Monday, December 29, 2008
I've been thinking about the passage of time. This Spring is my 20th high school reunion. 20 years?! Remember when 20 was old? And as we end this old year and begin a new one I wonder: "What have I been doing for 20 years?" Certainly a great deal, but it doesn't always feel as though a lot was accomplished. I hate getting nostalgic. Pulling out the old pictures and old music and adding a Parisesque rose-colored hue to my memories. Some of the things from high school sucked, as did some of the people. That's a hard time for everyone. Do we forgive the mean bullies from that time period who have friended us on Facebook because they now have spouses and children? Shouldn't they know the discomfort and pain they caused you back when your self-esteem and ego were brand-spanking new? Yup, I am one of those people who remember the bad things and don't really remember the good things. I am one of those people who can recall, with crystal clarity (at least according to myself) exactly where I was standing and what I was wearing when the initial slight was given. And I never remember the positive impact that I had on people, even if they told me.
Facebook. A strange place for longing to be created. But it has been. I miss the rose-colored times of my youth. I miss being free and able to stay out late at night and partay! I miss stupid location jokes and the luxury of time. And then I snap out of it and think, those times were no better than these times. This is the moment to make a happy memory. And this is the moment to look past petty memories (and actions, don't forget the actions!) of the past. I'm going to my 20th high school reunion and plan to see the people there in that moment and not through a kaleidescope from 1989!
Enjoy the passage of time.
Photo by: ToniVC
Saturday, December 27, 2008
When is it ever? When am I ever? I have had! I simultaneously hate and love the word "enough." It makes me think of being full and done. It also reminds me that I may not be full or done. The English language mystifies me.
How did this post make it to the light? I was sitting in the bathroom, yes the place where many a magical idea arises, and also the only place where I have relative peace, and I once again began lamenting not writing my entrance essays. I am paralyzed by the fact that I am not going to get in to any graduate program. My solution to this dilemma is to postpone writing my essays and hopefully it will be too late to send them. The truth is that I need to confront the fear of rejection. The fear of being overwhelmed. The fear of not being enough. It's not a truth. There are very few of those. Just my own private Idaho where I get lost in a tangle of negative 8-track looped thoughts and memories.
But I will chose to write those essays, and confront my clutter and constantly stop the 8-track loop and play something more positive. It is just so damn hard.
I have had enough of fear. Enough.
Photo by: Madgirl
Saturday, December 20, 2008
Thursday, December 18, 2008
So I think about light now. This time of hibernation is the perfect introspection time. To make plans and clean house and get ready for the next evolution. Time to illuminate what is inside me.
Monday, December 1, 2008
I am applying to graduate school for religious studies - ethics. Why? That is what the admissions committee wants to know. And I am having a hard time writing it down. I know why but none of it seems very scholarly. See, this is my dilemma - I am going back for my PhD so I can teach, write and do research. That would lead you to believe that I am a scholar. Maybe I am but in my mind that is a dirty word because I liken it to using big words and using "one" a great deal, i.e. "one should always use big words if one wants to get one's point across."
But I don't write like that. And I don't think like that. And in fact I try to use as few words as possible to get my point across. And I also seem to have a huge problem using commas properly. A problem identified by my Freshman Studies teacher in college. It hasn't gotten much better.
So, here I sit trying to write my graduate school entrance essays. And I am stumped. I am also overthinking the whole thing. And can I use words like "overthinking" in an essay? At times like these I think of my friend, we shall call her Wonder Woman, because she reminds me of the very best of WW's amazonian ancestry. I have spent the last 12 years of my life comparing myself, miserably so, to WW. She is taller than me, blonder than me (that's a joke! - she is blonde, but I am not - well, never mind) and such an amazing writer and scholar. Her points feel thought out and thorough and deep. She is brilliant in my estimation. She would do a really good job of writing this essay. And that is because she takes her time and wrestles with questions. She really goes through them from all angles until she reaches the center. That is discipline and skill.
