My Heart, The Punk

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Let me tell you something about hope + nerves: both will cause your heart to free fall through your stomach and out your ass when you're sorting your mail, flip over an envelop, and see the name + address of a place you recently submitted an exhibition proposal to...even when your head knows notifications of acceptance or rejection aren't due to be sent for another 13 days...and even though you know the probability of rejection is high, you still stubbornly hold onto hope because you know you did your best and you believe just the act of showing up matters/is enough...but somehow it isn't until you feel your heart crashing against your rib cage on its way to falling out of your body that you realize just how badly you are hoping/praying/wishing/wanting what you dared to believe you could get if you just tried.

In other words, I nearly fainted outside in our driveway while checking the mail because my heart saw MOAD and thought for .005 seconds this was either a rejection or an acceptance. My heart just gave out like some Ol weak ass, punk ass punk. Because hope and nerves has it shook. 

Do not ask me what I will do once the actual notification shows up on the 31st. If today is any indication, I might need a defibrillator to get through it. 

So what IS in this envelope? Our new membership cards. 

On Being a Woman Outrunning Yet Still Carrying the Impact of Male Violence

I've spent far too many of my 33.5 years on this earth trying to survive, navigate, mitigate, and outlast the impact of violence, abuse and harassment from men and the shitty consequences of their harmful decisions. From my father, stepfather, boyfriends, the guy who tried to rape me in my dorm room on base in 2003, the random dudes who felt they had a right to follow/touch/say whatever they wanted to me as I walked past them in school, on the street, in formation, on the dance floor, during deployment...I am so tired. 

Weary of apologists and the laundry list of excuses and explanations that work overtime to evade accountability. Of rape culture. Of beliefs and mindsets that reinforce and enable violence + the idea that being a girl or woman (cis or trans) = being owned, commodified, used, and treated however men deem is convenient, comfortable, and appropriate for them at home, in schools, on the job, in faiths and places of worship, in politics, in every space women exist.

The impact continues to reverberate and be felt in my relationship with myself, with my husband, in my parenting, and in my relationships with others. I received a text today that reminded me that I may never outrun it, or be free from/completely done with it in my lifetime no matter how much work I do in and out of therapy...and grasping to understand this just reveals how tired I am. I'll be 34 in December and what I want more than anything for my next 34 years is to just be free from the impact. That's it. I'd like to be free. Not just healed, FREE. I'm working my ass off to ensure my boys are so that the cycle hopefully doesn't continue with them, but what I wouldn't give to be free from it too.

I know I'm not the anomaly. So many women have experienced assaults, abuse, harassment, and mistreatment at one point in their life. Too many lose pieces of ourselves or our lives altogether to the act and the impact that reverberates and alters for long after it happens. What I wouldn't give for us to be free so we wouldn't have to carry the impact of this depravity within us. Yes, some of us survive it, but it always costs us something. Our identities, our wholeness, our  mental & physical health, our sense of worth & value, our lives...it costs us something. 

There is more to living as a woman than this, isn't there? What does it take to survive as a woman in a world where patriarchy negates our right to exist and thrive outside of its terms? What toll does this emotional labor have on our beings? 

 ********* 

 "What's the greatest lesson a woman should learn?

that since day one. she's already had everything she needs within herself. it's the world that convinced her she did not." - @rupikaur_Milk and Honey 

"But She Has Everything She Needs With to Survive", acrylic on canvas, from The Laughing Barrel series, an exploration of the historical origins and personal impact of emotional and expressive suppression in Black women. 

"But She Has Everything She Needs With to Survive", acrylic on canvas, from The Laughing Barrel series, an exploration of the historical origins and personal impact of emotional and expressive suppression in Black women. 

Here's What I Know About Korryn Gaines

Her life mattered.  

Mass murderers who shoot dozens of people get taken into custody alive and are treated humanely. 

Video after video and report after report show White people waving and pointing deadly weapons at police officers-even actually physically assaulting police officers-and yet they still make it to stand before a judge and answer for their actions. 

We see this happen time and again, and yet... 

