I’m on the Pacific side this flight,
Looking out to the giant blueness,
Reading Freeman’s Dictionary of the Undoing.
I think about my wealth of privilege.
I think about how I have started this decade by paying an artist to adorn my One Body with her rendition of my protector.
I feel good about how this transaction benefits both our lives.
About how it might allow her son to get more and better education.
About how it allows me to feel empowered.
I think about Freeman’s words.
About how I have this one Body.
About how those in power manipulate us – me – through my “choice” of this very interaction with you – you.
About how I want to read this book out loud in a park for all to hear,
But ultimately afraid of being deemed a “crazy person”.
What have they –
Can we undo?
I want to refuse to be the Watcher.
I want to reject my own apathy.
How do I watch the world burn, how do I make meaning out of a life by just
My one Spark?
It seems too small.
gotta start somewhere.
There is a long black hair on this airplane window and I think,
This is a person
This is DNA
And I reach out in hope towards whoever wherever this person is
I have six unfinished drafts in my “Drafts” section, all with titles but like, one sentence. So it has become clear to me that I should just start writing stuff, see what happens, NOTHING CAN GO WRONG, RIGHT? I mean, I’m sure someone out there wants to read about my cats and my patio filled with mostly dead plants and “marine layer” grunge and the fact that I cannot seem to get a decent night’s sleep to save my life right now. I have projects that I know need doing, like cleaning the aforementioned patio and maybe clean out a closet or dusting anything at all ever. And yet, this past weekend, I watched all 18 episodes PLUS the live show of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend season 4. I don’t even LIKE musicals. (Rachel Bloom is a goddamn genius though and I love her.) Am I procrastinating? Tired? Afraid?
Probably all three. While the Menopause Saga has gotten better thanks to modern medicine and taking naps on weekends, I’m still kind of being a weird recluse because things just take too much energy. Shaving my fucking legs takes too much energy. Clothes are annoying and I don’t want to wear them anymore. None of these situations are options. (I mean, they are options for someone, just not me.) I have been moderately successful at cooking things and driving places and generally getting shit done, but not without resentment. And then maybe gratitude a little later. But the space in between those feelings is a little too big (read: CAVERNOUS) for my liking.
So here we are, World. I’ll just throw some words out here and see what happens. What have I got to lose? Thank you, 3 readers, for sticking with my inconsistent self. I’ll keep trying because that is all any of us can do.
When they told us that we might be able to get our copies of The Audacity of Hope signed at a rally in Dallas in late 2007, we knew that there were a host of long shots involved. We all piled up our books with sticky notes inside them with our names, and then went on to do the work of the volunteer: Hand out stuff. Talk to people. Pretty much all the things I hated to do because, as outgoing as I seem, I do not enjoy foisting myself on the general public. I was committed to getting him elected, even if he didn’t have a chance.
We stood in a large room at Gilley’s and listened to him speak. I remember it was a weird time, early, like 5 or 6 pm on a weekday. The room was packed, his mic wasn’t that good, and the crowd was energetic. A few minutes before he was finished speaking, the volunteers were told to go out in the hall to anticipate the crowd as they left, to hand out flyers regarding when and where to vote, and how to encourage others to do so during the primary. All of a sudden, a very stern-looking, diminutive but strong woman in a navy suit and short heels was headed straight for me. It was hard to miss the fact that she was wearing a gun and an earpiece. She said, “We need all the volunteers out here to line up! He wants to say hello.” And we did. Quickly. Before I had a chance to figure out what I was going to say, he was standing in front of me, holding out his hand for me to shake it, and he pointedly said, “And what is your name?” I barely got it out. It was a moment I will never forget. We left with our books, each signed.
The night of the election in 2008, my husband and I went with a group of friends down to Bishop Arts where they had the streets blocked off and big screens in several locations to watch the returns. I remember almost sinking to the pavement when they called it for him. I had been an election judge for the primary. I had never worked so hard for anything in my life. I had risked my job by standing up to a boss who deemed Obama a Muslim terrorist openly and publicly. My husband lost his job because he took a day off to work the primary with me. I remember standing in a burger joint that night in Bishop Arts, tears streaming down my face, while watching him speak in Grant Park after the election results.
There is nothing I can write about President Obama that hasn’t already been written. He had ups. He had downs. I spent the first few years hoping that he would not get shot. He was not perfect. He could not accomplish everything he wanted to do. He had a hand in some things that were not good. Despite it all, I was proud on the whole to have a very intellectual and thoughtful person in the highest office in the land. I was proud that I had an incredibly small role in getting him there.
