Tuesday, March 31, 2009

I have chosen.

I have chosen to write my final paper for my other class on the topic of molestation, and the ripple effect it has on the people surrounding the perpetrator as well as the victim. Molestation is such an ugly word, and I hate it. I wish I wasn't associated with it, but I am. I have been since an extremely young age, age 4, even though I didn't put a name to the experience until I was 23. It's an amazing, powerful experience to put a name to the monster who wreaked havoc on me for so long. Amazing because I felt powerful after I named it. I got some of my power back because I began the transition from the small, weak child who hid alone, afraid to tell anyone about my experiences, to the survivor of the abuse. The earth is a little shaky under my survivor's feet, but the ground is there nonetheless.

So anyway, I had to complete an annotated bibliography for this re-search paper (Re-search, as opposed to research is more a re-gathering of the experiences and memories, supplemented by the wisdom of other writers), and I found so many good sources for consultation. In the beginning, after I became a "survivor" of abuse and not just a "victim", I researched everything about abuse. I had to read it before I could feel it, if that makes sense. I knew nothing of what was considered to be a normal reaction, or normal thought process, and after years of being afraid to declare how I felt, I needed to understand that what I felt was within normal limits. So I gobbled up books and studied them as though they were religious doctrine; and in a very distinct way, they were. I have never put much stock in the Bible over the Qu'ran, or the Torah. Really, I have not put much stock in religious writings as law, so I figure I can create my own spirituality.

Healing through reading has almost always been my spirituality, so reading these books and internalizing them was never much of a stretch. Though I had done a lot of reading on the topic of healing from a wound such as mine, I had been centered only on myself, and not the people around me.

What about my family or friends? How have they been affected by my experiences? The destructive path I took for years after high school, when sexuality was such a physical reaction to such a physical experience? I am quite sure that my family and friends suffered much through my "don't care, whatever" attitude. More importantly, what experience is there for the person who committed the crime against me? Unfortunately, that person is now dead, and she died years ago. Her husband died before her, and now I have no one to ask.

But through my family's wall of silence, I have found a few chinks in the armor. I hear that the person who abused me was in fact, abused herself. Interesting. Now there's a ripple effect for you. The abuse she suffered was one tear in a placid lake, but the tear she shed extended itself all the way to me. That started an entirely new ripple, but it will stop with me, and not touch anyone else in the same way it touched me. And it's those ripples that are felt all over the world, in different societies and in different cultures. This problem of incest is not an American problem, and certainly not one committed against the female gender only. This is what my paper is about, and I hope that it's worth the pain.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

"Something missing, something more"

Today I went to a gathering for Malidoma Patrice Some', at Weisser Park Community Center, located just off Creighton Avenue. I was so frustrated because I had never been to Weisser Park before, and Mapquest failed me, making me about 30 minutes late. But the stress and frustration I felt on the drive to Weisser Park melted away as soon as I stepped in the door of the community center.

Here I was, one of four white faces in the audience, and I felt completely at home. I knew a lot of the people who were in attendance, many of them being students or teachers of Jenbe. These kids I have grown to respect greatly, and the process of getting to know a completely different culture from my own shed some light on not only West Afrikan (the traditional spelling) culture, but my own as well.

First, I realized that I am the not-so proud owner of some deeply etched prejudices. I feel I can admit that because most people do have prejudice in their hearts to some degree. I am not proud of that fact, but getting to know these crazy energetic young people has been wonderful. The first time I met them, I wondered why everyone talked over one another (more than some young people do, maybe), and talked back to the "elder", the person who had the floor. I found out today. In the Afrikan culture, the act of "talking back" to a speaker is a way of showing respect to not only the speaker, but to the ancestors as well. The act of talking back represents that the one talking back is paying attention, and moved by what the speaker is saying. It's support.

In my culture, it's a sign of disrespect to talk while someone else is talking, but it's embraced and expected in others. Now I understand.

I realized also that I feel like a tightly wound white chick when I'm around these kids. I needed to loosen up when I stepped through the doors. That was a hard lesson to learn, but today, in front of Malidoma Patrice Some' and company, I danced. I sang, and at times I sang loud. I remembered a time when I was a small child and my great grandfather would sing in church. He was an awful singer, but he did it anyway because he was moved by the words, by the feeling, by the connection he felt to his god, to his religion. I never felt that in church, but I felt it today. I felt the connection to Mother Africa, the cradle of life. Everyone's life, not just that of black people.

This connection to the mother land, to the traditional drums, dancing and culture makes me sad, makes me feel like I'm missing something. My culture is all about modernity, and the past is seen as outdated, worn out, obsolete. We are supposedly the newest, best versions of humanity. Our links to the past are fleeting, if at all. In the Afrikan culture, among Afrikan Americans and other Afrikan traditions, links to the past and to ancestry are the hands that lift this current generation up. Ancestors are respected, loved, and still looked to for advice, even if they had passed years, decades, centuries before. They still gain wisdom, and pass it down to the living. There is a real, tanglible relationship between the living and the dead.

I am reminded of Nancy Welch's article about "excessiveness". One must ask oneself, "Is there something I'm missing? Something more?" After watching and participating in the presentation today, I realize there is a piece missing, a piece of my heart, and a piece of my past that I don't know. I don't know my ancestors, and I have never tried to talk to them. I am missing something, and now I'm searching for that, for something more.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

An Appropriate Poem (Sidebar)

After the post from yesterday, I realized that I had written something similar before. I use the poetry of others to help explain my point, but I also create my own - - this poem was written for a class I took a year ago. It's called a BOP, and you use the refrain from a song to help illustrate your point. I chose Paolo Nutini's song entitled 'Last Request', and I think it's appropriate. Enjoy (or don't).

