The Tug

As a Black woman this Civil Rights Movement, and all of its micro traumas, has become a tug of war on my soul.

People wonder why George Floyd? Why this time? Why this moment? When the truth is, it was simply the final straw. I don’t know of a Black person who is surprised by what some are so shocked by. I think people see the black and white images of our former Civil Rights Movement and convince themselves that it’s from a time long ago. It wasn’t. I’ll be 40 this August. Those are images of my uncles and aunts and cousins and as I watch the images in the news today it feels like tiny cuts each time a man is murdered who too closely resembles my own blood line.

I watch our White allies fight alongside, and for, my Black community and my heart soars! Hundreds of thousands of us marching in the pursuit of righteousness and I can almost see roads being paved for future generations who will never again have to walk this struggle. 

And then John and I pull into Morris Illinois, and I watch 2 pick up trucks box us in. I watch 2 cop cars pull up and talk to them first. And I see a white woman, emboldened by her own ignorant righteousness, and with her teenage daughter in the truck, point to our bus. My home. With 3 cops at my door, and Mrs. Pick Up recording on her phone, I was told that our bus had been reported as looking aggressive. I was told that we were reported as looking menacing. And I was asked when we were planning on leaving. 45 minutes later, the cops pulled off with our promise to pull out of our public parking spot in the morning. And then the pick up trucks peeled off one after the other honking their horn, yelling words I chose not to listen to. And in that moment, I’m reminded that everybody aint happy that Blacks are being heard.

With my ancestors stirring and dancing in my bones, I sign petition after petition and I can almost turn cartwheels when Tamla Hosford’s case is re-opened and Rayshard Brook’s killer is charged. And then I talk to my family and we can’t help but think back to the decades of cases where charges are lessened or dropped entirely and while officers collect pensions our community is left to mourn a lie. And we all mumur something like, “We’ll see…” and go about our day.

After Morris, John and I pulled into Paw Paw Michigan. Just days afterwards. We parked, I walked the dog, and the 3 white people watching me from their front porch started taking pictures. Not 5 minutes later, 4 white teenagers pulled along side us taking pictures of our bus. And right behind them 2 cop cars flashing lights and sirens. This time, the deputy wanted my first and last name. When I told him that I didn’t find it necessary to give my full name to a police officer for sitting outside of a public park at 2:00 in the afternoon (in my nicest “please don’t kill me” white girl voice) he called me Miss and told me to calm down. He wanted to know why I was there and this time, he didn’t give us until morning. He told me that “racial tensions are high here” and he told us to go. And we did. And those 3 white people kept watching and those 4 white teenagers laughed and took pictures of us driving away. 

A day later, I sobbed on a work call. I knew this country was racist. I’ve been dealing with some version of it as far back as my memory allows. But I had underestimated just how angry some become when we ask to live free. When we dare to demand equal treatment. I had underestimated how threatened they become by the sight of my skin. I sobbed and I told my team that I didn’t think I could do this anymore. Within 10 minutes, my boss and one of the founders of The Dinner Party, had texted me an address of a safe house. It was 20 minutes down the road from the rest stop we’d slept in. Within a half hour I was being hugged by 2 white women I’ve never met and told we were welcome to stay as long as we needed. We’ve shared meals and wine and gardening tips. We’ve shared stories and laughs and for the first time in weeks John and I slept without fear. We’ve been here for over a week and will be here until July. Mantra Magazine, having read my last post, and without being prompted sent cash via Venmo just in case we needed it and a promise to bail us out of jail in case my cop ass kissing ever fails.

The ACTION of my colleagues. The ACTION of a brand. The ACTION of these women here in these Michigan woods is what allows me to sit here and again feel my soul being tugged towards joy.

They understood, and understand, that this moment requires a sense of urgency. We didn’t need a text, or a phone call or a fist emoji. We needed help. And we needed it immediately. There is immense happiness to be felt when we see progress being made but don’t let it distract you from the fact that our happiness incites a level of hatred many of us can’t fathom. 

This fight is exhausting. Each day is begging something new out of all of us. If you’re like me and feeling the tug? Let go… let it pull you… There is a place for our anger and our sadness and our fear. But there is also enormous room for gratitude and hope. And there is a brief moment in the middle where someone will spring into ACTION and remind you that there is such beauty in our collective humanity when we try. And you’ll be ready to pick up the rope and begin again…

Just keep going.

