Precipice

Some people are born with the keys to the kingdom.  Their lives are replete with wheels and cogs that move with laser-like precision.  They’re always in the right place at the right time, and seem to blow up for little more than the uncomplicated act of being. This isn’t to diminish their work or effort, because quite often, these people are loaded with drive, talent or an unstoppable combination of both.  I marvel at them.

I know nothing about that life.  While in the midst of a conversation with a dear friend, she shared with me that such a life is foreign to her as well.  Just as there are those who seem to be charmed.  There are others who exist in a world where they perpetually grind it out, dragon chasing as it were.  This is the life that I know, as does my friend.  I’d be dishonest if I were to say there weren’t some breaks along the way, but they often come with a weighty back story.  It’s not that they aren’t appreciated, because they are.  I give thanks for my blessings every day.  But the accompanying struggle can still wear at the spirit.

It is said that when your will is at its weakest, and you feel that you can’t go another step, your breakthrough is right around the corner.  I’ve lived that.  I know what it’s like to put my kids to bed, lock the bathroom door and cry because I don’t know what the next move might be, only to receive the thing that I need to push me a little further.  Sometimes the “thing” is tangible, other times spiritual or existential; it’s always welcome.  For years I’ve been fueled by the adrenaline of promise.  The high of what will be is what launches a thousand beautiful beginnings: spiritual, secular, and yes romantic.

As my friend so eloquently put it, “I’m just tired of being on the edge of good things.” I see a soul just as weary as I, a true kindred spirit.  She speaks of cracking under the weight of the struggle, yet I see her as being stronger than she even imagines.  I see a person who, despite whatever may be going on around her, pulls determination out of her butt and creates magic.  But everybody has their point where they need an extra push, and that is today’s reality.  The struggle makes for good stories, but there is an urgent need for results.

Every morning, I quote my favorite line from the Chili Peppers’ “Scar Tissue,”  “I’ll make it to the moon if I have to crawl.”  It reminds me that I’m not there yet, and speaks solely to my determination to get there.  I wear my battle scars like badges, and I don’t mind putting in the grunt work.  I’m not an ingrate.  I simply want my patch of earth and sky to make my mark.  There’s a hunger that promise can’t satiate.  After looming over the chasm of the almost and the unknown, I crave my destiny.  I’m jumping.

God, I’ve built my wings.  Please bless me with the wind to soar.

Amen.

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Sunday Kind of Love

Etta speaks to my core when she sings about wanting “a love that’s on the square.”  Part of the reason behind my commitmentphobia is the need for something genuine. If my end game was a relationship no matter what, I could have had one of those.  That blissful ignorance that comes with having a functional warm body doesn’t appeal to me.  Having been in a color by numbers relationship, I know what I don’t want.  I think I’m finally at the point where I know what I do want as well.

For the record, it’s not “diamond sunbursts or marble halls.” I don’t need or want nonstop excitement.  There will be days where I’ll want and need to sit in silence and shut out the background noise.  I’m sure the days will come where my Mr. Someone and I won’t have a damn thing to talk about, and will go to our seperate corners, secure in the knowledge the other will return.  It’s all part of life. But I want it to be because we are choosing one another.  Daily. 

I talk about leaving relationships, not because I’m flighty and indecisive. It’s because I want “him” to be present, and i’d rather him leave than phone it in.  I am infinitely flawed, but my heart has always been open and pure.

If you manage to get your own patch of real estate in my heart, you know it.  It doesn’t happen that often, and when it does, I’m completely incapable of keeping that information to myself.  It’s not about “making the first move.”  It’s me saying, “Yo, this is how it is. Deal with this in the manner in which you see fit.”

Whether or not my ideal will be my reality is for the universe to decide.  But I’m putting it out there because, hell, why not?

Ghetto Child

“Every ghetto, every city and suburban place I’ve been
Makes me recall my days in New Jerusalem.”

