What happens inside…

…stays inside. Wrapped up all nice and tight and warm, in the dark. It stays there, until it wakes you up at 3am and wants to talk. I hate that stuff. I am just beginning to sleep longer than three hours at a time (in spite of the dog’s best efforts some nights) and I do not appreciate being punted out of a sound sleep for only a field goal opportunity.

I knew immediately the source of my non-rest early this morning was my mother’s house in New Orleans. I have to sell it; I am not cut out to be a landlord. The “tenant” is not paying rent in any case, and I’m tired of trying to honor a self-imposed debt that nobody else cares about. I’m a little nervous about disclosing my plans at this point, because I don’t have homeowner’s insurance on the property, and I would not be entirely surprised if she tried to burn it down in retaliation for having her free lodging taken away. I grew up with this girl, and I know my people.

So, here I am. I managed to go back to sleep for a couple of hours, but now here I sit, wide awake. I have had one cup of coffee, which did not go all that well because the Splenda didn’t fully dissolve. I do not like coffee without sweetener. It’s kind of a hard liquid, especially the way I make it, so a sweetener softens it up a bit. Of course I could get up and go into the kitchen to correct this, but I’ comfortable now so we ain’t goin’ nowhere for a while.

I was talking with my therapist a couple of weeks ago about the whole clutter situation, and maybe even the house, and she said it would be a good idea if I worked on why it is that I do not let go of things that no longer have any use, or don’t work for me. Well, hell, lady – if I had answers for that I wouldn’t need you, now would I?

Part of the reason I don’t let go of some things is because they ight have some use, they aren’t totally expended yet, and I might not have the resources to replace them. I might need them at some point in the future, and I’ll be really upset if I tossed something that I wind up needed in another week or so. I guess the bigger issue is fearing that I can’t afford to replace things so I’d better hold on to what I’ve got.

I’d better hold on to what I’ve got, even if it’s sixteen software releases behind, even if nobody uses that whatever-it-is any longer, even if it’s something I don’t really use – like plastic containers from take-out meals or restaurant left overs. My mother used to save all those little plastic containers, hundreds of them, and she left some here. I’ve added to othe stacks, but the resident cache of them is what she started.

OK, I can understand (a little) of that, but I have no explanation of why I am holding on to old sneakers with half-worn treads and broken shoelaces. The sneakers don’t have othotics in them, having been here since well before I started getting orthotics, so they can do me no good. As I wrote that, I hear a tinny whine in the back of my right ear that says, “But…but…you never know. You might be in dire straits and really need another pair of sneakers!” Um, no.

Here’s another one. I have a VERY old Sony television set, non-digital. Yes, it works. No, I have not used it in at least ten years. It has been sitting on the floor of the bedroom for at least that long, gathering dust. It’s not one of the compact Watchman models, but it’s not a console – it’s portable. And I am going to do WHAT with this? Weeeeel, there could be an emergency and you will need a non-cable television. Plus, it will work on batteries, so you might need that one day. Oh, and remember you won this at some trade show and you paid nothing for it, so you want to hang on to that memory, don’t you? OK, I’ll put that one in the “maybe junk” category.

If I continue in this fashion, I can make a lot of decisions about de-cluttering this place, but here’s the really annoying realization: I have made decisions about what to toss and even explored why it is that I’m holding on to them, but I have not moved from this spot. I am still sitting here typing about it, so I have actually done NOTHING. Score: clutter – 1, me – 0.

I need a nap.

The issue about getting rid of things does often have to do with the possibility of not being able to replace them if I’ve made an error and find that I actually need the item later. That works for only a small percentage of the total amount of useless crap that I have, though. I am not going to need to replace those half-used spiral notebooks that I have floating around in here, or paperbacks that I have read and hated. I am not going to need to replaced dated materials, like the postcards I sent to remind people to vote LAST YEAR. I am to going to need that old shower head that I replaced at least eight years ago.

In all seriousness, it does concern me that I don’t find hopping over piles of junk, watching the dog hurdle things like that old Sony television set, the piles of stuff that came with something else that I don’t even remember. Old serial cables for computers twenty-plus years ago – they don’t make printers that use those any longer (and stop thinking you’re going to one day have antiquities museum from the technology era before cell phones and laptops). There’s something deeper that causes me to find this amount of junk comfortable.

When I’ve looked at this issue in the past, I have toyed with the idea of finding comfort in just filling up the space. If my space looks empty, it feels lonely and cold, and I don’t like feeling lonely and cold. Maybe that’s an only child thing, maybe it’s just a slightly cuckoo only child thing, maybe it’s just my thing. The main reason I’m concerned with the clutter, however, is that I fear it doesn’t allow room for new things. The energy given off by all of this old and no longer useful stuff is stale. It’s does not feel like a living space, it feels like a dying space, or at least a very low-energy space.

In my mind’s eye, I can visualize exactly how I want this place to look, with bright colors and some open spaces that can be flexible, used for a variety of activities. I want to set up a home office, and that will require that I get rid of the very old sofa in the living room. Before I can get to that sofa, though, I have to clean everything else in the room, otherwise there’s no room to move it. This is where I get really fatigued in advance of moving even a single muscle.

My living space is cluttered, my body is cluttered, my brain is cluttered, my spirit feels heavy because it is carrying so much of the clutter from the other areas. This is just silly. (That was a very spare sentence, of which I am very proud…although I have now added these unnecessary words for some unknown reason. Ultimately, I am tired of wrestling with myself. I am tired of fiddling with myself. It is exhausting.