I wonder if I have that skill, I can definitely develop that discipline.
WW inspires me. She breathes life into my thoughts and schemes. My mind tends to wander and get lost and then grasps on a whisper of an idea. I need to talk things out, debate with other people. I learn differently. And I wonder if the way I learn and express myself will be crushed in academia. Bottom line: Am I smart enough, in the ways that I am smart, to be a scholar?
Maybe I need to change the way I think of scholarly. And now I am rambling.
I titled this post "Perpetual Student" because I was going to write about how I have spent a great deal of my life in school. I love school. I also already have a master's degree and work part time as a college professor. And I want to stay there. Not because it's not the "real world" but because I think it is closer to what I want the real world to be, a place where you question and debate and try new things. But inside that freedom there is a network - an old -something network. There is tenure and publishing and competition. There are games that need to be played. And I guess that is true of any profession. I am in a place of apathy right now about my applications, partly because I don't know how to say what I want to say but mostly because I am afraid to say what I want to say: that I want to change the world. There I said it. At 30-something I am still an idealist. I am still engaged and I still believe that I have not lived up to my potential.
Perpetual:1 a: continuing forever : everlasting <perpetual motion> b (1): valid for all time perpetual right> (2): holding (as an office) for life or for an unlimited time2: occurring continually : indefinitely long-continued <perpetual problems>3: blooming continuously throughout the season
Student:1: scholar , learner ; especially : one who attends a school2: one who studies : an attentive and systematic observer student of politics>
My favorite: A blooming continuously throughout the season attentive and systematic observer.
photo by Cheesemonster
Friday, November 28, 2008
For some reason this Thanksgiving I have spent the time thinking about forgiveness. Not asking others to forgive me, but forgiving others. Every fall I work for atonement around the high holidays - Yom Kippur. I think of what I have done to hurt others and ask for forgiveness. Sometimes asking for it from the person I've hurt (my children, my husband) or from the universe and Grace for those people no longer in my personal cipher. But I realize that I do not have a time when I ask myself to forgive those who have trespassed against me. Isn't that as important as asking forgiveness from others? I think it is.
Holding onto past hurts and anger hurts me and those I come in to contact with. It makes me angry and bitter and frustrated. It makes me unhappy. But I don't think I recognize that my past pains are the reason I am so miserable so often. In the years when life drama was my constant companion, I would blame everything on other people and how they "made me" feel or act a certain way. Bullshit! Not to dip into psycho-babble but I really am responsible for my feelings, my resentments, my shame and my guilt. I can chose, really easily at first, but then with some work, to let things go. To "give it up, turn it loose" to quote an En Vogue song. That first moment of release is exhilarating and I feel liberated. Then the work sets in. I have to remember, be conscious of the fact, that I have let something go. That I have indeed chosen to forgive someone their trespasses. That means not replaying the events over and over in my head to my own detriment, or trying to come up with an alternate ending! Not bringing up those past events in an argument if I am still fortunate enough to have that person in my life. And not allowing it to stop me in my tracks and become my go-to excuse for bad behavior.
What brought these feelings on? Well, I had this overwhelming desire to listen to "Dear Mr. President" by P!nk featuring the Indigo Girls (oh, how I love me some Indigo Girls). And in a bit of an epiphany I recognized George W. Bush as a person. As someone worthy of life and therefore worthy of forgiveness. I am not sure what his personal motivations have been for all that he has done. I am not sure why he made the decisions he has made. And I am not sure if he fully realizes the impact that his choices have made on so many people. But lately he looks like he does. He looks heavy, weighed down by some kind of invisible albatross. In an interview with Barbara Walters the other evening, President-Elect Obama spoke about the isolation of being President. I think I always knew that intellectually but it is quite something else to see him already embracing the weight of his job. The weight. None of us could possibly imagine that responsibility. I am overwhelmed, to quote my friend M with "working like a dog to keep my kids filthy and semi-neglected."
