Wednesday, December 17, 2014

"Soon the band will be back together"

Finals are done, one year anniversaries have been celebrated, and now she's on the bus bound for home! By tonight she and I will be ensconced on the couch watching the Survivor season finale! My husband just sent me an animated emoji of a smiley face in a Santa hat ringing a bell. The text said, "Soon the band will be back together." He appears so matter-of-fact about our children's comings and goings, but in truth, he's as excited as I am to have them back home! And then tomorrow bright and early the girl and I will fly off to San Francisco for a few days. My cousin and her wife are planning a day trip to Napa Valley with us so the Wines course that my daughter took this semester should come in handy. Just contemplating her arrival in a couple of hours is making me ridiculously happy. This girl.



Monday, December 15, 2014

Woman at the Met



My friend Janice took that photo of a woman at the Metropolitan Museum of Art last week. She sent me the photo, knowing I might want to post it here. Janice is Jewish and an artist, the the roughness of the cloth, safety-pinned to the back of the woman's coat, and the words "Black Lives Matter," took her breath away. It flashed her back to another time in history, when a group of people were forced to wear cloth armbands with the Star of David in the context of a mass genocide. Janice was very affected by that sign on the back of the woman's coat. She found the quiet statement powerful and suggested we should all wear such signs, this time as a testament to life. 



This again

Someone said to me this week, "Pain is a fact. Suffering is a choice."

It doesn't feel like a choice. I feel swamped. Overrun.

I haven't been in quite this place for some time now. I dared to think I might have moved beyond it, maybe even cracked the code of inner peace. Hubris.

I feel so alone.


Sunday, December 14, 2014

Chemical Sunday

There is so much happening at once, in so many different veins, I don't know what to post. Should I post about our choral group's holiday concert yesterday, for family and friends? It was a lot of fun and well attended, and my friend Leslie said she couldn't tell when I was faking the high notes, which I didn't do much, only when it counted! And I have a distinct memory this morning of how happy I felt to look out into the audience and see my husband sitting there, singing along, nodding his head and smiling.

Should I write about the Black Lives Matter Millions March in New York City yesterday? It was huge! I wish I'd been there to add my voice and my presence, but I was singing happy holiday songs while it was happening, which I suppose is as good a use of one's voice as any. But really the march was spectacular, and everyone was there, all descriptions of humans. The diverse surge of people stretched for more than a mile and lasted late into the night as people bonded with one another and affirmed our common humanity. Many of my friends attended. Their photos on Instagram this morning are deeply moving.

Should I write about how disgruntled I am feeling this morning, for reasons not quite clear to me. Maybe it's the mess in the kitchen and the fact that no one else seems to feel the need to clear the dishwasher. I think I might just leave that mess there for a while. I don't feel like cleaning up the kitchen in a mood of poisonous resentment. I need to get back to not really caring first. In the scheme of things, this is petty, I know.

Oh wait. My husband is doing the clean up. I think he might have sensed my mood when I walked into the kitchen just now. God, I do love him. He doesn't deserve this crabbiness.

But why this mood? Maybe it's the fact that after losing 50 pounds and keeping it off for many months (though I have been stalled and not losing any more for all those months), I have been creeping back up ever since my trip to Jamaica, and I am now up 8 pounds and I feel somewhat desolate about it. I am committing right here, right now to get back on track, which I am resolved will have to include regular gym visits. The gym is in the basement of my apartment building, for heaven's sake. I don't even need to brave the elements to get there.

I also saw video from the concert yesterday, including the side view of me walking onto the stage, and ooooh boy! I might have lost 50 pounds (now 42) but I sure have a loooooong way to go! Man, that was a depressing image.

Plus my head hurts and my shoulders and all my joints ache this morning. What the fuck is up with me? Life is good. It really is. So why do I feel like crying?

My daughter comes home in two days. And then she and I are traveling to San Francisco together for a work jaunt. She plans to explore the city on her own on the Friday when I am working. She loves exploring new cities on her own. And then we'll stay until Sunday and have some fun together. I am really looking forward to this trip with her even though I first have to get through the dreaded packing and getting myself to the airport.

(Repeat three times. Life is good.)



Photo: Cori Murray

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Son I Love


I'm working at my laptop which is inside my armoire in the living room while my son watches the series finale of Sons of Anarchy on the couch next to me. He doesn't go in to work until the afternoons on Thursdays. I love having this time with him, both of us engaged in our individual pursuits, and yet keeping each other company, just me and this boy who made me a mother, now a man, whom I adore.



Tuesday, December 9, 2014

15 Minutes


This was the "Black Lives Matter" demonstration that took place in the engineering building on my daughter's college campus early this afternoon. The lie-in (I just can't bring myself to call it a "die-in") lasted 15 minutes—one minute for each of the 11 times Eric Garner said, "I can't breathe" to the Staten Island cops who choked the life out of him, and one minute for each hour that Michael Brown's body lay in the street in Ferguson. The students are in the midst of final exams, but my daughter felt it important to be there to help make a statement. I picked her out in this photo immediately. I'm grateful for the idealism of so many of this generation now taking the stage.


The Racism Beat


This piece on Medium.com tells what it's like to write about race again and again. And why folks get tired.

Here are excerpts:

Maybe it was the realization that writing anything would be to listlessly participate in the carousel ride: an inciting incident, 1,000 angry thinkpieces, 1,000 tweeted links, and back to where we started, until next time. Perhaps it was a feeling that writing anything would finally be too redundant to bear, a pursuit of too many sad and obvious words to heap onto so many other nearly identical words written down before, by me, by thousands of others....