– c. Lauryn Hill “Every Ghetto, Every City”

The ghetto is defined as “a section of a city, especially a thickly populated slum area, inhabited predominately by members of an ethnic or other minority group, often as a result of social or economic restrictions, pressures or hardships.”   If you go to the lovely search engine so powerful, I dare not speak its name, and begin to type in “ghetto,” it yields interesting results.  “Ghetto names.” “Ghetto dictionary.” “Hot Ghetto Mess.” I even see “ghetto university.”  Ghetto is a punchline.  Ghetto is a joke.  Ghetto is something and somewhere no sensible person ever wants to be, and if you do, you’re mocked.

I grew up in the hood.  In the ghetto.  East Shore.  My play area consisted of my yard, and the span of sidewalk in front of the two houses on either side of mine.  I heard gunshots.  My park was a haven of drug activity.  Our ice cream man sold more than bomb pops.  And I lived on “the good street.”  I lived in the neighborhood people wanted to leave, but couldn’t.  My home for 18 years.

My hood was never a thing to be ashamed of.  “Where you from, Red?” was always answered proudly, with my hands on my hips in my perfectly effected hood girl inflection: “Ees Show!”  Because with the gunshots and the police sirens, there was so much love there.  One of the reasons I love Khandi Alexander’s character on Treme so much, is because she reminds me of my favorite neighbor, Ms. Roanna.  When I started coming home alone in middle school, she and Ms. Janelle would watch what time I came home and made sure I was okay.  Mr. Payne, our neighbor at the corner, would always fish at the lake and give us the first pick of whatever he caught for next to nothing.  I cried when my next door neighbor Rashonda moved away.  I couldn’t understand why she would or could leave.

My first poem was written in that tiny bedroom, and I performed my first monologue for my mother in that micro-kitchen we had.  It’s where my dad introduced me to Antonín Leopold Dvořák, and I first cracked open Shakespeare.  I lived in that house when I got dressed to see my first Broadway play, and rehearsed my lines as Rizzo in my bedroom.  And I also learned how to make a dollar out of fifteen cents, pop open a lock with a credit card, push start a standard car.  When money as tight, I learned we could go to the store and get a “special” that gave you enough Grade B meat to feed a small country and three antelope.

Being in the ghetto wasn’t something you chose.  It’s something that just sort of happened to you.  As ghetto folk, we took it in stride.  When people use ghetto as a pejorative, it speaks to me of an anger at the audacity to grab happiness, regardless of your situation.  I loved my ghetto stars.  I idolized the girls who dyed their hair with Kool Aid, stacked it out, and wore huge door knocker earrings.  As soon as I bought my first curling iron and bottle of spritz, I did everything I could to get my hair like theirs (failing miserably).  Of course, I liked brainy boys with weird faces and off the beaten path interests.  But, you could bet your check that at any given time, I was equally in love with a boy in baggy jeans, a polo and a fitted with a stud in his ear.  Hearing “Say Red…” in that slow New Orleans drawl still makes me melt inside just the tiniest bit.  That’s something that will never change, and I wouldn’t if I could.

I read the classics.  I listen to bounce music.  I’m not a dichotomy.  The ghetto completes me.

“She want that old thing back”

Being grown is just not what I thought it would be.  Jason and I were going to be best friends, forever, walk to school together.  Then he would marry Nicole and I would be a world renown tap dancer/guitar player and marry a rapper.  I hadn’t quite gotten to the part of the world where I learned that having two left feet would make tap dancing, not impossible, but difficult.  Lil Wayne hadn’t been invented yet, so I didn’t know marrying a rapper wasn’t a great idea.

Of course, there were things that I had in my youth that I truly miss.

Sugar in Soda

If you’ve had a Coke since the mid-80s you’ve consumed a can full of high fructose corn syrup.  (I don’t know what you Pepsi drinkers did, nor will I investigate. You’re communists and you spit on babies.)  There’s something more…syrupy about it.  All of it.  Don’t believe me?   Next Passover season, go to a grocery store in a Jewish neighborhood and look for the Coke with the slightly different top (I think it’s blue or green or something).  This Coke is made with sugar.  Taste its goodness.  The curse the rest of your life (or at least the rest of the year), because finding that sort of goodness again is rare.

