Farewell, 2016—2017, Here I Come!

And another year ends. Truth be told, I’ve been looking forward to 2017 since I got the news about being chosen for the McNair Program, which is likely a sign that I’m a huge nerd. Luckily, y’all already knew that, right?

It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster since my last blog post, what with packing all of my stuff up and flying halfway around the world, swapping my summer wear for winter stuff, and figuring out my housing situation. I got an email from the school about maxing out my credits and losing my financial aid, and had to submit a petition to have my max enrollment pushed up, so that I can take these last few terms and complete the McNair program. I had a bit of a panic over it, but am very glad to say that it’s all been sorted out now.

Aside from the amazing opportunity that the McNair program offers in preparing for graduate school, I’m also excited for 2017 because I will finally be graduating, G-d willing. In the last year or so, I’ve gotten really tired of being an undergraduate student. I feel as though upper division courses, and graduate level courses especially, are more academically rigorous, and I’m really looking forward to that. I’ve been feeling frustrated and disappointed in lower division classes this past couple of years, wanting more out of them.

Along with this frustration, I also struggle with feelings of inadequacy. I’m glad to finally have solid goals and clarity on what I want to do with my life, long-term, but I struggle to avoid the trap plaguing many folks my age: the sense that I should have already been done with this part. I took a couple years off to work, and then changed my major a couple of times, and I’m finally going to be finished, which is a huge relief, but I still feel like I should be further along in life. Probably related to my ongoing battle with impostor syndrome; I am well aware that I will always be the first person to downplay my accomplishments. I’ve been working on combating this with various lists and such in my bullet journal, and I have two separate blog posts planned for next year to show y’all some of the tools I’ve been using; I hope you’ll check out those posts when they come out.

Overall, despite the losses and struggles I’ve faced this year, 2016 hasn’t been unkind to me. I don’t know how or why, but it felt less terrible and hard than 2015, and much less so than 2014. Perhaps it’s because I am used to my disability now, and have taken steps to protect and care for myself. Perhaps it’s the amazing healing I did in Ghana, and getting outside the US for a time. Perhaps it’s because I have a tangible set of goals for the next 12 months, and I know that I’ll be closing one chapter—my undergrad career—and preparing to open another in whichever graduate program accepts me.

Whatever the reason, I want to thank you, my beautiful community, for being there with and for me, throughout the year. I feel truly blessed to have you all in my life, and I wish for us all a 2017 at least as good as 2016 was to me. I wish you as loving and supportive a community as I have found. I wish us all the strength to accept grace from others, and to give grace to ourselves and our loved ones. I wish healing for the hurts and protection from the hateful. I wish us creative success and emotional uplift. I wish us peace and joy and a better world.

Happy new year.

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Trees of Reverie July 2015 Readathon: Final Update

(All times are Brisbane local time)

I participated in the July 2015 Trees of Reverie Read-a-thon. This is my final update post.

Readathon update:

I miscalculated, out of exhaustion, and didn’t realize that I wouldn’t wake up until just before the readathon’s end. That means that these numbers are the same as the Day 9 update post. And now it’s done!

Thanks for following my updates and folks who encouraged me. It was good to “meet” the other readathon participants, and I’m following some of y’all. Take care until next time!

 

  1. The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion (FINISHED; current page: 227 of 227; net change: 115 pages)
  2. Supernatural: John Winchester’s Journal by Alex Irvine (FINISHED; current page: 217 of 217; net change: 59 pages)
  3. The Jewish Study Bible by Adele Berlin and Marc Zvi Brettler (Eds.) (Current page: 343 of 2181; net change: 9 pages) Note: not originally listed, not technically being read for the challenge, but the challenge dates encompass two weeks of parshot (readings), and so those will be included in my page count.
  4. The Enchanted by Rene Denfeld (FINISHED; current page: 233 of 233; net change: 121 pages)
  5. Lady of the Moon by Amy Lowell, Mary Meriam, and Lillian Faderman (FINISHED; current page: 98 of 98; net change: 98 pages)
  6. A Grief Observed by C. S. Lewis (FINISHED; current page: 76 of 76; net change: 76 pages)
  7. Amok: An Anthology of Asia-Pacific Speculative Fiction by Dominica Malcolm [Ed.] (Current page: 55 of 252; net change: 35 pages)
  8. Octavia’s Brood by Adrienne Maree Brown and Walidah Imarisha [Eds.] (Current page: 152 of 296; net change: 152 pages)

Net change for all books read: 665 pages
Books finished: 5

To see all Read-a-thon posts, go here.

