Wednesday, March 30, 2011
Le Sigh. Le Sigh Francais. Le Sigh with a cigarette dangling out of the corner of my mouth.
(Quickly: Today I am very happy overall because it is my honey's birthday and I love celebrating him and his wonderfulness. But that's not what I'm going to write about.)
I had lunch today with a friend and former coworker whom I think is fabulous. It was great to ride my bike to the cafe on this sunny day and see her sunny smile and do some catching up. During our conversation, however, this "stuckness" came up for me. I noticed how stuck I am in the narrative of Poor Me.
I've been here before. Then all of a sudden I'm not stuck in it anymore, and I think it's over forever. Things are fabulous! I am great! I can't believe that a year ago I was so stuck in Poor Me Land! Never again! I am so much better than that person over there who is stuck in Poor Me! I'm evolved. I'm the BEST! Then, without fail, my ego is shattered again (healthy, I say) when things go wrong and I can't get what I want or need and it is everybody else's fault. Sometimes it's my fault, and sometimes it's just EVERYBODY ELSE'S FAULT. Dammit.
Yes, sometimes it is in fact everybody else's fault. Sometimes people will screw you over and throw you under the bus and blame you for all kinds of things and you never have a proper opportunity to defend yourself. Sometimes these things happen. I've never been the type to say, "Oh, well. Take responsibility! Put a smile on your face! Move forward!" Because I think making the leap to that Everything-Can-Be-Wonderful-Again-If-You-Just-Will-It-To-Be-So place is dangerous without a healthy dose of processing. And the processing is arduous just about every time.
This time, the processing & healing bit is getting a bit tiresome and long. I know I need to do it so I can get to the next part, but I lack patience in a big way. So I'm still flailing around in Poor Me, trying to figure out how to swim to the surface.
I don't have some profound way to close this out. This is just where I am at today. Poor Me. I can't get the things I need or the things I want. Poor, Poor Me.
(I know I won't be here forever.)
Monday, March 28, 2011
All of my history sits right here in this body.
Diaspora. Untold unwanted migrations. Plane tickets stuffed into suitcases. Leaving behind families for the good of the children they were taking with them, we were taking with us. A chance at a better education, and a choice to leave our hair uncovered and paint our lips. Leaving behind Mamani and her house that she still travels to, alone, at the age of 82. (Every. Year.) Leaving Baba behind. The story is right here, under my eyelids, in my uncovered hair. In my yearnings that you'll RSVP when I invite you to a party. "Come be my community, I'm a refugee. I've been displaced, I search for place. For home. I don't want to be alone."
The day that boy pushed me down and called me a "fat ho," in front of fifteen to twenty other people, half of whom were "men" - not a one of whom stood up to say, "No. That wasn't right." Not a one of whom offered a hand to help me to my feet. Scott, from college: here is that story. Right here in this belly, in these fat cells, fed by chocolate and beer and home-cooked meals. It won't burn off. You live in my belly.
Right here in these arms and shoulders. Part muscle, part jiggle, but with keen awareness of where the muscle goes, how the jiggle moves. Every dance class in which the teacher put me in the back, even though I was almost always one of the best three dancers in the room. My thighs too large for the front of the formation, my belly too soft for the small shirts, costumes for the competitions. Every last time they put me in the back, lives right here in these arms.
The things I don't tell an interviewer I can do. The things I know and have learned, that don't go on a resume. The moments when they say, "What do you know about this thing?" And instead of exuding confidence, telling them what I have learned, what I believe, and who I am, I focus on how limited my experience is. This insecurity lives on my face, in my mouth, in my voice, on my feet. Why do I lie and say I can't do when I know that I can? The story of not being good enough permeates my skin, my being.
All of the stories, all of my self, manifest, in this body. The good ones, too. The beautiful stories of laughter and love and bravery and connection and progress and movement live here. In these teeth, in these hands, in these knees and in the width of my hips. Stories of a complex identity co-mingle, form a body, a spirit, a mind, a self. In this present form, I am also my history
(and the promise of what is to come)
Sunday, March 27, 2011
Thursday, March 24, 2011
Tonight, I had a difficult conversation. A friend and I have been drifting apart, and the process has been confusing and a little painful. There have been times in the past when this has happened in my friendships, with disappointing results. I've had friends disappear on me, with no explanation. I've cut people out of my life without explaining why I was hurt or asking for what I needed. And this time, I decided that I'm a grown up now, and I know how to have a difficult conversation, especially if it means showing someone I love some respect and giving them an opportunity to tell me how they are feeling.
