My loyalties have always pulled me in different directions. The larger issues surround family, race/culture, and sexual orientation. I have always felt as though how I appear in each of those niches didn’t entirely match how I appeared in the others. I have always felt as though I couldn’t be all of me, and the same me, in all of those places, as though I would be unrecognizable in all of those places. Like, how i present in my community of faith, with my queer self hanging out, and my multicultural self hanging out, and my non-Christian self hanging out might not be recognizable or appreciated in communities of all Black people.
I don’t seem to get on well in all-Black communities. In all-Black commuities, I am frequently on a different page, or not quite resonating with the primary issues. Sometimes I wonder if that’s about skin color, or the unique culture of where I grew up. I never know. What I do know is that I feel out of step, and no accepted, and not taken entirely seriously. I don’t feel accepted there. In certain of those communities, or groups, I don’t feel as though the LGBT identity I carry is fully accepted, but where the intersection of my community of faith and race is prominent, I don’t worry so much about that.
The UU faith community does a better job than most of dealing with sexual orientation, but i still feel a bit out of touch with the race piece. There is too much that I have to explain so they feel warm and snuggly, and they can understand. I can’t say I blame them for that, but I also don’t feel as though I need to give them a medal for it, nor do I feel as though it’s my job to help them understand. But, if I don’t help them to understand, I don’t get to move into more of the environment that I want to be in. So, trapped again. Kind of sucks, but I guess that’s the way it is.
When I’m dealing with all-Black UU groups, though, it’s as though I am not quite at the professional level of navigating race; they are far more erudite and competent on some advanced academic level. I feel as though I am speaking a different language, and shouting it from very far away. Suffice it to say that I don’t feel particularly well accepted, almost excluded. So, at this point, I don’t much care and have given up on trying to fit in.
That is most definitely a question of loyalty for me, but I can’t make it work, can’t make them accept me, can’t make myself feel a sense of comfort and belonging that’s just not there. So, I am not going to try any longer, nor am I going to change one damned thing about myself in order to fit in better. I don’t harbor any animosity, but enough with the snobbishness and the cliquishness. I can get that anywhere. I don’t have to seek out my own people to experience exclusion.
Since I was a little kid, I was always told that you don’t speak out against other Black people, meaning don’t tell white people our business. Don’t let white people see us fighting amongst ourselves, don’t cut each other down to “the Man”. That has always weighed very heavy on me, but my goodness, sometimes Black people do other Black people wrong. Worse than any white person could ever do us. Like the wench still living in my mama’s house and paying no rent. Not a dime. But when there was a major repair to be done, she knew exactly how to find me. That ain’t right; no how, no way is that right.
The business of not speaking against other Black people got to be more of an issue for me once I started going to school with white people. The other Black students didn’t exactly ally with me, or stick up for me, or go out of their way to be friends with me. We came from different economic strata – their parents were doctors, lawyers and mine were school teachers. White girls reached out and included me, at least up to a point, but at least I had people to hang with. I couldn’t quite understand how to be loyal to “my people” when they weren’t exactly doing anything for me. It made no sense for me to choose their society over people from a different race who were being nice to me. But then, on the other hand, there was a certain line I couldn’t cross with the white girls, either so…trapped again. No way out.
I constantly second-guess myself, even today, about my loyalty to Black people. As I said, I feel as though I’ve been treated very badly by other Black people, mainly socially, but in other ways as well. The most horrifyingly unfair and incompetent managers I’ve ever had at work have been other women. Black women have been exponentially worse to me than anyone. It could be the feeling of always having to prove yourself, it could be something I was doing, it could be the weather. I don’t much care at this point, but note that I don’t want to experience any of that again, wondering if it’s me or if it’s them, am I not down with the cause or am I really trying to be white?
For the record, I have never conceived of myself as trying to be white. I don’t think anyone is apt to mistake me for white, unless they’re white and have been really sheltered. I cannot help what color my skin is, nor do I want to. I cannot help how I speak, nor do I want to. I cannot help what resonates in me with regard to music, or the arts, or hobbies, or my personal history, nor do I want to. If I don’t have sufficient credentials for some folks in the Black community, that’s their problem and not mine. I know where I come from, I know what I’ve experienced, and I know how racism has worked in my life. Next.
