ghosts and empty shells

i walked by a restaurant, now boarded up. i remember getting drinks with a friend there about two years ago and i remember eating dinner there with my dad in the fall of 2016. it is where i implored him to "vote for my uterus". i am pretty sure an ex and i ate there once too, but honestly i can't tell if i am making the memory up or not. anyway, now it is boarded up and i pass it with a hint of sadness as i walk to another restaurant.

another place that holds memories...gone.

this is not new. those of us city dwellers experience this on the daily. in the last month, two convenient coffee shops have been closed. i learned this as i ran to them before meetings and realized i would have to go matcha latte-less (i know, i know). i hadn't realized that these places had become routine, but they had and now they are gone. the starbucks i frequented when i did a summer program in union square at age 15 was also the starbucks i cried in in sept 2015 and it is now a make-up store. but the tapas place that tried to kill me by failing to alert me to the hazelnuts in one dish, even though i asked if there were nuts, is still there. the waitress who felt so bad about it though...i think she has left. 

i've been thinking a lot about loss and losing. about ghosts and empty shells. i've been thinking about how places and people leave unexpectedly or they slowly disappear. the grocery store on my block, the chase bank that moved across the street...the place across the street that was a deli when my cousin lived here, but is now a mexican restaurant that may have actually been closed because i haven't seen it open in a while...gone, but not gone. ghosts on street corners. shells that will never be what they were.

like friendships and relationships.

i've been looking at friends and wondering if they will be in my life forever. wondering if the closeness i feel with them will be sustained. i think of friends who were once my soulmates and are now people i care for, but never talk to. a like. a FB bday message. a run thru their instagram. i know their kids' names or know they just moved, but not much else. and its okay, of course, because life moves on and we pick up folks along the way. folks who get us and folks who hurt us and folks that become family. 

last night i chatted with an old friend that i am visiting next month. we talked about the closeness we still feel despite the time and space between us. i think to myself, yes, she will be here and then think of others i can't say that confidently about.

there is family i don't really speak to. i wonder if that will ever change. i worry that it won't but haven't done anything to fix it.

i think it is weird that there are people out there that know so much about me, or me at a certain moment, and i know so much about them, or them at a certain moment, and yet we are essentially ghosts to one another.

i think of the men i've loved or thought i could love. i think of the ones i may never speak to or see again. i think of the one who likes an instagram photo once a year. i think of the one i still consider a close friend though we never talk and may never actually be actual friends again. i think of the ones that used to mean so much to me, but i never think about now. i think of my yearning for love, for partnership and the fear that the eyes that are looking for this love, seeking this love out are actually just looking for someone who will one day be on this list of people and places that used to be ours and that used to know us so well and that used to be our soulmates but will one day just be a person you hope you don't run into on the subway.

i guess what i am saying is that it is amazing to me how we keep going. how we find new hangout spots and brunch places. how we find new neighborhoods and new baristas to have crushes on. how we find and make new friends and new lovers and new connections. sometimes i am so scared of eventually losing a place or a person that i don't even want to enjoy them while they're here. i am amazed every time i work past that fear or that fear disappears. i am amazed how we go into it, eyes and hearts open. or we try to. we try to forget what could happen and try to just enjoy what's in front of us. and thank the heavens that we do. thank the heavens that we feel the losses, but yearn for the new connections. thank goodness for the present moment, for the moments when these places and people are just...there.

on friday i walked with a new friend. we passed by a place i used to love to go to when i was a teen and in my early twenties. many a friend and a love and a family member went there with me. and now it is something else. something new. people went in and out of it. my friend and i just walked on by. we got gelato at a place i've never been to before. and we sat at a familiar place, but in a new location for me. and i didn't worry about closings or losses or ghosts. 

some words for today

originally written on my personal facebook page.

this morning i am thinking about being a woman of color. and i am thinking about the small things that happen to me on a daily basis--how my body is ignored on a daily basis and how an older white woman pushed me and my bag while i simply waited for the subway the other day and how when expressing myself i've been called irrational and how i continue to be both sexualized and desexualized and how i often have to find proof for the things i know to be true despite others just being believed, how i change my voice and mannerisms when shopping, etc.. and i am thinking of how small these things feel to me...how normal and everyday they feel...and yet i keep thinking how these small things are signs of/grow into bigger things, and bigger beliefs, and bigger prejudices, and bigger and bigger. and i am thinking about the women of color who lost their lives this weekend--one for practicing her faith and another for calling for help--and the ones the weeks and months and years before that--for changing lanes without signaling, for being transgender, for loving who they love, etc. etc. and...

i am just thinking about it all this morning. 
thinking
and thinking
and thinking
and feeling
feeling it all
looking at my body
and feeling
and thinking
and feeling.

we wait

i didn't want to write anything until i knew the outcome of the election. 

but it is close. we are waiting. we are scared.

tonight, while sipping wine and trying to breathe, i looked over the exit polls.

and it is fascinating.

not really surprising, but fascinating. 

we are a divided country. 

and we are divided by race like whoa.

gender too. a bit.

we have opposing views of where we are as a country. in 2008 and 2012, i voted for change. i voted for obama. today, in the exit poll, those who wanted change the most voted for trump. 

i don't know where we'll be in an hour or two. or tomorrow morning. 

i do know that the feeling as much as i can't believe we are here, i am not surprised. and those exit polls, they show why i am not surprised. because we are multiple countries in one. because we see things differently. we define great in different ways. 

and i think they also show how what people say and do in public is different than what they do in private. 

and in private, people do some crazy shit.

