Sunday, June 28, 2015

30 days, then 49: Depression Part 48 (June 27, 2015)

Sometimes it creeps up on me. It is especially insidious in the summer when I do not have any "have-to-do" obligations to distract me and get me going. The sunny days are overwhelming in their insistence that I get out and enjoy the day. Nothing else to do but enjoy. But if you can't...

When I do heed the call of the outdoors on those bright days, I do feel a little better at first. Eventually, the view becomes skewed, and everything takes on a mirage-like quality. The people, the cars, the grass, the sidewalk. Does any of it really exist? Do I? I've walked through and sat in the sun and felt the warmth, but only as an afterthought.

Summer rain is actually better. It is the sound that I like. Not just the thunder, but the water hitting leaves and ground. Something I can stand in and feel. Feel. Because I haven't been.

There's a cloak around me--impenetrable and heavy. It keeps darkness in, but the outer layer colors for my family and friends. It's exhausting pretending, but necessary.

Hard to do anything with the weight and the darkness. Cleaning leaves me anxious and dissatisfied. Explaining is laborious and daunting. Dissension, harmony, unity, and strife all ocean behind my eyes but only trickle down my face in secret.

Writing escapes me, so I have no rescue.

But this day, alone with the screen, in the earliest parts of morning, everything held within for days. spews onto this.

I'm awash with embarrassment and freedom.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

39 days, then 49: Remember (June 18, 2015)

I haven't written in a while. Life stepped in and knocked me over.  I was ready to write again today.

But a racist terrorist visited a church yesterday. He was probably welcomed in as someone who perhaps needed comfort. He stayed for almost an hour at that prayer meeting and no doubt heard the prayers of the members and the comforting words of the pastor. He may have heard songs of praise and joy and thanksgiving. There was probably a spirit of love there, surrounding him.

Bur he couldn't see pass his hate. This hate killed 9 members of that church.

This historic church will rise again as it has so many times before.

What will we do in the meantime?

Mourn, get angry, pray, write about it, declare we will never forget.

Then we'll move on and congratulate ourselves for not letting the tragedy kill our spirits of resilience.

Then we will forget...until hatred kills our peace again.

I will not name the killer, but here is a link to the ones who lost their lives to hatred in a place of peace.

We need to remember their names

Rev. Clementa Pinckney, 41

Cynthia Hurd, 54

Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, 45

Tywanza Sanders, 26

Myra Thompson, 59

Ethel Lee Lance, 70

Daniel L. Simmons, 74

Susie Jackson, 87

Depayne Middleton Doctor, 49

Monday, June 15, 2015

45, 44, 43, days, then 49: Quiet (Started June 12, 2015; Finished June 15)

Noise. Sometimes I feel like The Grinch, railing against the noise, Noise, NOISE, NOISE!! NOISE!!!

I'm an English teacher and I actually think it would be weird if my classroom were quiet most the time. Part of the study of language is speaking. And speak they do. More than I want, but it's important. And noisy.

My daughter is a talker. Last year, when I still worked 30 minutes from home, she would spend our drives telling me how she was going to stop talking so much.

"Mommy, I talk a lot right? I'm not going to talk anymore. See I can be quiet. Mommy? Did you hear what I said? I can be quiet. What are we having for dinner? Oh yeah, I'm suppose to be quiet. I can be quiet."

For the entire drive. 30 minutes. Then we get home, and she talks until bedtime.

My husband is a talker too. Well, sometimes. He's not an every day, every minute talker like his daughter. When he gets going, however, he can talk for hours. He's a binge talker.

I welcome verbal interactions with them because they are my loves, but I sometimes miss the peace of living alone. At night, when they sleep, I sit on the couch and gulp down the quiet as if I will never have it again.

I don't think I just want quiet. I need it. Without a daily dose of silence, I get/stay moody. Angry, sad, nervous, anxious. The sounds buzz and bump around in my head, crawl from the nape of my neck to the forehead and vibrant behind my eyes. It's painful and if I can't find some peace, I lash out. As I get older, the more I seek out noiseless situations and the less likely I am to find them.

When I was teaching middle school, I would arrive early and use that time in class before students were allowed to come in to get my mind ready for the day. It helped me work through my natural shyness and lack of confidence. By the time they arrive, I'm like Joe Gideon in "All That Jazz"--"It's show time!"

Unfortunately, high school students are free range and can often be found sitting outside my class waiting for me to arrive. They like to talk to me because I listen. In those moments before school starts, I find out about their home lives, their outside interests, their fears. Students also stop by after school and talk to me. Those times are valuable and help to continue to remember that I am not teaching English. I am teaching kids. But I miss the quiet.

