Apologetically unapologetic musings
When you get your first shot of the Pfizer vaccine at the Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens are you also grieving the millions who died by this thing?
How do you grieve government incompetence? State-sponsored violence on our own people? State sanctioned bombs falling on other humans in faraway places?
Do we sometimes grieve our dead parents by saying those things we never got to say to them to our living loved ones? (That can be hard on those loved ones. And sometimes beautiful)
I’m grieving this week, this month, this year. I thought I wasn’t. I thought I had to say I was fine. I thought I had to say things were good. My projects were exciting. My writing is going well. My death training is changing me. My kids are doing great. I’ve survived pandemic because of the beauty of my relationships. My mother is healing fine. I’ve learned so much about myself in a pandemic. My plants are thriving and they must be reflecting some part of me.
I’m not Muslim and don’t celebrate Ramadan, but I’d like to think I’m beginning my own kind of fast. The kind where I fast from trying to do too much other than feel what comes up. And wherever that takes me is where I’ll be, months of sadness, years of sadness while I live my life. That’s likely going to be where I’ve always already been, minus all the resistance. I’m thinking of the word allow. Allowing. Instead of resisting. I like the sound of allow. It hollows my mouth as I breath it out softly.
My sadness has always felt like a indicator light. Without it I’d actually be crazy. It tells me that things are not right. Things are not right. Things are not right. 20-year old Black fathers being murdered because they are Black is not right. It is not right. We can’t just move on to the next day. Wherever we are, wherever you find yourself, you are in the same system, connected in some way to the same police system. [Here’s where I go off telling you all to speak up please in every fucking place in this country because the problems are not just in the police department, they are literally EVERYWHERE.] But I’m too tired for all that. You already know my old song and dance, if you don’t know it, that is my favorite song and dance.
I only want to live in a world that is imagined by Alok Menon. When people talk about the difficulties of doing something, being an activist, toppling systems, I wonder what the alternatives are? To be alive and feel things is to be active, activist. To be alive is to respond, to violence, to love. To not respond to death is to be a kind of dead. To be an artist, one must only be fully alive. I say only lightly, it is harder than it seems, this one thing.
These are from a piece they did, “a new definition for art” for Center for Literature:
“An artist is someone committed to living, not merely existing. Life is the canvass is the comedy club. The poem doesn’t end with the stanza, it follows you home like a shadow. The sono, it sticks to you like a stubborn wrist band, sign me up for that endurance performance piece.”
“I want to live where meaning does. Which means I’m always chasing something. It’s difficult for me to say: ‘This is who I am,’ because in the time it took me to construct that parlor for you, I already fled somewhere else. A flame not only flickers, it winks.”
The beauty of them and their art often halts me, pauses everything, slows me down to stew in it. I think we need more of this gracious, complex and allowing art. It allows for existence, more of it, all of ours. It is the opposite of limiting. Of resisting. I’m rooting hard for the things that expand and allow.
Everything else must follow this format:
- I would love to write advice columns. I have always loved reading them. And although I claim to know nothing, I would love to give strangers (or dear friends who will remain anonymous) advice on literally any topic. Why not try a thing out? If you have a question on any topic, try me by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. [Put ADVICE COLUMN in the subject line].
- By the way, Heather Havrilesky runs an Ask Polly advice column and this right here is some of the best advice column-ing there is.
- This podcast episode of Code Switch explains explanatory commas, so I won’t. It’s short and if you expect writers of color to explain their own lives to you in any more detail than you would explain any part of your life/childhood to them, then you really ought to listen.
- Am I PMS’ing or have trusted relationships become new sources of oppression, depletion, pain, or trauma? Does my PMS protect me? Sometimes the feeling is something like an altar to my past sadnesses, the ones ranging from my childhood, passing the teenage years, into young adulthood, motherhood. Sometimes PMS feels like a tribute to the deep inky wells I have moved away from but still dot my maps. Often PMS feels like a dinner party for my current sadness and my past sadness. They all get to meet and feast and talk about how to keep me safe by pulling inwards to them, holding my knees to my chest and head tucked in so that none of us goes very far or does too much while my body prepares to purge a whole organ meant to hold a baby in it. Every damn month or so.
- It’s AAPI history month, or Asian American month, or let’s talk about Asians in school month or something. Our school asked if any families would like to share a video or something of our family’s culture to share with the school. This text to my daughter’s teacher sums up my Asian-American experience/dilemma pretty well:
“Also I’d love to contribute to the Asian month thing I just am so tired and can’t think of anything 😬 if you have any ideas I’d be happy to contribute. I’m just dry on ideas. I almost just want to hand the floor over to Su to do whatever and take a video but that’s not particularly Asian. Lol but as an Asian American I feel also conflicted about showcasing my mom’s occasional chapati or daal or India trips too because it feels not authentic to what our Asian American experience is. Tbh the Asian American experience is a lot of weird emotional labor and speaking up in meetings as an adult BC you were low key silenced your whole life. Can that be in a video? 😂”
- About all the months: AAPI, Black history, Hispanic Heritage week, etc. Please don’t ask anyone around you during any of these months to share or try to sum up their culture for you in a way that you would not ask a white person (try it for fun: ask your fave white friend to sum up their cultural existence in a favorite dish, holiday, video or art project, watch the laughs ensue). The problem is not the Indian food or the enjoying of it, it’s the pressure to represent your entire lineage one day a year. It’s the impossibility of that task. If your culture is too vast to distill down and you do not even have the words to begin to describe something as nebulous as culture anyway. If your culture is the dominant one that the entire education system bends towards. If your culture churns out all the writers with all the books in all the niche areas arguing about the nuance and inner workings of those niches. Then please, understand that your request for anyone out of the majority to sum up their existence in one form, one day, one week, or one month is flattening, diminishing.
