afraid of nothing

I have been repeating this Audre Lorde quote over and over since the election results. I have been forlorn, scared, inconsolable. Angry. 

Angry. 

I am deliberate and afraid of nothing.

I will not give haters the pleasure of my fear.

I thought that when I read about the possibility that poll watchers would be out on election day, trying to intimidate voters. Fuck them, I thought. I saw a photo of a guy with a gun in his holster and a Trump shirt, and a woman had called authorities because she was fearful. He may have asked her who she was voting for…I can’t remember. Fuck him, I thought. I’m not going to be intimidated by poll watchers, guns or no.

After Trump won, my mom texted me her fears about discrimination. She’s experienced plenty and is concerned it may get worse. She asked if I’d seen on the news that these white kids at an elementary school in California (I think) were chanting Build the Wall, and the Mexican kids were crying. She was angry about this. She said she’d like for those white kids to get their DNA tested to see how mixed we all are. (She and I have both done this and were floored by the results. I have more sub-Saharan African blood than I knew; she has more Native American blood than she knew.) 

Those poor kids are scared. It’s nauseating and terrifying being picked on for being who you are…something you have nothing to do with.

I was scared once.

I’ve written on this blog about my experience with racism, particularly when I was growing up in rural Ohio and attending a primarily white school. It was not as bad as it could have been, but there was enough nastiness to shape my views of rural life and my interest in getting as far from that life as I could. 

I was a fat couch potato during this time. I would ride the bus home, find something to eat (typically a box of mac and cheese) and flop on the couch to watch television. I turned often to the Geraldo Rivera show, and he often had on neo-Nazis on. They frightened me. Truly. Everyone would be screaming and yelling, racial slurs and spittle everywhere. It deeply bothered me. The idea that these white guys hated me so much. Eventually I would turn it off, roll over on the couch and bury my face in the cushion, pushing out all the hate I had just heard. Trading fear for sleep.

When you’re a young person, racial hatred is inexplicable and frightening (not to say it’s not frightening as an older person, but as one ages, one sees these actions and words differently).  My fear of it shaped much of my life as a teenager–the downcast eyes, the hunched shoulders, the desire to blend in with the walls.

My experience studying at a large college and working as a journalist in diverse communities (along with encouragement from my mom) helped me shed those feelings of inferiority and helped to reshape me into who I am today–proud of my brown skin, my mixed heritage, my thick lips and broad nose. 

So much improves with age, including developing the intellectual understanding of what racism means, how people use it, and why they use it. It’s not as scary. It’s not the boogeyman in the closet in the way it feels like when you’re brown kid. 

Looking back on the Geraldo Rivera episodes, I see them for the absurd clown shows they always were. They are laughable. 

I hope those kids suffering through the stupid comments by their classmates–comments their classmates likely don’t comprehend themselves–have the support they need to overcome the stupidity with their self-confidence in tact.

As for me, I am deliberate and afraid of nothing. 

I am deliberate and afraid of nothing.

Middle fingers up.

How do you deal with the devastating world?

I’d really like to know.

I ask after weeping over a photo and story shared by The Dodo of a starving orangutan, who’s home had been deforested in the harvesting for palm oil, that approached villagers with her baby, and the villagers proceeded to tie her up and torture her. They took photos (hence my weeping), and they eventually let the baby join the mother, so the photo shows the orangutan tied up with the baby clinging to her. Eventually someone came across the scene (a vet? A human aid worker? I forget), and took the animals away. The mother died but the baby is doing well. 

And so that’s how my Saturday morning started. Weeping over a story thousands of miles away, with the dogs licking my face, and with me wondering what to do. The obvious answer is to boycott palm oil, and I will try, but I know that is a salve to make me feel better and is unlikely to change anything on a grand scale for a long time. It seems we don’t learn anything about how to save ourselves and help each other until huge populations of people/animals suffer and die. 

I do the best I can, but it’s on such a small scale, ineffective perhaps…but what else can I or we do? Short of having tons of money to throw at these causes (I make small donations to some effect, I hope), what else can we do but live lives that reflect our values? I don’t eat meat in hopes of staying out of factory farming or the slaughter of animals, generally. There are certain food delicacies I would never try, initially because I wouldn’t have been able to afford them, and now because I find the preparation practices abhorrent.

As I get older, I understand more and more the benefit of focusing on the hyper local–volunteering with local animal shelters, kid groups, donating to local charities–but that doesn’t change what’s happening in the world. There’s beauty everywhere and also so much heartbreak. 