So, when I come home from school, I sometimes sit in the driveway for 10 minutes before going in. During the last week of school, I almost made it to 30 minutes one day. I couldn't shake the day off and was not prepared to face my family.

When I was young, I used to hang out underneath the coffee table and read my books. Our duplex was so small that I shared a room with my brother until I was 11, then shared a bed with my mom until I was 17. You can only hang out in the bathroom for so long before people start to wonder about your health. I was 19 year old before I had my own room and got a chance to retreat from other people's sounds.

When my last roommate moved out after getting married, I had an apartment by myself for about 3 years. Whole weekends would pass and I wouldn't have spoken to anyone. I didn't really feel lonely. I was rid of the stress of talking and interacting with people.

For the first year of my marriage, my husband would say that he didn't know what I was thinking, that I kept everything in. My long silence was a hard habit to break.

So I push through the comfort of quiet and I interact with people and think I do a pretty good job of feigning comfort.

And at night, when everyone is asleep, I sit silently on my couch, healing from the pain of all day assaults on my solitude, and rearming my senses for another day of noise.

Friday, June 12, 2015

46 days, then 49: Love (June 11-12, 2015)

(Short entry)

I've often talked about my inability to sleep. Both getting to sleep and staying that way throughout the night. Well, occasionally I do get to the deep sleep that one of my doctors told me I miss regularly. It really doesn't happen often, and when it does, it's ugly.

On those nights  that I can sleep, I become a soggy mess. Loud, crunchy sounds like a pack of small children running wild through dry leaves emanate from my maw. I suck in my lips and blow them back out forming spit bubbles that pop and run down my face. And I make sounds like pigs at a trough enjoying the best meal of their lives. It goes on and on and on...

How do I know this if I am asleep?

My husband, love of my life, recorded me.

After seeing and hearing that, I concluded that he must love me very much.

Thank goodness he hates social media.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

47 Days, Then 49: My Temp Job (June 10, 2015)

Today is hair washing day. She sits in the tub and I wet her hair. She's getting so tall that neither of us can find a comfortable position to complete this task. As I soap her hair and create a lather, I scratch her head because it is comforting to her. She hates having her hair touched because she is tender-headed, but the scalp scratching causes her to calm down and coo. After just a few years, we have developed a rhythm.

"Why do we have hair on our bodies?"

"On our heads?"

"No, on our bodies?"

I search my science answer file and come up empty.

"I really don't remember."

She examines a scar on her leg. Then looks at her arms.

"I don't have hair on my body."

"One day you will. When you get older, you will have hair on your arms, your legs, under your arms, in your private area..."



I begin to rinse her hair.

"One day, you're also going to get breasts like me...well, maybe not exactly like me. I don't know how big they will be. And you will have a period and once a month you will bleed."

She turns her head slightly to the right and shifts her eyes in the same direction, not looking at me. Gazing at a thought in her head. This is what she does when she is seriously thinking about what is being said.


"Well, you have eggs in your body, and if nothing gets added to the egg to make a baby, then the egg comes out of your body. The blood feeds the egg if it becomes a baby, but if there is no baby, you don't need the blood."

We've had the "where do babies come from" talk already, so I don't need to explain much more than that at this time.

I put conditioner in her hair. She has a lot a hair on head. I remember when I did too, and I instantly think about my mom, silently praising her for her patience. Something I do regularly now that  Aminata is here.

"We have eggs?"

"Not chicken sized eggs...smaller eggs."


"I'm telling you this now so you won't be scared when it happens. Grandma was 10 when it happened to her and nobody told her, so she was afraid. She told me about it when I was 9 and it happened to me when I was 11. I have a friend who got it when she was 8 years old, like you are now."



I section her hair and put the sections into double-strand twists.

"Do I have to grow up?"


"I don't want to."

"I didn't want to either. But it'll be okay."

Eyes shift again. She has beautiful eyes. She's been told this often. They are very expressive. When someone comments on her looks, she often likes to tell that person that I am her stepmom. It use to bother me, but now I get it. She doesn't look like me because she can't, so don't say that she does. Also, her mother is beautiful. She needs something from her mother. The other one. Because to her, I am her mother too--for now, maybe forever. But there's the possibility that she will go back and live with her mother for a while when she gets older. Maybe permanently if she likes living with her in France or Italy.

"Do you know when it will happen?"


"You don't know when it will happen?"

"No one does. It just happens."