The conversation was not perfect. We fumbled, we fell silent at times. I caught myself staring at my lap or focusing on bites of my salad, dissociating. I said things that I suspected my friend was not understanding, not sure whether my delivery, or her comprehension, or other factors (like the way our divergent paths have taught us different languages, codes) were the cause. She said things, and I saw in her face that she knew I was not agreeing, maybe not understanding. We tried anyway.
Even though I have felt frustrated sometimes at my inability to communicate well with this friend, or at the emerging differences in how we approach our lives, our relationships, and our worlds, I felt a space open up in this conversation. Before we spoke, face to face, I was thinking of the parts of my life I wanted to shut her out of, because I thought she didn't and would never understand. But sitting there, awkwardly, trying to find a common language, I found myself searching instead for the space she could occupy in my life.
At the end of our time together, instead of trying to tie everything up into a neat little package, we agreed that things were unclear. It didn't feel great, but it felt way better than the times that grown-ass people in my life have decided to communicate that they were ending our relationship by unfriending me on facebook, or by falling off the face of the earth. It felt human and messy.
I got in my car and saw that I had a voicemail from my sister - the person to whom I have been in relationship the longest, aside from my parents. (In the spirit of radical honesty), in some ways, she is my hardest and most strained relationship. She is someone else with whom I have recently tried to have this type of difficult conversation. "These are the ways your actions have hurt me. This is what I need." And her method is so different. It feels like we are on different planets sometimes.
Her voicemail was one of those gloss-it-over messages. Let's just move forward and not talk about the scars, the wounds that have yet to scab over and heal. And it elicited a sigh, a here-we-go-again. Yet, I found myself again searching for that place, that space. What space could she occupy in my life? Who can she be to me? What does it mean to truly accept a person, exactly as they are? And how do we go about creating and sustaining spaces in our imperfect and messy lives for other imperfect and messy people? What does it mean to love another as you love yourself? That is, not because you or they are perfect, whole, and complete, but because you or they simply are.
It's clear I have a lot more learning to do on this subject. I am looking forward to the wisdom that is to come.
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
HALT. I am feeling frustrated and overwhelmed. Am I . . .
The answers, friends, are
Not the best mood to be in to write an entry. Maybe I will come back to this after I've eaten. Maybe I won't. Enjoy the photo of my head.
Monday, March 21, 2011
Sunday, March 20, 2011
Today is Persian New Year AKA Eid/Aid AKA Norooz. It is also the day of the vernal equinox, or the first day of spring. Today, daylight and nighttime balance one another perfectly . . . twelve hours of each. The days will continue to get longer from here on out, until the first day of summer, when the days will start to get shorter once again. This is my favorite time of year, and I feel lucky that my culture of origin celebrates the new year at a time that makes so much sense to me. Rebirth, growth, and equal parts rain and sunshine that nourish all of the things that are beginning to sprout again after the cold and dark of winter.
I am thinking today of the things that have been dormant in me for some months now, and inviting them to poke their heads back out into the sunshine that is to come. Hope, inspiration, self-confidence, and a belief that I can and will find meaningful & joyous work to help heal our planet and its people are some of these dormant ideas. I know they're in there, somewhere, because I have experienced all of these things before. So, today, I'm setting the tone for this new year by inviting them back out.
Saturday, March 19, 2011
Friday, March 18, 2011
This is what I look like when I am revamping my resume for what feels like the bazillionth time and getting ready to send a vulnerable email to my wider network to ask them to be on the lookout for potential jobs for me (again.)
Truly wish I could write more today . . . but that's been taking up most of my time and I head to work soon.
'til next time,
Thursday, March 17, 2011
It's not that I'm too lazy to write today. It's that I'm too afraid to lay bare all that I am thinking and feeling. I worry about your reactions (you! imaginary you! are you out there?) I don't feel well, and I don't feel happy. And if I tell you all about it, you might run away. So instead of being real, I'll be guarded, and quiet now.
Happy St. Patty's Day. (I guess.)
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
Forty days of chronicling my humanity. And on day forty, I feel . . . alone, unsure, damaged, hurt, uncared for, left out, and like nobody will ever see who I really am and what I am really capable of. Radical transparency, friends.
It's also Chaharshanbeh Souri. I will participate in the festivities this year, and I hope this beautiful, symbolic act of cleansing will help me create clarity to set bold and great intentions for the new year.
