And There’s an End: Reviewing 2014, Setting Goals for 2015

So strange to think that this is my last post for the year! It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster, with my health, my activism, and my work. I’m actually kind of glad the year is ending, and I look forward to being more organised next year, and hopefully preventing another major health problem by taking care of myself.

I’m taking this time to set some intentional goals for the year. I’ve done a lot this year, but I have big plans for the next couple years, and setting goals now means I’m more likely to achieve some of my plans. Continue reading “And There’s an End: Reviewing 2014, Setting Goals for 2015”

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Emptiness in the Aftermath

I didn’t get a lot done during the second half of last week. I didn’t send my regular Wednesday newsletter. I didn’t post my Thursday blog post. I didn’t do my homework, or make my office hours at work. Mostly, I cried.

Today marks four months since Michael Brown, Jr, was shot in the streets of Ferguson, MO, and left for 4.5 hours in the summer sun. Two weeks past from Monday, a grand jury did not indict the officer who shot Mike Brown. A week past from Wednesday, a grand jury did not indict the officer who choked Eric Garner to death. In these four months, the Black community has lost Rumain Brisbon, Akai Gurley, Ezell Ford, Dante Parker, Kajieme Powell, and — perhaps most tragically — Tamir Rice.

But we have also lost Deshawnda Sanchez and Tajshon Ashley Sherman and Aniya Parker and Gizzy Fowler. We’ve lost Mary Spears and Tjhisha Ball and Angelia Mangum. A second mistrial came in for the death of Aiyana Stanley-Jones. A police officer is going to trial in Oklahoma for the sexual assault of at least 8 Black women and girls.

The deaths of Black men and boys at the hands of police are getting more attention than they have in a long time, and that attention is necessary to create change. But we must also recognise that Black women are the victims of state violence as well. Black women disproportionately account for missing persons. Black women are assaulted and killed by police. Their murders are often ignored or covered up. And they are on the forefront of the movement for justice.

Women accounted for 60% of the Black Panther Party. They led many of the actions of the civil rights movement of the 1960s. Today, they lead many of the actions on the ground in Ferguson, New York, LA… Black women are expected to never report violence perpetrated on them by Black men. They are expected to wait for their own justice, while fighting tooth and nail for the lives of Black men. It’s exhausting to fight for your own humanity, but even more so to fight for the humanity of a group who should have your back, but doesn’t.

I wrote a poem about this for my upcoming collection, Fallen/Forever Rising, and I’m sharing it here, because I feel like I have little else to give. I’ve felt so wrung out the last few weeks, a kind of exhausted apathy. I’m struggling to find time to take care of myself, and that leaves me feeling as though I’ve gotten nothing done. I need to rest, but I feel guilty when I do. I don’t know how much longer I can go on, and I don’t know what to do.

Empty

Women’s work
we pour from empty pitchers
every last wet drop for
someone not us

We care takers
care given always care giving
none taken no care not us
no one cares

We targets too
double jeopardy for double-dutch girls
endangered Black women dare
in danger we dare

Losing sons and
daughters fathers mothers sisters and
yes brothers each bone deep
pain pushed through

Street struggle
our streets aren’t safe from police
aren’t safe for our brothers
we aren’t safe from

Silent suffering
no don’t tell don’t call don’t no
sister knows no safety
but still she pours

I hate to ask for anything for myself, but if you have the funds to help me out, you can donate something to my Paypal, or buy a zine. I appreciate any help you can give.

Thankfulness, Ferguson, and My Father

On thanksgiving day, 1997, after a life of chronic illness and months of declining health, my father died.

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I was very close to him, and he was my role model, and the family member I was closest to, so his death hit me very hard. For years after, my family didn’t celebrate the day. Instead, we would get an ice cream cake, light a candle, and remember him.

After high school, I learned more about the actual history of the day, and of the US, and I became downright uncongenial about it. Celebrating a day that has personal pain for me, and shared pain for indigenous Americans, has for a while now been utterly beyond me.

But this year, I have even less cause for celebration.

The murder of Michael Brown, Jr, and the subsequent absolution of his murderer are an open wound. For over three months, Ferguson has been a present reality in the lives of many Black Americans, and in the lives of our friends and supporters of all races. I travelled to Ferguson at the end of August, because being in Oregon and not in Ferguson supporting the community was too painful. I averaged a panic attack every third day for the month following Mike Brown’s murder. I barely slept, anxiously following the tweets of protesters on the ground. I was a complete mess of fear and rage and sorrow.

And, if I’m honest, still am.