Trees of Reverie July 2015 Readathon Day 9

Day Nine, Saturday, July 19:

(All times are Brisbane local time)

I am participating in the July 2015 Trees of Reverie Read-a-thon. This is my day 9 update post.

Readathon update:

Long day at the conference, so I didn’t get much more reading done, and the readathon ends in 9 hours. I’ll try to get some more reading in before the end, and I’ll make a final update post after midnight on the 19th, Brisbane time.

 

  1. The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion (FINISHED; current page: 227 of 227; net change: 115 pages)
  2. Supernatural: John Winchester’s Journal by Alex Irvine (FINISHED; current page: 217 of 217; net change: 59 pages)
  3. The Jewish Study Bible by Adele Berlin and Marc Zvi Brettler (Eds.) (Current page: 343 of 2181; net change: 9 pages) Note: not originally listed, not technically being read for the challenge, but the challenge dates encompass two weeks of parshot (readings), and so those will be included in my page count.
  4. The Enchanted by Rene Denfeld (FINISHED; current page: 233 of 233; net change: 121 pages)
  5. Lady of the Moon by Amy Lowell, Mary Meriam, and Lillian Faderman (FINISHED; current page: 98 of 98; net change: 98 pages)
  6. A Grief Observed by C. S. Lewis (FINISHED; current page: 76 of 76; net change: 76 pages)
  7. Amok: An Anthology of Asia-Pacific Speculative Fiction by Dominica Malcolm [Ed.] (Current page: 55 of 252; net change: 35 pages)
  8. Octavia’s Brood by Adrienne Maree Brown and Walidah Imarisha [Eds.] (Current page: 152 of 296; net change: 152 pages)

Net change for all books read so far: 665 pages

To see all Read-a-thon posts, go here.

Trees of Reverie July 2015 Readathon Day 8

Day Eight, Saturday, July 18:

(All times are Brisbane local time)

I am participating in the July 2015 Trees of Reverie Read-a-thon. This is my day 8 update post

Readathon update:

I’m volunteering at a local activist conference this weekend, so my reading is gonna slow down, especially since I was silly and didn’t sleep enough last night, leaving me too exhausted to catch up on my desired reading pace. But I did manage some transit reading to and from the conference, and that’ll have to do.

There’s still about a day and a half left, so I may be able to get another couple hundred pages in before the challenge ends. But I’m going to bed early tonight, so it’ll have to wait for tomorrow.

  1. The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion (FINISHED; current page: 227 of 227; net change: 115 pages)
  2. Supernatural: John Winchester’s Journal by Alex Irvine (FINISHED; current page: 217 of 217; net change: 59 pages)
  3. The Jewish Study Bible by Adele Berlin and Marc Zvi Brettler (Eds.) (Current page: 343 of 2181; net change: 9 pages) Note: not originally listed, not technically being read for the challenge, but the challenge dates encompass two weeks of parshot (readings), and so those will be included in my page count.
  4. The Enchanted by Rene Denfeld (FINISHED; current page: 233 of 233; net change: 121 pages)
  5. Lady of the Moon by Amy Lowell, Mary Meriam, and Lillian Faderman (FINISHED; current page: 98 of 98; net change: 98 pages)
  6. A Grief Observed by C. S. Lewis (FINISHED; current page: 76 of 76; net change: 76 pages)
  7. Amok: An Anthology of Asia-Pacific Speculative Fiction by Dominica Malcolm [Ed.] (Current page: 55 of 252; net change: 35 pages)
  8. Octavia’s Brood by Adrienne Maree Brown and Walidah Imarisha [Eds.] (Current page: 134 of 296; net change: 134 pages)

Net change for all books read so far: 647 pages

To see all Read-a-thon posts, go here.