I want to forgive President Bush. To see his humanity for a moment. And to let go of my obsession with his bad policy. Something new is on the horizon and I want to embrace the future and let go of the past. And I think part of being able to forgive other people is forgiving myself for the bad decisions that I have made. I can be most unkind to myself. Forgiving that spirit will take a little more work than forgiving the President, but I can do that too. Now go listen to the Indigo Girls.
Thursday, November 20, 2008
A brief history from Wikipedia:
Jonestown was the informal name for the "Peoples Temple Agricultural Project", an intentional community in northwestern Guyana formed by the Peoples Temple, a cult from California led by Jim Jones. It became internationally notorious in November of 1978, when 918 people died in the settlement as well as in a nearby airstrip and in Georgetown, Guyana's capital. The name of the settlement became synonymous for the incidents at those locations.
On November 18, 1978, 909 Temple members died in Jonestown, all but two from apparent cyanide poisoning in an event termed "revolutionary suicide" by Jones and some members on an audio tape of the event and in prior discussions. To the extent the actions in Jonestown were viewed as a mass suicide, it is the largest such event in modern history. The incident at Jonestown was the greatest single loss of American civilian life in a non-natural disaster until the events of September 11, 2001.
The poisonings in Jonestown followed the murder of five others by Temple members at a nearby Port Kaituma airstrip. The victims included Congressman Leo Ryan, the first and only Congressman murdered in the line of duty in the history of the United States.
Why write about this story? Because above the head of Jim Jones' throne in Guyana was the sign: "Those who do not learn from the past are doomed to repeat it." Ironic? Sardonically so. When I was a senior in college my major thesis (I was a religious studies and theatre major) was on Apocalyptic cults and the government. I wrote about Jim Jones' Peoples Temple, David Koresh and the Branch Davidians and MOVE (a black nationalist group from Philadelphia). I spent several months immersing myself in the hell that was Jim Jones. Listening to the tapes he made of his voice. Listening to his creepy, crazy laugh and wondering how so many people could willingly walk down this road with Satan as their Pied Piper. And then I realized how easily it could happen to anyone - even me.
Jones and most malevolent charismatic leaders, prey on the vulnerable, the disenfranchised, the broken. How many of us have fit into this category at some point in our lives? The majority of Jones' followers were black. There was a disproportionate number of women with children. And the rest of the temple was made up of the elderly. Of course. He preyed on the weak. And he was only able to do so because our society, then and now, does not lift up all people. We continue to marginalize single women, poor people, children and older people. We do not respect them or invite them in to be cared for and supported. In fact we make it harder to survive much less to live. It becomes no wonder that people like Jones and Koresh exist. That they are able to exert emotional, sexual and psychological sway over their members.
Cults which go horrible wrong can only exist in cultures where basic respect is earned through either income or biology. Self-worth is the birthright of every person. And as a mother of a young daughter, I find that I can do everything possible to lift up my daughter. To make her feel whole, valuable, brilliant as well as beautiful and capable. But that eventually she will have to leave the house and others may have more influence over her daily feelings. How do we change the world? And I don't mean that in a hopeless way. I really mean it. How do we change ourselves so fully that we can withstand negativity, assault and unkindness? Tell me, because I really want to know. I think we can do it sometimes but all the time seems like an almost impossible fete.
I think I am back to my post about the liminal. To fully appreciate the divine we need to experience the darkness from time to time. George Saunders was one of my favorite professors in college. He taught Anthropology of Religion. He advised my senior thesis. He told me once that if I started a cult he would join. I was honored. First, that he thought I was charismatic! And second because I believe he thought I would try to lift people up. That I would create a sacred space where people could be free and open and learn about themselves. It would not be utopia. It would be earth - the very best we could offer, most of the time. That never happened. Truth be told I have trouble creating peace in my own house. I still dream of that place. I will work to cultivate it in myself; and in my children and hopefully ripples will be born.