TMI, perhaps?

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Some of you may see this photo and already know what it means. I’m prepping for my first colonoscopy, which means for the next 3 hours I’m drinking 48 ounces of Gatorade mixed with a bottle (a bottle!!) of ClearLax. And then another bottle and 48 ounces more tomorrow morning. The amount of ClearLax seems almost dangerous! It’s absurd! The only perk is that I get to use my giant sugar skull mug that tends to be too big most of the time. In this case, it’s perfect.

The primary reason I’m posting this is because this process makes me think of my dad. I’m doing this ten years earlier than most because of his diagnosis when he was 53. He had a tumor so large, it blocked his ability to evacuate. The doctor couldn’t even complete the colonoscopy because she couldn’t get past the tumor. They speculated it could have been growing for 10 years or more.

Now, as a 40-year-old woman, I look back and wonder how in the hell someone can live with that kind of discomfort for so long? When I spoke with him about it later, he admitted to the telltale symptoms, but simply brushed them off. Blood in the stool? Hemorrhoids. Inability to defecate completely? Constipation (which could also explain the bloating).

I look back at pictures just prior to his diagnosis and he looks swollen. But not in a way that looks ill, if that makes sense. He had always been a big guy, overweight. The quality of his gut (which has always been there, and had always been firm) seemed to change…it was broader, and maybe flabbier? But his spirit was no different. He was always easy going and funny. One of my favorite pictures of him is when Spence and I surprised him with a birthday cake during his visit to Florida. He was all smiles. He had a great time during that trip. But, god, he must have felt awful if he wasn’t able to evacuate his bowels completely, and if he hadn’t been able to for some time. He was diagnosed a year later.

One of the first things he said to me after he had surgery and started on chemo was that he hadn’t felt so good in years. In hindsight, that makes me so sad…that he lived in discomfort for so long.

Mirrors

I hate the days when nothing seems to fit. Nothing looks good. I feel fat and ugly. I curse the fact that weight doesn’t just melt off me. And why can’t I be three inches taller? And if not taller, why can’t my neck be longer? And why do I act like my eating habits aren’t my own? Why do I know the “right” things to eat yet eat the “wrong” things too often? And why do I always start with the best of intentions, but end the day grabbing for anything delicious. And how did I develop such a disordered approach to eating and weight? And how can I still feel happy in spite of wanting to be taller and more beautiful? And at what age will I stop caring about western standards of beauty? And why is it some days I want to look as offbeat and unusual as possible, but then I pass a traditional beauty and my self confidence sinks? When will that initial confidence I had–before leaving the house/before remembering the beauty–take root deep in my core and be unshakeable in the face of anything that comes my way? How long will I have to fake it until I make it? My grandmother gained weight gradually throughout her life and was always perfectly happy with herself. I take after my grandmother in myriad ways and maybe this way as well? How is it I can see the forward momentum of weight gain, yet act like I have no control over it? Ben and Jerry’s doesn’t show up in my refridgerator by magic, though I wish they did. Why don’t I have more discipline? 

But my body works. 

But I’m healthy. 

But I’m healthy. 

And for that, I’m happy. 

Even while…even while…

Intentionality

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I often think about living life intentionally, and how to do that better. To not let time pass by unnoticed, but to be aware that, Hey, this could be my last day on earth. Would I do anything differently?

Of course this question has to be thought of in the realm of reality. If I knew I had only a week or so to live, of course I would cash in my 401k and hit the road, taking Spence and the dogs along for the ride. (I’d like to think that’s what I would do. But who knows?)

But our daily lives are made up of much smaller decisions and all these small decisions add up to the entirety of our lives. And it is within these smaller, quieter decisions that I try to live intentionally. Am I being as kind as I’d liked to be? Am I exploring as much as I wish to be? Am I meeting new people? Am I trying new things?  Beauty is everywhere. Interesting people doing cool things are everywhere.

Honestly, I’m happy to say the only thing I would change in my life is that I don’t travel abroad as much as I’d like. There are so many things I’d like to see. However, if that’s the only change I’d make, I’d say things are going well.  Seth Godin once said, “Instead of wondering when our next vacation is we should set up a life we don’t need to escape from.” I’m grateful to feel I’ve reached this point, especially with work. I look forward to going in.  That’s not to say I’m not looking forward to my next vacation and seeing my mom! I can’t wait! But it feels like one more perk on top of many. And for that, and so many other things, I’m grateful.