Wednesday, February 23, 2011
About a week ago, I apparently overloaded our building's washing machine. I was sitting at my desk, probably reading celebrity gossip online, when I heard the unmistakable clanking of an unbalanced machine. I ran downstairs and removed some clothes, and then some more, in hopes that it would work itself out. But the smell of burnt rubber was already filling the air, and I knew it was time to lug my load elsewhere and confess to our sweet yet chatty landlord. After a couple of phone calls, an unannounced landlord visit (and ensuing awkward conversation featuring me, bra-less, in sweatpants & Tazmanian Devil slippers), and a promise for a new machine by this coming Friday, I had a reason to visit my favorite laundromat.
So today, I found myself at the laundromat on 41st and Broadway, where the older lady who runs the place offered me leftover Valentine's Day chocolate, too much information about other people's laundry, like how some kid was going to get in trouble because his momma dropped off the laundry and he was supposed to have picked it up by now, and recipes for scrambled eggs with potatoes now that she had run out of chicken and didn't feel like defrosting more. I love that woman.
As I waited, other people's children scrambled across me and ran their toy cars into me (when did I stop minding that?) I absentmindedly rubbed my head, noticing that my hair is getting long enough to feel more soft than prickly, and began to scroll through my facebook newsfeed on my phone. I saw a link to an article about Libya, mentioning that hundreds have already died, and Gaddafi has ordered more attacks on peaceful protesters. And right there, I sort of crumpled and began crying.
I didn't want the kids to see me and think I was some big weirdo, so I quickly pulled myself together and wiped my eyes discreetly. But my heart was hurting in a big, big way. There is just SO much . . . SO much pain and struggle in the movement toward liberation, whether it's through workers' struggles in Wisconsin or Ohio, freedom fighters in the Middle East and North Africa, black women speaking out against "pro-lifers" who try to speak for them, or just straight up looking out of the window just about anywhere in Oakland.
Even when I'm looking out of my window, this isn't about "those poor people over there." I know it's within these walls, too, and within this human form I am lucky to occupy. And just as I honor my own struggles, my own fight for self-determination, I honor the struggles of other people. I know it is not a pitiable position - to proclaim freedom, and work toward taking our own power and freedom back, wherever we might happen to be on the path, near or far from our destination of liberation. And. And today I am just tired from it. I'm not even out in the streets the way so many other people are lately. But I am weary of the fight, of the struggle.
Some younger, less politicized version of myself once thought that we could just kind of decide not to struggle, and build beautiful new things and systems and ways of relating instead. As I grew and learned and talked and listened over the years, I found myself in despair, believing in the Struggle as the Way again . . . the Only Way, the True Way. Now, I find myself having to create space for both of these, and other paths, all Ways . . . whether they are mine or something I have never heard or thought of before. I have to see the world as it really is, have space for that which I will never know, be, or recognize, and work both against that which is oppressive and hurtful and for that which is beautiful and good.
So I listen to the elder at the laundromat, and smile at the kid vroom-vrooming his toy car into my thigh, and scratch my fuzzy head, and keep on going.