We don't and can't know why she chose the actions that she did because she's no longer here to explain it from her perspective. I don't know if she was ill or if it was the impact of being harassed by police and experiencing racism that made her at the very least fear for her safety when the police showed up at her door. 

But I do know that her life still mattered, regardless. I do know that her 5 year old son didn't deserve to experience violence by police nor witness his mother lose her life as well.  

Everything about this case is horrifying and leaves me with nothing but questions. (Essence Magazine asks 7 questions about this case here

Her life mattered. That's about all I know and believe at this point. 

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The Laughing Barrel

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For the last 4 nights I've been painting "laughing barrels" in my dreams. Supposedly, slaves used to place their heads deep inside these barrels while working in the fields so slave masters wouldn't see or hear them laughing. They were used to hide/suppress emotion and expression, because to laugh or express any part of your humanity equaled punishment, even death...In every dream I'm standing in front of a canvas, painting the barrel and whatever I paint inside of it then becomes animated and MOVES. In my dream Tuesday night I painted a talking head inside of the barrel and everything that came out of the head's mouth danced. Aside from the barrel and head, everything that became animated were abstract in shape and of varying colors.

Initially, I thought what triggered my dreaming about them is the reflecting/writing/painting I've been doing this summer around Blackness as an experience, the power of expression, why it's so threatening, and why and how it becomes silenced in our lives individually and collectively as a people. Today though, I'm realizing how they connect to and are representative of my own traumas around expression both when I was a child, and as an adult Black woman. I'm seeing that as a child, my mind was my laughing barrel. It's where I went when I needed to cry, laugh, scream, allow myself to embrace the tiny moments of joy I squirreled away every time I left my home-the place where any expression of independent thought or emotion in my voice, on my face, or in my body language put me at risk for-and usually subjected me to-violence. I taught myself how to be blank and expressionless on the inside, trained my eyes to be walls instead of windows, the muscles in my face to remain slack and only move in swift response to a command. Emotions were as robed, consolidated, and stifled, shoved deep, deep, deep, deep down in recesses and compartments of myself before they really had a chance to grab ahold of me. I couldn't risk their existence being detected on my face or in my body language or bursting out of me. I hid everything, even from myself. It has taken me just over a decade to find and excavate  all I hid those first 19 years.

And so as I think about these dreams and this laughing barrel concept, I'm understanding that this is really what my work is about: that excavation of everything I've had to hide in the barrel, in my mind, in my body. It's about reclaiming the power of expression that was stripped from me and denied to me during my formative years, the ones described as the most important in a child's life. It's about the impact having to live an emotionally blunted existence has on a body, a psyche, a heart, a soul. It's about identity:  the deconstructing of a person and the reconstructing that occurs once they're able to start forming new identities on their own terms. It's about the process and how it shapes, alters and refines every part of a person. It's about who I was, who I am, and who I hope to be.

I've always been intrigued by process-by the How and the Why that triggers or birth the What a person or being is/becomes. I like the middle and it's where I tend to find myself in most situations or dynamics. As gorgeous as butterflies are what fascinates me is the metamorphosis that happens in the cocoon. That's why when I started my blog in 2010 I called it Butterfly Confessions-my heart's always longed to hear and tell the stories that come from that messy place and intense stage of development. So as I'm beginning this piece, I'm finally seeing that this is what my visual story is. I've explored it some in words the last 6 years, but the desire now is to paint it...and my hope is that by exploring it in this way I can also paint a journey, experience, and struggle that speaks to what Blackness has endured for centuries. I hope that makes sense. I'm honestly struggling with how to articulate this all in a way that's coherent and not in the roiling, jumbled knot as it is inside of me. Im trying to untangle it and unwind it loop by loop, in word when necessary, but more so through image. So...here we go. 

Freddie Gray Did Not Kill Himself

Severed neck and spine.

A "rough ride" in a police van.

Death ruled a homicide.

"We do not believe Freddie Gray killed himself."

6 officers involved. 

4 acquittals. Remaining charges dropped against the rest this morning. 

Freddie Gray did not kill himself. 

Freddie Gray did not kill himself.

Freddie Gray did not kill himself.  