#imwithher until the end. 

read and write

on my way to california last week for my granddaddy's funeral, i finished colson whitehead's the underground railroad. in the book, whitehead makes a point to depict black men and women learning to read and to write after being prevented from learning as slaves.

slaves were often prevented from learning to read and to write. depending on the situation, depending on the location, depending on the plantation, it could be a dangerous act to learn. an even more dangerous act to show that you knew how to read and write. 

i sat back on the plane. i thought of how, most days, all i am doing is reading and writing. reading and writing. reading and writing and buying books and wanting to write books and then back to reading and writing.

it doesn't seem revolutionary that i am a writer and reader. it seems like breathing to me. i can't imagine my life without my relationship to words, to paper, to bindings. 

i sat back on the plane and i thought about all of this. i thought about how i shouldn't apologize for my reading and my writing. i thought about how i should forge ahead, keep getting lost in words. i thought about how becoming a successful writer and reader could be revolutionary.

hours later, i stood in my grandparents' house. my dad waved me over to a wall of pictures. he pointed to one. "that's your great, great grandfather. he was born a slave."

and i thought it wasn't that long ago that someone like me, someone like my great great grandfather, perhaps even my great great grandfather, wasn't supposed to get lost in a book, wasn't supposed to put my/their thoughts down on paper. it wasn't that long ago that someone like me would have been putting their life at risk to write, to read, to express the way i do now freely.

and then i let the thoughts go.

until tonight.

a black man was shot by police today. i went to bed thinking about one black man who had been shot by police and then today heard of another. the police say he was armed with a gun (in an open carry state, mind you). 

an eyewitness says he was armed with a book. 

and now i am sitting here wondering if i am as free to read and write as i thought. 

i am wondering what is left to write, to read, when it has all been said before and people still won't listen. 

i am wondering what words can do to save us.

 

 

 

i can't hear you

speak up. i can't hear you. you are mumbling.

i hear these phrases more often now than i did as a kid. 

i trip over my words now, as though thoughts are coming too quickly and my lips and tongue and mouth can't keep up. i think that is why i got a little bit quieter a few years ago. i noticed a change in my speech.

when someone tells me to speak up, i usually do, in the moment, and then get quieter for the rest of the time. i've made a mistake. i've spoken wrong. i've not been clear. why speak anyway?

also there are so many loud people in the world. people who love to hear themselves talk. why talk at all?

but speaking is a good thing. speaking up is a good thing. sometimes not speaking up is a bad thing. of course, there are big, societal examples of that. but then there are the small examples too.

last week i didn't speak up about something. i don't want to go into it because, contrary to popular belief, i don't want to share every last detail with the internet. suffice it to say that i stayed quiet despite something happening that was emotionally, and physically, painful. i suffered through it, waiting for it to end. when it was over, i didn't show any of what i had just gone through. 

i have written words like that so many fucking times it feels pathetic. [but it is not pathetic, i know]

a friend mentioned that she liked how this blog seems to repeat itself. i seem to be processing many of the same things over and over again. well, this is one of those things. this is one of those things i keep feeling like i solve and then i am thrust into situations and i see i've gained no ground at all.

why don't i speak up, folks?

why don't i stand firm in my convictions when it comes to myself, my being, my emotions, my body?

why do i let others hurt me--emotionally, physically, hypothetically?

why do i swallow the pain and just deal with the consequences?

i am so loud and strong in retrospect. i am so adamant and angry after the fact. there is a delay between the act and the reaction. it is like my reflexes are too slow. it is the next day, it is the next month, it is years later and, after much thought, that i see how i let myself down again. how i see that i found myself trying to please another person more than please myself. how i see that i push myself down and down and down.

in retrospect, i see that i am the one that will carry the burden. why do i choose that instead of lightness? 

really the question is: why do i choose another person instead of myself?

i guess that feels like the big question right now. in more ways than one. that is the lesson i have yet to learn, the big one anyway. the scary thing is how much i put myself at risk when i don't choose myself. it doesn't feel good in retrospect. it doesn't feel good at all.

and there are answers to that question--at least partial ones. like hello, i am a woman and a black woman and i've learned many times that that intersection is fraught with this. so often i've had to put myself down, hide myself, not be myself. so often i've had to choose another person. so often i've had to relay a feeling that i was another person. 