Monday, March 14, 2011
4 rolls toilet paper
1 box tampons, 2 pads
1 package baby wipes
1 travel size bottle contact solution
1 travel size bottle hand sanitizer
5 unicorn band-aids (if I get hurt during an emergency, I wanna look fabulous)
Other assorted bandages and gauze and adhesive tape and burn cream and things
4 gallons water, still
1.25 liters water, sparkling (see above about being fabulous)
1 liter Jameson Irish whiskey. Not joking.
5 boxes pre-cooked Indian food from Trader Joe's
8 Clif bars
2 cans beans
2 cans tuna
1 bag almonds
1 bag trail mix
1 bag dried apricots
1 bag dried pineapple
1 bar Ritter Sport dark chocolate with hazelnuts
3 days' worth of dog food
1 can opener
1 bar soap
1 person survival kit in car, including things like a hand crank flashlight/radio, tiny but warm blanket, poncho, etc.
Machete by my bed, as per the last 5 years or so
Assorted flashlights, candles, blankets around the house
Travel/camping gear in a big tub including camping stove & fuel, sleeping bags, headlamps
Items for use now in case of radiation poisoning:
1 big bottle multivitamins, including potassium iodide
2 bags kombu kelp (bean soup, anyone?)
Maybe I am being an alarmist. I don't know. :/
Sunday, March 13, 2011
In light of what's happening in Japan, I have been thinking . . .
I remember the point at which I had a political shift in thinking about the United States. I recall having a realization that the foundation for understanding this country and its ills must be based on a truly historical framework. We occupy this land. Its greatly reduced number of indigenous inhabitants survived mass genocide and colonization, and everything since then has been built on that. From there, European colonizers decided to steal people from Africa and force them into slavery. For fuck's sake. Everything since then has stemmed from there. At some point, this became very solid for me, and everything shifted - my political analysis began to mature and the way I thought about everything changed forever. This might seem really basic to some people, but I went to public school in California. No one was talking about this as part of my formal education, and my immigrant parents were focused on our survival. We didn't have conversations like that when I was growing up, and as an adult, I seem to be one of the only members of our family who's interested in having them even now.
I remember a conversation once, on tribe.net, an online space where people used to actually have conversations about things. We talked about an article, a writer, someone who said that the United States is a nation of trauma survivors. [An aside: I love this form of knowledge and information sharing. I could spend hours digging around online trying to find the article and the name of the author. Cite something, tell you what kind of degree this person has. "Legitimize" it. Rather, I like organic wisdom. Someone said this once. It rang true for many others. The others talked about it, and shared the idea with even more people. Thus it became true. When did we stop valuing organic wisdom and truth?] And it is true, this idea about our nation of trauma survivors. From the original inhabitants of this land and their descendants still reeling & healing from colonization and genocide to some Europeans misguidedly trying to find a new world in which they could be free, to Africans forced into slavery (and still trying to work their way out of it. Can we say Prison Industrial Complex?), to every new wave of immigrants coming into this country to escape persecution, war, economic or political disaster . . . we are largely survivors, with relatively few systems in place for healing, collective or otherwise. Of course, our capitalist and individualistic culture devalues healing. It says, instead, "You are a survivor. Keep surviving. Go make money and be better than anybody ever thought you would be." Put this at the core of the larger context of globalization, and all other countries and people in the world and how they relate to the US in terms of resources, culture, power, and everything else . . . and I'm exhausted just thinking about it.
All of this is a long-winded way of saying that this truth, this historical truth has since affected everything for me: the way I think, the way I work, the way I talk, the way I purchase, the way I relate . . . the way I am and the way I do as an American and as a human being.
Today, there is also a present truth that I know I need to acknowledge as I try to figure out how to "be" and "do" in the world, and that I hope other folks will acknowledge as they do their work & live their lives. Ready? Here it is: climate change is real. If you are doing political work, organizing work, policy work, healing work, teaching, running a corporation, making lattes all day, working with youth, trying to empower people in any population at all, trying to raise a family, trying to be a conscious consumer, anything at all, really, stop for a moment and let that sink in. Climate change is real. It affects everybody. That includes you. Environmental work can not be considered the territory of nature walkers and farmer's market go-ers any longer. This is our present truth. Our actions affect this truth. This means our individual actions, like riding a bike instead of driving, or eating low on the food chain and composting. It's also about our collective actions or inactions, like supporting or not yet having dismantled systems like our federal government's subsidizing of Big Petroleum so as to fulfill our resource needs through non-renewables, when the technology to fulfill them through renewables exists, yet lacks the subsidies Big Petrol gets.