Freddie Gray did not kill himself.

Freddie Gray did not kill himself.

Freddie Gray did not kill himself.

Freddie Gray did not kill himself.

Freddie Gray did not kill himself.  

Freddie Gray did not kill himself.

Freddie Gray did not kill himself.

Freddie Gray did not kill himself.

Freddie Gray did not kill himself.  

Freddie Gray did not kill himself.

Freddie Gray did not kill himself.

Freddie Gray did not kill himself.

The "Justice" system did. This country's love affair with supremacy and brutality did. Our failure to hold someone involved responsible for his mistreatment and death did.

We did.  

 Freddie Gray did not kill himself.

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Questions, Answers, and The Power in Choosing How to Explain (or Not)

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"It is as difficult for [the Action painter] to explain what his art is as to explain what he himself is; but, since he paints with the question and not with the answer, explanation is not an issue." -Elaine de Kooning, 1958

I've mentioned this before, but I think this is why in part, writing has become secondary for me, for the first time since I was 13. For me, writing places a (subconscious) demand on me to explain and answer...in most cases before I am fully aware of what desires to be expressed or have an emerging understanding of what I'm experiencing internally. With writing, I can't just ask the questions, you know? In the past, words have been a means of processing my thoughts and emotions and keys to freedom, but more recently they have felt like chains, binding me to the floor, restricting fluid thought, movement, and expression.

** 

"You need to write your book," he said to me last week. "People need to read it. It could help people."

I nodded but said nothing in response because explaining my Why for not giving myself to that process is difficult for me to articulate coherently. I know the book is there, in the queue, waiting. I know the format, the themes it'll explore, and even the title. But I can't bring myself to go back to writing it. The words it requires feel

like prison.  

 ***

I think the truth is I don't want to use words to explain certain parts of my story, of what the inside of my mind, heart and soul have looked like these 33.5 years; I can do the work to excavate what the The Impact of events in my life look and feel like, but I balk at the demand to describe it in words. That doesn't feel like healing or liberation to me, when I think of explaining it or my living in that medium. I'd much rather just paint the questions and let a piece explain those things that I can't quite wrap my words around. Painting is sanctuary, freedom and peace. 

**** 

Like I said, I know I've discussed this before, this retreat from words and full throttle immersion into and preference for paint. I continue to share about it because it's a very real aspect of my creative process, and I've had to work my way to accepting it as a reality, which hasn't been easy. While it has felt freeing at times, this gravitational shift also hasn't felt comfortable or familiar during others. So I share it-the messy middle, the discomfort, the joy, the freedom I find in embracing the nuances and growth that occurs within this entire process in the hopes it encourages you to do the same regarding your own creative process-whatever that may be, and especially if you create in more than one medium.

Don't be afraid to to yield yourself to the shifts in seasons and rhythms, to let one replace another in the driver's seat. Scratch that-be afraid. You can be afraid. That's normal. I am about 80-90% of the time, honestly. Just don't let that fear paralyze you. I'm getting better at that-at acknowledging the fear but not allowing it to restrict my movement or expression. Be afraid, but do and give yourself fully to the process and your creativity anyway.

Year Seven

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First met: August 2008

First date: July 10, 2009.

We always always always forget our anniversaries until the end of the day or the day after. Nearly 8 years ago I met him at a business meeting with a client. 7 years ago today, he took me out to dinner at Karma in Philly and we walked around Rittenhouse Square. Tonight he made me a PB&J as I updated the shop here in the site. 

8 years of knowing.

7 years of working and searching and striving and building then rebuilding. 

The years been full of difficulty and pain but also growth and striving. We're somehow still here. Our therapist said that despite how different we are from each other, she believes we're perfect for one another because we've individually survived so much. "You guys are survivors. You have a lot to offer each other that can bring healing to the both of you." I think she's right. We're survivors.

We fail and fight but somehow keep finding our way back to each other as we both evolve and find our own ways as individuals. We may be in different stages of living (hello age difference) but we're working hard to find ways to coexist and thrive together. Big personalities, big passions, big hearts, mad survival skills: that's us. I don't think I could've found a better person to learn from and partner with to raise our kids. He's the best man I've ever dated.

