Been working through Layla Saad's "Me & White Supremacy" workbook since the New Year. Every day poses new question meant to be explored and journaled.
Each topic asking the participant to examine one's experiences and soul, drawing out the stories, conjuring the biases, denying the denial.
"Don't comment unless you are willing to be all the way honest. I don't care about perfectionism. I care about truth, because truth sets us free and makes us better," Saad writes.
This falls into my 2018 proclamation of "Dig Deeper." The work is digging. Mining. Nosce te Ipsum paired with "Know the world." If I can see the roots of my own racism, dig deep enough to the source, maybe I can see the roots of other folks.
Maybe we can follow this thread back awhile, find the first Aspen that sprung from the soft earth that connected all the rest.
In my examination about Tone-Policing today, I came across my own role in silencing and marginalizing women of color. Years ago, while unpacking my role in cultural appropriation, making dream-catchers, I sought the council of my friend of Stiletz ancestry. She sent me an email/essay she had penned, exposing her feelings living in a world so bent on destroying and erasing her culture.
I used the article, in an excerpted form, to tell my own story of apology and guilt about the issue.
The essay itself was cut up, transcribed, and roughly used to assuage my own shame. The article in its entirety I was afraid of publishing, afraid of making my largely white audience uncomfortable, alienating myself from my base of support.
This is more than Tone-Policing, it's further Cultural Erasure and Cultural Hegemony. It's further marginalization. It's "taking some" but not all.
It's not just fear-based, it's power based.
Unwilling to defer my power I maintain a white-washed version of reality.
Soft, shrugging, non-threatening and fake as hell.
All I can do is keep examining. Keep doing this work. Shift the focus from my shame to my education. Keep going. Keep doing the work.
Listen to the source, keep digging at the source.
This year, 2019 in the Gregorian calendar, is about "Making a Mess." I don't feel I'm ready, and the concept of a mess terrifies the Capricorn Moon of deep-seeded desire for control. But getting outside of the white-supremacist comfort-zone is critical.
What is "Making a Mess" is actually "Cleaning Up," and "Clearing Out."
So far to go.
2.3.18 . The larger cat has begun to come when she is called. There is something about winter which tames us.. maybe it’s just the living indoors. I wonder if winter was when dogs became domesticated most often. I wonder if the fear of winter inspired the rise of agrarian culture.
”in the depths of winter I learned that there within me lay an invincible summer.”
Camus’ voice has been following me around today. “Aujourd’hui, maman est morte.”
1.17.18 . Last night, nearly sleepless, I charged into a New Moon in Capricorn forgetting to take the rest and space it needed. Working on the new zine. Trying to get into the right headspace but forcing myself into the wrong headspace.
It's been a minute since I sifted through the old zine collections. The anthology of my twenties. I understand why some writers start when they're in their fifties. Life needs a long time to gestate and settle in to a message. Having my old spun stories is a humble recognition of where I was and an indication of where I am now.
Where am I now?
I follow the same formula. I write about awareness, and being aware of things around that aren't obvious. I write about my Dad and battling with Christianity and I write a lot about trying to figure out what Home is. I write about what my friends are doing and the bits of wisdom I've gathered from them. I want to be playful in my comics but I feel like I never got the voice right. I'm clumsy with humor and want to laugh at people. I set up weird scenarios where I do something dumb, or someone does something dumb.
I want people to point my shit out. I often feel like I send these weird things into the world without much of an echo.
"What next," I ask.
"Go outside and take a photograph of something," the muse tells me.
I take a step out. Take a photo of the first thing I see.
Upstairs, in the space I am living, I'm surrounded by my own garbage.
Josh James' asked me to gather some zines together for his distro and I need the money.
I know that seeing your old work as shit is a sign of personal growth. If you have regrets, if you are embarrassed by the person you were and the things you've done, this means you've learned.
I don't know how artists can continue to stand by their old words.
Last year at the Schnitz I watched Patti Smith perform every song on her album Horses, the exact way it was on an LP. She even pantomimed flipping a record before moving on songs on the B-Side. People had rushed the stage and were standing in the aisle. People were standing in their seats. Clapping their asses off. $60 a ticket for the worst seats. It didn't matter because you could get up and be in the aisle.
Jamie Houghton was there.
Incidentally, her poetry now is in front of me, a hamburger-fold creasing the middle.
It had been buried with other paperwork deemed important but ultimately wasn't relevant enough to stay on the bookcase for years. Everything must be put away at some point.
The poetry is good. I had to track my mind at first to remember who it belonged to. Last we talked she said she hadn't taught in two years. I wonder if she is writing. I wonder if she regrets things she's written.
Making more embarrassing mistakes that will haunt me can be put off tomorrow.
Everything will be put off tomorrow.
Everything has to come out at some point.
I'm trying to write today.
The other day at the Goodwill I saw a book by Stephen King about writing, or writing to writers about how to write. There was a picture of a door and window with the sun glowing on it.
