Critical mass

I think I am reaching critical mass. I’ve gained what feels like an incredible amount of weight very quickly. I could blow at any time. I have returned to my previous Jabba the Hut incarnation, feeling very much like a large, shapeless, and gruesome lump of inert flesh capable of the necessary involuntary functions, like breathing, digestion, excretion…and the sole voluntary outreach of consumption. It’s not only food, although I’ve probably done more than my fair share of eating while bouncing off the COVID repelling walls of this domicile. It’s consumption of media, of sensory input, of information. Too much information. Waaaaay too much information.

I thought I was scheduled for my second COVID vaccine dose on April 7th, but I somehow misread the appointment date, and it’s not until the 19th. That’s really not all that big a deal (where the eff else do I have to do?) but the projected sense of relief will be delayed. I guess what I imagine will be a sense of relief is just that – imagined. I fully understand being fully vaccinated does not eradicate my chances of getting this damned virus, if exposed. I fully understand that being fully vaccinated does not cause other people to behave sensibly, to wear masks properly, or at all, to avoid gathering with those not vaccinated, etc. etc. etc. But, in all honesty, I believe being fully vaccinated will give me a fighting chance of not dying from infection with COVID-19. That’s about as good as it gets, so bring it on. April 19th…seems like a lifetime.

All this waiting is making me like a long tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs. Waiting. Never my strong suit, although looking back over many years (many, may years) I think I’ve been waiting for some things for a really long time. Now that I’m in the “twilight” years, I suppose I’ve lost patience with the waiting, the anticipating. I suppose that’s part of the problem with dreaming. Dream a little dream for me…don’t get your hopes up…but since I’ve said not to do that I’m now compelled to do that, so no matter how hopeless the landscape I am still waiting for the miracle of flowers. I can’t seem to kill the hope, no matter how much I try. Always the romantic, believing the miracle is just around the corner, accompanied by the happy ending.

That doesn’t happen for me a lot…and that’s not to say that i haven’t had some really good thing happen in my life. I suppose I often feel as though what I asked for, particularly something I didn’t need and something that benefited only me…those nonsensical and frivolous things. Those are things rarely constituting happy endings for me. Like love stuff, romantic comedy stuff, sleepless in the foothills kinds of stuff. No, I’m the village priest, the helpful one, the one that oh, sorry, I love you so much but not THAT way. That one. In the past I tried very hard to change that, was desperate to change that, believed that it was going to happen, that it was just around the corner. But, I’ve turned a lot of corners since then, and ya know what…I don’t think it’s possible any longer, but…still…there’s a little spark that rattles when someone pays just a little attention to me. WTF is THAT?

I am a far more stable being in semi-quarantine, keeping most people at arm’s length. There are a few that are closer, that are behind enemy lines as it were, but they are clearly not candidates for romantic partnership. That’s as it should be. I do really wish that I did not always look for the romantic crap, though. It rather sucks. Even if someone I wanted to explore on that level was receptive, I can almost guarantee they’re hopeless narcissistic, or worse, just plain nuts. I do not choose well. Since childhood. It’s not going to change anytime soon, and I’m tired of trying to unlearn everything I’ve been doing all my life. So…like the song “Least Complicated” says (Indigo Girls) – I’ll just sit up in the house and resist, and not be seen until I cease to exist”.

This is a goofy night…the day was really rather nice. A little too warm for me, but no rain, thank goodness. I did a few more adult things – paid a couple of bills. Threw out some trash. Picked up a few more things in the apartment. Went to two scheduled appointments, walked the dog, ordered prescription refills. Slept pretty well. Looked for a job online…a writing job. Still not sure about that, but we’ll see. I have to do something relatively quickly – not quite tomorrow, but soon. I effing hate money. Truly, I do. Everything has a financial dependency, everything. Is that freedom? I’ll have to check.

I was on a meeting earlier with some folks, and some of us are taking this Beloved Conversations course, from a theological seminary that credentials a lot of UU ministers. It’s an interesting endeavor, and this first module is designed to help participants examine their internal biases, and what informs our participation in status quo, things that have shaped us into our current form as a members of this complicated society, our culture, how we look at citizenship. We didn’t get here randomly, or accidentally.

If we want to move beyond our current reality, we need to figure out how we got here. The course is separated by race – white people are taking one facet of the course (focusing on liberation from what is seen as dominant culture, and the inequities that separate the cultures), and BIPOC another (focused more on identity, experiences, the toll of our journeys).

In my earlier meeting today, which was about meditation and mindfulness (irrespective of race or politics or current events or activism), there was another participant, a friend of mine. He is a white, 70-ish, cis-gendered male, highly intelligent. He is taking the Beloved Conversations course, and was expressing some impatience and mild frustration with the course so far, saying that he was waiting for them to “get down to the race stuff” and “was anxious to move beyond all the introductory” materials.

Listening to my friend sharing about the curriculum thus far, and his assessment of everything so far being “introductory”, left me with a vague sense of dismay. I wanted to tell him this is how we keep winding up in this place, because some of us think we’ve got all this “introductory” stuff, and we need the more advanced course, so we can “get to it”. Get to what, I want to ask. Get to solving the problem of race in this country? Are you ready to do that? I don’t think so.