Hair Bands

I’ve always been an eclectic soul, and in my pursuit of good music, I fell in love with hair bands.  Listening to me sing Whitesnake’s “Hear I Go Again” is probably one of the most epic moments of terrible warbling you’ll ever experience.  But you’ve also never witnessed such passion and fervor.  Something about that type of music just brings out the tortured soul within.  If I’m in the car, and an hair band power ballad comes on, batten down the hatches chief.  It’s gonna be a doozy.

Snacks were snacks and we liked them that way

Remember when you got Oreos in one big pack?  And they were all the same size? No pussy 100 calorie snack bags either.  To make your lunch, you would grab that sandwich bag (which didn’t seal if you grew up in my house, so you had to twist it up), cram it with Oreos or chips, and go for what you know.  You’d get to school, everything would be crumbled up and you’d like it.  *mumbles Whipper snappers with their reusable Gladlock.  And not only that, back in my day, we didn’t need those 100 calorie packs because we engaged in the miraculous invention called

PLAYING OUTSIDE

Before Facebook and Twitter, before Nintendo and Xbox Live – even before the internet – outside was more than a place you passed through on the way into the house from the car.   We used to frolic there.  You would skip, and if you’re lucky, traipse.   It hasn’t dawned on you that you’re giving your kids these hundred calorie snack packs, and they’re still looking like Willie Roaf?  SEND THEM OUTSIDE.  If it’s far, get your behind up nd go with them.  You know you’re probably fat too. (Guilty.)

“Do You Like Me” Notes

If someone wanted to go with you, or vice versa, a binding contract would be handed to you by a close associate, you would mark your response, carefully fold the paper and return it to the confidante, and it was over.  One of two things happened:  either you went together, or you got flipped off.  I don’t know about yall, but I didn’t hang with that “maybe” too tough.  Either we do or we don’t.  There’s no place for indecision when you only have ten minutes left for research, and you still haven’t mastered double dutch.

Not having to bust it open for every hip-hop or R&B song

I try to stay out of the “these kids don’t know good music” argument, but for some of these folks, Mystical’s “Shake Ya Ass” is a classic.  No lie.  Someone is going to hear that song and tell their child through prison bars, “That’s when music was music.”  I’m sorry “You already know what time it is, reach up in the dresser where them condoms is?” does not even begin to compare to “Let me love you down, even if it takes all night.”  Both are extremely direct.  You know you ain’t there for prayer meeting.  But one is just so much more – mmmm – than the other.

Skipsies

Skipping school was something I just LOVED to do.  Particularly in my senior year.  I was so over it, and was going through a lot with my mother’s illness, I didn’t want to be home, but I didn’t want to be at school.  My friend had no first period, so she’d park in front of school, wait for me, and we’d head to Ted’s Frost Top.  I never got busted, but even if I did, the biggest “wrath” was upsetting my parents.  Not saying that it was a walk in the park, but I’d still have food and shelter after that.  If I play skipsies today (not that I WOULD), I have to stay in my spot like it’s the Honeycomb Hideout, lest I get spotted by a work snitch.  I saw her and she wasn’t eenmuch sick.  Then I’m homeless.  Sucks.

No Call Waiting

I would like this to be a service that I could turn on and off at my leisure.  Yes, I know that I can send the call to voice mail.  I don’t want to do that.  When I’m having my heart to heart conversations with Marques Colston on the phone (in my dreams), I don’t want anybody calling in to ask me if I saw what Theresa did on Real Housewives of New Jersey or to call me form their toilet so I can hear their bubble guts symphony.  You call me. I’m busy.  Call back until I ain’t.  Or fine someone else to bother. I’m on the phone with Marques anyway.

Joy in the Simple

Running for the bus with a boy you liked so that you didn’t get in trouble.  Eating crawfish on the lake while drinking Strawberry Hill Boone’s Farm (because that’s one of the few things you could buy and afford and no one was old enough to realize it was swill).  That’s the kind of stuff that I miss.  Not knowing any better.  Of course, in the real world, I wouldn’t give up my knowledge or experience, but I’m a throwback.  I like thinking about the good old days.

