#Charlottesville Is Only a Hashtag For Now

13 Aug

I wanted to piece together all of the insights and opinions and fun on NetRoots Nation 2017, and how I am so excited and determined to make the most of the experience, but my thoughts (and all of my social media feeds) are stuck in Virginia, and so that’s where my head is right now.

So here’s a brain dump of today. Unedited.

I’m not sure particularly sure why this was getting so much attention ahead of time. I guess in the social media age, everything is newsworthy. When someone brought it up the day before at a session on the religious left, I dug around on Google and thought, “What’s the big deal? A bunch of idiots are protesting statues?”

It’s not like white supremacist rallies are a new thing. I guess living in the south, these just seem like regular occurrences, especially in the Trump. Even though my tiny town has an active KKK in it, I’m not fearful for my life. We just take precautions and don’t walk around our neighborhood. Seeing the shock on people’s faces when I mentioned this earlier in the week reminded me that no, this is not normal. The quick sigh of disappointment when someone suggests to “take a walk” or “go for a run” when feeling stressed isn’t something people should be experiencing.

But it could be worse, right?

When I was presented with the idea of canvassing my neighborhood to run for office, the idea was immediately nixed by my beloved. But, no. This isn’t something most people experience. I should be able to walk around my neighborhood like I see so many others do. I want to finally the meet the nice older lady who knows everyone and I always see walking around with her well-behaved but unleashed golden lab

But that’s not so bad, is it?

I guess I’m more fortunate than I think some times. Or just more oblivious and naive. Or jaded. So seeing that three people died, for a split second, I thought, “Oh. That’s not so bad.” I live in a world where a single digit death count is not so bad. Only three families lives are ruined by violence.

It could be worse, right?

Much like I’m constantly battling my brain to both bring awareness to my mental illness and “normalize” it without forgetting that yes, the way I see and react to things will be different than “normal” people, I’m also battling with the idea that racism affects me in ways that don’t seem so bad but affect me nonetheless.

Of course, this is my brain in full survival mode. Since anxiety is essentially a constant state of “fight or flight,” I have to minimize what I react to. My brain is far too full of “catastrophes” to focus on just one. So the waves of outrage all over the internet over someone getting run over by a car shocks me a bit, even though at the same time, all I can do is  post and read and watch about what has happened.

Welcome to humanity. Welcome to adulthood, where you have to measure your outrage, downplay your fear and ferociously focus on the positive. Yes, I’ll hit “like” on your vacation photos, while simultaneously trying to explain for the umpteenth time why racism is a topic I will always talk about. Yes, I can sit down and watch an episode of Ducktales while reading about the far-too-short life of a counter-protester who died trying to cross a street.

What’s weird is that people will read this and wonder why I haven’t fallen to pieces already. Isn’t she a highly-sensitive person? Doesn’t she struggle with anxiety and depression? Why isn’t she in tears right now? How can she even write? Well, currently, writing is all I can do. After a long trip, I don’t have the physical energy to do much else except sleep.

Right now I can’t listen to an audio book or a podcast. I can’t even play a simple match-3 game. I tried. I could do work. I sent an invoice upon request. Does that count? I’m making some tater tots, and waiting to wash another load of clothes, so those count as actions, right? I should be going to a vigil about Charlottesville but the drive and the socializing and the sadness of it all would be like a few more drops of water in a bucket that’s on the brink of running over.

So for now, I feed myself junk, a Spotify “Brain Food” instrumental playlist, writing, deliberate and persistent hubby affection and bad television. It’s not ideal self care, but it’s all I can do right now.

#Couchto9K: How to Go Viral and Stay Active

30 Jan

couchto9k

So, I was trying to figure out a way to talk about how I went from simply writing about life and its injustices to actually doing something about it.

#Couchto9K isn’t just a cute reference to my fast track from writer to protester to advocate to politician (#Morris2018?).

It’s also to show how that kind of anger can lead to something cool: getting 9,500 likes and 1,500 shares on Facebook for a blog post.

Like most people who are self-esteem challenged, the idea of getting a few likes on a witty post is like a breath of fresh air.

“Yay, what I say matters! My life is now validated for the next 24 hours.”

I had been meaning to discuss my experience at Planned Parenthood as soon as it happened five years ago. I thought it was a perfect time to do it now and throw my support towards an organization that’s getting a lot of flack right now.

I submitted the pitch to a paid publication first. (Always do this!) When it was rejected, I posted it here on my blog, made a few changes and posted it on Huffington Post, and now here we are.

Here’s the reality: :There’s no book deal. No celebrity endorsements. I didn’t get any sort of financial gain from writing this.

But not long after that, I went to a Democratic fundraiser, joined a “Nasty Woman” group and endured 24+ hours on a bus to March in Washington.

Then I went to two meetings in the same day looking at local legislation and throwing my support to a state representative whose ideals I love.

Nothing else in life mattered but being part of the resistance.

So what worked? How did the post get noticed by HP’s blogging team and end up being featured on Facebook?