Please feel free to comment below. I welcome all good energy!

Things I’m Learning On The Road

  • I haven’t had a mirror in the bus for 4 months. I broke the last one and we’ve just been too lazy to replace it. I wake up every morning, I brush my teeth and wash my face and I even manage to guess where my eyelid is as I apply eyeliner. I don’t usually get to a mirror until sometime after lunch. Turns out the world still turns and my face doesn’t change that much when I’m not checking on it every 20 seconds. Who knew?!?
  • We’ve been living in Yogaville for the last month or so and they should stop telling people that Verizon works here because that is a damn lie. The bus is a total dead zone and my cell really only works in the areas where talking on them isn’t allowed. I spent the first week running around like a crazed hamster looking for just ONE bar so that I could chat and gossip my free time away and then alas…. Ashram life won. Aside from work, I’ve done no gossiping and very little chatting and I have to say it’s been AMAZING! Half the time I don’t even know where my phone is. I’ve spent the last few years attached to it, waiting on a mama to go into labor so that I could jump into action as her Doula. The years before that I was attached to it waiting on news about my mother or father as they died. My nervous system welcomes the shift and I’m kinda dreading returning to four bar status 🙂
  • Builder burnout and crappy weather have given me the time to A) actually finish a book! Read Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine. It’s perfect. B) It’s allowed me hours of classes with new teachers here and my upcoming workshops are better for it. C) A vegan diet means my tits have said “sayonara” (for NOW) BUT it helped me figure out what foods were making me sick and itchy and I feel healthier than I have in a decade. D) It also meant that when my world was turned upside with news of a new brother, I had the space to process it and manage it. I waited a bit… he didn’t deserve the anger that I was holding. He didn’t need to be hit with alllll of the family nonsense at once. But eventually I called. He sounds just like my or I guess our father… (not sure how to say that yet) He laughs like him and he called me his little sister and even as I write this I cry because well damn it’s a lot… I told him about all of the good things… we talked about how he liked to make eggs and play chess and how he sang like Luther and spent his Sundays dunking on dudes on the court in Harlem. We laughed about the ugly sneakers he wore and the good way he hugged and we danced around the lies he told because maybe that’s best for another time but damn. I have a brother and our talk forced me to talk about the pros of life with my father which I haven’t thought about in years. I’m not sure who needed the conversation more but it felt good and I’m looking forward to our next one…

I knew that slow living would mean a lot of things. I anticipated becoming less vain. No one needs a face full of makeup living in the woods. I could have guessed that I would freak out about access to Internet and that eventually I would realize it was a first world problem and calm the fuck down. What I didn’t see coming was how perfectly it would “feed” my Yoga practice. We don’t practice being peaceful so that we can walk around levitating. We “practice” peace so that peace becomes an automatic response when life hits us with otherwise. Slow living gives me the time and space to dedicate to my practice which helps me respond better to my life. It’s not always easy on the road but I’ve found that my life has always expanded when I figured out how to peacefully manage what was hard….

Welp! It’s raining again… and I have a new book! Healing Herbal Infusions to get into. I hope you take some time to do a little slow living yourself this week. Cut something out to make space for something better. Feed what helps you cope. You deserve it.

Namaste Y’all

My New Brother

I’m not sure where to begin, with Grief Camp or with finding out that my dead father gave up a son in 1978 and my family knew?! I’m not sure why I haven’t made my life into a book by now, or at the very least a pamphlet, because you can’t make this shit up!

On October 26th I watched as people, in their 20’s and 30’s, flew in from as far as Dubai and as near as Chicago. I was there because I work as a Community Manager for The Dinner Party. But I was also there because I lost both of my parents a few years apart to different forms of Cancer.

Before camp, TDP staff got together for a night of preparing and pizza and talking about our own goals as grievers for the weekend. I wanted to leave having let go of anger towards my father. The morning camp started I made a list of the 4 biggest things I’ve been carrying around.