If I had to do it over again, I'd still say "yea, I'll go on a 'friend date' with you. Sure." (Don't ask me what a "friend date" is-it's been 7 years and we still argue about the classification of our first date. Yes, we are indeed a mess, mind yo business.)

Happy "Friend Date" Anniversary, B. For better or for worse I'm a better human, a better mother, a better believer, a more embodied woman because I am loved by you. Truly. Thank you for giving me space to find my own way and be as I heal from so many things...your love and respect and friendship are worth the work, worth the risk. Always. 

 "True love never has to hide...I trade your broken wings for mine...when you get deep you touch my mind...Nothing real can be threatened, true love breathed salvation back into me...My torturer became my remedy...Oh I've missed you my love." (All Night/Beyonce)

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Lives Lost, Lives Taken

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I've been quieter about it this year than I have in years past, but my silence doesn't mean I've stopped observing, processing, facing, or grappling with the reality that hate is taking lives...collecting them like trophies. I'm not lost to the fact that racism, nationalism, supremacy, extremism, and terrorism both domestic and global are obliterating innocent lives. 

Tonight I learned about Alton Sterling. This morning, Medina. Before that Baghdad. Bangladesh. Istanbul. Orlando. There's Brexit. Donald Trump is running for president on a platform rooted in willful ignorance, nationalism, and xenophobia. Police officers continue to not be held accountable for any of the brutalization or deaths they cause. 

Muslim lives. Black lives. Brown lives. Queer lives. Trans lives. Young lives. Innocent lives. Too many lives taken by hate. 

It's just too many. I don't know what to say about so much loss, but I'm bearing witness to it, and desperately hoping we find ways to do and be better for each other.I'd be lying if I said I wasn't worried about it getting worse before it gets any better. We deserve more than hate, fear mongering, oppression, and brutality. We deserve living, thriving, humanity. Love. We deserve love.

Don't we?  Where is it? 

 

I #StandWithOrlando...But I Am Culpable, Too

I have spent the days following the massacre in Orlando searching for a way to express my grief and anger over not just another mass shooting and taking of innocent lives, but also over the fact that those lives were queer and Latinx. They were targeted specifically because of their identity, orientation, and race. 49 people dancing in a safe haven on Latin Night during Pride gone. Over 50 more injured. Families and a community forever altered by domestic terrorism. I honestly spent the first 3 days not even knowing what to say. As a straight, cis identifying woman, anything I could say beyond a text of love and support to a LGBTQIA friend or loved one felt feeble, weak, inadequate, and empty. Hollow. I may be treated and viewed a certain way because of my race, but I am privileged in that I am not also attacked, targeted, or denied civil rights because of my sexual orientation or gender identity. No one is passing laws to ban me from a bathroom that matches who I am. I am not denied employment or face discrimination, or lacking adequate healthcare because my gender and expression of it conforms to what society deems acceptable. I can walk down the street and hold my husband's hand without fear of harassment. My church and family never disowned me because who I love and who I am attracted to fits what's heteronormative. I carry a form of privilege that keeps me safe and one that is not afforded to my friends and loved ones in the LGBTQIA community. I've learned this, I know it, and the massacre in Orlando has forced me to reckon with it in a new way, one that has left me at a loss. 

 

The truth is...I don't really have words that are appropriate. Thoughts, prayers, tears, words demanding politicians take action to protect citizens they're elected to serve-they all feel ineffective and frankly useless in these moments. They felt useless a year ago after hate and an assault rifle took 9 Black lives in Charleston, and they feel empty now that it has taken 49 lives of queer people of color and injured even more. I do not know what to say, but I also can't stay silent. So all I have is my experience to share. 

Since Sunday, I've thought about my uncle, his husband, and their children. Their smiles, my uncle's laugh and how he always understood my deep affection for Prince-so much so that he gave me his VHS copy of Joffrey Ballet's Billboards, a ballet done to Prince's music when I was 7 or 8. I think about how he's an accomplished organist, a child prodigy, and how empty the world would be without his artistry and contributions to music. I think about the comfort I always felt in his presence, and how his eyes light up when they see me, how I always, always, always feel SEEN when he looks at me. 