Some might say what is happening in Japan is not directly related to climate change. To them, I say, are you willing to wait around until the definitive scientific proof comes through? You might be under water, or caught in an earthquake, or frantically eating kelp to ward off radiation poisoning by then. I, for one, would rather try to do the right thing now, rather than wait for somebody to "prove" to me that my suspicions were right all along, and that, in this case, correlation does in fact mean causation.
It's terrifying to me to try to hold the truth of all this. But I know that as I, no, as We strive to do truly intersectional work in the world, we have to acknowledge reality, acknowledge what we know to be true. And we have to take responsibility for doing something to heal our deeply traumatized country, people, and planet. I know it might seem like an impossibly uphill battle, but there is a lot at stake here: humanity. And I know I want to go out having tried my best.
I'm sending love, hope for healing, and a promise to keep trying to align my actions with my knowledge and my heart, to Japan, to Haiti, to the Gulf Coast, to the Middle East, to the Mid-West, to all places and all beings.
Saturday, March 12, 2011
Even if nobody comments on anything, I will continue to post my photos, day in and day out. Although, if you're there and reading or looking at my face, it might be nice if you left a comment on something, somewhere, some day.
Sending love out into the ethers,
Friday, March 11, 2011
The apocalypse is now. The post-apocalyptic world is here. And even though it may sometimes feel like a movie, like when I am watching footage of a tidal wave wash out buildings and cars and farms in Japan, it most definitely is not. It is reality, and it's happening now. It's hard not to dramatize it . . . it's the end of the world as we know it. But I suppose every day is.
In Oakland, where I live, the African American population is dwindling. The article gives us statistics, and some anecdotal and "safe" quotes. Oh, you mean black people are leaving Oakland because they want to live somewhere safer and less expensive? And not because gentrification is driving them out? How post-racial. How nice.
In Wisconsin, people are continuing to stand up to the institutions that aim to oppress them for the profit of a few. Even after being royally screwed by their electeds, they're still going for it. So that's some inspiration in the day.
And me? How am I? I'm feeling sick. Again. I have a cold that has reappeared for the third time in about a month. This doesn't happen to me. I usually get sick about once a year. The (justified) paranoia starts creeping in. I have been so sensitive to chemical odors lately. Is this due to MCS (Multiple Chemical Sensitivity)? How will I ever know? I don't have health insurance. I don't have hopes of having health insurance any time soon. I don't have a doctor. What would they tell me, anyway? Nothing I don't already know. And on and on it goes.
How resilient will we humans prove to be in the long run? What is "the long run," anyway? As everything continues to crumble around us and collapse on us and creak and sputter within us, how much longer will we keep going? How long will humans continue to exist on this planet, getting sick and getting better, falling in love and breaking up, getting jobs and leaving them, getting outraged and going on strike, hustling to pay the bills and organizing for better lives, starting wars and counting piles of money, making music and longing for some inexplicable thing called revolution? How much longer will we be able to live, accumulating toxins in our very physical selves, in our emotional, mental, socialized selves? Will we try to rid ourselves of these toxins, heal our selves and our relationships and our communities and our countries and our planet? Where are we heading? When will we get there?
Thursday, March 10, 2011
Today is the second day in a row that I've had too much going on to even consider writing . . . I suppose soon I should start sacrificing sleep. No, seriously! This feels too important to do half-ass.
But for now, I'm tired and I have company. So, enjoy my 35 days of growth.
Tuesday, March 8, 2011
Today, as I was walking home from work, a man sitting in a car in a parking lot hollered at me: "Hey! Even though you cut your hair off, you are still a beautiful young lady!"
Had I not been on the phone, or had I been in a more put-you-in-your-place mood, I would have or could have responded in many ways.
"That's Mr. Lady to you."
"I understand that you are trying to give me a compliment, but you are failing."
"I am not interested in your compliments."
"I am not interested in your take on my physical appearance."
"I never feared that cutting my hair would make me less beautiful."
"My physical appearance has nothing to do with my beauty."
"Many women would be fearful of a man shouting at them from a parked car."
Most of those responses, though honest, could have escalated the situation. Could I have said anything to this person that would have helped him reconsider the way he was choosing to interact with me? How do I use these every day interactions as teachable moments?
Monday, March 7, 2011
Place me in a hammock made of ten thousand arms
And swing me softly. Coo,
"You are perfect, just like this,"
In a language I have never heard before
No place has ever told me this before:
That every bit of me is welcome.
Want to just Be in a Place.
Instead they are always explaining themselves
Or silent, silenced
When explaining costs more than it is worth.
