Saturday, January 28, 2023

Holding space


Photo: Jnane Tamsna

Tyre Nichols was just trying to get home

I am lying here in the darkness with the covers over my head, brooding on the things in this world that derail and ravage me, and the king of them all is sorrow. 

Uncertainty, the unresolved, that feels like a vise grip on my heart sometimes, thoughts looping and insides churning, tied in knots. The physicality of fear, because what else could it be when uncertainty so unravels us, is really quite literal when you’re experiencing it, as I have been of late. Yet I keep on. 

But sorrow. That is the thing that lays me down, hollows me out, makes me useless and unable to move forward. The sorrow of Black mothers. 

I like awake in the night and pray to God, love, universe, whoever or whatever is pulling the strings, to protect my beloveds, to protect all our beloveds, to keep them safe, let their hearts rest easy. Let them not meet trouble. 

Because sorrow. Especially of Black mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, lovers, friends. 

“I’m just trying to get home,” the young Black father, artist, and skateboarder told those Memphis cops who pulled him over "on suspicion of reckless driving"—well, was he or wasn't he? Couldn't they tell?? They beat the young man mercilessly, kicked and pepper sprayed and pummeled him, though he tried his best to comply, tried to deescalate things, even though he knew he hadn't been doing anything wrong. When he realized they meant to murder him, he tried to run, but they caught up to him, and battered him some more. Three days later he died in the hospital, and five of the cops involved were summarily fired, all of them happened to be Black. There has been little mention of the sixth cop who was out there brutalizing young Tyre Nichols. That cop wasn't fired, no need to wonder why, because that cop happens to be white.

Writer Jemele Hill pointed out that anyone who thinks this isn't about race because the five cops charged are Black is failing to grasp that police forces were founded on and continue to operate from a code of white supremacist violence, and non-white officers trained "under the boot of oppression" learn to carry that water. Also, as activist Bree Newsome Bass noted, "The white owner class is not policed or surveilled because the function of police is to maintain the race/class hierarchy." Don't forget, our nation's police forces evolved from Southern slave patrols. Does any of us truly think those cops would have beaten and brutalized a young white man in the same way?

Not gonna lie, this one has me by the throat, as George Floyd's murder did, as Breonna Taylor's and Philando Castile's murders did, and so many others whose innocent Black bodies were so savagely destroyed by the police state.

Rest in peace Tyre Nichols. Your mother said you were a good son. Your friends called you a beautiful soul. You were trying to be a good father. You did not deserve to die.

Thursday, January 26, 2023


Is that not an extraordinary looking man? I am mesmerized by his face, as if he were real. He isn’t. He’s painted by a digital creator under the name @creolexhibit, a self described “mystical fine artist.” I don't even know the gender of the artist but I do love the work, which I found on Instagram. I look into the faces of the people in these digital paintings and they tell me stories, entire and full blown.

Re my last sad post, I'm mostly fine now, at peace with my Uncle Al's passing, because what a fine and joyful life he had for 97 years. And my girl seems okay for the moment (fingers crossed the wind didn't change as I wrote that) so I'm just engaging with the work that is in front of me to do and letting that take over my consciousness as much as it can. 

I traveled to Washington, D.C. this week to do interviews, got back last night, and as much as I agonized about the trip beforehand (eye roll, because don't I always agonize about showing up), it felt warm and rich and connected and gave me lots of new material to dig into. I have to say I'm "in it" now, this new manuscript I have been contracted to achieve. I don't know how good any of what I'm writing is yet, but I do wake up each morning eager to get to my laptop so I can continue, and that it definitely a sign that the story is beginning to live inside me, with random thoughts about what I should do in a particular paragraph, or a particular section, occurring anywhere, anytime. I love when that starts happening. Oh I have a far, far way to go, but I'm on the road, or in the water, depending on which metaphor for long journeys you prefer. 

I do need to get another puzzle going on my dining table, as so many connections happen when I'm not really thinking about the writing, just hunting for the next jigsaw piece. Plus there's the whole thing about just finding the next piece, writing the next sentence, doing the next indicated thing—a puzzle reminds me of all that. Here's the one sitting at my elbow that I think I will start on later tonight. Hello, my dear friends in this pearlized blue world. I am so happy to be with you here.