I wondered what Stephen King had to say about writing but I didn't pick the book up. My friend Kale had said Stephen King did a bunch of blow and worked in mad-binges of writing, just pounding out thousand-page drafts moving quickly from the space of inspiration and imagination to the page. With the help of uppers.
I knew whatever Stephen King said in this book it was definitely not going to offer encouragement about uppers, though, really, this is probably the only thing he should be writing about.
I think about the advice Elizabeth Gilbert and Anne Lamott probably gives on writing. About exploring the world around you with fresh eyes, being always curious and open, listening to nature with your whole heart without judgement. I think about the world and the money they make and why they are in a place to receive this kind of peace. And wonder why they don't just say, "white privilege."
I feel like people don't tell the truth because they don't actually know the truth. Maybe this is an excuse. They don't tell the truth because it takes away their own romantic narrative of what they believe of themselves.
Last night Tyler caught me in a lie. I was telling a story about another Tyler I had dated years ago. In the story it was how I lost sexual attraction to him because he posed in a picture with a pizza box covering his body while eating a giant pizza. In a past story I had said we had never had sex. Caught in this paradox I admitted I didn't want right-now Tyler to hear a story about a past lover and not get caught in the potential feelings of jealousy I might have to assuage. Or whatever version of projected possible feelings rn Tyler might have.
The lie aligned with the version of the self I had, that I wanted to present.
And I know so much of what I will write will be a version. And I know, soon after that version, my vision will shift and it will be different. I will write the same story with new conclusions. New recognition of truth. Confessions of ignorance and misleadings.
The real answer is coke, The real answer is white privilege. The real answer is burn all the books and start again. With a new version of honesty. With some recognition of the lie.
How do I start again when I feel I haven't even started?
The story of my naked body is not mine to tell.
The second I speak about it, it becomes someone else's.
Their version, multiplied, becomes a story for the rest of them.
Right now this is a story of shame.
I don't get a say in this version. It's not mine anymore.
They say, if there is proof of my body, I can't get a job. When the story is out there, when it is no longer mine, it is a thing of conjecture. By admitting it exists, by it existing, the teaching opportunties go away. It is too awkward to be working with children to have a body. It means I can no longer work with men, because, when the men know the body is there, everything changes.
It makes them uncomfortable and compromises the relationship with the wives.
When the women know the body is there, they have no choice but to stone it to death. If the body is not owned by another man it is even worse. It means the unclaimed body is truly for anyone and no one with a gun can fight against it.
This is the contract we have with the body these days.
Sometimes never, I walk with my hips. Sometimes in closed door spaces I am naked. I try my best to keep the body away from the threat of losing the compsure of strangers. Once my mother saw my breasts and hid her vision with her hand.
"You made these," I protested.
"I didn't make those," she said.
A woman's body is Satan's creation and I can't blame the people for the gaze or their avoidance. When I walk in front of my boyfriend, he reaches out. He knows I will not show this body to anyone else and this makes him happy. Because if another man saw my naked body, it would be for sex.
The story of my naked body is not mine to tell.
Once, by the river, where everyone was naked, and we could see men slurping on the genitals of one another in tall grass, we played. We rubbed dirt on our bodies and army crawled through warm pools of sandy water on the shallow island in the middle of the river that we crossed by swimming. We bared our teeth and farted and splashed water with eyes closed. The sun beat down, like from that scene in that book by Camus, the hot sun revealing a wavering stranger on the periphery. For once his story of fucking and breasts and rape was not ours.
There, in the sun, we were protected.
We told each other a new story and for once we believed.
"For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man." 1 Corinthians 11:8
Alicia and I were talking about goals. We're in her workspace/shop, the manifestation of her dreams made into reality. Sitting around this big table. Shooting the shit. Cutting out shapes of fabric to make into aprons. I'm drawing.
Cigarettes After Sex posted this soundless grey-toned video of a rain splattered window overlooking a few boats set in boundless agitated waters. Soundless, boundless. "This is what I want my next romantic relationship to feel like," I wrote in the comments. And it is through this curse of vague desire do I hover through an aimless life. Saudade. A vague and constant nostalgia for something that may not have been. For something vague and shadowy in the future. For the nameless and indistiguished present.
Do I understand the mysterious tension of manifestation? Wish for something, and if the goal is fully formed in one's head it will appear. Be specific? Right?
There's this line on my hand, the Heart Line. it runs between two fingers. Pisces in Venus. Vague and mysterious, romanctic goals uncertain.
Mood. Home alone. Harsh Northern windows open to a fierce grey light. Curtains drawn. Been speaking terrible things about my dead father. I just decided to go for it. I want to move past it. I want to revel in the last moments we had together and let them define our relationship more. Forget about the hard times. There were better times. Woke up this morning with the most terrible uterine cramps. Dying. Cold sweats, couldn't move, threw up, laying in bed thinking of my dying father who never saw actually dead. Last moments between morphine and discomfort, forming commands to bring him water and ice. Curled into myself with this rolling pain I connect to him, suffering through colitis in the last four years. I took it personally, the way we were cut out because we could do nothing to help. In my own sharp new transient pain I bury myself. I want my mom. I just want her around. To do nothing rly. Do her own thing.