She flinches as I tug the hair on the back of her head into a twist. This is the most sensitive spot. It hurts the most, she says.

"Can I stay a little girl?"

"For now, you can."  Please do.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

48 Days, Then 49: One of the Good Ones (June 9-10, 2015)

 I wanted my first blog in a long time to be a good one--nice, airy, funny, me. But, I can't because in 48 days I will be 49 and it's time for me to admit that I have a problem. I am addicted to being "one of the good ones." I'm non-threatening, self-effacing, forgiving. These are pretty good qualities, but it's all for show.  The truth sits on my heart, squeezing it, causing physical pain. I want to yell and scream and pull the curtain back so you can see that the wizard is just a man, the emperor has no clothes, and, damn it, racism exists.

But I can't say the "R" word. I'm "one of the good ones."

I pretend to agree when you say, "I don't see color." Somehow, though, you manage to ask ME why all those black kids are acting that way. Did you ask your white friend that?

What's wrong with seeing color anyway? No one picks a daisy thinking that it is a rose because "I just don't see color." What you mean when you say that is "I don't see you like I see those other black people.

"You're 'one of the good ones'."

When that girl at Europa books helped everyone in front of me then, dismissed me with half a glance, I walked across the campus giving her every excuse in the book. She thought I was a kid (So I was a customer). Her shift was over (no, she went to the end of the counter and started talking to her friend who seemed uncomfortable that she was ignoring me). She was having a bad day (Dang, I went there?) It was not until I got to my apartment that I accepted that I had experienced a moment with her. I wouldn't let myself admit that all the people in front of my had one thing in common. Because contrary to what a lot of people believe, most people don't like to find that they have been in the presence of a racist.

Most people want simple answers...especially if they are "one of the good ones."

There are many of us out there. I noticed them throughout this non-revelationary moment in history where we are finding that blacks in America may experience the world differently than non-blacks when it comes to treatment by authority figures. We are the wait and see ones. The ones who don't re-post video footage until we have all the facts. And when we do repost, we don't call it racism. We say, "Judge for yourself." We let our friends...the non-black ones, especially...use the word. I can't speak for others, but I sigh with relief that someone else said it first...someone acceptable.

Because I can maintain my status as "one of the good ones."

I fear loss of friendships the most. I imagine some reading this post and thinking, "I didn't know SHE was that way.

Why would you? When I told you about a kid stealing stuff from my classroom and you said, "I'm glad that I work with the good, white kids," I only said, "Actually, the thief was white." I didn't ask why you assumed otherwise.

When you said that the kids who cry racism drop out of school and those who don't will go on to  graduate, I didn't correct you by telling you that I know a PhD, a poet, and  people who will let you know, in eloquent terms, why saying, "At least that kid doesn't have one of those ridiculous names like LaShawn or Raekwon," is a racist statement. I know a woman who told me that she named her children plain names so that they would be treated better.

She is "one of the good ones" too.

When I told you that a group of boys in a car in my neighborhood yelled, "White Power!" at me, and you turned it into a joke (maybe they said white powder, haha), I let it go. You don't know that I was gripped with fear. I was alone out there.

When you told me that a kid complained that someone called him a nigger and you replied, "Well, are you one?" Because words will never hurt... I got it. If you don't have a nigger mentality, then you shouldn't be upset that you were called one. Except, I can still hear the boys who yelled nigger cunt at me on West Campus, and how those two words smashed everything I thought about myself as a student at The University of Texas. My g.p.a. stellar, my future heart in my shoes. Two words. How could they?

I'm "one of the good ones."

When I drove up to my school for the last three weeks and saw the Confederate flag proudly displayed on the back of a student's truck (kids will be kids, slavery is over, Obama is president, get over it already), I told a few people who would understand. My friends, the not so "good ones", would have marched to the office and complained. They may have been told "kids will be kids," but they would have left with the knowledge that they spoke up.

When I responded to the video from Mckinney and spoke my mind, my REAL mind, I didn't sleep well. I did it again today, and I nervously waited on a response. When I didn't get one, I felt dismayed that I might have lost a friend. Someone I knew from years ago who probably didn't give me a second thought.

I wonder if birds feel uncomfortable breaking out of their eggs? Is it painful coming out of the cocoon?

"And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom." -- Anais Nin

I've always been a late bloomer...except for my boobs.

So, my friends, how would you know how I really felt? I've have been so skillfully lying to you all these years.

I'm done with being "one of the good ones." This blog is my rehab. Join me on my journey from sobriety to indulgence and excess.

49 is a good age to kick an addiction.