Sunday, January 22, 2023

Day break

I’m sad. The world is sad. Another mass shooting in California last night. And this morning the news the my Uncle Al has died, that wonderful man who so championed me, who openly and unabashedly hoped I would be his daughter in law but then fully supported my relationship with the man I would ultimately marry, whom he had known since my husband was a boy. He had been my husband’s family doctor in Antigua, and before that he and my Aunt Myra had become close friends of my parents when he was studying medicine in England and my dad was there studying law. They were part of an expat student community there, young men and women from the many different islands of the Caribbean pursuing medicine and law. Uncle Al and the lovely Myra became parents to two sons and two daughters, including a woman my age who would become like a sister, and who in 1983 would introduce me to my future husband. It was in Uncle Al’s home that I stayed when I visited my husband in Antigua in the years before we were married. Uncle Al talked to us both of love, of growing old together, his wit and wisdom the very definition of sparkling. I have always thought of him as the godfather of my relationship, an example my husband and I could follow into the future, a beacon of how to be. And now he is gone, and it hit me harder than I was expecting, perhaps because I am sad right now about other things too. Strange how sadness and worry can blot out the light, reducing consciousness to a pinprick, and you have to remind yourself to breathe. And yet the last thing you want is to add another layer to anyone else’s portion of pain, and so you must carry the big rock sitting on your chest like the stoic you aren’t, keep doing life somehow, praying that everyone and everything will be healed, comforted, redeemed. This earth life is messy and hard. For the 97 years he was here, Uncle Al made it less so.

Thursday, January 19, 2023

Zoom zoom


Just got off a big Zoom check in with the publishing team for my current project, and now I can exhale. I always get so nervous before these meetings, but it went off beautifully, every person on the call seeming to operate from a generous head space, all players in touch with their humanity, which is to say, with love. Is that a weird thing to note about a work meeting? Because I do think the whole secret to the success of this collaborative endeavor, when you strip everything else away, is love.

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

The things you think keep you safe, don’t

It’s been a while since I’ve lain awake in the dark, a rock on my chest, mother fear swirling so hard I can barely breathe. I try to tell myself that fears are only imaginings, and whatever comes down the pike will be met and survived anyway. Still, I cannot bear the thought of my children’s hearts at risk, as if I can bubble wrap them and spare them life’s pain. I wish I weren’t brooding on the fact that my sunshine daughter seems to be struggling right now, in part because I gave her my overthink-everything-brace-for-catastrophe gene. And my son and his wife will soon travel to a place where everyone might not be hospitable to their interracial union. Will they be safe? These are the things that keep me up at night. This night. I am twisting on a spit of anxiety and dark mother thoughts and can’t seem to reason myself free. 

Sunday, January 15, 2023

Trying: a synonym for living

I was just so taken with this list of new year resolutions posted on Instagram by writer, artist, and performer Alok Vaid-Menon. Meet Alok, if you don't already know them. A joyful, intrepid, and empathic soul.

Wednesday, January 11, 2023


Some readers here were so upset at my post about watching the Netflix documentary Harry & Meghan, and my expressed sympathy for the couple, my believing their experience as they related it, that they wrote me "how could you" and "I'm so disappointed in you" messages, and summarily took themselves away from being in community here. I accept that. Because by my lights, Harry and Meghan have every right to tell their story in their way, to speak the truth as they see it, regardless of what the British tabloid media might have to say about them, indeed especially because of what the British tabloids have already said about them, chewing them up mercilessly in sacrifice to more senior members of the royal family—Charles and Camilla, William and Kate, if you want to name names, and their faceless courtiers. Why should Harry and Meghan remain silent in the face of lies told about them? Of the ugliest, most violent racist and sexists tropes arrayed against them by bitter old men whom Camilla invites to her Queen Consort luncheons and teas? 

All that to say, I am now reading Prince Harry's new book Spare, which he wrote with a very fine collaborator, J.R. Moehringer, who also penned Andre Agassi's critically acclaimed memoir Open. (J.R. Moehringer's name isn't on the cover of either book, which is why I'm naming him here, because I know he talked deeply with Harry through weeks and months, perhaps even years of interviews, and labored with him over each carefully chosen word.) I'm still only a few chapters into Spare, but I find the book to be exceptionally well written and emotionally revealing. Harry is not trying to hide. He only wants to tell the tale from where he stood, with as much self examination as he can muster. And once again, I believe him. This is how it was, and is for him, as he and his biracial wife continue to be demonized, with the British press putting out a statement yesterday—gleaned as always from a mysterious palace "source"—that the royal family cannot reconcile with Harry as long as he remains "kidnapped by the cult of psychotherapy and Meghan." 

And there it is. Your Black wife or the family firm, buddy boy. I applaud Harry for choosing his wife and children. As far as I'm concerned, don't come for this broken kid with the royally ostracized mother hounded to her death by paparazzi, this young man who so painstakingly put himself back together, who ultimately found and chose love, despite its obvious inconveniences, and who is now daring to push back against lifelong conditioning that says he should bear his trauma in stoic silence, to tell his side of the story.

Sunday, January 8, 2023

Six, The Musical

Another fantastic evening with my fave theater buddy. We did our usual pre-show dinner and margaritas at Seamore’s, then saw "Six," a rock performance about the six wives of Henry VIll reclaiming their stories from the patriarchy. This was my girl’s Christmas gift to me, and we loved the show! The audience was on its feet, dancing at our seats. As we were leaving, my girl said, “Wait, we still have to take our theater selfie!” And so we did. These Broadway nights in January are the best mother-daughter holiday tradition ever. 