Today it is hot, as usual for this time of year. Yes, the weather pattern has changed here just a bit, and I find the humidity is higher on average than it has been the past few years. The air is not moving, just like I am familiar with from the Gulf Coast. One of the things I’ve enjoyed in being here the most is the climate; there were always four distinct seasons here in NC. The past two or three years, though, seasons have been erratic, going from the winter cold maybe a little late snow in the fall and directly to summer. Spring was a minute, and I feel cheated because spring is always beautiful here.

Enough about me. Back to life…back to reality…back to the here and now. Seriously. A bill was unanimously approved in the U.S. Senate today, making Juneteenth a Federal holiday. I thought at first report it was on its way to the President’s desk, but the House of Representatives had yet to pass it. Apparently, they did that just a short time ago, and it’s done. June 19th will be a Federal holiday. Several states already have memorialized the day, but now it will be a day when Federal offices will be closed.

I did quite a lot of my own research on the origin of Juneteenth and the state of the nation around that time, and it took me through the origins of slavery as an institution. That was fascinating. The concept of slavery, or unpaid labor, was not a new concept for the United State, but what existed in Europe and other places on the globe as far back as Medieval times was classical slavery. The servants were bound to the land they served, and the lord of the manor. When European colonists came to the New World, they had no permanent lands, but they had brought a number of indentured servants with them. The status of indentured servants was always very different from the enslaved population that arrived later from Africa.

When Africans entered the colonies, they were brought there for the sole purpose of providing unpaid labor. Because these were colonies, and they were still in the process of divesting the indigenous people of their lands, there was little permanency. Accordingly, the enslaved Africans were bound to the colonist, and subsequently to the landowner. Because they were bound to an individual, the enslaved person became accounted for as property, or chattel, like a wagon or a farm animal. This system became known as chattel slavery, and human beings were the property of other human beings.

This “peculiar institution”, as it became known, existed solely for the purpose of providing free labor. The colonies, and then states, which depended more on agriculture for commercial products became more dependent on the labor than colonies that leaned more toward trade and industry. That became the division between North and South to a large degree, although enslaved people were utilized in all colonies.

The Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 was more or less an Executive Order from the President, who proclaimed that all enslaved people were immediately free. That was a wonderful thing, except that nobody gave much attention to how exactly emancipation was supposed to work in the long run. Enslaved people had no financial assets of their own, and had never enjoyed their inherent agency. They were not free to come and go as they pleased, so had no knowledge of what existed beyond their place of residence on the farm or plantation they served. How were they to live, how were they to acquire food, how were they to participate in society? Africans were not eligible for citizenship until many years after that, with passage of the 13th Amendment, so they were legally second-class citizens.

Landowners and enslaved people were supposed to be notified of the Proclamation by visit from the military, but there was no UPS or FedEx or even US Postal Service to make overnight delivery, so the notification process dragged on for quite a while. There was also a war going on, so … mistakes were made. It wasn’t until two-1/2 years later that a Union army general arrived in Galveston Texas to formally give notice of the liberation of enslaved people. They had no idea anything had changed. The day notification was made in Galveston was June 19, 1865 – June + nineteenth = Juneteenth. Alright then.

Even after Africans became known as Blacks, and then “colored”, then Negro, then African-American there was still no equity to speak of. Segregation, miscegenation laws, denial of education and employment opportunities, denial of housing were all realities of life for Blacks in America for almost another century. There has been incredible progress, but arriving at equity remains an uphill battle. I do not know if I will see it in my lifetime.

It’s difficult to have a coherent vision of the world as I would want it to be, because I cannot even imagine a world devoid of bias. It feels as though it’s hard-wired into our DNA at this point. Perhaps some genetic engineering would be in order…but I am not sure we can be trusted to do that. Our best thinking got us here.

Here is not a horrible place, but we make it horrible by engaging in horrible behavior. We make it horrible by squandering what is good and sacred in the world, and which costs nothing. We make it horrible by assuming that everything on this planet is here for our self-aggrandizement, our comfort, our pleasure, our luxury. I believe there is everything we need here, and enough for everyone. There is really no reason that people should be starving in the streets of various nations, but we have weaponized material assets so that only a few people control them. Greed will kill us, literally and figuratively.

There is no use wondering about the soul of America, because we have none. We have an unfathomable depth, dark and still, where bright light has died. It’s what happens when ideas and dreams are strangled by the rigor of greed, selfishness, short-sightedness, and hubris. We believe we are gods, that we dictate life and death for others, just as we did when we owned other people. This is the great delusion, that we actually have power over each other. This is the biggest lie of all, that what we create will last forever. We forget that we are human.

Forgetting that we are human usually means that we forget how to be compassionate, that we have lost the ability to empathize. Being stuck in our own perspective is the real punishment for our transgressions. If we are so unhappy with our position in the Universe that we have to step on others to improve it, being trapped in place is torturous. For all practical purposes, we are tortured. Perhaps we make noisy machines that move things from place to place because they drown out the screaming in our heads. We have no peace, we have so serenity, we are troubled waters and there is no bridge. Some days, most of us would trade the sounds of silence for the constant din incessant motion. We are always moving from wherever we are to another place, and then back again, and as the old adage says, wherever we go that’s where we are.

Welcome to Fort Apache the brain. You can survive, but not in any way you’ve become accustomed to. It’s going to take every once of creativity and ingenuity and courage you’ve got to make something out of nothing, and to make nothing out of the mess that’s here. Get to work, because your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to bring light into the darkness that’s inside you. Then you can carve out a place for your spirit to rest. It’s been homeless for quite some time, and it’s weary.

Take the next exit. We’ll keep the light on for you.

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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