Fibromyalgia symptoms can flare up in response to stress, and on this 111th day without Mike Brown in the world, I am stressed. I have been stressed for each of those 111 days. I do so many things beyond my capacity, but I’ve been clutching tight to my life here to distract from the fact that I could be in Ferguson right now, organising. It’s so hard to complete and fulfil the seeming-arbitrary deadlines and complete some of the mindlessly numbing busywork that I am assigned at school, when I know people I love and admire are in daily danger. Though I do so much, it never feels enough.

Still, I am where I am. Since I cannot go to Ferguson now, I’m doing what I can from home: working with several folks I know to independently publish a book of work by poets of colour, with profits going to organisations active on the ground in Ferguson.

I am thankful for my friends and my family, for supporting me; I am thankful for my doctor, who believes me about my own health; I am thankful for the supportive resource centres at my university, and the understanding of my professors. But I have been thankful and will be thankful for those things; I don’t need a holiday that pushes a false story to cover its genocidal history. It’s important to be thankful for the good in our lives, but our government’s attempted genocide—whether of indigenous or Black Americans—is not a thing to celebrate.

Instead, I light a candle in remembrance: of my father, of the indigenous peoples who died for the stolen land we live on, of the victims of anti-Black racist violence. I light a candle in honour: of my loved ones, of the indigenous peoples living today, of the beautiful Black people who speak our truth to power. I light a candle in hope: of a world where we are free to live and celebrate and be, without fear of repression or murder.

Learning to Say No: NaNoWriMo 2014

NaNoWriMo is coming up and I’m feeling complex feelings about it. I am so super busy—do I really have time to commit to 50,000 words? On the other hand, I have participated in it the last 4 years, and won the last 3, so I really want to. A lot of my friends are doing it this year, and I want to support them as well…

It seems that I have so much to do, and not nearly enough time to do it in. Recently, dips in my health and energy levels have left me too fatigued to get things done. I’m juggling:

  • a full-time course load—I’m taking 12 credits, the school recommends 3 hours of study per in class hour: 48 hours per week
  • my job as the Queeries Program Coordinator at our QRC: 20 hours per week
  • writing, editing, and meeting for the Black Girl Dangerous EIT Program: 5 hours per week, minimum
  • writing for TheProspect.net—interview prep time, interviews, transcription, writing, formatting, editing: about 5 per week
  • volunteering with the Vanport Multimedia Project—interview prep, filming, interviewing, transcribing, editing, meeting: about 5 per week
  • work around ongoing protests in Ferguson, Black Lives Matter, Justice. That’s All, and Ferguson October—photography, editing, blogging, social media, organising, conference calls: 12 hours per week for the last 10 weeks
  • one-off events: Intersections event (about 3 hours per week for 5 weeks), OSP Poetry Slam (averages to about 1 hour per week for 3 weeks)…
  • sleep—I really do try for 8 hours a night, with greater or lesser degrees of success: 56 hours per week

That adds up to about 155 hours per week. There are 168 hours in a week.

Does anyone have a timeturner I can borrow?

I jest, but it’s true that there’s something wrong here. Eating, showering, other household stuff takes up that remaining 13 hours or so per week, leaving no self-care time. I’ve been struggling with my health a lot this past couple of weeks, and this much work is far too heavy a load.

NaNoWriMo is kind of a big deal: writing a 50,000 word novel in 30 days requires writing about 1,667 words per day. I’ve done it for the last four years, and even “won” the last three while handling school and my other responsibilities, and I’m so tempted to try again this year. But even at my fastest, that’s a solid two hours of typing, assuming I don’t take any breaks, and I know that I’ve never had such a heavy load before. With so much on my plate, can I really commit to something like this?

The answer is no.

Yet, I find myself so ready to be convinced to say yes. As my friends gear up, start finding writing buddies and planning write-ins, I find it harder to hold myself back from volunteering, from signing up and committing to this feat. Truthfully, my health is nowhere near good enough, and my housing is up in the air—meeting my current commitments is proving too much. My heart says yes, but I’ve got to buckle down and say no.

All of the work I’m doing, everything I say “yes” to is fantastic; I’ve gotten so many great opportunities and met so many amazing people. It’s really hard to say no to things you want, but sometimes it’s necessary, so that you can say yes down the road.

 

Do you have any tips you’d like to share about practising self-care and setting boundaries? I’d love to have them; you can comment on this post or send me a message through the contact form.

Poets for Ferguson: a national poetry reading

Tonight, I will be reading poems in a national reading, a fundraiser for organisers in Ferguson. We are poets of colour, poets using our art for change. It runs from 6pm ET on September 27th to 6pm ET on September 28th.