If you could resurrect three things, what would they be?

Wildflower

My mind is all over the place. Forgive me if I ramble.

“I was leaving the South to fling myself into the Unknown…I was taking a part of the South to transplant in alien soil, to see if it could grow differently, if it could drink of new and cool rains, bend in strange winds, respond to the warmth of other suns and, perhaps, to bloom.”

-Richard Wright

If you’ve visited my spot with any regularity, you should know by now that I’m a maverick.  I won’t spend an extensive amount of time discussion how my choices to march to my own drum brought forth strange results. My life was my life, and though it’s heavy with mistakes, I try my best to not exist in regret.  Recently, I’ve had clashes with the present and past that seem to have triggered an evolution within me. Confronting my demons and challenging my own ideas have become what I do in my down time.  After years of observing and learning about people, I’m taking the time to learn myself.  I’ve cracked myself open and viewed my frailties and fears for what they are; part of me.

I’m a child of warrior women.  Women who would see the world crumbling around them, and stand stock still and hold it up on their shoulders rather than run. If asked why, I would imagine their answers would be much like mine:  it’s all they’ve ever known.  Part of me dares not put out my hand for the softer side of life, because beneath the surface, having that denied to me seems unbearable.  In short, I’ve chosen to be a warrior, because the alternative represents the unknown, and the unknown scares me in ways I can’t verbalize.

I feel that as a result of my defenses – my ability to shake it off and adjust – people don’t think I have real feelings.  Or if I do have feelings, that I’ll just ultimately get over it.  Those moments make me feel like a fraud, because I hurt just as much as anyone.  Sometimes more so.  My pride that comes with my strength though, won’t allow me to say, “Yo, I know it doesn’t seem like  big deal, but you just ripped me in half.”  There’s no shame in strength.  But to make it an obsession, and deny myself those moments when I need gentleness, is cheating my spirit.  So I’m learning to speak on my vulnerabilities and those moments where I need my heart touched.  They deserve protection; not to be treated like shameful secrets.

There’s something freeing about confronting my actual fears and frailties.  Rather than wishing them away, I’m working to own those too.  In so doing, I have become braver and stronger than I ever believed I could be.  I feel myself becoming, not a reinvented stranger, but rather my true self, fully realized.  You can call it whatever you see fit; I call it blooming.

Luminosity

I’m parturient with possibility.  Investing in my family, my friends, my work and my dreams has proven to be infinitely rewarding.  I don’t have enough hours in the day, and I wake up and go to bed with a full plate, and I’m loving it.  My book is on the right track, and I’ll be working on my proposal SOON.  My eyes just watered a little when I typed that.  All this time I feel as though I’ve been grinding it out for nothing, and my book proposal now seems like a tangible thing.

Last week I had a heart to heart talk with my sister about the things that were holding me back, and I expected her to be completely ambivalent.  She gave me the greatest gift ever:  Understanding.  She knew exactly what I meant, and was on her own path in pursuing her passion.  For a person who so often feels misunderstood, that was monumental.

Passively waiting is no longer an option.  Action.

Under Fire

There’s a chick at my job that is the walking definition of “hot mess.”  The chaos residing in her aura is both audible and palpable.  I’m stumped whenever I try to think of someone more discombobulated than she.  She also happens to be awesome

I always admire a broad that can take a punch.  No, I don’t work at Fight Club (how awesome would that be?). But I’ve personally heard this woman get verbally eviscerated, in ways that would make me level the entire building.  Her response? *Diet Pepsi can top pops* I guess I’ll start working on that.  The chaos in her aura was interrupted by a lone voice stating, “And nary a fuck will be dispensed on the process.”

Though I have the capacity to deal with tough situations, I always have that moment where I’m shaken up, trying to decide whether or not I want to curse you, punch you, or engage in activity that would require a place to hide your corpse.  It is discernible.  If this particular woman deals with this sort of inner conflict, she gives no indication of such.  That is amazing to me.  True tests of character materialize when others reveal their ugly side.  There’s a part of me that wants to be like her when I grow up.