Rest in peace to all those who have died searching for Grace.
Saturday, November 15, 2008
As the old saying goes: "I am sick and tired of being sick and tired." Me too. But today I am legitimately sick. I often couch my illnesses in new-agey terms like "I am manifesting symptoms" so as not to let fate get a hold of me. Playing cagey with the universe doesn't really work if in your head and heart you are saying: "I feel like s*&t!" Today I do. And I cannot spend one more minute in bed with the covers over my head, no matter how much I love the smell of the fabric softener. So I went grocery shopping and ran another errand and now I am convinced that a truck ran over me. So back to bed I go.
What is it in us that won't allow us to be tired? To take a break? To get off the runaway train that can become (and most often just is) our lives. Is there really anything that important that I cannot lay down? I think it is time to step back when I feel that as a mother, wife, friend, sister, daughter, I am irreplaceable for a few hours. My kids have the right idea. When they don't feel well they climb into my bed (they apparently like the smell of the fabric softener too), cuddle down deep and ask for the remote control. Their little voices getting just loud enough to order me to make them soup, rub their backs and help them to the bathroom. Got it. I am going back to bed. The world will continue to turn on it's axis until I get up again.
photo by ratterrell
Thursday, November 13, 2008
What a nice word for crap! I have so much crap in my house it is unbelievable. Truth be told I have never been incredibly tidy. I grew up in a VERY messy home and I internalized that kind of chaos. My home is a total reflection of me: MESSY. Wow, now there's a confession for ya'. But I am tired of hiding behind the fact that our house is under perpetual construction. Literally. Our living room/dining room/ and downstairs bathroom (that's a laundry room if you work for the South Orange tax department!) have no walls except the external ones, very little electricity and single light bulbs. The beams in the ceiling are exposed, and not in a kitchy, oh-aren't-we-hip kind of way. More in a we-took-out-all-the-plaster-and-lathe-and-haven't-replaced-it-yet kind of way.
So what has sparked this naked confession. Well, my mother calls me the other night and asks if I am watching Oprah. I wasn't. She told me to tape it when it came on later and to watch it. The show - Oprah's Messy House Tour. What was she saying?! I know exactly what she was saying: Keisha your house is a disaster! She's right. I have done almost everything I can to fix this situation - Julie Morgenstern, Clear Your Clutter w/Karen Kingston, Feng Shui, FLYLADY!!!! Nothing worked. And the reason it didn't was because I didn't stick with it. I would clean in a mad rush (I am VERY good at event cleaning) and then think: "Wow, I did alot of work. I am entitled to rest for several months!" Forgetting that the grime piles up and the dishes get eaten off of again, and those damn clothes keep getting worn!
I am DONE with this life. And part of being done is exposure. Not hiding my light or my mess under a bushel but putting it out there, for the whole 5 people who read this blog, to see! In an effort to come clean (ha ha ha) I am going to join Oprah's Messy House Tour and I am going to post my efforts here on this blog. My friend's blog Creative and Blessed has a feature called "Peak from my Pad." So in homage to her stylish inspiration I am going to entitle my posts about my house: "Clutter in the Crib" complete with before and after pictures! Peter Walsh, over at Oprah's, guarantees that our homes will be shiny in six months. I can do six months. I've gone longer for less. And maybe once I get all the crap out of here hubby can actually start fixing up the place. When that happens I will have you all over for tea. Let the journey begin.
Sunday, November 9, 2008
Gimme head with hair Long beautiful hair Shining, gleaming, Streaming, flaxen, waxen Give me down to there hair Shoulder length or longer Here baby, there mama Everywhere daddy daddy Hair, hair, hair, hair, hair, hair, hair Flow it, show it Long as God can grow it My hair
The bane of my existence. So, if you are not from the African diaspora in terms of your hair, then you may find my words to be hyperbole. But every since I was a young girl I have hated the work it took to make my hair lay down, behave or appear to be "good." For those of you outside this special club I am going to let you in on a little secret - a great many black women obsess about their hair. And I find that I obsess in NOT obsessing about it.