Given what we are facing tomorrow, I am – if nothing else – amazed and honored that I was alive to see the first African-American President of the United States serve this country in the best way he could for eight years. I will miss him. I will not watch the inauguration of an ill-educated, misogynistic, racist businessman. I will set my thoughts to a higher purpose. I will attend a Women’s March the next day.
I am unsure about where we are headed as a nation – the progress we have made in the last eight years seems vast. Can it all be undone? What I know is this: There are those of us out here who are ready to fight, march, vote, and speak truth to power. We will not let go of the idea that progress is something only we can forge. That regression is not an option. That this country, for all it’s failed experiments, is still ours to try to make succeed.
Rolling down your street, full gear on, helmet and everything, Bambi legs, sweating, and possibly looking a little (alright, A LOT) out of place? Wow. What the fuck does she thing she’s doing? Look at her.
That’s right, take a gander. That was me. 6:48 yesterday evening. Technically 6:57, because the first 9 minutes were spent standing casually on my sidewalk, trying to look like I was waiting on someone. In my skate gear. Like you do in the suburbs. That was after 3-5 minutes of sitting on my porch, putting my skates on, only to immediately fall on my ass the minute I tried to stand up. Oh, and the extra 60 seconds it took to roll timidly back in the house to get mouth guard and helmet. Because holy shit, if I was going to fall down IMMEDIATELY, who knows what’s in store, riiiiight? Oh, and the few more minutes I took to roll around in my front room to make sure I was not going to just completely forget what my legs do.
Was I scared? Yup. Terrified. I have not put skates on in over a year. We recently moved to a neighborhood where there is an amazing 9-mile trail, very tame and paved with concrete sidewalks, around a little pond. I had built up “skating the trail” to such monumental heights that I actually began convincing myself that there was no way I could do this. But I badly wanted to do this. None of these thoughts, of course, are rational. I am a decent skater. Not a great roller derby player, because there is a very distinct difference, as many of you reading this can attest. But I more than mastered the art of, you know, circling. I have skated many a trail. Some difficult. Some that other skaters never would even try. So it’s not like it’s a foreign concept.
Bur you retire, you get comfortable in not really knowing pain on a daily basis any longer, and for some of us, those skates aren’t that easy to just don with any kind of confidence any more. Then you start wondering if you ever even had confidence in the first place. And if you did, was it warranted. Go thee forth into this downward spiral of Self-Esteem Rabbit Holes. You get the picture.
This particular rabbit hole left me staring at my skates longingly, but making 1001 excuses as to why I couldn’t put them on. A great deal of the excuses were rooted in the psychological damage I inflicted on myself while playing roller derby. Sometimes the skates were too hard emotionally to even look at, much less wear. But you know what, nothing feels the same way forever. No feeling lasts. Things change. And for me, that has been beautiful. Even if painful. The beauty is in the reality that I get to write this story. No one else does. No one else defines me. No one else gets to tell me I’m ok, or not ok, or not enough, or just right. People can, and do. And yet:
That is my job. My singular job. For whatever time I get on this amazing, fucked-up, ironic and devastatingly gorgeous planet.
And the old moves, the feeling of being a little unsure or awkward but getting better with every step, came back. Did I cross over the Dreaded Wooden Bridge? Not last night. Will I? Maybe. All I know is that with the wind blurring my vision just a little along with weird, hesitantly watery eyes for some unknown reason, I felt like my soul let go. Like it doesn’t matter that people saw me. That you saw me.
What the fuck do I think I’m doing? I don’t have a clue. But right at that moment, in all of the intense vulnerability and joy that bubbled up inside of me, it was the most perfect skate of my life.
You are always there. You look like my friend’s mom. You don’t seem overly jubilant, which I totally get. However:
You always talk to me. You always ask or comment about something I’ve bought. We chat. You are not crazy. In fact, the old me would write about how annoying you are and how I am in a hurry dammit and cut the small talk, Lady.
But what I want to say to you right now is I love you. I love that you engage me. I can tell that the people behind me in line do not share this love. I don’t care. You are making the most of your day, and by doing so, have made a lasting impression on me.
The next time I see you, I will learn your name and I will maybe even creepily hug you. Because right now, we all need to reach out to everyone, appreciate that this life passes by pretty damn quick, and there is nowhere any of us need to get to so badly that we ignore our sameness, our ability to interact, our humanity.