Imagine an editor asking a writer to passionately articulate why a drunk driver hitting and killing a boy on a bicycle is wrong and sad. That would never happen, because a drunk driver killing a boy on a bike is a self-evident tragedy. Asking a writer to exert lots of effort to explain why would be a disservice to the dead, as if his right to life were ever in question, as if our moral obligation to not snuff out our fellow citizens via recklessness were something in need of an eloquent plea.

When another unarmed black teenager is gunned down, there is something that hurts about having to put fingers to keyboard in an attempt to illuminate why another black life taken is a catastrophe, even if that murdered person had a criminal record or a history of smoking marijuana, even if that murdered person wasn’t a millionaire or college student. There is something that hurts when thinking about the possibility of being “accidentally” shot on some darkened corner, leaving a writer who never met you the task of asking the world to acknowledge your value posthumously, as it didn’t during your life. 


The photo, sent by my daughter, shows spray-painted activism at Cornell. My girl says people at her school are galvanized. "Everybody's talking about Black Lives Matter," she texted me. "Differing views of course, but lots of dialogue." Yes, I know that all lives matter, but right now among cops, that doesn't seem to be in question for anyone but Black folks. So I am glad of all the protests across the country. I'm glad a diverse cross-section of people seem to be birthing a movement. I'm glad not everybody's tired.



Sunday, December 7, 2014

Sunday in love


The sunlight pouring into my house this Sunday noon feels holy, cleansing, like a message to release the burdens of the past week that have been weighing so heavily on my heart, and to look at the larger truth instead, which is love.

I'm feeling such love for everyone, for my husband and mother and family and friends, for all of you here, and especially for my children, a love so huge my heart feels like it's going to burst from trying to hold it, and tears spill because the feeling has to find a way out. Can one have a transformational experience alone at home on an ordinary Sunday? I feel as if I've pierced a veil, as if I'm floating, as if I'm high, almost, on love. I might sound a little touched, but I don't mind this feeling that has invaded me this bright and quiet Sunday. Not one bit.

Alone at home, I watched a movie called I, Origins this morning. My husband was out in the cold doing a loving service, handing out hot soup and sandwiches to the homeless people who live in the park. My son was at work, and I was deliciously and guiltlessly on my own, going inward, restoring my own spirit. I had started to watch the news but quickly changed the channel. And then I found this movie with no stars I recognized (except Archie Panjabi), about a molecular biologist pursuing evidence of past lives through the distinctive patterns of human irises. To me the story was really about the persistence of love, and the idea that we never truly lose those we have loved. There were some plot points I could have taken issue with, but mostly I gave myself over to the story. And when it was done, I looked around in my home and noticed the light, and all the heaviness of the past week just lifted, and I had the rare awareness of being wholly in the moment, and it encompassed everything. And right then my daughter texted me a silly funny video, which of course was as perfect as it gets.


Friday, December 5, 2014

In the rain tonight




"I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I am changing the things I cannot accept."

—Angela Davis


All over the city tonight, and across the country, people are marching and lying down and closing down traffic in protest of yesterday's grand jury decision not to indict the cop who killed unarmed Staten Island man Eric Garner in a chokehold. At Columbia University tonight, up the street from me, a diverse group of students and others staged a "die-in" at the annual tree lighting ceremony, lying down on College Walk in protest. Further downtown, other protesters lay shoulder to shoulder in Bryant Park, in the rain, holding up signs that echoed Garner's last words, "I can't breathe." In Herald Square traffic was shut down as protesters poured into Macy's and lay themselves down. Traditional TV news has no idea how to cover it. Twitter is probably capturing it best right now, with citizen reporters tweeting updates in real time. A whole lot of people are just plain fed up and they're drafting off each other's energy. Shades of Occupy. Something big is happening here. We're waking up.

Photo: Columbia Spectator


Sibling protection


At my daughter's college upstate, the students are engaged in conversations about the recent cases of young unarmed Black men shot to death by White cops in circumstances that did not warrant the use of deadly force. It's definitely on her mind. This morning she sent us in our family message inbox a link to an article that suggested that those stopped by cops should invoke the Fifth Amendment and refuse to answer questions. The article suggested Black men especially should carry a business card with the legal language of the Fifth Amendment so they can read it accurately to the police officer.

After the link, my daughter wrote:

But still dont take the card out without your id cause theyll probably think youre reaching for a gun. Or you know, maybe a pill bottle, anything works these days.

Followed by:

Stay safe.

I started to answer with the comment that this Fifth Amendment deal might not work for Black men, especially if no one is around to witness the interaction, because a White cop would probably just get pissed off and could make up a story about what happened and even plant evidence if necessary to support his claim (let's be real, we're not talking about women cops here). I wrote that note, and then deleted it, deciding it wasn't helpful, it would only fuel the sense of jeopardy the Black men I love already live with, and besides, they already know all this. I sat for a moment, slightly heartbroken that my dreamy girl who all her life has floated above the ugliness, is now having such an education in the harsher realities of this world.

And then my phone pinged again. It was my son sending through this message:

Jesus, I thought that was from mommy at first! smh

To which I responded:

Your sister loves you.

The photo up top is of my kids. My daughter was 5 and my son 8. They've got this.

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