The livestream is up at Poets for Ferguson, and the donation page is here. Please support by watching and giving.

Update: Writing from the Core, Ferguson…

As you may have noticed, I haven’t updated about Writing from the Core since Day 12. The last day I got serious writing done on it was Day 14, six days ago. This is because I had a paper due last Saturday and two more on Monday, and all of my spare thought and energy has been devoted to the ongoing struggle in Ferguson, MO.

I am talking with a local organiser who’s in touch with a national network of folks, and we’re in the process of organising a ride from Oregon to Ferguson with supplies and assistance for labour day weekend. I have started fundraising to that end, and have several donors on the line to donate supplies once we know exactly what folks on the ground need.

My intent is to bring needed supplies, and help out wherever possible. I’m honestly not sure how much writing I will be getting done between now and then, though I will keep writing for myself as much as I can.

I want to thank everyone for the support you offered on my Writing from the Core posts, and the personal support that has been given to me outside of this blog. If you are willing and able, please donate to our effort or your own community’s effort to support Ferguson. This situation has had far-reaching effects and implications, and we need to band together to get through.

Thank you.

Campaigns for #MikeBrown #Ferguson

Spaceship Dreaming

Here is a list of donations, protests, and petitions that you can do to help the people in #Ferguson and to assist #MikeBrown and #EzellFord all others who have been killed by the hands of the police. I will try to update as much as possible.
Donations for Mike Brown’s Family:
Michael Brown Memorial Fund:
These funds will assist his family with costs that they will acquire as they seek justice on Michael’s behalf. All funds will be given to the Michael Brown family.
College 4 MikeBrown’s Siblings:
This effort will help support Mike Brown’s siblings, 2 younger sisters and a younger brother go to college. It is run by Sara Goldrick-Rab, UW professor of the Wisconsin HOPE Lab ( http://www.wihopelab.com) and Michael Johnson of the Boys and Girls Club of Dane County (Madison, WI) can vouch that all funds will go directly to the family.
Other Donations

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Writing from the Core Day 12

I disappeared off here for a couple of days, but I’m not going to apologise, which is my first instinct. Instead, I’m going to open up to you more than I have before.

I have been pretty seriously stressing out about the situation in Ferguson, Missouri. My PTSD was pretty heavily triggered by a series of events last week—encountering a White supremacist in a local diner, hearing about a stabbing on the train I usually take to school, and following the ongoing police riots in Ferguson. I haven’t been able to get much writing on this challenge done. Instead, I wrote and shared a poem for Mike Brown; I’m having trouble focusing on myself with everything else going on.

Day 10‘s prompt was: Write a memory of beauty and/or love associated with your topic.

I didn’t get any writing done on this one. I’m honestly so upset and anxious that I couldn’t think of a beautiful moment related to touch—still can’t, actually. I might go back to it later, but I’m not in a place to write about it now.

Yesterday‘s prompts was: frailty.

This one was easier to work with. I can be honest, because I know that what I write for this won’t be seen. I wrote about how much I struggle with showing weakness.

I had a panic attack last night and the night before. On Tuesday, I called a friend to pick me up and give me a ride home, and I used a motorised wheelchair to go grocery shopping, because my legs were weak and unsteady in the aftermath of my attack. Last night, I made a Facebook post for some of my friends about support I was hoping to receive around my mental health.

I hate to admit when I can’t do everything, or I need help. I tend to downplay how serious my needs are, or act as though I can meet them all myself. I don’t necessarily invite help; I just share my struggles, or vent about a small portion of my frustrations. I’ve gotten into heated debates on social justice issues on social media, and when I later expressed that I wished for someone to step in and support me, more than one person has said they felt I was very capable and they didn’t think they could do as good a job, since I seemed to be doing so well.

I continuously bear up under pressure, and it’s come back to bite me: everyone assumes I don’t need help, even when I do. I need to work on this one, have needed to for years. We’ll see how well I do, now that I’ve articulated some things.

Today‘s prompt is: What have you never said?

Oof. I’m gonna let that alone until I’m in a better frame of mind. I’m honestly just too fragile for this prompt.

Lisa writes that she understands if folks are having trouble with the prompts and our topics, and encourages us to write, no matter what we are writing about. I have a paper due today, but my personal writing will probably be more poetry.

 

Is there something you’re struggling with right now that seems to be eclipsing the rest of your life? I hereby give you permission to take care of yourself. You can ignore the big thing, or you can take time to decompress. You can tell the folks you care about that you’re having trouble, or you can withdraw to a private space and stop taking care of everyone else for an hour or an afternoon, or even the rest of the week. Take care of yourself.

Previous posts here.