No matter how badly I feel that I’ve been treated by other Black people, I remain loyal to my own integrity about how I respond to them. I have a lot of empathy, and belief in the experience of people who I see have been rejected and excluded from professional and social circles just because they are Black. I’ve been excluded from some of the same circles. I’ve also been excluded from some of the Black society and boogee echelons, and that’s even more unfair. I just choose not to make an issue of that. I understand, though, that collectively, we have a long way to go.
Loyalty on levels other than race runs even more deeply in me, though. When someone does me a good turn, no matter what color or class or gender they are, I don’t forget that. When it’s something that was just a random act of kindness, I find that endearing and very sweet, on a somewhat sentimental level. When it’s something that literally saves me on some level, usually from myself I might add, the loyalty is undying. Even if they screw up later about something else, I am far more likely, if not compelled, to give them another chance.
This is how it was with my mother, where no matter how many abominable things I could point to that hurt me, provided lasting negative impact, could not be taken back, I was not going to let her go away from here alone. I was not going to abandon her, I was not going to throw her aside. No matter how much of her own problems she had caused, no matter how wrong she’d been about her mental health, no matter how much consequence that gave me, I remember all of the other things, all of the things I felt offered some measure of redemption.
There are some people, some transgressions, that prove damaging to me, harmful to me, and I never forget them. The ones I hold against people are the ones where nothing has been offered to balance the offense, nothing has redeemed the damage done. I owe nothing. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. I’m only a fool when I know what you’re doing, see it coming, and let you do it anyway. That’s been a pattern in my life, and it’s been exacerbated by my confusion about loyalty. I call it quits.
These days, I’m loyal to my dog. I’m loyal to my cousin, who did so much to show my mother genuine love. I’m loyal to my mother’s neighbor, who I’ve been knowing since I was 9, and who also did a lot to help my mother when things were getting bad. It’s her daughter who is living rent-free in what’s now my house, and my loyalty to HER mother is part of why I have let that go on for so long. Her mother now has Alzheimer’s Disease, and it’s my loyalty to her that is causing me to risk my own affairs to not challenge the whole debacle. But, that’s how loyalty screws me up at times. I don’t want the confrontation, or the guilt, or the shame of challenging the whole thing, although it’s getting to the point where I’m going to have to do it. But I hate it. I really would rather do just about anything to avoid it, but…barring that I win the lotter and become insanely wealth, I will have no choice about doing that. Oh, well. I tried.
I suppose a final aspect, or if not a final aspect just another aspect, of loyalty is choosing sides when there’s a conflict between friends, or parties close to me in some fashion. I have this near obsession with fairness, and if I don’t think people are being fair to one party in a dispute, that is the side I will choose to support. My mother gave me that “root for the underdog” sentiment, and I guess it stuck with me.
Mean people suck (I even have a bumper sticker to that effect). No matter what, I don’t come out of the gate leading with mean. Once provoked and attacked, I can most definitely be mean, but it’s not my opening salvo. And nothing provokes me more than meanness. If there’s a way to combat meanness, or give a mean person some of their own medicine, I’m on it. It’s been pointed out in the past that some of my responsiveness in that scenario is co-dependent. That’s very nice. But I hate mean, and I’m usually very loyal to people who are getting the short end of the stick. The underdog needs to win a few.
So, that brings me to the question of what happens when I’m the underdog. I feel as though I’m the underdog quite a lot, too. I don’t stand up for myself, I don’t assert myself, I don’t insist on fair treatment. Loyal to myself? Not so sure about that. The internal voice in my head says there’s a reason people treat me the way they do, because I screwed up, I didn’t do it right, I always screw up, I always do it wrong. I’m not good enough. Why did I even think I could do this?
All of that is going through mind, usually all the time. And I do mean ALL the time. It’s a wonder I can accomplish anything. I have accomplished a few things, but of course, what I have NOT accomplished more informs my narrative more than anything else. That’s how I roll. I kind of wish I didn’t roll so much, though…maybe rock some. Rock has to go with roll, I would imagine. The yin and yan of the beat, and speaking from experience, it’s a dark day when you lose your beat.