Jessie Ruckman

Heaving deep breath before I dunk my head and dive
Back under icy academic waters and steals my breath.
Write an article, edit this, run that, design page 1.
Perform CPR, I need and EKG – Jessie where are you?
Run! From the uneasy waking moment, diving back
under water. No time to steal a breath.
But I’m no wiser than the fool that I was before.

Dashing wildly through my life, forgetting that I am
Alive. School, work, school, sleep. Dive, breathe
Dive again. Slipping under water, give my condolences
To life, hold breath, putting world on pause
While I strive for something better.
Holding breath, lungs exploding, learning begins
And I balance and begin to breathe.
Slowly, wearily.
But I’m no wiser than the fool that I was before.

And another day of stifled panic revealed
One thing about who I am is that,
Head under water, pushed to the point
Of break or become;
I’ll beg for the punishment of no sleep and no life.
All for that piece of graduated paper.
But I’m no wiser than the fool that I was before.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

deep thoughts. . .

I am holding my breath, and though I've only been under the icy water for a short amount of time, I can feel life's grasp loosening, letting go. Here it is, almost midnight and I'm at work, stressed out after yet another run-in with my idiot neighbor. I had just gotten out of the shower, dripping wet when he came pounding on the door. Imagine that, he didn't like the fact that I was blaring my tiny little stereo. Even though I'm annoyed that he acted so self righteous, I relished the fact that I was vindicated to some tiny degree. Now he knows how I feel. But enough of that.

I am sitting here at work at 11:59 p.m., with a paper due in 12 hours. Have I started it? NO. It's all in my head, yes, but you can't turn in thoughts by pulling them out of air. Unfortunately papers aren't spoken. But every time I begin to get involved with homework and then hit a wall, my mind begins to wander to the big move. At this point it's just a matter of time, but I feel like I'm getting ready to return home after a long absence.

Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening
Robert Frost

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village, though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there's some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

The meaning of this poem swings from thoughts of suicide (ugh) to my interpretation, and it's a soothing balm for my soul: One can stop, if even for a moment, to appreciate the inherent beauty in things even though he or she struggles to keep from drowning in the day-to-dayness of life. Frost has anticipated my thoughts and soothed my mind by forcing me to realize that A.) I am not alone in my pursuit of sanctity and sanity; and B.) even though I have miles to go before I sleep, I am free at any time to stop and appreciate the beauty of the struggle. That gives me strength. That gives me comfort. I know that I have hurdles to jump and mountains to climb and papers to write before I can finally rest and be at peace, but I also know that I can complete these tasks and be at peace with myself while I do. So while I am holding my breath, lungs screaming for air, somewhere in the back of my mind I realize that I am not just drowning. I'm diving for a rebirth. This insanity of working overtime at odd hours of the day and night, coupled with finishing this semester at school, topped of with planning a move and trying to have some semblance of a life. I know that there is a purpose to all of this nonsense.

It's just a matter of staying awake and not going completely insane before the chrysalis opens and the butterfly emerges.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Oh yeah. . .

By the way, Happy St. Patty's Day everyone! I hope you are all safely enjoying some green beer and shamrock shakes from mcdonald's, lol. I personally will partake in an Irish Car Bomb. Delicious.

Unbelievable Ramblings

I feel so discombobulated. I never even knew that was really a word that I could apply to myself until this trip to Charlotte. Let's be clear about something: I don't want to go home. If I wasn't enrolled in school, there's not a shot in hell that I would be driving home tomorrow for anything other than gathering my stuff and turning right back around. It's not that I hate Fort Wayne - on the contrary. I have come to love it so much that I fear I'll stay if I don't run now. I'm not down with a lot of the mediocrity that I see there (of course, that has a LOT of qualifiers, and I mean no disrespect. I mean that strictly in the terms of my own life.) I have to get while the getting's good, as the saying goes.

On to new business: the job hunt. The job hunt sucks, and I was so frustrated yesterday, after WALKING OUT of an interview that I slammed my new car into a median. No damage to the car, and after splurging on a 1-hour massage, no damage to myself either. But I am getting discouraged, which sent me into a psychological tailspin that goes a little something like this.

"I have a Bachelor's and I apparently get a job. I'm transferring down here, but teaching part time doesn't pay the bills. Plus that's a helluva student loan tab I'm racking up. I'm almost done with massage therapy school, so I could do that. But that's another year, and I would have my master's by then. But where does that land me? I can't see the forest through the goddamn trees. Fucking trees. Solution: chop the bitches down. No, that doesn't work. Maybe I should get my MLS and be a librarian. I like libraries. Maybe. File that thought away. But for now maybe i should go back to waitressing. Hell no. Retail? UUUUUGHHHH! People suck. They make me angry. Maybe a bookstore wouldn't be so bad, though. Hmm, I'll apply to Borders. But I have a DEGREE!!!! It gets me nothing. Where the hell is my Nexium? I feel an attack coming on."

Umm, that was painful. So what did I do? Nothing. I got a massage, and then I got some Chinese food. And I hibernated. With my computer. Looking for jobs. LOL. I'm incurable, a dog with a bone. A bone that hates me and tries to bite me back. Thus is my current relationship with Charlotte. Or, perhaps with life in general. I have the same problems in Fort Wayne, but they seem less intense there because I've settled into a routine. The routine acts as a shield, hiding the truth from me because I've settled into my own personal ignorant bliss. That realization is painful as well.

I feel like Dorothy at the intersection of Yellow Brick and Yellow Brick. . . and Yellow Brick. All roads lead to something, but I am a little scared to find out, to go on a limb, to take a leap of faith. Were there enough cliches in there for you? I know that what I'm doing is right. I feel it every time I think of it, and every time I come here. I feel like I'm at home, but growth is painful. Finding a job is painful. Deciding which path to take is painful. Does anyone have some advice?