidden racism, a racism so insidious that it shaped my world view without me even knowing.

Then I went to teach at an inner city high school for kids who were considered high risk. I had a lot of pretty naive expectations about what kind of teacher I was going to be when I walked in that Monday morning. And those were pretty much shattered with my first class which was filled with some of the toughest, meanest, jaded tenth graders I've ever meet. But the real lesson was all about that insidious racism that laid coiled inside me. I went home everyday and cried to Horacio about how hard it was. About how I wanted to reach them. But what I didn't tell him at first was how much those kids scared me.  I had a whole list of reasons about why they scared me and they all looked good. If I listed them out right now I have no doubt that many of my readers would be "Hell yeah that's scary." But really it was because they were black, and they were not the kind of black people I had come to know. They were the kind of black people that society told me I needed to fear.

One day as I photocopying some papers, an older teacher close to retirement came and started talking to me. I expressed frustration about what was happening in my classroom, and he said "All of our students are bottom feeders." That hit me hard. I was sickened, and disgusted. I went to my class, and I looked at those faces which were drawn, leery, and...scared. Why wouldn't they feel this way? Why wouldn't they hide their fear behind aggression? After all they had likely encountered teachers who felt the same way as the teacher who just spoken to me. When I went home that night, I confessed to Horacio my fear, and he gracisously walked this pathic white girl through her own racism. It was a painful and horrible moment for me. Even more painful then when I been called out by my African-American women's literature professor over some pretty blatantly racist shit that came out of my mouth. I had thought it was gone, weeded from me, only to discover it cropping up when I least expected it.

That moment changed my relationship with my students, and while it was never easy in that classroom things started to shift as if they could sense that I was no longer afraid of them. Slowly over time a few of them even began to trust me. I had students who had punched teachers in the face become my greatest allies and even my friends. When a young male black student threatened me with violence one afternoon, I had to make yet another examination and look at my fear in the face and tease it away from the racism. I remembered talking in a religious studies class about how our culture has worked hard to ensure that white woman fear black men, and how often that is really misplaced. It allowed me to make a choice to diffuse the situation as opposed to feeding into the fear I felt, and fear that he no doubt felt for many reasons. After all I as a white teacher had a great deal more power than he did as a black student. Being aware of how I had been indoctrinated to fear had often masked the power I actually held in my hands, and power held unaware is even more dangerous.

When I read through Darren Wilson's testimony, I couldn't help but be reminded of what I had rooted out. His testimony reads like a textbook example of what happens when you condition a culture to feel fear for a certain kind of person.

"And when I grabbed him, the only way I can describe it is I felt like  a five-year-old onto Hulk Hogan."

"I felt that another one of those punches in my face could knock me out or worse. I mean it was, he's obviously bigger than I was, and stronger and the, I've already taken two to the face and I didn't think I would, the third one could be fatal if he hit me right."

"He looked up at me and the most aggressive face. The only way I can describe it, it looks like a demon, that's how angry he looked."

I'm not going to speculate about if there is truth in his assertion that he was really scared. It's a familiar enough story at this point that we know he could use it to convince a Grand Jury to let him go free and clear. George Zimmerman used the same words to justify his murder of Trayvon Martin. The myth of the scary black man is a dangerous myth. Not dangerous for white people let me be very clear but dangerous for black men. When those who have the power use powerlessness as a weapon to justify their take down of people who are systemically oppressed it's pretty hard to have a justice system that if fair. It's what I had to learn as a teacher, and I didn't get to carry a gun. The fact that  his myth is perpetuated in police forces all over the country without question scares the shit of me. It scares me because while I am white, my husband and son are not. They are the mercy all too often of those who deny their power and privilege. I am scared because as a white woman I am far more likely to be raped by a white man, and if I reported that rape, it's likely that white man would walk.

The other day I walked into our local grocery store. And as I walked through the store, I realized that who I feared were not the young men of color who were in the store. But the frat boys with their loud shouts, their way of holding their bodies as if they owned all the space around them. I found myself repulsed by their casual mocking of the women who walked by them, or their blatant check outs of the women they thought attractive. When the Latino father walked by me and smiled at Jude, I didn't wonder how many women he might have raped. No that thought was saved for the loud frat boy in the beer aisle.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Loss, and Why I Have Been Absence

Something happened last month. Something that ten years ago would not have shocked me so much. Nevertheless I have spent these last few weeks working through layers of hurt, and learning things about myself. For all those reasons, I have been quiet. I am not at a place where I feel comfortable writing about what happened in a public way. There are other people involved, and I'm also unsure of how to work that complicated negotiation between what I write and the relationships I have with others. Perhaps at some point I will tell more about this story because I think it is a common story, and the few people I've opened up to regarding this story have all identified. It is a story after all about seeking love and the problem of never being sure of that love. Years and years of insecurity and seeking shaping the person one has become today.

At this time, I was also preparing for the National Novel Writing Month. 50, 000 words in 30 days. I had many plans, and at least three fully planned out novels. But I decided to focus on the paranormal romance.mystery recognizing at some level my need for escape. But it was clear that almost immediately that I wasn't going to escape the theme of loss as my character is a widow and throughout the book is learning to negotiate her sense of grief and loss with finding someone new to be in her life. At some point, the character's mother in law says to her "You are a mother so you know this instinctively. You can love more than one person at a time. Your love is not limited but boundless. Having lost my son doesn't mean you can never love again, and loving again doesn't mean he will fade from your heart."

After I typed it out, I started to think about how much we carry with us throughout life. I am not a believer in the idea of essential self. I doubt that exists and if it did I doubt very much that we could pick out what that self might be. Rather I suspect we are like onions, layered in time and memories, reinterpreted histories, the touch of other humans, the imprint of experiences. We carry these layers with us as we move through our life. The actions of now might be the motivations of the five year old girl who was once me. It is a heavy burden at times to think about, and I think most of the time, we are capable of walking about unaware but in times of pain those moments surface up and I am made aware again of the layers.

Now that all these layers are bad. I realized this as I wrote my novel. Those layers hold everything. Even the good. I realized as I worked my pain, hurt and frankly resentment from the past that I had been looking for something that I already had.  I am loved for who I am and how I look. There is no effort to change me, to make me better. While I doubt if all my foibles are appreciated, I've never once worried that I wouldn't be loved. I used to worry but over the years, I've slowly learned to trust that my actions might not lead to hate. That I can be imperfect. That I can screw things up, and that I can be forgiven. That I can do the same in return.

As my children grow up, I realize they move with a confidence I did not have, and this makes me proud. I am not a perfect parent but I am glad that my children do not feel like they need to earn my love. I am glad that they move in the world with the assumption that they are worthy human beings who deserve respect and love and care. The world is not likely to always hand them these things but I suspect that starting the journey with such confidence is vital in a lifetime of demanding those things for everyone.