Trees of Reverie July 2015 Readathon Day 7

Day Seven, Friday, July 17:

(All times are Brisbane local time)

I am participating in the July 2015 Trees of Reverie Read-a-thon. This is my day 7 update post

Readathon update:

I stayed up late baking bread, and so I got a hefty chunk of reading done

  1. The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion (FINISHED; current page: 227 of 227; net change: 115 pages)
  2. Supernatural: John Winchester’s Journal by Alex Irvine (FINISHED; current page: 217 of 217; net change: 59 pages)
  3. The Jewish Study Bible by Adele Berlin and Marc Zvi Brettler (Eds.) (Current page: 343 of 2181; net change: 9 pages) Note: not originally listed, not technically being read for the challenge, but the challenge dates encompass two weeks of parshot (readings), and so those will be included in my page count.
  4. The Enchanted by Rene Denfeld (FINISHED; current page: 233 of 233; net change: 121 pages)
  5. Lady of the Moon by Amy Lowell, Mary Meriam, and Lillian Faderman (FINISHED; current page: 98 of 98; net change: 98 pages)
  6. A Grief Observed by C. S. Lewis (FINISHED; current page: 76 of 76; net change: 76 pages)
  7. Amok: An Anthology of Asia-Pacific Speculative Fiction by Dominica Malcolm [Ed.] (Current page: 48 of 252; net change: 28 pages)
  8. Octavia’s Brood by Adrienne Maree Brown and Walidah Imarisha [Eds.] (Current page: 68 of 296; net change: 68 pages)

Net change for all books read so far: 574 pages

To see all Read-a-thon posts, go here.

Tarot Cards, Feelings, Prayers, and a Poem

My birthday was on Tuesday of this week, and I spent a lot of time thinking about astrology and symbolism last week. With the sun conjoining Mars in my sign last Sunday, and a new moon on my birthday, this is an auspicious time for setting intentions. I thought about my life and my hopes and dreams and created a list of focus areas on Sunday, and then picked 5 to carry forward into the year to come.

I’ve also been using tarot cards as a tool for focus and intentionality for a couple of months now. On Sunday night, before bed, I meditate for a few minutes to calm myself and then draw 3 tarot cards. I write the cards down in a journal I keep for that purpose, and journal a little about what they mean to me. The next day, I read my horoscope on Chani Nicholas’s site, see where it connects to the cards I drew, and make a note in my planner of where to focus my energy and emotion for the week.

Many people see this kind of thing as incompatible with logic or religion: on one hand, there is little scientific support for horoscopes or tarot (though meditation is beneficial), and on the other, many mainstream religions call this witchcraft or idolatry. I am Jewish and agnostic, but for me the practice is not a wrong one. It is a tool for being intentional — and it also brings me comfort. I’ve been both scared and awed by the idea that there isn’t a guiding power in the universe, but lately that’s been much more scary. How do we reconcile the hardship of life if it means that incidents like Wednesday’s terrorist shooting in South Carolina are truly nothing more than random? Continue reading “Tarot Cards, Feelings, Prayers, and a Poem”

On Asking for Help (and, Hopefully, Not Starving)

Asking is hard. Particularly for those of us who are femme, who were socialised to be women, or who do caretaking work, it can be so easy to put the needs and desires of others above our own; we grow very used to advocating for others, at our own expense. And for those of us from marginalised communities, whom society disregards or punishes for existing, it’s almost impossible to feel like our wants and needs matter.

But they do matter, and we have to believe that, because we are sometimes the only advocates we have. Others cannot know what we want and need if we never share it with them. That’s a shame, because we often find folks ready and willing to help us. We just need to give them the chance.

Still, it’s really scary. So many questions come up to block our path: what if no one helps? What if they call us selfish? What if, what if, what if? We want the help, but we wish that others could intuit and “opt in”, rather than us risk rejection from those who aren’t interested. Putting ourselves out there makes us vulnerable.

Okay, deep breath.

This isn’t abstract. I need to ask for your help right now.

This past week, I had a medical emergency. My blood sugar got dangerously high, so high that I grew dehydrated and had to go to the emergency room. I spent 5 hours on a saline drip, and was given a shot of insulin. I was really scared, and in the aftermath, I started thinking about my life.

Currently, I attend classes at Portland State University. I’m about a year from graduating. I also work at the Queer Resource Center on campus, a job I may not have once summer starts, since the positions open up at the end of each school year. I don’t know how I’ll pay my bills or eat this summer. I don’t know how I’ll find a job after I graduate, one that will be understanding about my chronic illnesses and disability. I feel like my best bet is to really focus on my small press. Hopefully, in a year, I’ll be able to get by on that and my income from freelancing.