Probably my eye-popping headline and a relatable story for a currently divisive issue to back it up. (No clickbait here!)

I continued to do some more writing and thinking and posting on Facebook (much to the chagrin of my conservative friends). I’ve looked at running for office and have joined a couple of programs dedicated to it.

And I nearly lost my mind.

The inconvenient truth is that doing all of this requires a lot of mental and physical energy. Today, I watched videos on how to be kind and how to disagree (Thanks, Kid President!) and realized I had failed in these instructions.

I’ve angered people, had family members put a ban on political talk and I’ve stopped taking caring of myself on a consistent basis.

I recently posted something “normal” on Facebook about my day. It was short, positive and has only received 2 likes LOL.

So I’m taking a step back and looking at self-care (including renewing my search for writing clients), my family and stop being so angry. (But still stay active.)

What are you doing to fight, resist and stay sane?

Dear President Obama: Please Stay Close

19 Jan

obama speakingA tear-stained face is not a great way to start a morning commute. But as I watched you give the Medal of Freedom to Ellen Degeneres (and now Vice President Biden), I was reminded of what a great orator you are.

So while I was getting ready for work, I decided to pull up your eulogy of Rev. Clementa Pinckney after the 2015 Charleston shooting.

As a South Carolina native and lover of the city of Charleston, this event shook me to my core. Even though the event has long since passed, I couldn’t bring myself to listen to this speech when it happened. I just kept picturing the moment when I found out, and I could do nothing but cry.

I think at one point, I briefly saw a video of you singing “Amazing Grace,” but that was it. Today, I finally listened to it. When I was getting ready for work and then in my car on the way there, I began to cry. I began to think about what a horrible time that was for South Carolina, and you reminded me of how we triumphed after that tragic day.

And like many people before me, I will say, “I will miss you.” Yes, I’ve giggled at all of the jokes calling for a third term and the intimate moments with you and Vice President Biden being turned into silly memes.

Yes, I wanted Biden to run and I want Michelle to run. These are sentiments so many people share today. You were my favorite president not simply because you and your family resemble mine. But because you represented all of us. You were straightforward and stern yet kind and friendly.

Many folks like me who consider themselves progressives but also have some conservatism in their ideology weren’t always happy with how things have turned out over the past eight years. But I am in awe of what you’ve managed to accomplish under possibly the most intense scrutiny and unwarranted prejudice a president has ever had to endure.

So, you may see me chant or use #4MoreYears jokingly, but in my heart of hearts, I know that can’t happen. So I humbly request that you stay with us. Even if it’s through social media, blogging, book writing or the occasional event appearance, please stay in our lives.

I know once you leave the White House your primary focus will be on Michelle and your children. They’re still so young and you are probably brimming with excitement over being with them in a more normal capacity.

So now I’ll spend more time listening to speeches of yours that I’ve missed or or those I wish to hear again.

Please don’t disappear. Please don’t fade into the spotlight forever. Now, more than ever, we need you. We need your words of hope and encouragement and your commitment to serving the American people.

And my only consolation and hope is that once your presidency ends, you can become more vocal and more visible than you have been. I hope this will increase your accessibility to the American people and those around the world who admire, love and respect you. God bless you, Mr. President.

Not long after I wrote this, I saw this post, which echoes my sentiments. It’s extremely well-written!

#WhyIMarch: I’m Pro-Life, Christian & I Support Planned Parenthood

14 Jan

Faint shouts of “Come here!” and “Jesus loves you!” greeted me as I stood outside a Planned Parenthood clinic trying to assist a stranger. Like me, she had been in the waiting room for what seemed like ages. Her car wasn’t cranking, so I waited with her outside until help arrived.

Earlier, I was getting chilly in the waiting room, so I went to get a jacket from the car. The shouts from the protesters roused.

Scoffing a bit, I told them, “I love Jesus too! And I’m not here for an abortion.”

“Okay, good. Come on over here. Let us pray for you.”

I shook my head, exhaled and kept going. It would be a few weeks before I marry my husband. Until then, I didn’t have proper medical insurance to get birth control. I use it for other reasons besides contraception.

After what felt like eons, a group of us were called back. There were several rows of small chairs facing a tiny television. We were asked to watch a video, and then  (eventually) we would be seen by a doctor.

Then my confusion turned to fear. I was watching a video about about an abortion pill. The simplicity of the instructions frightened me.

Me, a pro-lifer, in the middle of this mix-up. The video ended and I scrambled back to the counter and said, “I’m in the wrong place. I’m just getting a pap!”

Some of us were shuffled into a smaller room with chairs and blankets. It reminded me of my mother’s chemotherapy treatment room – small, a bit cramped and devoid of chatter or activity.

I looked around at the faces of the women around me and felt so scared for them. Most of them looked in their 20s, possibly late teens. And they were about to take one little pill to erase a “mistake.”

Flashbacks of a protest I attended as a teenager trickled back. I remembered the enlarged posters of aborted fetuses. (I couldn’t bring myself to hold one up.)

