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The Dark Glass

In Depression and Mental Health, Examining my tears #ExMT, Uncategorized, Using my words for good #UMFWG on July 14, 2014 at 3:44 am

Who do I turn to? It’s a crushing weight, but then again…it is not actually a crushing weight. Is it? I recognize that I do not have the proper perspective to judge, but the weight on my chest and confusion in my mind feel so crushing. Yet, it is rather imaginary. Isn’t it? After all, my problems–my issues–are not of a truly substantial nature. I’m not facing a lack of food, a lack of shelter, poor health–or any of those things.

But, still, this tinted glass wall sometimes drops down between me and everything else. I can’t turn around and go back. No, I have spent so much time working my way forward and I know what sadness and struggles are behind me. Somehow, though, I cannot move forward. I can see out. I can see, dimly through the darkened glass, that things are better than I think they are and that I can be better. I just can’t get there at that very moment.

Do I bang against the glass again and again, hoping that it will shatter? Do I try to tunnel underneath? Do I just sit there and hope that it will be lifted as suddenly and mysteriously as it dropped? Or, do I pretend that the wall is not there, and that the barrier does not exist, and that (even though it does exist) I don’t care?

And, who wants to hear my tangled metaphors of glass and weights? Who wants to hear all of that again–because it recurs. It recurs. That is the most shameful thing of all. No matter how resilient I was last time, I will have to–and, I will be able to–be as resilient again. That’s the bottom line. There is no choice. I can, I will, I must. No matter how heavy the weight on my chest, I can, I will, I must take another breath. No matter how dark and how thick that glass, I can, I will, I must press my forehead against it and wait for it to lift or crack or shatter.

I want so badly to be able to exercise my way out of it; to think my way out of it; to faith my way out of it; to pray my way out of it; to laugh my way out of it; to talk my out of it; to do anything at all to get out of it. But, those things are not permanent fixes. Maybe there is no permanent fix; maybe there is, and I have not found that fix yet. So, I fake it. I smile and laugh and eat and do without really feeling anything except the shame of having to fake the whole thing again. I hold out hope that at some point, a switch will flip and it will change from a performance to me being genuine.

Who can I really face while carrying that shame again? So, I hide. I don’t have to explain. But, eventually, I begin to wonder if anyone notices that I am hiding. Then, I begin to believe that it’s just easier if I hide. I can repeat the struggle again without disturbing anyone. My struggles for breath and my head-banging against the glass will not distract anyone else. But, mostly, I just don’t want anyone to see. I don’t want to be judged too emotional or incompetent or hysterical or crazy. I do not talk about those minutes, days, weeks behind the glass. I’m strong, smart, practiced enough to get by without talking about the hours behind the darkened glass.

I have a gift that many others who deal with the weight, the confusion, and darkness of depression do not have: I have hope. Even the thinnest scrap of hope has the instructions on how to make it to the next minute. And, that is what I do. I live one minute to the next, knowing those minutes will turn into an hour, and those hours will turn into one day. It is not about tomorrow being better; it is about making it into the next minute with another scrap of hope and with the belief that the glass will lift.

If I think too far ahead, I (somehow by some sort of mental sleight of hand) will be reminded of losses and that leads to regret, guilt, and shame. But, when I live from one minute to the next, making it the way I am, making it as who I am, and making it with the bare essentials of life is possible. In that minute, I am enough. When I think too far ahead, I am not enough. I am inadequate. I am weak. I am stupid. When I think too far ahead, I accept the dark glass as the best thing.

No, I’m not watching the Academy Awards

In and other uncomfortable topics, Examining my tears #ExMT, Race, R[evol]ution, Somewhat disjointed rant... on March 3, 2014 at 3:00 am

This is one of those posts that, the writing of it, takes a sigh and the publishing of it takes another. I have immense self-doubt even as I write this. Also, I have hood-winked you. This post is only slightly about the Oscars, and a lot about my own confrontations with and misunderstandings of color.

I am an American, and steeped in the hypocritical psuedo-democratic, but at the same time grandiose and hopeful, rhetoric and culture of this place. And, like so many other Americans who are aware of this Oscar season, I found heart-breaking the words of Lupita Nyong’o as she accepted an award at Essence’s Black Women of Hollywood luncheon. As a child, she prayed to God to “wake up lighter-skinned.” That prayer embodies years of negative comments to Ms. Nyong’o; years of not being told she was beautiful period; hundred of years of subjugating and objectifying and brutalizing darker women; colonialism; the slave trade; religious teachings about the evil and depravity of darker people.