So pick me up, gently.
Tell me I'm welcome.
Tell me I'm perfect.
Tell me I'm smart.
Leave out the parts in which you are trying to learn me,
Discover me. Leave those thoughts inside yourself.
Just place me in a hammock made of ten thousand arms.
Sunday, March 6, 2011
The photo is dark today, but you can see my fuzzy head better than in the other photos, I think.
My hair is reaching the length at which wearing my bike helmet leaves obvious bends and indentations. I have no choice by to allow my physical self to be affected by external forces, and to display those effects.
Saturday, March 5, 2011
On my way home from work today, I witnessed a white man in a bright yellow *do you see me? do you see me?* bicycling jacket and a bike helmet, with his bike parked near him (and some sort of greenery poking out of its basket), crouching over an urban lawn, pulling something out of the ground, snacking on it, and throwing its remains between his legs and behind him. He probably refers to himself as an "urban forager" on his facebook page, I thought.
This White People Moment brought to you by: Mahfam's walk home from work.
Thursday, March 3, 2011
4 Weeks of Cultivation!
I'm still feeling sick, so this isn't the Glamour Shots inspired photo I hoped to have for this commemorative occasion. I'm also not feeling up to writing much, either. I just want to take a nap. So enjoy my head . . . I'm off to lie down some more.
I stayed up and wrote. This is what came out:
I got news today that a job I applied for and was really hopeful about is not being offered to me. It was hard to hear the news because unlike with some other jobs, I really thought I could do this one, and do it well. The position excited me and seemed well within my abilities. I was also hurt because I guess I misunderstood some signs from my interviewer - like introducing me to the staff, indicating that they wanted to call my references right away, and initiating a hug as they bid me farewell (all signs that I, in my past duties as an interviewer, would never have dreamed of giving someone unless I was fairly certain we would at least be asking them back for a second interview.) I felt hopeful, and my hopes were dashed today. I haven't yet been able to let go of the feeling that they made the wrong decision. I would have been fantastic at that job.
This scrambling for a job in the Non-Profit Industrial Complex is really starting to wear on me. There is a lot of injustice happening, all over the world, and I am committed to being part of the solution. But in terms of what I get paid to do, I am currently part of the problem. In order to pay the bills, I work part-time at a cafe/pub that is basically a gentrifying business with white and well-to-do clientele in an otherwise poor and black/brown part of Oakland, with no apparent analysis of their position or much of a sense of moral duty to the community. I am stuck in capitalist survival mode. While I do this, I am actively searching for a job that is more like "real jobs" I have had in the past and tell myself I want in the future, namely, in non-profits, doing program work involving education or organizing. This slice of the job market is oddly competitive, and as far as I can tell, unwilling to check itself on its own racism, classism, and problematic hierarchical systems.
One of my smartest friends has been a fisherman for the past few years after years of trying to find a decent job in a non-profit as a young person. Many of my friends who are women, queer, trans, or people of color and who work in non-profits are office managers, assistants, or organizers who can barely pay their bills and live paycheck to paycheck, but are expected to devote their lives to their work anyway. And I can think of so many white and middle class to upper middle class people I know who are in positions of power and leadership. Executive directors, development directors. Maybe it's just my slice of the world, but these people seen unaffected by the economy. They quit a job, they get another one within months. They're nice white ladies and older white guys with advanced degrees . . . something I haven't been able to convince myself to go into insurmountable debt to chase after.
I see that in "movement work" and in the NPIC in general, the same people who are in these positions of power are the same people who, for example, go to the same conferences year after year. They present, often on the same things, over and over, and sometimes with a "new twist" on the same thing. They have conversations about getting the right people in the room or at the table, and how do we make our movement more intersectional or accessible? Meanwhile, so many potential leaders are waiting tables for a living, with not enough resources to attend the conference and not enough name recognition to teach a workshop, because the movement has no room for us.
So much of our worth as progressives is attached to our organizational affiliation and our job titles. But until we are willing to face that no matter how much we talk about access, getting on a leadership development track in the progressive/lefty movement is simply not accessible to everyone. As far as the eye can see, the same people will keep having the same conversations in the same spaces year after year, with occasional new blood from bright-eyed young interns in suits whose parents help pay their rent and who help coordinate the volunteers. Elsewhere, other potential leaders work in service jobs, or worse, turn to corporate America, in hopes of making enough to get by, and one day, somehow have space and time in our lives to meaningfully organize and contribute to a love-based, accessible, movement for progress, social justice, and equality.