Last week, I launched an Indiegogo to raise funds. I’m asking for $10,000 to buy things like ISBNs, a P.O. Box for business correspondence, a storage unit for books waiting to be sold, and other physical things, as well as give the press the ability to contract artists to design book covers, offer small (likely tiny, actually) advances to authors we’ll publish in the next year, and stuff like that. If we reach the goal, I might be able to start actually paying myself from sales of my book. If we overshoot the goal, I may even be able to hire a part-time assistant to help me out. (Which would be great, because I am disabled, so there are some things I may need help with.)

I’m really dedicated to making Mourning Glory Publishing a successful business, not just so I don’t starve, but because I believe that the voices MGP will publish are vital ones, that need to be heard. I believe in the power of stories to change the world. Telling stories saves lives, transforms them. The voices of the most marginalized members of our society need to be heard, to be recognized and lifted up, to be celebrated. It’s this work I want to do, and why MGP is so important to me. (Not starving would be a nice bonus, though.)

So, the ask: please visit the link, and share with your friends, family, followers. If you have Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, or GooglePlus, please share on those platforms. Let folks know you support the press. And if you can give, please do. I really am grateful for everyone’s support, and I still have a long way to go to reach the goal.

Thank you.

Observations on the Holidays and Healing

Sunday was the solstice, and many of my friends celebrated Yule. Tonight is the last night of Chanukah. Thursday is Christmas. For many, this time of year is all about celebrations, about joy.

But I don’t know how to tap into that. For me, this season is mostly inconvenient.

Some years I’ve left the house to go run an errand or get work done, and realised at the bus stop that the buses were on reduced scheduling for Christmas, and everything is closed anyway. In high school, I lived with a friend’s family, and they had presents and a tree, and I did that with them 2 of the 3 years I lived there. On the other one, they were at Disneyland, and I had work.

One year, my mother and I went to watch Duck Soup and eat bagels with lox at the Multnomah Jewish Community Center. Another year, I hiked to my closest friends’ houses in thigh-high snow to leave presents in their mailboxes. Most years, I just sit at home, feeling vaguely bored and discontent.

Basically, I’m the Grinch.

I don’t hate holidays. Really, I just don’t see the point. Perhaps this is because I’ve lived away from much of my family for the past 12+ years. Perhaps this is the result of my father dying on a holiday. Whatever reason is behind it, I’m pretty much a grump from October to January. If nothing closed, I’d probably keep working and shopping and riding the bus and so on every day, including Christmas.

But this year, it seems even worse. I’ve been stuck in crisis mode for months, where every day feels like a wake. It seems there’s always some fresh new indignity, and pretending at happiness beyond what I feel, in a country that values the life of a dog more than a Black human being, is far more than I can muster.

On the day after the announcement that Mike Brown’s killer would not be indicted, I wore all black to work. I saw other Black people on my campus, and they knew what it was for, who it was for. I had already left the house when I learned of the announcement that Eric Garner’s killer would not be indicted; still, I wore black and maroon, appropriate mourning garb.

We are not so removed from those decisions. And we have since heard non-indictments for Darrien Hunt’s killer, and Dontre Hamilton’s; no doubt there will be more. It seems there always are.

There are people taking this time to be with family, to spend time with loved ones, to enjoy their normal holiday activities. I don’t begrudge them that. I don’t resent them for it. That joy is necessary, to prevent burnout, at the very least. But it’s not where I find healing.

I’m still recovering from my health problems of the last 3 months, and all of this has weighed heavily on me. It’s clear that I need to spend some of the next two weeks doing intense self-care. I need to find healing spaces to cry in, to let go of the grief, and carry the righteous passion for change forward into the new year.

I don’t yet know where that space will be for me. But I hope others find it in family and friends and holiday celebration.

Happy holidays, friends; take care.

Walking Wounded Towards Winter Term

Finals are over for the term. I was apprehensive—my health problems really derailed me and I ended up struggling to catch up, which was very disappointing; I started out ahead of the assignment schedule for the first couple weeks of term.

Still, these things happen. (Though this is the second fall term in a row where this happened, and I’m trying not to get superstitious about it.) I was lucky to have understanding teachers, and I pulled a B+ and two B- grades, which is not too bad at all—it absolutely could have been worse.

I’m looking forward to having a bit of a break, though I haven’t really been able to rest much, yet. Whenever I have free days in my calendar, they seem to mysteriously fill up.