Saturday, January 7, 2023

Book news!

The book I was working on most of last year got announced today—co-host of CBS Saturday Morning Michelle Miller did the cover reveal and shared her memoir's upcoming pub date on her show, so now I can share it here, too!

From the book's flap copy: "Belonging is the powerful and poignant chronicle of Michelle's decades-long quest to connect with the woman who gave her life, to confront her past, and ultimately to find her voice as a journalist, a wife, and a mother ... At once heartbreaking and uplifting, what emerges is an intimate family story about secrets—the secrets we keep, the secrets we share, and the secrets that make us who we are." 

The book will be published on March 14, but you can pre-order it now. Michelle shares a hopeful, intimate, and courageous story about race and identity in America, and the quest to discover, or create, the places where we belong. Also, I loved working with her! She's one of the kindest, most invigorating, and generous humans you will ever know.


Wednesday, January 4, 2023

Work January

The bathroom renovation started with full scale demo yesterday. This was all supposed to happen in December, but then the man and I got Covid over Thanksgiving, and everything had to be delayed. I sit here at my desk listening to the sounds of tiles breaking and smashing to the floor, wall plaster crumbling, debris coming loose. The sink and toilet and medicine cabinet have already disappeared, I never even saw them going out my door. The good news is that I am not as wracked with panic and uncertainty over my material choices as I was with the kitchen remodel last spring, most likely because my thyroid medication is now back in balance so I'm not spinning into darkness, which means I am able to tell myself that it's just a bathroom. So what if it's not high design? We just need it to be clean and bright and functional. Even so, I'm sure I'll learn a whole lot from this process that we can then apply to the back bathroom remodel, whenever that comes around.

In the meantime, the writing life is slowly reclaiming me. I have begun to live again inside the stories, holding each one up to the light, considering the facets, musing on how to best arrange the details to reveal the essential thing. My subject on this book is perhaps more fully engaged in thinking through the material than any subject I have previously worked with. She is ready and willing to delve deeply, the peel back layers, to be thoughtful and brave. But after drafting a preface I am still only on chapter one, and it is always the hardest chapter, because it sets the tone, yet it takes place before a person's memories are truly their own, and so the exact right details to bring the story into view can be elusive. But I'm definitely in it now, mulling day and night over what I know so far, living with the stories inside me as I function in the world, making morning coffee, cleaning up the kitchen and packing the dishwasher, sweeping the floor, dismantling the puzzle completed on the dining table, picking out end pieces for a new puzzle as I re-listen to interview tapes to get my subject's particular way of expressing herself back in my head, trying to remind myself that I just need to get down a bad draft first, and then lift it up from there. 

As someone observed on Post News, the new gathering place for Twitter escapees, "Holiday January is over. Work January has begun." Welcome to 2023 in earnest, dear friends. Doesn't it sound just a little bit like science fiction?

Sunday, January 1, 2023

Photo of the year


October 29, 2022: My daughter's love asked her to marry him and through laughter and tears she said, "Fuck, yes!" After that, there was one more surprise for my girl, a family dinner at Il Florista, where they set us up in our own dining room adorned with beautiful floral arrangements. Our girl burst into tears when she walked in and saw us all gathered there, waiting to celebrate her good news. Even her sister-cousin from Dallas and her husband were there, even though Leisa had been gaslighting her all day, texting as if she was doing the usual back in Texas, when in fact she was in our apartment in New York, waiting to surprise her at dinner. Afterward, as we were getting ready to leave, I made my kids and their loves pose for this prom picture, a moment in time when each of them was standing on the threshold of a brand new life stage, my son a newlywed, my daughter newly engaged, and my niece, newly expecting. That's why I choose this image as my photo of the year. It is so filled with meaning and promise and love. Tell me, what highlight moment would you choose from your year just past, whether a photo exists of it or not? 

Highlight reel

Happy new year my dear friends. Highlights of the past year? Easy. My son got married to his love. My daughter got engaged to her love. And my niece, who I think of as my third child, is expecting a child of her own with her love, whose wedding we attended in Jamaica two short months before the world got locked down and everything changed forever. It's always about the children for me. If they're happy and doing well, then life is good, no matter what other challenges might be in the wings. It's such a simple equation, really, and in 2020, despite some sadness (it's real life after all), the equation definitely favored our family. My new daughter-in-law shared with me some of the wedding photo proofs they got before Christmas. I particularly enjoyed seeing the moments where I wasn't—my son getting ready with his groomsmen, his boys, the whole wedding party on the way to the lakeside chapel, their buoyant mood, their celebration and joy. Here are are few of the photos from that day that were new to me, because what better way to ring in the new year than to relive a sublime love-filled weekend in the woods that was absolutely a highlight of the outgoing year.