I have worn my hair almost every conceivable way. And then I went to see HH the Dalai Lama in 2001. I have to honestly say I don't recall what his two days of talks were about. All I know is that the last night I went home to my family and had a dream. I was wearing shoulder length locs at the time and in my dream I shaved my head. Not bald, just shaved. In my dream it was a very freeing experience. And I saw myself perfectly. When I woke up that morning I was obsessed with shaving my head. I woke my husband up at 7am and told him he had to shave my head. He just looked at me like: "what new obsession is this woman!" But I was serious and I would not let it go. "What if it doesn't look good? What if you have bumps on your head that you don't know about?" I was not worried. I told him that I had seen it all in a dream. Even at this early stage in our marriage, my husband had learned that my dreams are pretty commanding in my waking life. So he went and got his mustache trimmer (you read that right) and shaved my head. I stood there in the mirror like a shorn lion and loved my reflection. LOVED IT! Ever since then I have worn my hair short. Very short. Except for when the chemotherapy kicked in last January (of all months to be bald) and I took the razor to my head.
Even after that imposed haircut I felt beautiful and free.
Well, now I am contemplating letting my hair grow again. People who know me well, i.e. my sister, have told me that it won't last. That I will once again get sick of my hair and maintenance and that I will shave it off again. I don't know about that. I had another dream. Another vision. This time I was the Lion with the mane. The image from that dream has stayed with me for awhile. So for now I am letting my curls grow and anticipating a lesson in patience and a new kind of freedom.
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
I can hardly breathe. We walked to our polling place today. Me and the three children. They know that something called "history" is being made today. Exactly what that is and how it will take shape is beyond them right now. It is beyond me, too. We walked into the booth together. I pushed the individual buttons and put my finger on the "cast your vote" button and each child, ages 7, 4 and 2 put their little hands over mine and pushed down. We cast our vote for change, for hope, for education, for equality, for clean water, for an end to poverty, for their college education, for my retirement, for an end to war, for peace.
"In this unlikely story called America, there has never been anything false about hope."
What did you vote for today?
photo by Maciej Dakowicz
Thursday, October 23, 2008
The space between. Chasing the dragon. Ecstasy. Liminality.
I should probably thank Arnold Van Gennep since he first wrote about the liminal. So shout out to Van Gennep. But I learned about liminality while studying Victor Turner in high school and then again in college. And I became obsessed with not only understanding liminality but in living it - constantly. Van Gennep described the three parts of a liminal experience, most often found in rites of passages where the participant changes during the ritual. The three parts are: separation, liminal period and reassimilation.
I grew up in the Baptist church where it was common to "catch the Holy Ghost" and dance wildly and scream and cry. It wasn't a Pentecostal church, mind you, speaking in tongues was firmly frowned upon. The white-clad ushers would circle the parishoner and wrap them in a human cocoon to keep them safe and prevent them from bumping into someone else in their altered state. I never found these moments to be scary or frightening. In fact I was fascinated. I would watch the person's face to see if they were really there. I wanted to know where "they" went and who or what was in their place. And I always remembered the moment when they came back and became themselves again - when they reassimilated. Always completely oblivious to what just happened. As I got older I began studying the religions of Africa and the diaspora. And I learned about spirit possession and people being "mounted" by the orisha. Now this was no different than what I saw in church growing up. And I longed to have the experience. I would sit in church and be moved but I would cry silently or feel myself being overcome by some perfect presence. I never jumped up and down or danced wildly. And somehow felt that my religious experience was "less than" others. That I was not as devout. Not as able to achieve Grace. I began to seek that "other" experience in various ways.
