I have a really rough time with managing my expectations, really about anything. When I want something (a writing opportunity, a relationship, a decent thigh from KFC) my desire for it can sometime out run my ability to understand the dynamics of what it takes to get the thing I want. For example, that decent thigh from KFC.
My expectation is I’ll pull up, the person I’m ordering from will be at minimum cordial or even downright pleasant. That person will take my order and in less than two minutes I will received an original recipe golden brown chicken thigh cooked to perfection with just the right amount of grease. I’m not all taking into account:
The kind of day the person taking my order has had.
That I might have just missed the batch of thighs cooked by Earl the king of the KFC kitchen and have to settle for the batch cooked by Irma the adorable well meaning grandma who works at KFC cause it makes her happy, but who never really knew how to cook.
That I’m coming 15 minutes before close and they’re out of thighs.
I think I may have discovered through my copious amount of journaling a means by which to navigate my expectations and to soothe The Great Want. A mantra, if you will. And it goes:
I know you want _____. (God, The Universe, HP, Buddha, Mohammed) knows you want _____, and desires your happiness. However, having _____ is not the source of your happiness. Having _____ will not make your life any less wonderful or worth living. Getting _____ will only accentuate your already wonderful and full life. It does not mean anything about you or your character. You are great. You are a gift. You are loved. As is. With or without _____. So it is.
The title is to generate the elusive click factor, but as far as I’m concerned the “D” I’m referring to might as well be a fine ass man who all the women (and men) talk about incessantly and want desperately but who, once you get home is just as floppy, flaccid, and ill performing as he wants to be.
I can’t read another well meaning (or not well meaning) think-piece about diversity (or Formation for that matter.) My spirit can’t abide it. My job as an artist is to create, and that’s what I damn well intend to do whether or not I’m pic’t as one of the handful of worthy “Of Colors” who will help usher in a new age of the “D” (remember: diversity not penis), to theatre, film, television, and your Mama’s cocktail party.
I’m exhausted with the whole deal.
The definition shape shifts too quickly for me to keep up.
The reasons why and excuses why not leave me with dry heaves.
And I know theatre houses, film execs, and et. al with money, you need to make a buck. There must be a sure return on your investments or it will trigger Armageddon. That sure return is based on what the audience wants, cause it’s allll about the audience, except … don’t you kinda set the bar for what “great theatre” is with your pic’t people, institutions, and awards. Yeah, you kinda have a say.
And artists (Of Color and otherwise) … REBEL!
Stop sitting around waiting to be pic’t and do something. No, money to do it isn’t easy to come by. Yes, self production is hard as hell. I’ve done it, thankfully before anyone tried to convince me of how crazy the idea was, but there has not been a time in the history of the universe that the capability to reach audiences has been easier (I exaggerate of course.)
I won’t wanna die with a stack of unproduced plays on my desk gathering dust whilst my prostrate body decomposes on the office floor because I collapsed trying to get back to my desk to write one. last. scene.
Don’t let the perpetual intellectual discussions of the idea of diversity remain a circle jerk of the minds that lead to no concrete solutions.
Get out there and …
GET THAT “D”!
… And if you’re pic’t in the process that’s fine too, great even. Just remember, a flower is a flower even if it isn’t pic’t.
Today, while watching the utterly amazing Jazmine Sullivan perform on Live with Michael and Kelly, I was hit with a bit of insight I felt was worth sharing (do what you will with it, these are just words after all.) Jazimine’s voice gave me goose flesh. It is, possibly, the most soulful of her generation. It harkens back to ye olden days when R&B lived in the solar plexus, and not simply in the all too impatient over stimulated nerve endings of the loins. Her album Reality Show is a pleasant surprise and one that I hope signals a return of the spirit of R&B music from its watery autotuned grave.
Anyway … What was I talking about? Oh! Insight! Yes.
As I listened to her I wondered why in the hell the planet is obsessed with Adele when this fierce unapologetic brown skinned plump girl soulstress could sing Adele’s ass under the table when the was a tween! Then I thought … That’s it! Jazmine has not been duly ashamed of her physicality! Adele, all her black figure disguising clothes (which are hiding not a damn thing) and her misery lauding tunes fit the bill for what American society is comfortable with from “curvy”* women.