I know, I know – they mean well. Running the risk of offending or hurting someone’s feelings, I sometimes need to say that meaning well is not good enough. Meaning well is roughly equivalent to “thoughts and prayers”. Meaning well is a cop out that I feel robs me of the chance to say, very frankly, you don’t GET it – you are more likely doing what makes YOU comfortable and allows you to give yourself a pat on the back for doing a good deed. That’s like earmarking federal money for putting up basketball hoops in the projects, while people are starving and can’t drink the water. Not saying the basketball hoops aren’t important in some contexts, but sometimes that is all that happens. There’s no significant action on the food shortage and the water quality and the crime and the educational system. But look – there are basketball hoops. Don’t say we didn’t do ANYTHING.

Doing just the easy stuff is where I get frustrated. Doing the more difficult stuff…that’s another story. Asking the people who live outside the basketball hoops what they feel like they need is more what I see as doing well, not just meaning well. Doing well is more what needs to happen right now, and continuing to do well, continuing to do the right things. Not just once, or for a month, or even for a year. For the rest of our lives. It’s taken us a while to get here, it’s gonna take us a while to get out.

I want to say to some people who mean well…I know you donate to the NAACP and yes, I know you volunteer with the food pantry and and donate clothes and blankets to the homeless shelters. You serve on the boards of various non-profits. But tell me…where do you live? Tell me where your kids go to school. Tell me who your friends are, and where you go for entertainment. Tell me about the books you read and the people you hang with. Tell me if you go to community meetings and listen to the people directly impacted by public policies that you think are great ideas.

Don’t tell me about how much you hate hip-hop and rap music because people just can’t see how damaging it is to “their” culture. Please don’t tell me about how it confuses you why racial and ethnic minority communities are the most impacted by environmental pollution but often the least supportive of environmental activism. Please don’t ask me over and over again to give you a list of things you can do to help. I don’t speak for the entire Black community, I don’t know what you should do. I can’t navigate my way out of my OWN hell hole, let along steer an entire diaspora back to safe waters.

What I CAN tell you, however, is how it’s been to go through my life as a Black person. I can tell you what it’s like to be so frequently the “only” – the only person of color in your circles, in your groups, in your churches, in your work places.

I can tell you how I might have felt a little more included and welcomed during social events, how even something as simple as the decorations let me know I wasn’t even an afterthought in the event planning. I can’t teach you one damned thing. It’s not what I do. My parents were teachers…they went to school to learn how to do that. Me, not so much, plus I have the patience of a flea. I’m trying to learn how to do my own life. If you want to know about that, I’m our girl. Otherwise…there’s Google, free for the taking.

People have asked me in the past what I want to see happen. That’s like asking me to tell you which grains of sand on the beach I want to see eliminated. Which leaves on a mountain laurel I want to see pruned. Maybe what I want to see more than anything is knowing that you respect me, as an equivalent human being trying to make her way through this effed up morass of capitalism and power dynamics and the human condition. I want to see that you’re secure in who you are, and what you can do, and that you relate to me as the same. I want to see compassion and grace, because we’re gonna screw up. Screwing up isn’t what makes us imperfect, but not dealing with the imperfection can make us less than human. I want to see your humanity, and be able to trust you with mine. Not being able to trust you (and vice versa), feeling the need to be constantly on guard and one step ahead is not the way out of this.

Here’s a thought: explaining to me “how we do things here” doesn’t help me learn anything but how attached you are to your own supremacy. How scared you are that something might change. How unwelcome difference is. That’s always the lesson I get when I’m dealing in dominant culture. My feeling these days, and I believe I’ve said it before, is that we don’t need to be trying to “fix” things, or dismantle what we’ve already got to make it “more inclusive”. Doing that is great for a start, but it still focuses on the existing inequity and gives it power.

These days, I’m thinking we may do well to focus on creating something radically new. Something that departs from the status quo, from the traditional. We can retain some parts of the old systems, the parts that work, but let’s re-launch the whole effort. New graphics, new logo, new goals and mission statement. No organizational charts, no linear progressions. Start at the beginning…with the introduction. No skipping ahead to the final chapter because you think you’ve heard the opening lecture already. We’re starting over – it’s a new day.

Keep in mind that while it may be a new day, we have debris to clean up from the storm that roared through here yesterday. There are trees down, cars on the sidewalk, signs and roofs that are no more. We’ve gotta clean that up, but…as they say…many hands make light work. (yeah, that’s trite, but sue me later.)

The big thing we are going to need to remember, in building this new community, is that we have GOT to be cognizant of who we are. We have to know who’s here, and who needs to have a place in the final product – that is going to include the people we know, and the people we don’t know. The people we agree with, and the people we don’t agree with. The people we understand, and the people who make us tear our hair out with their illogical approach to how we live together.

We’re going to have to know ourselves, and that’s where I started – with this Beloved Conversations. That’s what the course is really all about, not regurgitating historical data and testimony of inequities and empirical data concerning the state of racial/ethnic minority communities. We can read that in books and white papers, and we’ve done it for many years. I might argue that a steady diet of empirical data is what amounts to mental masturbation.

The most honest assessment I can make of myself is that I’m no better than anyone else, and certainly no worse. I’m just who I am. I learned a while back that is really a definition of humility – I am right where I’m supposed to be. If we can start there, we might be able to start doing the work in earnest.

Just a head. Not talking.

Published by annzimmerman

I am Louisiana born and bred, now living in Winston Salem, North Carolina. Fortunately for me, I was already living in NC before Hurricane Katrina decimated my beloved New Orleans. An only child, I now feel that I have no personal history since the hurricane destroyed the relics and artifacts of my childhood. As I have always heard, c'est la vie. My Louisiana roots show in my love of good coffee, good food, and good music. My soggy native soil has also shown me that resilience is hard-wired in my consciousness; when the chips are down (or drowned)...bring it on.

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