- Ive been in a death doula training program for the past 12 weeks, the last zoom class was today and I was too choked up during the meeting to say much and after the meeting I burst. I want to say so much about this in a big, serious proper way. What death means to me deserves a full post of length, anecdote, and personal tragic story. It’s true, perhaps it will come. But in the meantime I’ll say in these words that the training I took was immense. Mostly because of some very special people I met who taught me how to be alive and listen. I have sat with two dying people so far, my grandmother and my father. Both changed me in ways that guided me to this point, which is always just a point for me. But here I am, because the parts of myself that showed up in offering myself to loved ones’ dying, my presence in their last moments, are the best parts of myself. I would like to offer these parts to others. I would like to also tear down the systems that take these gifts of dying away from people and medicalize, hospitalize, capitalize on bodies in death as they capitalize on our bodies in life. I have a lot more to say on it all. I say some of it here. The labels are not important, death doula, death worker, grief worker. Just that I am making myself whole for the work. For anyone who needs it.
- Part of the reason I’m obsessed with deathwork is because in the dying days of my father’s life I had access to him. We had access to each other. I was loved by him as he left this place and I was able to love him and others around me because I was all presence. We were all presence. In those days I witnessed a capacity within myself, an ability, that was tied to the capacity of the person who passed it down to me, my father. I witnessed his capacity to love in death. To be human. To be an artist. I am an artist, a spiritual practitioner, a death worker. These things came to me by my lineage.
- I think about this quote by Zora Neale Hurston a lot: “If you are silent about your pain, they’ll kill you and say you enjoyed it.”
- This quote from this L.A. Times piece with Robin D.G. Kelley on radical imagination.
RK: “Internationalism is the Raid for the cockroach of fascism. Because fascism, it’s always about using nationalism, and the nation, as a bludgeon to generate support for death policies, on behalf of death governments. For violence and repression and exploitation, internationalism is the antidote, always.”
Some ending notes:
- This death flower. I don’t know it’s name, but it is papery and dry to touch, the petals feel dead but everything is alive.
- This turtle that we met one day and fell hard for.
- Low key everyone should read this Melissa Febos piece about spending a lifetime consenting to unwanted touch.
- Imagine you’re in the car with someone you love driving in LA as the sun sets.
- Another thing that probably requires a full serious Substack post about instead of a bullet point, is that I’m helping to organize a forum for parents in District 14 (North Brooklyn) and beyond on Abolishing the School to ACS pipeline. ACS (the Administration for Children’s Services in NYC) or child services as it currently exists in America needs to be abolished and re-imagined. Joyce McMillan and Angeline Montauban, mothers that fought to get their children back from the racist system that took them are featured in this MotherJones piece and are both a critical part of this forum. I’m honored to have met them and be bringing their voices and others to those who perhaps need to hear them. We talk a lot about abolishing the police and not enough about abolishing ACS. How the state takes Black and Brown babies from their parents daily. Traumatizing kids forever. It’s state-sanctioned violence of the worst variety. If you are part of a public school in America with Black and Brown kids in it, find out what the policies of your school are, when they call the State child services dept on families. This should be done either never or after attempting at least 100 alternate things for these families. Send them the MotherJones article, ask questions.
- Grace Lee Boggs. On Imagination.
- On that note it’s Black Maternal Health Week. In the words of @shishi.rose:
It’s Black Maternal Health Week.
I already knew but the death info pouring into my DMs and email reminded me.
In case I didn’t know, Black people keep dying having their babies….
Omg this is brand new information….
What if we centered wellness not death stats?
What if we talked about how your privilege is killing us?
What if y’all cared about the mental health of Black folks and worked to end racial weathering so that our bodies wouldn’t keep decaying from the inside because we see, hear, and experience racism everyday?
What if y’all were just as concerned with ending the death as you are about talking about the death?
What if they didn’t wait for Black folks to die to care?
What if the conversations about Black birth was centered on giving Black families resources, access to care, education, love, and protection for their ENTIRE parenting journey. If you connected the dots between this and Black mothers losing adult children to the state?
What if we celebrated this week by demanding that we bring back community care that we lost to colonization?
Telling Black folks that we keep dying giving birth doesn’t stop Black folks from dying giving birth.
What if y’all helped us dream up joy and a life with our child and then worked ur ass off to make sure we got it?
Caring about Black people means caring about the mother that was called before her son was shot by a cop and the mother that waited around for hours for any information after her daughter was shot by cops in her sleep, and all the other ones.
You want Black people to stop dying having Black babies?
Then end systematic racism don’t just talk about ending systemic racism.
Show up for us like you show up for CIS men- protest the hospitals like you protested the cops.
Realize that Black women and femmes die in police custody as well.
Hold midwives accountable- some of y’all’s shit stinks to.
Stop telling us you have privilege, instead work to eradicate it everyday.
Then educate your white children on the role they already play in white supremacy and dismantle it.
What is the point y’all?
Like…okay, we watch the news, and know the stats. Black parents are scared shitless.