I often say that I am quintessentially Gemini, and reading over common traits of Gemini, it really does seem to be true: energetic, imaginative, impulsive, restless, independent, creative, stubborn, scattered… I get grand ideas, and then realise that my own expectations are unrealistic. When a project stalls, I burn out spinning my wheels. I juggle more and more commitments, until it’s a constant struggle to keep all of the balls in the air, and I start dropping things.

This fed a lot into my difficulty this term: I had a lot of commitments going into the term, and I tried to maintain them all after I got sick, with varying degrees of success. And when I saw other places I could plug in, and take on even more…

Well, I’ll just say that I’m still learning to say no.

I’ve read about productivity and organisation strategies and self-care tips, and I think I may have to just start scheduling my life to the quarter hour. It’s clear that I can’t keep doing what I’ve been doing, but I have a lot of trouble protecting time for self-care. I want to say yes to everything, and so I take on more than I can handle, and work time spills into personal time, and before I know it I’m completely exhausted and I can’t function for a couple of days.

I feel like a broken record, but I’m still not sure how to move forward taking care of myself better. Maybe I’ll schedule to the minute in Google Calendars, and block off personal time and have alarms to move me through my day or something. But that feels too rigid and robotic. What if I need to change things on the fly?

One of my biggest problems is the length of my commute. It takes me an hour each way to get to campus and back home, and in the mornings there’s nowhere to sit (admittedly, this is less of a problem now that I walk with a cane), and studying crammed up against another commuter is awkward and uncomfortable, and I can’t really concentrate. I don’t study well at home, so I stay late on campus, but then having to travel means I won’t get enough sleep before I have to be up and back on transit. I missed one class twice this term from staying up late to finish work and then sleeping through my alarm and right up to the start of class time. That’s not a huge deal on campus, but with an hour long commute it’s literally impossible to get to class until it’s almost over.

This term, there were a lot of times that I accepted the penalty of not getting work done in order to get enough sleep to function. I sacrificed grades to my health. And it felt painfully cruel to have to pretend I wasn’t dying inside when the non-indictments of Officers Wilson and Pantaleo came in, to go to work and class as though nothing was wrong. It hurt. It still hurts.

For many people, this has been a truly disastrous year. My friends and family have struggled with health, faced the possibility of houselessness, fought to get enough to eat, and so much more. Family loss, environmental disaster, job loss. We are open, raw, exposed. Police violence and public callousness have ground us down, and we have had to push through, pretend that our souls are not bleeding from too many wounds to count. It’s so exhausting.

Finals are past, grades are in, and I have less than three weeks to get my equilibrium back, to patch the holes enough to go on. I’m excited for the classes I picked, but I’ve considered taking a term off—or even dropping out—more than once. I’m just exhausted.

I hope I can build my reserves back up before the start of next term, because I won’t make it through another term like this. My body won’t let me, and I don’t want to.

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.

Me, My Health, and I

Two weeks ago, my doctor gave me a fibromyalgia diagnosis. I suspected I had it when I went to see her; she ran tests to rule other causes out before confirming I have fibro. On one hand, it’s nice to have a diagnosis, so I can try to get accommodations from my school. On the other, fibro is a lifelong thing, one where my treatment options are often likely to be about pain management. To reduce my low energy, high pain days, I have to eat well, sleep enough, and exercise often.

Above all, I have to find a way to minimise stress, which is not always my strong suit. I tend to commit to a lot of important, fulfilling things, juggle them all with increasing difficulty until I just can’t keep up, and I need to let one or two or three drop away. But I’ve been going through a lot the last few months, and it’s definitely made me slow down and listen to my body a lot. I have been forced to say no to things I want to do, and I’ve been forced to ask for help when I can’t manage everything I’ve got.

I am used to being pretty independent, to handling my own needs. Even when I tell other people I’m struggling, I often insist that I’ll figure something out; there’s no opening for help to be given or, in some cases, even offered. I’ve been increasingly frustrated at my lack of mobility and energy, because I don’t like asking for help. I don’t like having to rely on others, and I often feel guilty for inconveniencing friends. I apologise constantly, even for things that my friends have offered freely. I am grateful for their support, of course I am, but I also feel that I shouldn’t need it.