For everyone behind me in the proverbial Target line, if you have posted recently about “be kind to each other” or “love wins” or whatever the Facebook sentiment of the day is, this is where it starts. It starts with me. And you.
I am not a native. I did not grow up there. I have never lived there. I have never, for that matter, lived in Louisiana. But you know how you go somewhere and you feel like you’ve been there all your life? That’s how I feel about New Orleans, and I am sure I’m not the only person who has felt that way. There’s a certain allure about the French Quarter – the steeped-in-history feeling, the grunge, the funk, the quaintness, the overall vibe is exactly what millions of people fall in love with over and over and over again. Every time I am there, I feel a weird, other-worldly feeling – like I am supposed to be there. Like I have been there already. Like the city is waiting for me, breathlessly, until I return.
And of course, it is. Waiting for me with its endless balconies of weathered wrought iron; with its music that fills every corner – sometimes the jazz or blues it is famous for, other times drunken karaoke sung by a tourist. Waiting for me with gallons of coffee and alcohol, if I wanted it. It was something I worried about on this last trip – this was my first trip sober, and I was a little anxious to find out if New Orleans still held all the same mystery it did for me when I was drinking. It of course did, because somehow I always knew that even though drankin’ is a huge part of the essence of the city, there’s a heartbeat that echoes subtly underneath the booze. It’s the people, the whispered and passed-down tales, the food (good god almighty the food) and the desperate beauty that is New Orleans. There’s absolutely no escape from it, at least not for me.
Have I seen absolutely crazy shit there? Yes. Hasn’t everyone? More often than not, however, I find myself walking the streets of the Quarter or any of the surrounding neighborhoods in awe of the care people take with their plants, their porches – as if this is where life is centered, unlike anywhere else in the country. I can imagine nothing more perfect than to lounge on a plant-filled porch with a book or a pen or some music, watching the neighborhood, watching the sunset, watching all the vibrant colors that New Orleans is. Watching the night come alive, listening to the sounds of people cooking, laughing, drinking, and luxuriating – yes, that – the way only this one culture does.
I’m not a Christian, but I’m filled with reverence for the dead in this city. Being among the graves in St. Louis # 1 fills me with not only the sense of “damn I best gather these rosebuds right the fuck now” but also with a stillness and a longing to know more, to learn all I can about the people who have lived here and made New Orleans what it is. When I visit the small church that is next to the cemetery, it’s perfect and new to me every time I go. The mosaics, the grotto, the room that is heated with a thousand silent prayers on the wicks of candles – it is gorgeous, it is tragedy, it is human.
No one can say nor has ever said I’m an optimist. I’ve always subscribed to the viewpoint of “expect the worst and you might be pleasantly surprised.” It has seemed to work out thus far. And 2012, you were the one year in which I did not expect the worst, but you sure showed me. I mean, of course it could have been EVEN MORE WORSE, but unless you threw coffee in my face and spat on me, 2012, it was pretty much teh suck. If it weren’t for an amazing husband and awesome friends, I would probably be more hermit-like than I already am, trapped inside a box of wine on my couch in a shoddy bathrobe, littered with old highlighted copies of Anne Sexton. So 2013, I beg you, can I have a year without unnecessary bullshit?
10. Please refrain from making sure I get a stupid common cold that lasts for 2 weeks. I blame you, December.
9. I could use a little break on the stress, too. I will make a deal with you: I’ll meditate, and you, 2013, need to lay the fuck off.
8. Please do not open any of these restaurants near my house: Tin Star, Buca di Beppo, or Liberty Burger. Oh wait. Thanks a lot, Liberty Burger. These extra 20 pounds thank you too. Every one of them.
7. Figure out a way to ensure I never run out of coffee. I don’t think this is an unreasonable expectation, 2013.
6. Seriously: No more hurricanes on the East Coast.
5. Even more seriously: No more kitty or doggie sadness. I can’t take it.
4. I’d really like to make it through you with no broken bones. Take pity on the old and infirm. I promise to strength train or do whatever insanity Pynk Fitness suggests. PROMISE.
3. Somehow be the year in which the Automatic Laundry Hang N’ Fold is invented.
2. Diet French Fries too.
1. More than anything else, 2013, just keep everyone I love safe, healthy, and happier than 2012. If that’s too great an expectation, well…ok. We’ll call it “hope.” THIS TIME. I mean, if Justin Bieber can believe, I can too. I think.
Best Wishes to everyone for a clean slate and more betterness than you expect.