(*Curvy is a term I will dissect on another day)
Fat … I mean curvy women can self depreciate, they can be a comedic side kick, and they can bemoan the loss of a man who wasn’t about shit in the first place, but what is hard for our culture to wrap its proverbial head around is us as women who make the call and control their own destinies in their romantic lives. Rarely are we assigned the role of sexy in a way that contradicts the cultures image of what larger society sees as sexy. And when we are, shit like this happens. We can’t bust the windows out of cars, drop a man for somebody new on a whim … We can’t be Jazmine Sullivan, or any other fat woman who owns how fine she is as a matter-of-fact independent of public opinion.
I know these are bold statements, but I stand by them as a fat (not curvy, but fat) woman who has tried every manner of everything to wrap her self image into something the public could be ok with, only to wind up miserable and nearly fatter than when I started. (Why yes, I am talking about an unsuccessful gastric bypass surgery!)
Picking up the pieces left behind after no one, including you, any longer gives a fuck about your weight loss journey has lead me into a pattern of thinking that would have been helpful before the surgeon picked up the knife. Maybe my self-image is some skewed conglomeration of everything other people told me. Maybe it’s wrapped up in the behaviors incited by and feelings generated around having to engage my body. My big non-conventional body with the stretch marks, bulges in the middle, along the side, and cellulite, oceans of cellulite. What else would cause me to on more than one occasion, order a dress two times too big based solely on my inner perception of what my body looks like. Maybe your self image is a ticky tacky patchwork quilt of other peoples good and bad feelings about you. I would hope not, but maybe it is.
This is the part where I’d like to elect a lil social experiment (you can play along too if you’re game. No worries, I won’t stalk you to see if you’re playing fair 😉 ). I’m gonna try to deal with my body on realistic terms. No overly Zen affirming of it, at first just:
“Hi fat thigh. Thank you for holding me up all these years!”
My thigh won’t likely answer, but I believe it would serve to kind of chip away at the things I believe about my body that are so deeply engrained that there seems no way to dig out. I have to look at it. Just stare it down, and become familiar before I can become the fierce unbridled fat vixen who I get occasional glimpses of, but who I know I am fully on the inside.
Here I am. I’m 40. It’s February 15th 2016 and it has been 40 years since the day I was born. For many obvious reasons this birthday feels ginormous. I’m now officially “old-enough-to-know-better”, or am I? For my money, I’d like to think of my 4th decade as a new beginning ripe for new mistakes, triumphs and understandings. I’m grateful for what my 30s taught me that got me to this level of self awareness and understanding (thank you HP, therapy, recovery, Iyanla, Oprah, and Deepak, friends, family and strangers). The only difference I feel between now and the beginning of my 30s is this unbridled sense of fearlessness. This doesn’t mean I ain’t scurred.
A healthy mind, body and spirit.
My family to be whole.
One more baby,
A MacAurthur Genius Grant (at some point, I’m realistic … or maybe just a large chunk of money that will grant me the freedom to create … I have paypal if any possibly benefactors are reading),
And a career as a writer that doesn’t involve kissing ass or joining cliques I want no part of.
AND the things more likely to happen, per my current trajectory, are NOT the husband and the kid. Like a cup of Mars water seems more likely than the artsy wedding and the blissful pregnancy that I have envisioned in my mind.
And I feel those things slipping away, but I’m not afraid to endeavor. I’m not afraid to live my way towards the life I want. To keep coming back. To jump into the fire, be burned, then reborn. To rock with the pain. To lean with the joy. To love through it all.
This for me is what 40 means. This for me is what life means. We stop at a certain point. See where we’ve been, look where we’re going and strike out towards the great unknown future.
It’s like one of those annoying ass childhood songs that just keeps going … and going … and going …
p.s. I may actually try to write for this blog a lil more. Whytf not, right?!
Stop it dammit. Stop it right now. Come to this workshop and get help from the queen of procrastination herself: Stacey Rose 2nd year MFA Candidate NYU Tisch School of The Arts and creator of From the Rose’s Mouth.
Let her procrastination be your literary celebration! Bring your ideas, a modicum of willingness and prepared to be inspired.
Newbie and Oldbie writers welcome!
refreshments and non-threatening writing apparatuses provided
When: Saturday January 3, 2015
Where:Dupp & Swat 2424 N. Davidson St. Charlotte, NC 28205
A police officer. White male. Decent looking. Walks into a Starbucks in Charlotte, NC. I park my car, get out and enter the Starbucks behind him. I find him online talking to a “Southern Gent,” the kind that might rave about his time at Ole Miss over mint juleps on a Sunday afternoon. They are mid conversation. Sounds like their talking about the dangers of being a cop and how effective the vest can be. I only hear them mocking Michael Browns death. The Southern Gent thanks him, then buys him a coffee for all he does for all of us. By that time, I’m seething. I am literally shaking in anger. I watch the Southern Gent condescend to the all Black staff like they are simple minded Darkies who need looking after and clear simple direction if they are to understand the complexities of making a latte.