Those things set up a hierarchy, embodied in the old (though not so old) Southern U.S. saying: “If you’re white, you’re right; if you’re brown, stick around; if you’re black, get back.” But, as I am typing this, I am looking at my fingers and realize that I might be scoffed at for joining in this conversation. I’m in an outsider position and, for years, I was told as much: “You don’t have Black girl hair”; “you’re best feature is your light skin”; “you get handed things because you’re light.”

I say “for years” because I now actively refuse to participate in color conversations because no matter what someone always gets hurt and because I am not an outsider. I am an insider. I am an inside witness to what the still-working system of subjugation does to darker people of all hues.

That system–and all of us who participate in it–defines darker as ugly; if not ugly, then less than; if not less than, then different; if not different, then exotic; if not exotic, then not *quite* White. Darker is never allowed to be, to live, to exist as an unremarkable part of daily life. We all have the daily opportunity to see beautiful people of every color. Whether we choose to seize that opportunity is another thing; whether we choose to wholly acknowledge that beauty is another thing.

In plain language, Morris Chestnut is not a beautiful brown man. That is not wholly appreciating beauty. No, he is a beautiful man. Jesse Williams is not a beautiful “mixed guy.” No, he is a beautiful man. And, most importantly, the two do not stand as representations of polar opposites of each other. Ms. Nyong’o deserves all of the accolades and attention for her acting chops and her beauty. But, it makes me a little sad that, in some of the writing about Ms. Nyong’o, “lighter” actresses are getting thrown under the bus as examples of what’s wrong with Hollywood.

The hard part–and the part that sometimes makes me feel hopeless–is that there is no real way out of the system. The fact of the matter is that women who look like Lupita Nyong’o and Grace Jones and Iman and Viola Davis are often either told they are ugly or not told they are beautiful and these same women deserve to be smothered with love and appreciation and admiration because they were beautiful all along; the fact of the matter is that Halle Berry and Paula Patton and Zoe Saldana are very popular actresses and not always because of talent alone. Is there a way to reconcile all of that? Is there a way to love and appreciate and admire one without pointing out the fault in the other?

And, the point of the whole thing is money made by selling images and films and tickets. It seems that the better the system works at making someone feel ugly, the more likely that person is to pay good money to see someone who looks like them who is beautiful. So, the system wins in the end anyway, and in the end we all end up distracted from the fact that minority communities (and I don’t just mean Black folks and racial/ethnic communities) are underrepresented anyway and all the damage caused by that can’t be fixed by a couple of magazine covers, a television show, and a few awards.

So, no. I’m not watching the Academy Awards–despite the fact that I think Ellen DeGeneres is hilarious. I’m no longer sure that I can trust what I am watching. I am no longer sure of where the system ends and true admiration and healing begin.

Here goes: sigh.

World: 1; You: 0

In Choosing to see the wonderful #CTSTW, Encouragement, Examining my tears #ExMT, R[evol]ution, Somewhat disjointed rant... on February 26, 2014 at 5:08 am

Allow me to be frank.

The world has a way of telling you that you ain’t shit, of ever so slightly lifting away your protective ego and exposing your sensitive soul to the withering glances of uninvited eyes. Then, what began as a just a corner lifted up turns into a gale force that rips away your confidence.

And, all it takes is one voice. One completed action aimed at you. Today, I heard that voice. Then, my own insecurities took over. It started with one dissatisfied client and
I’m inexperienced
I’m young-ish
I’m Black
I’m female
I’m not on anybody’s magazine cover
I’m not on any tracks
I’m not able to fit into any of my clothes from high school
I’m not a mother
I’m not married
I’ve not made any large or notable settlements
I’m in some serious student loan debt
I’m unable to replicate any of Norm Abrams’ wood-working

Obviously, some of those are pointless….

But, I realized that EVEN IF ALL OF THAT IS TRUE, there is one thing I have in my “plus column”: today, I was not that voice to someone else. I have the choice–and I made the choice–to speak positive words to others. I do not have to be the trigger for someone else’s insecurity spiral. I refuse to allow the World to get a plus one over on someone else because of me.