Recently, my mother texted me about a Facebook post I made. Her text said I should ask her for money when I need it; she might not always have it, but she likes to be asked. My automatic reply was “okay.” I didn’t know what else to say. But after reflecting on it, I also replied that I likely still wouldn’t ask her. Part of why I push so hard is that I want to get experience and find a job paying well enough that I can buy a house and move my mother in.

In my story for the Intersections event, I mentioned that my biggest life goal, my dream, is to make enough money that my mother can retire. Most folks are retired by 70. I have another 19 years to make it happen, but my recent low mobility has raised some scary possibilities. I’m afraid that I’ll never get there, that my mother will still be working 3 jobs and caring for my brother in her 70s. I’m afraid that something terrible will happen to her before I am established enough to take care of her. I’m afraid something will happen to me, and I’ll add to her burdens instead of lifting them.

How can I take care of my mother when I can’t even take care of myself?

Since my symptoms started back in October, I’ve started a slow return to stable health. I’m not as able and mobile as I was before the flare, but I’m considerably better than I was in the worst of it. I haven’t slept through class in weeks, and I can walk almost as much as I used to, though I still need a cane. The meds my doctor prescribed keep me from having too much pain during the course of the day, and I haven’t had incapacitating brain fog for almost a month. I still struggle to remember words on a regular basis, and I have to process out loud a lot now, but I also know it could be worse.

Still, I’m haunted by the possibility of going back to that place. I have been able to get accommodations from my school, and both my professors and my supervisor at work have been very understanding and supportive, but I’m used to being able to do more. That’s a manifestation of societal pressure: our society is capitalistic, and emphasises production as the measure for self-worth. (I wrote a couple of poems about that—one is here.) I know this, but I still struggle in allowing myself the space and time I would give anyone else.

I encourage my friends to care for themselves, to take things slow, to tell me and others what they need, and so on, but when it comes to myself, I am impatient. It is a good thing when my friends self-care, but I have too much to do. I even put off my own self-care by caring for my friends!

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The tattoo on my upper chest says “Radical Self Begins with Radical Self-Love”. It’s meant to be a reminder to take care of myself: I can’t do all of the cool, amazing, important things I want to do if I don’t take care of myself. I am definitely radical, but I’m also running myself into the ground, and I need to take time and space to love and care for myself, before I totally burn out.

I think it’s time to make a self care plan, and schedule some time to just do things that will help me unwind. After all, I’m not superhuman, even if I try to act like it sometimes.

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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.

Conference High

This past weekend was the Oregon Students of Color Conference, and it was amazing!

I presented two workshops: “Sharing Stories Saves the World: Storytelling for Education and Advocacy” and “Work It, Gurl! The Impact of Ball Culture on Modern Performance”. I also facilitated one of the identity caucus spaces, for students of colour with disabilities.

It felt transformative to be there: during meals and keynotes we were in a ballroom, laughing at the same jokes, snapping for the same points, and cheering for the same causes. Everyone in the room was there to share and learn; we came to that space because we believe in supporting the needs of students of colour.

Sessions ranged from introductions to racial justice and organising to discussions about shadism, from media representation to abolishing the prison industrial complex, from breaking down -isms to radical problem-solving. Every panel or workshop had interested, passionate students attending. The discussions were nuanced and informative, and the keynotes were engaging.

Being able to share space with other student leaders always leaves me excited to get to work–the trouble is reining in my enthusiasm! This generation of student leaders has so much to give; we’re already doing so much, and I can’t wait to see where we’ll go.

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.

Poem: Movement Mothers

I mentioned in my newsletter that I’ll be at the Oregon State Penitentiary tomorrow for the Uhuru Sa Sa Poetry Slam. Here’s one of the pieces I’ll be sharing.

Movement Mothers
Not so long ago they lit us on fire for who we loved, visibility and invisibility doing damage differently: hateful looks end with murdered teens tied to fence-posts, sweet bois and grrls beaten, children taken from us too soon, the bully’s hand manifest in the making of nooses, the loading of guns. We lose and are lost.

These days when the struggle is too much and holding my head up is too hard I think of Assata and Angela, Marsha and Carlett, Stormé, Audre, Alice, Octavia, and Laverne, sisters in struggle, sisters in strength, sisters looking out for sisters. Our vulnerability is just one more source of beauty—though the world does not see it, speaking our truth is an act of radical self-love in a world that tries to burn us down.