He and the Officer continue their chat. They talk German Shepherds and kids. I think about how my kid would not likely be safe from a German Shepherd they were holding the leash of. The cop gets his coffee and he leaves. I’m so angry I can’t see. Did they do anything to me? Nope. Was I justified in my anger? Probably not. My anger stems from having to view the world through the lens of a Black woman for 38 years and a Black mother for 15.
For those who feel I’m racializing things when I don’t need to, please give me another way to see the world. As it is not one bit of fuckin’ fun living with this bubbling just underneath the surface, this fearful cautiousness that has me on edge when I’m around my white friends drunk and scared to death their gonna say something stupid because I’ve made them feel comfy, or when that rage crashes to the surface after a knowing look, the sound of a certain southern twang, the sight of a police car when I’m on the road alone at night, when I’m in a room full of white men and I’m the only Black female; even when the men are ones I know, love and trust. I NOTICE it. And I wish like hell I didn’t, but I do.
Post-racials, I’m begging you, PLEASE give me a solution that isn’t grounded in guilt, denial and which includes you actually owning up to the fact that racism is as alive today as it ever was. If you can’t, or if you continue to perpetuate the lie of post-racism and victim blaming, then the La-Z-Boys are in the back … be seated, and be grateful that I have enough self awareness to understand that I don’t have to act out on my anger/frustration because I feel it. If Darren Wilson had been a little more self aware and a little less hell bent on acting out on his privilege maybe Michael Brown would still be alive.
I’m in a funk of my own creation.
So I heads to a meeting,
To find a sum
Piece of mind
I’ve lost it.
On the way, I stumbled upon
(or A projects as it were.)
It was an eerie
Regnägleppod : Doppelgänger
Of the one I’d grow’d up in
It felt foreign
Like an old shirt you find
Years after you’ve outgrown it.
I thought about how
My life was then
How futile any attempts to
And then the gratitude reigned down
And I was grateful
And I was grateful
And I was grateful
We’re about to go on a quick trip from attachment to detachment in one post. Ready? I’m not sure I am, but here we go. Ever since I was … a zygote … I have lived and breathed for the approval of other people. I have existed to make people proud of, in love with, or enamored of me. It is an addiction that lives in a house in my chest with all my other addictions (active and otherwise). I have fed these addictions with actions done in expectation of the reward, the pay off, the acceptance, not realizing that it’s a temporary thing and soon … likely very soon after the pay off the other person will move on to the next thing. The next focus. They will return home and feed their own gluttonous needs and wants. When you are not serving up the soup of the day that their inner glutton craves, they move on, or worse, they get angry at you. They may even hate you. These little monsters are ravenous and they don’t have time for you if you’re not feeding them.
I know I’m rambling. I didn’t say the ride would be easy or coherent for that matter. So, this morning I got a phone call. A simple enough phone call, it was my Mom, there’d been a miscommunication that was in the grand scheme of things pretty minor. I was yelled at and as per usual accused of being selfish. This is a recurring theme in our relationship by the by, and part of the reason why no matter how successful I’ve been or may become why I find it so hard to enjoy. My choice to be a writer the majority of the time has felt ephemeral, insubstantial, and extremely selfish. There’s this little fucker that runs around in my head saying: “How dare you go around here pretending that living this dream is ok, living this life you’re living is fair to anyone else! How dare you be enjoying life on your terms, you selfish bitch!” And I would gladly smother him with a pillow if I could find it in my constitution to consciously and subconsciously disagree with him consistently. He’s my absorbed twin that never got to manifest in body. He has lived with me since I was that zygote.
If I am to have the life I want, and honest to God I can’t even figure out exactly what that is cause he won’t shut the fuck up, I have to abort. I have to abort all people, places, things, thoughts, and ideologies that implant doubt in my ability to achieve anything an everything I want to believe in this life. Even if that means I have to create distance from those whom I love very much. And that hurts, it feels like a literal ripping apart of myself from myself. The person I knew myself to be and the person I am becoming cannot live in the same place. One must die for the other to live. Because it’s not about whether or not I’m a good or great writer. It’s about what I believe myself to be, and I will never ever ever ever believe in myself if I continued to be caught up in the sub par desires and expectations others have for me.