I think about dear friends past and present who I can't imagine not loving. Friends who have taught me by proxy how to be a better human, a better believer, a better parent to my children, a better partner to my husband. The ones who allowed me to attend my first Pride with them in DC, Baltimore, and VA when I was in the military. The ones who entrusted me to help them keep from being asked so they wouldn't have to tell and lose their careers. The ones who took me to their safe spaces to dance, the ones who helped me see beyond my own ignorance around gender and sexuality. The ones who educate me even though it is not their job to do so. The ones who have taught me about real faith, and love. 

I've also remembered my ignorance, biases, and bigotry. I've stared my complicity in the face and have been ashamed for the way I have treated others in the past in the name of a distorted interpretation of Christianity, in an errant interpretation of the Bible. Despite my own questions, I spent years as a Christian "loving the sinner but not the sin". I've spent years being conditional in my love and affirmation of people different than myself. I have spent the last 6-10 years working to disavow myself of it, but I am still culpable. I think about my best friend in 7th grade who I turned my back on when she first came out to me and started dating her girlfriend because I was a new Christian and everything I had been taught about sexuality was rooted in flawed, narrow understandings of gender and sexuality.

I've recalled the day I was driving home about 5 years ago after a friend shared her story with me about how our local church had mistreated her and her family because they were immigrants struggling to make it. I wasn't completely surprised but I was still horrified. I was nearly halfway home when the words "It's about Love. That's it. You're called to Love, A'Driane. You've been doing it wrong" punched me in the gut and pierced me in the side. I literally sat in my car on the side of the road in between New Jersey and Pennsylvania sobbing, repenting, and determining to disavow myself of any dogma or theology that wasn't rooted in love or demanded that I negate any part of a person's humanity, or deny them their full personhood. I went back and read Jesus' words with new eyes; abandoned the belief that love comes with a condition, that Christ does not accept and love us as we are, regardless of who we are or who we are naturally inclined to be attracted to. 

As I've sat with the grief and heaviness of what has happened and have once again recognized the role that religion has had in breeding the hate that triggered the attack in Orlando, I've come to two conclusions, both as someone who has been a believer of Christ and as a human being: 

I'm not a scholar or a theologian. I've taken classes, I've read a variety of texts, and I've been reading the Bible since childhood. I'm not an expert and I have no desire to spend time doing an exhaustive exegesis of Scripture to argue with anyone over this. But here is where I'm at. If God is One who cannot and does not affirm and love the wholeness, personhood, humanity, and dignity of LGBTQIA people, then what hope do I have for Him to do the same for me? I am a woman and I bleed monthly. I am Black, my ancestors were once enslaved. My brain chemistry is wired in a way that it's classified as a disorder. And my children? They are not "neurotypical".  The Bible, with all of its racial, gender, sexual, able-bodied, and ethnic biases damns us all. If the Father and the Son do not embrace and love those who are not heterosexual and gender conforming, then They do not embrace and love me and the full expression of myself either. Or my children. Or anyone. They can't. If LGBTQIA people are not worthy and deserving of life and life more abundantly as they were made and created in God's image, then neither am I...and if that's the case, then I have to conclude that Christianity and religions like it are nothing more than man-made constructs designed to oppress, marginalize, and kill. I refuse to be a believer of it, espouse its virtues, or evangelize any of its tenets as beneficial to anyone. Ever. It's either God is LOVE or there is no God...or if there is, He's awful and I'd rather spend my days in hell hating the kind of God He is...than an eternity in a heaven where only certain kinds of souls are allowed to worship and commune with Him. 

Unfortunately, as I've watched the hateful response from religious people in the wake of the massacre, the only other conclusion I've come to is that the hate being espoused and used to terrorize, brutalize, and literally kill LGBTQIA bodies and souls is unconscionable. Completely and without question. It is unconscionable to hate a person or community because you think their humanity is so different than yours. To think they have less value and worth than others. To do nothing to protect them and deny them their inalienable rights. To hate. Having access to weapons that kill is unconscionable, but so is harboring such hate for people that you refuse to affirm their whole person and right to exist, thrive and be. To not disavow yourself of beliefs, biases, and systems that don't completely and unconditionally affirm their humanity and dignity. It is immoral to do anything less. It is immoral to pray for them in the wake of this but also declare that they deserved it. 

It is unconscionable and until we dismantle this, we will continue to be culpable. Blood will continue to be on our hands. As a person and as a citizen of this country, I am committed to doing what is necessary to protect the LBGTQIA community from hate and enable their liberation. I am committed to teaching my boys how to do the same. My question and challenge to you today, especially if you are a Christian, is what will you do

 ***

“Hate may have visited our community. It’s taken the lives of innocent people. It has shaken us to our core and broken our hearts. But, hate will not define us. And, hate will not defeat us. Because we are ONE Orlando.”
- Mayor Buddy Dyer

Following the horrific tragedy at Pulse, there was a tremendous outpouring from the community seeking to provide financial support. In response, we announced the formation of the OneOrlando Fund. In the days since this tragedy, we heard from the community and our donors that there is a need for victims to receive direct funding support.

To ensure that funds are dispersed in a timely, accountable and transparent manner, we have formed a OneOrlando Board that will provide the oversight and guidance needed to support the victims of the Pulse tragedy and their families. I am pleased to announce the OneOrlando Board will be chaired by Orlando Magic President Alex Martins and will be comprised of community leaders including those in the Hispanic and LGBTQ communities most directly impacted.

As we move forward with the OneOrlando Fund we are consulting with victim fund expert Kenneth R. Feinberg, who served as the Special Master for the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund of 2001, the Claims Administrator for the One Fund Boston, the Virginia Tech Hokie Spirit Memorial Fund, the Aurora Victim Relief Fund and for the BP Oil Spill Claims Administration as the Compensation Fund Administrator.

We recognize there are victims in need of support now, and we ask for your patience as we ensure we are able to assist these victims in an open, transparent and equitable manner. In the coming days and weeks we will share more with you on this process and how the community will have a voice.

Thanks to the generosity of thousands of people and our lead corporate donors from across the country, we will be able to meet the needs of victims and provide the valuable services they will need in the days, weeks and months ahead.

#OrlandoUnited

Donate here

 

The Girl on The Seesaw

I haven't been able to write about Prince's death. I still can't. I'm still struggling to process it, and the only comforts I've had are celebrating his music, the flood of videos online of performances-some of which I remember watching a young kid-and the stories being told of his philanthropy. 

I don't think I could ever face it in its entirety by trying to sum up all his life and artistry have meant to me during my 33 years of being a Purple Army member. I don't think I can pay tribute in just one piece and then move on. Just writing those sentences above has left my heart shaking. But I think what I can do is share it in pieces when the words come like they did just now. 

So. 

I'm currently working on this and it (the colors) reminded me of the Around the World in a Day album cover. I started playing the album. Got to "Paisley Park" and started sobbing as I sung it. It happens to me every time I hear it. Since I was a little kid. I don't know what it is about THAT song that breaks me open and builds me up at the same time, but that's the kind of relationship I've always had with it, since I was very young. When I was like 5 or 6, I used to dream about being the girl on the seesaw and walking around Paisley Park with a balloon. Free. Safe. Dancing with wonder and magic. Feeling music course through and lift me with each step. I still do. 

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Yes, I Would Fight a Mountain Lion To The Death For Them

Hiked a bit through the Purisima Trail in Half Moon Bay this morning, and at the entrance we were met by these warnings: 

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I'm supposed to fight a mountain lion if it attacks? BRUH. I can't even stomach walking past Banana Slugs! 

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It was a beautiful hike though. California continues to surprise me with its wide variety of natural glory.

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And yea...I may lose my guts to a banana slug, but I'd definitely fight a mountain lion to the death for these 4, because, legacies must continue.  "IWouldDie4U"-no question. 

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#100DayProject Day 24: Washes

24 days ago I joined artist Elle Luna's #100DayProject Instagram challenge to make or do something for 100 days. Participants are doing all kinds of marvelous things, but I decided to focus on either writing or painting (#100DaysOfWordsPlusPaint). One of my creative goals for 2016  I started off strong, but then got sick for a week, so I'm a bit behind. I haven't decided if I'll make up the days I've lost along the rest of the way, or just let them be what they were (days I couldn't do a damn thing) and silence any self-inflicted guilt I have about it. 

At any rate, today is day 24 and I'm easing my way back into the studio by continuing to experiment with with washes-a technique I started exploring before The Plague hit. 

Wash= Water + paint, mixed, spilled and splashed across a surface...guide it with the brayer/hands/brush/tilt of the paper or canvas, lay flat, wait for it to dry, repeat with a new (or the same) color. Effect: intriguing stains of color. 

Artist who piqued my curiosity and sparked my desire to give washes a try: Heather Day

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Here's to trying new things and pushing myself and my creative process to go farther than I think is possible.  

Am I Enough?

I've been reading through think pieces, texts, and comment threads the last few days and while somewhat enlightened and challenged to think a bit more critically about the systems of patriarchy and oppression, I've also questioned if I'm "feminist" enough. From what I've been reading, (and quite possibly, according to bell hooks and other 2nd wave feminist ideals and theory) the answer is no. 

I wonder, then what would it take, to be enough...of anything? Of every identity I embody? I honestly don't know. What I do know is that I've spent nearly every day of my 33 years not feeling

"Safe" enough

"Good" enough

"Black" enough

"Feminine" enough

"Thick" enough

"Thin" enough

 "Smart" enough

"Nice" enough

"Pretty" enough

"Woke" enough

"Radical" enough

"Progressive/Liberal" enough

"Woman" enough

"Mother" enough

"Wife" enough

"Christian" enough

"Mentally stable" enough

"Old" enough

"Strong" enough

"Brave" enough

"Educated" enough

and on and on and on the list goes.  

In this moment of frustration and weariness I feel like lead in my bone marrow, I just want to know when will I be enough? Is enough attainable? Is liberation attainable? If so, for whom? Is it for the Black, straight, able bodied, cis woman and stay at home mother living with bipolar disorder who enjoys sex when she isn't exhausted, being feminine, wearing make up, and looking fly as hell for herself and her man, who ALSO grew up with abuse and dysfunction in her childhood? If I'm not able to be enough, and I can't get free, how can anyone else who's far more vulnerable and has less privilege than I do?

I don't mean to whine or complain as much as simply express my exasperation with these standards that seem to always be out of reach...with this constant barrage of messaging both within patriarchal systems and academic schools of thought that imply nothing I do or am will ever be enough. Nor will anyone else unless you got their ideals and standards and live out the "truth" according to how they've constructed it. (Or maybe this is just a big whine. Whatever. I'm being honest. Snark away. These are the thoughts ruminating on a loop in my anxious mind as I attempt to fall asleep at 12:04am.) 

There are just these moments when it is overwhelming to take in and the tension of bearing it suffocates. I'm committed to working to disavow myself of as much bigotry, bias, and conditioned bullshit as possible...but I have to be honest and admit that there are moments when I question if it'll ever be enough-for myself or for anyone else and their freedom. How CAN we get free? When will women (all who identify as such) have the grace, compassion, space, autonomy, and agency to simply just B E? 

It feels like a pipe dream.  

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Painter Selfie

I've worked really hard over the last 2 years to believe I am an artist, a painter, a woman who communicates stories, ideas, and messages about living through color and brushstrokes. 

I believe it. I own it. When people ask, I reply with "I'm an artist, I paint"-not stay at home mom, not veteran, not even writer. I am all of these things, of course...but at my core, I am an artist and I've finally gained the confidence to no longer doubt it. I might be a terrible one, or perhaps one day I'll be one who is considered "good" and widely known, but I'm much less concerned about either, and just reveling in feeling so grounded and secure in who I am. I grew up with so little self agency or autonomy so this season of being rooted firmly in knowing who I am  feels like undulating liberation. I'll take it. 

To celebrate this victory, I took a selfie. As you do. 

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