I said earlier, in a previous entry, that I want my spark back. I want the spark, I want the beat. I want the rhythm, I want the melody, i want the rap, I want the whole thing. I want unexpected harmony that doesn’t sound like it fits, I want no rules, I want improvisation. I want to have no plan, just a destination, just an exploration, just a throw it against the wall and see what sticks kind of experience. I want chaos, and let’s see what we come up with. Let’s see what happens when you press this button. Let’s see how it looks if you add more purple to this and more black to that. I want nothing mundane, no slight variation. Bold and new and loud and never been done before. No spark – let’s go right to the big bang.
Some days I am feeling outrageous, but talk myself out of it quickly. I was just listening to a podcast (Brene’ Brown’s “Dare To Lead” sessions, with guest Aiko Bethea) and they were talking about invisibility, and internalized oppression. There was a connection made that struck me like a lightning bolt: imposter syndrome is related to inner critic syndrome is related to internalized oppression. This is the connection I’ve been missing for quite a long time. I always wonder where in the hell those inner critic messages come from,, those inner voice that say any minute now, everyone you know is going to figure out that you’re a fraud, that you’re faking everything, that you don’t know what the hell you’re doing. Any minute now. And when that minute comes, you’re going to be run out of wherever you are on a rail, and made out to be a laughing stock. Just you wait. That’s a lot to be carrying around, all day, every day.
That connection may very well explain what I feel is underachievement, and failure (yes, failure) to live up to my own expectations. I’ve said before that I remember believing what everyone said about me, that I was promising and could be anything I wanted to be. Along the way, after I started navigating in the real world, I feel as though I just got beat down, further and further from promise and more into negative expectation. No longer an exception, or even an individual, but more a fulfilled prophecy of the toxic waters in which I swim. And yes, I realize water can’t have a prophecy, but I’ll clean that up later, with the water.
Regardless, I’m not trying to excuse myself for what I’ve slacked on, or messed up in my life. I own that stuff. It just helps to understand where some of that slime came from, that I didn’t create it myself. Once I know something of where it came from, I can drill a bit deeper into my responsibility for cleaning it up. With the water. The water comes first…and it has to be detoxified, cleaned, purified. My own little environmental project. It won’t do any good to clean up slime with dirty water, because then I’ll have toxic slime, and that will be worse. So…let’s start with the water in which I’m swimming. It looks normal to me, but – as they said on the podcast – a fish doesn’t know what they’re swimming in is water. So. Seeing as how I can’t swim, I should learn.
I’m learning quite a lot of things, some unbidden, some quite intentional. I suppose the point is to be as open as possible. Groovy. I am really still feeling as though I am on the brink of something, and I don’t quite know if that means I should take a leap of faith, or wait for something to come into view. As the old ladies on the bus used to say, “Somethin’s gonna break, somethin’s gonna come on. You just wait and see.” So, I’m waitin’ but I ain’t seein’ much. I’ll give it a minute, though, and keep doind my best to do that next right thing.
Today, in between having flashes of random insight and playing the stupid online FaceBook games I’ve become obsessed with, I ade an honest attempt to revise my health care Marketplace application. They FINALLY sent correspondence that said I should do that in order to satisfy their questions about my eligibility, so I made a stab at it. It still doesn’t make sense to me, but I attempted to comply. I may try calling them again on Monday to see if I got any closer to fine, because I really am tryin’ to tell them somethin’ about my life, maybe give me insight between black and white. Really. The form didn’t have a checkbox for that, however, so I had to do the best I could to fit myself into the narrow confines of their cage. That’s never a good fit for me.
Tomorrow is Mother’s Day. I don’t have a mother close by any longer. It gives me just a little bit of a downturned mouth. Not too bad, but it makes me just a wee bit somber when I think about how it used to be, and how I’m pretty much out here by myself. That’s how it feels, like I’m out here by myself, even though I have friends and support systems and all that. But. It’s never going to be quite the same, or quite as natural. I’ll live with that, but some days it sucks worse than others. Tomorrow could be one of those days. I’m going to put a place holder in getting outside with psycho-dog to distract myself and suck up sunshine. Truth be told, it ain’t all that bad in my world today.
One thought on “Loyalty”
I can relate to feeling like a failure and the sense of doom when everyone will see I’m just useless.
I don’t know if it will help but you’ve fought a big battle every time you hold on and say “I’m going to be me”, you’re a hero every time you keep trying and reaching out, not just in spite of your hurt and fears but because of it. I know it probably never feels it but it’s there.
Stay strong and keep being you
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