  • When I was 10 my father’s mistress called our house, on Thanksgiving, and told me details about their relationship. I didn’t see my father again for 4 years. He lived 20 minutes away.
  • I called my father once from outside my mother’s hospital room and begged him to help me. He told me she deserved it and hung up. He then showed up at her funeral, late, sat in the front row and 2 days later asked me to borrow money. Which I gave to him. I wouldn’t hear from him again.
  • A year or so later, I was walking to Union Square to meet a friend for drinks at Blue Water Grill. I see my father, and a woman walking towards me. And as the Universe would have it we are the ONLY people on the street. I stopped and waited for him to stop. She was blissfully chatting away and he mouthed for me not to say anything, shook his head and walked past me.
  • The next time I saw him, he was in a coma. The same woman was sitting bedside. And still. I stayed. And held his hand. And told him I loved him. The weeks and months to follow until his death uncovered more lies and more secrets from the lives he had invented with so many different people. But he was my father. And my first love and so I stayed.

After he died, I did what I do. I wrote. I cried. I meditated. I traveled and drank too much. I burned candles and sage and I came out years later feeling like I was GOOD! And then I had a Reiki session. I was fresh off of casually dating a man I knew damn well I shouldn’t have and laid on this woman’s table at The Turnberry Resort in Miami, FL. After the 1 hour silent session, and my being STUNNED by her mastery of the skills, she turned to me and said “You need to heal your relationship with your father or you’ll always have difficult relationships with men.” Ummmm. “You got all that from waiving your hands above my liver?!? ” But I never forgot what she said.

Well now it’s 2019 and I’ve realized months before camp that I was still fucking pissed. Falling in love will do that to you. I pride myself in being able to recognize my own shit. No one deserves your pain. After I threw the 2nd fan in his direction I realized it was time to take a step back lol

So AGAIN I did the work. I realized that half the time, I wasn’t arguing with John. John had simply triggered a memory and my response was to that emotion that was never healed. John is the only man, I’ve ever really loved, and the little girl who wasn’t loved right is a wee bit bananas when she gets mad. And here’s the thing. Other dudes might have deserved my crazy. He doesn’t.

So I made that list. And I burned it at camp. And I cried and hugged and did all the things. I also watched as all of these other beautiful people moved through their own pain and I was reminded that my pain was not specific to me. There were people sitting in that room who I wouldn’t trade my story with. There is always someone who is dealing with more than you. I left feeling lighter and I came back to John feeling proud of what I had released.

And then this shit. I’ve always known my father had had children before I was born. Unfortunately, we didn’t grow up together. I’ve never known the full story but from what I gathered, he had “chosen” to be a dad to only 1 of us and I’ve spent most of my life avoiding them because I’ve felt guilty. We’re in contact on social media but that’s about it and after my dad died I think it almost got weirder for me to begin a relationship. They are older and more mature than I, and have never stopped reaching out. One of them reached out this morning to tell me we have a brother. Thanks to ancestry.com he took a DNA test and found her. He had been given up in a closed adoption in 1978. I was born in 1980. He’s lived in NJ. I grew up in NY. I don’t know the chain of events yet, but my uncle has known. At least 1 aunt has known and so had my grandmother.

My world has been rocked before. And when it has I call on everything my mother and Yoga have taught me. As a teacher myself, I know and believe that there is a lesson here. I think about what I would tell my students and I remind myself to BREATHE. I am good at stepping back and trying to determine what future me needs, because present me is down the rabbit hole. And so I tell myself that there is a blessing here and to not be guided by anger.

But. I’m also a 39 year old woman who deserved the truth. I also don’t believe that family secrets should prevent you from having a moral compass. I am steadfast in knowing that I could have used a brother when I found myself with no one at 31. And that toxic is toxic. Family or not. When I think about what future me needs? I think about a healthy marriage. She needs to be in a loving partnership. She no longer passes down what has been YEARSSS of generational disfunction. She trusts whose around her and love is poured honestly at the table where she sits.

So, I AM pissed. But I’m also done doing the work for now. Sometimes anger aint so bad. I’m deciding, (for my own health) “not my circus, not my monkeys.” sometimes family are the people you choose rather than your blood. I’ve got some AMAZING blood ones (that sounds gross lol) and they know who they are but my chosen ones deserve only the best of me. And sometimes walking away is the best “work” you can ever do.