Instead, I can be for someone else what my loved ones were today for me: a voice that nurtures; a hand that consciously and purposefully replaces the protection over an exposed and shivering soul; a reassurance that one does matter; a reminder that there is no score card in life.

Tomorrow is another day, sure to present a multitude of voices. But, the only thing I can control is what I do with my voice.

February: Let me sum up…

In Examining my tears #ExMT, First World Problems, Somewhat disjointed rant... on February 24, 2014 at 5:33 am

In the immortal words of Inigo Montoya: “Let me explain. No. There is too much. Let me sum up.”

February: the month of revelations and annoyances, large and small. I learned much. For example….

1. I should feel sorry for my frequent and vigorous use of adult language. I should. And, sometimes I do. But, I often don’t feel sorry. I do recognize that said language is incongruous with my Christian faith. I’m working on it. But, I’m pretty sure that you looking down your nose at me is not WWJD.

Lesson learned: Judgmental people are boring.

2. My dentist is not an orthodontist. So, I will forever kindly thank her to talk to me of the state, health, cleanliness, and hygiene of my mouth rather than asking me multiple times if I still wear my retainer. Yes. Yes, I know I have a gap. I know that. And guess what? I’ve had braces TWICE. No. No, I would not be interested in Invisalign or in getting braces again. Yes. Yes, I do wear my retainer. I still fit in it. I have a gap between my two front teeth–my sister has a gap. My mother has a gap. My grandmother had a gap. Heffa, clean my teeth, tell me if I have cavities, and let me go to work. I know my teeth are not “perfectly straight.” Based on my dentist’s preoccupation with my teeth not being “perfectly straight,” I would guess that at least 90% of her patients must have “perfectly straight” teeth. That would be an incorrect guess.

I cannot believe I paid $170.00 for these broads to give me 15 minutes worth of cleaning, 20 minutes worth of lecturing on retainers/braces/invisalign, 45 minutes of waiting, 10 minutes of an attempt to convince me that I needed new “bitewings” done when I knew good and well that I had paid for “bite wings” the last time I visited the dentist, and 2 minutes of an awkward stare down when I refused to have new “bitewings” done before the existing “bitewings” were found.

Lesson learned: My dentist is probably run by an Invisalign cartel.

3. There are many people in the world who should have gone to law school. I went to law school, and I’m now a lawyer. So, I know that there is nothing particularly special about lawyers as people. We’re not smarter, better, more attractive, more charismatic, or quicker. The only thing we have is a JD and a (hard earned) bar number.

People sometimes ask for legal advice. That’s fine. I enjoy sharing with people (sometimes for free, sometimes for a fee). I work hard at legal research to make sure I don’t give people crap advice. I like my profession.

What I dislike is a client telling me (after I give him my legal opinion) that he doesn’t like that advice, that he has a better (albeit illegal) solution, and then telling me that he should have been a lawyer.

Lesson learned: Shut up and walk away.

4. I do not like snow. I do not play in the snow. I do not look at the snow. I am not amazed by the snow. I am not happy about the snow. I do not care that you are from The North and that you are used to snow and that it starts snowing in late September where you are from. I do not care, though I am sure that’s lovely in its own way. That does not change the fact that I am from The South where we know about air conditioning, ice cream, sno cones, ceiling fans, sun glasses, shaved legs, Daisy Dukes, and dogwood trees. I do not harass you when The North has a heat wave and all sorts of emergency type things start happening. Two inches of snow presents a myriad of problems. Not the least of which being that I do not like snow.

Lesson learned: Avoid social media when it snows in The South.

5. I am who I am, and there is a reason for that and there is a place for me. I’m loud, opinionated, occasionally snobby, overly emotional, not always Rated G, vain, sometimes pretentious, obsessed with British period drama, chronically late, periodically explosive, almost thoroughly introverted, an enjoyer of beer, and unapologetically liberal sometimes to the point of socialist. That’s me. I have plenty of areas for improvement. But, the point is: there will always be something about me that is polarizing. Always. This is why enemies exist.

Lesson learned: There are methods that allow people to not have to communicate with me or be around me or even know I exist. Let them use those methods. I don’t fit in everywhere.