so those are partial answers.

but there is more. there is something very personal. 

there is something about my voice and speech vs. writing. there is something about vocalizing. something about my 5th chakra if you are into that. 

something. 

whatever it is i need to figure it out.

because letting yourself down...that doesn't feel good either.

the pressure to see the silver lining

 george does not see the silver lining of me leaving for rehearsal...

george does not see the silver lining of me leaving for rehearsal...

these days i often feel like i am essentially writing the same three things in three different ways.

i hope that doesn't bore you.

yesterday was a hard day. there are a bunch of reasons why it was hard. we can blame PMS, dreary weather, end of the semester, post-race blues, anxiety, depression, etc.

take your pick.

and as i was walking to the subway, i was feeling pretty craptastic. like i'm about to cry on the subway craptastic (full disclosure: i ended up crying on the subway). 

and i was thinking about how just a few days before i was talking to someone and discussing the last few months. and the person was super well-meaning and mentioned that there must have been a good side to everything that has happened. and i smiled and said, "oh yes, of course" and then proceeded to list all the wonderful things i've learned and experienced.

but as i was walking to the subway yesterday, i was thinking about how--while all those things are true--the other truth is that it is still hard for me to see the silver lining. it is still hard for me to see the positive for the negative. it is still hard for me to not feel like the emotional scarring is all that matters. i was thinking about how while i myself can list all the good things about the last few months, i often pressure myself to do it.

because i worry that i've been negative and sad for too long.

because i worry that still feeling shitty is bad.

because i worry that i can't go on dates and still feel this way.

because i worry that being a sad sally, negative nancy points out some character flaw i have.

and so i put the smile on my face and discuss all the good.

sometimes i truly believe the good.

BUT SOMETIMES I DON'T.

sometimes i am spouting all the silver lining, bright side bullshit because i feel like i'm supposed to.

there is a pressure to tell the story and end in a happy place. to say "this thing happened to me. it was crappy. and now i'm in a better place." there is a pressure to find the silver lining.

believe me, i like me a silver lining. i like the "i get knocked down, but i get up again" mentality. i like the i'm gonna turn these lemons into lemonade. 

i do.

its awesome. its encouraging. it gets us off the couch. it pushes us.

but all too often i think we force people to accept the silver lining, to see it and like it, before they need to accept it. i think we push people to "not dwell" and "get over it" and "move on" before they are ready.

and i think we do this because we love people.

but i also think we do this because we don't like awkwardness and sadness and we don't know what to do or say so we try to turn the conversation to happier things. instead of just dealing with the sadness.

for example: "i know it sucks now, but soon you'll have a harem of guys" is something i was told only weeks after having my heartbroken as a response to me explaining how shitty i felt by multiple people (in some way or another). anyone who said that to me is lucky to have their life because all i wanted to do was push them down an elevator shaft. i wasn't ready to hear that then. i'm still not. mostly because i've never wanted a harem of guys. that's another thing...we push the silver lining we want on others (one woman's harem dream is another woman's harem nightmare). (but also because where is this harem you promised me? still fucking waiting on that)

people were trying to make me feel better by pushing me to see the light. and that's good. we need the friends that remind us that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. but we also need friends who also let us sit in the tunnel and complain about how dark it is. we need friends who will take our hands and walk with us through the tunnel, giving us a push when need be. we need friends to understand we all have different speeds of getting through it.

we also need friends to tell us when we are wallowing. but there is a difference between pressuring us to accept the silver lining, forcing us to speak to it even when we don't feel it,  and helping us see that the silver lining is there and helping us see that the end of the tunnel is super close. it is subtle. but it is there. 

as i dip my foot back into dating, i think about this a lot. because i don't want to be the girl on the date still heartbroken. i'd like to be "over it". i'd like to see how "it was a great thing for me". i'd like to say "i've really come into my being since it all happened and now i'm just living my best life". 

but the truth is healing takes time. and while i may be ready to embark on a new relationship (assuming this harem appears) or at least ready to attempt to find a person who may convince me that embarking on a new relationship is worth it, i may also be dealing with the emotions and pain and scarring and depression these last few months have caused and brought to light. and because these things were and are linked to deeply rooted beliefs about myself, it may take months, years for me to finally be able to wholeheartedly say "i see and love the silver lining i was given". (unless chris pratt or nate parker end their marriages and show up at my doorstep...then i will accept that silver lining so fast...)

but, really, being in the dark tunnel for a while is fucking okay.

it is okay to not be okay with it.

it is okay to not be all "i've learned so much and am so grateful for the shit that happened".

it is okay to be somewhere in-between.

i'm tired of feeling the pressure to smile and say, "i'm doing great".

because some days i'm not. and some days i am. and sometimes the light at the end of the tunnel is super bright and other times its dark as fuck and we should be able to tell each other the truth about that. 

and we should be okay with the fact that some tunnels are 3ft long and others are 3,000mi long and the light, the silver will be there when we need it.