I was a smoker, a drug dabbler, a pretty decent drinker. I never achieved full promiscuity thank G-d but that didn't stop me from trying. I was moving from addiction to addiction trying to get closer to Grace. It never showed.
The next step was childbirth. Now that is an ecstatic experience. Wrong. My births were not ecstatic experiences. They were hard and scary and released ancient demons I thought long since killed or at least beaten into submission through years of denial and beer. And there I stood three children and 36 years later still chasing the dragon, searching for Grace. And then I got cancer.
Nope, that didn't do it for me either. I mostly slogged through cancer trying my best to get from one day to the next and to stay warm. Like most women, I was so busy living my life that I missed the opportunity to reflect upon it.
Now that the dust has settled and I have some time to look back I can see that Grace has always been with me. I mistook it for grace - little g. I wanted the big operatic ending. I wanted to jump up and down and dance wildly and speak in tongues. And then I did what Sweet Honey in the Rock told me to do: I got still. And realized that I am not a dancer, a screamer, a tongues-speaker. I am a quiet, internal, intensely private child of Grace. Chasing the dragon I was always behind it. Now I just walk through my life and let Grace find me. And she always does.
May Grace find you today.
photo by Savage Land Pictures
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Okay, my friend Doula Momma challenged her readers to post six things about ourselves that we have not already posted on our blogs. Well that could be a great many things!
1. I am going back to school.
2. I HATE doing dishes and will put off doing them for as long as humanly possible.
3. I am physically unorganized and mentally too organized.
4. I want more children but know I cannot have any more and this makes me sad.
5. I scream at my kids - Alot.
6. I am socially liberal and morally conservative while respecting other's rights to make their own choices, I still wish they would agree with me!
I don't think I know six people with blogs - tells you I need to get out more, so I will post this on my facebook page!
But I am tagging my sista - Minkgirl, so tag girl, you're it!
And most of you know why. I missed writing the blog. I found that it got me out of myself and somewhere else. It sort of purged my soul a bit. Fortunately I haven't spent too much time feeling sorry for myself the last year. I looked at the calendar this morning and realized that this Saturday it will be a year since I was diagnosed with cancer. I gratefully sit here cancer-free! And I am still tired. Someone inside of me, probably that little girl seeking approval, decided to fill her schedule to the brim so she could make up for lost time. For the weeks she stayed in bed knocked out from the chemo. Or the weeks she slept upright because she couldn't lay down after the open chest surgery. Or the many many naps she took after driving herself to and from radiation therapy for six weeks. The guilt at being sick. A wasted emotion - guilt. So, I cut back this week. I cancelled appointments that I was too tired to keep. I let go of some "obligations" that I had made when feeling invincible. And I apologized to myself for thinking I was "less than" if I didn't do it all. Bottom line: My body is still healing, but more importantly my spirit is still healing and it needs its energy and its wits about it for the next evolution.
- black hair (1)
- blessings (1)
- breast cancer (1)
- breasts (1)
- cancer (1)
- charismatic leaders (1)
- children (1)
- clutter (1)
- confusion (1)
- cults (1)
- death (1)
- disappointment (1)
- Elizabeth Edwards (1)
- enough (1)
- facebook (1)
- fear (1)
- fine print (1)
- forgiveness (1)
- Gaza (1)
- Grace (1)
- graduate school (2)
- gratitude (1)
- guilt (1)
- holistic experience (1)
- infidelity (1)
- Jonestown (1)
- leukemia (1)
- life (1)
- light (1)
- looking up (1)
- love (1)
- memories (1)
- moms (1)
- Oprah (1)
- perfectionism (1)
- power (1)
- president bush (1)
- reincarnations (1)
- reunions (1)
- screaming (1)
- seminary (1)
- serenity (1)
- sick (1)
- surrender (1)
- thanksgiving (1)
- The ides of march (1)
- the indigo girls (1)
- time (1)
- violence (1)
- winter (1)