I think we’re almost there. The twin wants to have a word to ensure that I don’t isolate people … always the worrier he is.
None of this is to say that I’m cutting people off or doing one of those obnoxious “Facebook cleansing” were I get rid of my haters/detractors. I don’t think I’m that pretentious … yet. What I am purging is the value I’ve placed on people’s expectations of me and my limited thinking. The fear that I have of aspiring to whatever the fuck I want to because it seems some how “wrong” or unattainable, is a cancer, and if I have to gut myself with knife and rip it out along with every fucked up thing I was raised to believe or told to believe about myself I. Will. because goddam this is my life and I’ve only got one shot at it. It’s hard enough trying to be somebody without being simultaneous made to feel like the somebody you want to be is wrong or unfair to others. Fuck that. Yes, I do think I’m good enough to achieve any accolade you could name for my writing, but I won’t even have the capability to be in the running if I don’t cut all this self defeatist bullshit out of my life. And none of the accolades matter anyway if I’m not doing this for myself because I must, because it was implanted in me to be this person before I was a zygote. It’s my destiny. Yup, I’m over here manifesting destiny. It’s harder than childbirth, but it is the only true freedom.
Eat a man alive
S C R E A M cum vibrate
ramp wid him
inna rubba dub
In a list of lovers that he will
She says all this
Of a sour straw gainst
Her tongue ring.
Lookin’ for trouble.
If she wanna.
My Grandpa was not a perfect man. He left my grandmother with a daughter to raise. He inconsistently kept up with his established family afterwards, and he was fiscally irresponsible. Despite all this, my grandfather remains one of my favorite people of memory. Maybe it was because of the mystique of his strong silent demeanor. As a child, even when I was sitting right next to him, I found myself wondering who he was, but never quite found the courage to ask. I knew the basics, he was a World War II vet, he’d received a purple heart for being injured in combat. This injury was evidenced by the pins and screws in his leg (an injury which I now, coincidentally, have in common with him). He never drank (at least not that I can remember). He had an affinity for baked goods, The Peanuts, photography (of the living and the dead) and Cadillacs. Oh, and he played the clarinet which he got to do with Benny Goodman one time, per my Nana.
Whenever he’d surface for one of his impromptu visits it was like the Red Sea of my normal existence had been parted and I’d been liberated to a land of endless McDonald’s and paint by numbers kits. Grandpa never seemed as entrenched by his existence as the other adults in my life. This alone made him a living wonder in my eyes. When he wasn’t around, I always pictured him cruising around in his latest Caddy listening to Stacy Lattisaw. This was the internal image of him that endured through my childhood. As I got older and sought out people to blame for my fuckupedness, my thoughts went back to my Grandpa and my questions became more complex.
Why did he leave? If he played the clarinet and loved photography, was he an artist? If he was an artist, why didn’t he chose to make that his life? Question after, question came until I stumbled upon a theory, contrived though it may be: My Grandpa was a suppressed artist. He was suppressed by himself and the world he lived in. I mean, picture it, The United States of America circa 1945-46. You’re a black WWII veteran coming home to a country that you’ve fought for believing that your service in war would equal greater peace at home. You find out not only is that a lie, but the divides within the country have grown deeper. You’re on the wrong side of a battle for civil rights that’s on the horizon while all that swims around in your head is the expanded view of the world you got to taste while you were living abroad. The disappointment is heartbreaking, but there is no time to stew in. Real life responsibilities; a wife, a child, and the pursuit of an American Dream that cannot be achieved are constantly beckoning with needs that keep you up at night.
Maybe my Grandpa felt there was no time or little opportunity to explore his creative side? Maybe he didn’t even know he was an artist. The questions always seem to lead to more questions, but in the pursuit of answers I find myself that much more closely bonded to who my Grandpa might have been. Please, don’t think I write this to provide excuses or make apologies for Grandpa’s behaviors but rather to try to get a better understanding of who he was that I might get a better understanding of who I am. And I am very much my Grandpa’s granddaughter. I struggle with many of the same issues plus some whole new shit of my own invention. The awareness and nurturing of my creative side is the slight advantage I have. I hold on to it for dear life and strive to be the artist that my Grandpa and all my other unannounced artist ancestors never got to be.