Someone gave me a book revealing the “truth” about Planned Parenthood. I tossed it in the back seat of my car but never read it.

Those thoughts drifted to the back of my brain. I blinked my eyes a few times and looked around. Everyone was gone except for me.

I had dozed off for who knows how long. 30 minutes? An hour? This would not bode well as I was supposed to be at work. I went back to the counter and, finally, I was seen by someone.

An anxiety disorder makes paps ridiculously painful and embarrassing. I remember the sound of the speculum clanking on the floor after the interminable test was done. My body physically rejected it.

Finally. Finally. I received birth control prescriptions and left the building.

The protesters were gone. They had done their work for the day, I suppose.

Several weeks later, the most perfect day of my life – the day of our wedding – came and went.  I no longer needed PP for medication or check-ups and my life continued.

It wasn’t until I read about plans to defund Planned Parenthood did this memory push forward in my mind. I read stories about women having to resort to unwanted pregnancies or dangerous abortion procedures, because they couldn’t make it to a hospital.

I could see them – overburdened, crying and in pain. The very idea was dreadful.

This is when I became anti-abortion, not pro-life.

Think about it, is there any one out there who is pro-abortion? Of course not.

If faced with an unbearable choice, I’d be more inclined to think about adoption. I do believe that life starts at conception.

More options is the answer, not restricted access. From my experience alone, I’d advocate for more funding for these types of clinics.

A woman should be able to select from different options when she’s pregnant.  We are in the most powerful country in the world. Our women deserve choices.

Somehow, not even the phrase “pro-choice” encompasses everything I’m passionate about.

What happens if the child grows up in a poor home or an ill-kept foster home? What if a woman was raped, traumatized and pregnant?

What about their loved ones, who must help her pick up the pieces of her life? How could I say I’m truly “pro-life” if I don’t consider the other countless lives involved around the upbringing of this child?

Maybe if more “pro-lifers” went inside the clinic to volunteer instead of barking at patients outside, they’d understand.

Maybe if “pro-lifers” were focused on caring for women, they wouldn’t have voted for an ill-suited, misogynistic president-elect based on this one issue. (Yes, I am aware of people who voted for Trump just because Clinton is pro-choice. It doesn’t make sense.)

Saying #ImWithPP doesn’t make me any less of a Christian. Even though my experience was unpleasant, having the clinic really helped me.

I still think abortion should be the last resort for women. But my mission of faith extends beyond the womb. My soul is eager to embrace and support other women no matter their circumstances.

#WhyIMarch – Because It’s Saving My Life

12 Jan

women march on washington

Early on the day after the 2016 presidential election, I called my Mom, crumbled to the floor and wept.

My husband came to bed after me the night before, he woefully said, “Trump’s leading,” and I bristled and fell back asleep.

At that moment on the phone, it became a reality. I had to go into work that morning knowing that millions of people didn’t care about people like me.

I’m a black woman with mental illness. It’s the ultimate triple combo that leads to persistent discrimination and misunderstanding.

For years, my intelligence, my attitude, even my own “blackness” has been put into question. I’ve spent my life trying to prove to everyone that I’m deserving of normal treatment.

How do you explain to people why you’re suddenly racked with fear and grief? It seems irrational, but all of the recent hate crimes since the inauguration have left me stunned and scared in Alabama.

The rest of the week after the election was a haze. My boss asked why I wasn’t getting my work done fast enough. All I could tell her was that it had been a rough week.

Two weeks later (and 20 days after my request for accommodations for my mental disability was denied) I was fired. No warning. My (unprecedented, mind you) three-month review was fine.

Was that one rough week to blame? Who knows? I was just handed an empty box and an envelope with a cold statement on letterhead saying I hadn’t sufficiently done my job, even when I knew I had. I’d only been there five months, skyrocketed their social media presence and knew it was my “forever” job.

The one thing that validated my abilities was gone.

I spent the next hour so wracked with anguish and tears, my husband wouldn’t let me drive home.

These past couple of months have been some of the darkest in my life. I had no desire to write. I became so enraged on Facebook, I had some folks telling me to calm down and others saying “stay angry.” I have no desire to do anything except sleep and eat.

It’s difficult for me to put sentences together without a lot of effort. That kills me as a writer.

There are things I’m not proud of that I can’t share openly that exacerbated my grief, anxiety and depression. Spending time with my family for Christmas pulled me out of that fog somewhat.

And now, thanks to donations from some awesome people, I’m able to attend the March on Washington with fellow Alabamians. Of course, the hubs is worried and has every right to be.

But now that I’m jobless, the only thing holding me back from going were my finances. No longer did I have to consider taking time off. It’s the thin silver lining I found in my situation.

This is Why I March. I march because it’s all I can do to express my frustration, anger and grief in an immediate, tangible and productive way. What happens from here will hopefully be steps towards a better life where I can be of good to other people in spite of the next administration.

 

%d bloggers like this: