Dead Cats and Cold Coffee

I had to call my mom at 3 am from Ronald Reagan airport to see if she thought the fates were right to launch myself into the air.

“Did either of you think I was going to die?” I asked my brother and my dad later that day, back in the Midwest.

“I did,” my brother confirms.

“Dear Justice,

My problems are spilling out onto those around me. I feel really bad about myself, my independence and my lady power. This is my question lady: How do I find time to nurture myself and reflect when there is so much we can DO? I only recently realized how to do, learning how to organize people, how building movements is possible. My work is teaching me how to be a mover, but it’s not going to help me find balance and peace. That has to be me. This job can teach me how to push myself, become someone new and shit stomp when needed, but if I’m a terrified child inside, what does all the shit stomping in the world accomplish? …Let’s go hard, take the world by storm, surprise ourselves by how much we can become, and empower, educate and build ourselves and others up for equality. And let’s also take time to treat ourselves and those close to us right. Sip tea, smoke a blunt, drink a beer or two, go on a date, write a letter to a wombmate.”

I had become addicted to validation lately. A beautiful boyfriend who accepted all of my fears, and took proactive steps to make me feel better. I had been going hard on the ocd anxiety train for the past month or so, and as I asked someone please not to “eat quinoa found in the bed”, I realized I was in need for a change.

It was a four hour plane ride, clutching his hand and asking every 30 seconds, “Is this normal? Are we going to be alright?” At one point he had to take his hand away and massage the circulation back in.

I’m searching for perfection, world. And I’m never going to feel safe if I keep looking for it. What I really need to do is get out my old scrapbooks, and see all that I have done. All the planes I have flew, all the coffees I have drank from strange diners, all the strangers I have trusted for rides, all the people I have met who have also accepted who I am. And who didn’t think I was a basket case, but instead saw something in me that I couldn’t in myself at that time.

When I am like this, when I have high anxiety, I feel pretty worthless. I feel like I am clinging onto life so hard, that there is no reasonable way for me to do anything within it. And my passion is not merely to exist in the world, but to interact with it, live it and write it. And how am I do to that if I keep myself in a sanitized bubble world?

My coffee has gotten cold

Yesterday she went for a run. West, through a neighborhood she’d never ventured before. A Bhutanese woman with a big red nosering walked past with a protected face. A quiet smile escaping the corner of her pursed lips. 

A young Hispanic boy walked past. He was on his phone, and she imagined unhappy things. She looked as his back after they passed one another, and she wondered where those thoughts came from.

Realizing a telephone cord is hanging down in front of her, she ducks her head and darts to the side.

There’s a burrito shop with bright colors and a flashing OPEN sign. Then an open apartment with tubs of chemicals, fumes reaching the sidewalk she’s walking on.

Two construction workers are tearing up the road. A big scoop machine- demolishing the pavement. Picking up the rubble and depositing it behind. One man squatting, smoking a cigarette right by the pit, his head in line with the swinging scoop machine. He tosses his cigarette to the ground.

Up ahead, “Taco El Tio.” She wonders if this is Uncle’s Taco, or Taco the Uncle. Beside it, padlocked closed bars with $1.50 draws and no windows.

Then she’s on Central street.

On a whim, she tries to go in the first church she sees. The doors are locked, and the mass times are in Spanish.

Walking down, there is trash from all sorts of things. Big yellow gloves torn and laying on the sidewalk. She wonders what someone was protecting their hands from when they wore these.

She drops her keys, and they fall in the dirt next to what looks like a pad or a diaper. There’s a pulled out car cushion, the foam inside of it disintegrating to her left.

She realizes how far removed her life has been from the rest of the world. She realizes how she is still continuing this, even with her job in social work.

She looks at all the faces at the stop light. Hispanic and African American and refugee and immigrant faces from around the world. She holds her key chain, which includes recently purchased pepper spray. She is happy for the security of the pepper spray, especially as she passes a park and gets a disturbing wink from an older man. And with the routine car honks. However, she also feels guarded. She wants to do research, but she realizes she has always been removed from her research.

She is walking through this neighborhood, and then she is going back to her own life that she’s comfortable with. That she’s always known. And what is wrong with this?

We can’t help what we’re born into. But when we’re born into privilege and we realize this, do we have an obligation to start living more lives than the one that came with the luck of the draw?

She wants to know what it’s like to be another draw. She wants to know what it’s like to live in a neighborhood where there are small auto repair shops alternating with taco shops on every street corner. She wants to know what it’s like to be fearless. She wants to know what it’s like to combat stereotypes without being naive.

She wants to learn what it’s like to educate yourself while staying safe. She wonders if this is actually education if you’re playing it safe. She wonders how much skin you need in the game, and if you don’t have much in, do you have an obligation to put more?

She wonders how you see without being vulnerable, and she wonders how you progress, without being powerful.

She wonders if she will ever feel comfortable with everyone. And she knows she won’t. She knows that this is her strength though, always trying to push herself to be more. To experience more. To learn more people.

 

People take advantage of you, people have motivations, people have stereotypes, and people also invite you into their homes and treat you like family.

 

Burnt house to her left, she’s finally seeing. How to see the beauty in the change, in the world, in the being. In whatever is, and accepting it as is.

She passes a small man in overalls. They both look opposite directions as they pass.  

She’s thinking about that as she stumbles by a  dead bloated house cat in the grass. She skips forward quickly, avoiding the flies and the image. 

7th street- she’s close to being back. She passes another church: HOUSE OF  OD.

There’s a Go-Chicken-Go that smells like redemption. And also smells like poverty.

She passes a man sweeping a vacant lot, and breathes a sigh of exasperation and peace.

MOVEMENT. REVOLUTION. BUILD.

When I ran Cross Country, they always told us, if we didn’t remember anything else, to always run up the hills.

Breaking down those walls. I feel that I’ve lost something of my identity. I’m out of my element, my element being chaos and running. When I am here and now and the same people keep appearing in my life, and the same focus is held onto, I don’t know what to think. I didn’t know what to think. Now I think I do. I think I understand more fully that I have never been so challenged in my life as I am now. And it doesn’t mean that I am losing my skill to wing it, it means I am broadening my horizon to be. To be whatever the moment calls for. 

Breaking down my walls that are here just for me. They are crumbling, and I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how to fix myself. I don’t want to start in on all the work that it’s going to take the fix this.

But I think this time it’s different. Because in the past, I have felt the victim. In the past month I’ve felt the victim. I have this horrible anxiety sometimes, and I have it for life. I don’t think I can rid myself of it, but I am better at coping with it at some points in my life than other times.

Sometimes I jump on planes alone, and sometimes I hold people’s hands before and after the flight. Sometimes I grab people’s hands to shake them, and sometimes I grab people’s hands to push them away.

Sometimes I look at my own hands, and I wonder why they’re not worried. This whole body of mine is living life without fear completely. And I separate my mind from my body, acting as if my mind is the problem.

But see, my hands are as much me as anything. And if every other part of my body is fearless except for my brain, that’s a pretty good set up. Every other part of me is zen except for the trigger of anxiety.

I never realized the obvious triggers I have. I have a few big ones that dominate my daily life. Sometimes heavily, and sometimes just out of habit. Sometimes, I test my boundaries. I risk it and jump toward my fears. I’ve had enough of my fearful self, and this is the only solution.

That’s the me that I am in love with. That’s the identity that I want to cultivate.

I am so appreciative of the people in my life though for accepting me as I am, and supporting me in pushing myself.

I believe that every human in the world should have this kind of support.

 

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