In my trivially small example of pain I focused my humilty and connected to the bigger picture.
Goal-setting. I can't do it. I can't even write an essay that has a singular focus.
"I will create this space to be a place in which a change of consciousness will ensue. But in the meantime, I think I’m gonna wine out and nap." -Rubina Martini
There's this thing that happens. I almost want to blame the moon. When you build a momemtum that all of a sudden flops, or slows, or stalls. You are working towards a goal, checking off checks on the checklist, gathering all the necessary things, breaking ground, making prototypes, getting other people involved, excited, invested. There's groundword laid, and the inpiration is there until suddenly, it just stops. And you stop. And you need to do something else, and whatever you were working towards remains fixed, and then becomes stagant, and then you eventually put the tools away and put the supplies away and rest...
There's this picture of Ruby I'm thinking of. She's sitting on the couch with a glass of wine in her hand staring off into nothingness. In her own head. She bought a house in the last year. Moved in with her boyfriend, now husband. Started home school programming and an artist residency. Gathered things: a loom. Got herself hitched. Now she's resting, and I wonder, what will happen to all the projects set down for the moment?
"This last week I've hit some new levels of exhaustion/breakdowns. I will create this space to be a place in which a change of consciousness will ensue. But in the meantime, I think I’m gonna wine out and nap."
But what does it mean when you set the work down for a minute? Or for an undetermined amount of time?
Melanie has left a basket of tools in the living for several months. She's been finishing the windows and only has one left, the one in my room next to my bed. She has two bags of tin cans to turn into something for her room, and the old wallpaper in her room is being etched away to replace with fresh paint. But they sit. For months, a work in progress. And what happens when the work is stalled and never starts again? Where do unfinished projects go to die?
My unfinished work are these puppets. The due date is April 26th. Have the puppets finished and photographed and turned into a book for them and for all kids with witchy aunties who want to add spiritual spice to their grandparent's Bible influence. Everything sits out, waiting, trying to look fresh and exciting. I want to do landscaping. I want to sew pockets and draw pictures and put together zines right now. I want to do tea readings.
There's an unacknowledged Christmas tree onstage and a spider spinning a web on the microphone. "Can I ask about the Christmas tree?" I ask later at the march booth. "Sure."
"What's with the Christmas tree?"
"I wanted something onstage, because there's really not a lot going on. I asked them to round up a couple old Christmas trees and they came through."
It made me think of that scene in Scott Carrier's, "Chasing After Antelope," where Scott Carrier is interviewing schizophrenics for a mental health survey. He's interviewing a woman in a house that feels normal except for a slice pizza that is upside down not the carpet.
"I can't stop looking at the slice of pizza on the carpet. I keep looking at it because it's the only clue that the woman is sick."
The Christmas tree feels like the pizza, an indication that, while everything is tame and expected, and Elverum is singing almost verbatim the songs we've heard on A Crow Looked At Me and the NPR First Listen streaming Now Only, there's a thread of undoing in all of this.
This isn't a normal show, even though it's scripted and abundantly rehearsed. The off-scripted moments feel loaded. The Christmas tree feels like a safe-haven for the eyes. To avoid sharing too strongly the feeling of loss.
I thought of the looks of the people in the hospice house, bravely looking at my father's yellowing eyes, bravely looking into our eyes which were wide and confused. They've been trained for this, so there's some comfort in that, but I know they have to go through genuine expressions of remorse in front of us.
Of course pancreatic cancer is the only link between Geneviève and my father. Today I was reminded of the times he wanted his father to die. The time he left him alone to choke in the bathroom at the Italian restaurant. The time my grandfather was white as a ghost because he had mixed pills with alcohol and how my father drove us away. A calcified murderous anger.
And I've never had a love the way is being sung about onstage. People are here with their person. White Belt Eagle Scout sends an homage to her person in the audience. People use this concert as sweet place to lean heads on shoulders and whisper little things like, "I would die if you died." I can't help but feel they should all be ashamed in some way, because I am alone and Phil's wife is dead and there's a dead Christmas tree onstage and a spider weaving a web and all of them are islands among themselves. Untouchable by the heaviness of this moments unraveling.
Next to me there's a boy mansplaining to a woman she has every right to consume media which supports her paradigm of the world. She wishes she had come alone. In no way does this person enhance her experience. And in this way I know too, there is no one is the world who could sit next to me and offer me any more brevity or depth.
Then I think of Ferranté. What was the pizza on the carpet for him? Such a madman. Somewhere along the Atlantic shore torturing another poor woman. It was stuffing coming undone from the seats in his car. Torn away by Ghost the German shepherd. He would leave her in there all day.
Ferranté would have had something to say. He lost his wife by cheating though, not cancer.
Later, in the lobby, I buy both records on vinyl. I've been listening to the albums on Spotify or NPR and wanted to throw money at the house that is being built in Anacortes or somewhere North of here. I want to throw money at the openness and the explaining of a real death.