Raw

The Conversations That Make Me Cry Every Tuesday

I’ve just attended another session of ‘Reclaiming My Time’, a 6-week facilitated dialogue with the goal of building community to dismantle oppressive systems.

I feel unsettled, vulnerable, rattled… like my foundation has shifted slightly. I feel inaccessible to people close to me, and I think I know why. Some of the people closest to me are white, or look white. They do not look like me, they do not walk in the world like I do, and therefore, don’t understand my experience. And that is very alienating. It feels lonely. I feel lonely.

It makes me question where my alignment lies. My experience has been white-washed. And I’m starting to discover the healing power of being around people whose experiences are similar to mine. It is healing for me to see faces like mine, and to talk about concepts like being the perpetual foreigner; being an immigrant; being constantly viewed as the “other”; internalized racism; internalized oppression; what colonialism has done to us, and how it has shaped our narrative and what we tell future generations.

But the question remains: why do I align with whiteness? It’s a question I ask now, and will keep asking. If you are reading this, and are white, and feel uncomfortable, please don’t take it personally. Please take the time to educate yourself and understand it’s not about you.

The deeper I get into this, the more alienated I feel, like there are less and less people who get it.

I feel this sense of urgency because I want children. But I feel like I’m not learning enough, like I’m not learning fast enough, like I’m not prepared enough to teach them the beauty and complication of what they are inheriting. I want my children to feel whole. I don’t ever want them to feel like they’re missing something.

I feel the hole left behind in me where my roots used to lie. I feel it in the clumsy way I speak my native language. I feel it in the contradiction of being with a white man (historically, “the oppressor”) and loving him. I feel it in the way that I often feel like an imposter; someone who doesn’t deserve to be here, and who shouldn’t be here.

* * *

This Is What I Want To Tell You, My Children

You are Filipino.

Your mother is Filipino, but at times, has not felt Filipino. Your mother has been dragged from country to country, each time, leaving little pieces of herself, and trying to glue randomly-found pieces to herself, in an attempt to fill the holes. Your mother is a puzzle put together by pieces that don’t quite fit.

I want you to feel the full weight of your combined identities, and to not take them for granted. I want you to feel all dimensions of yourself and feel the healing pride that comes with that. I want you to feel the weight of your ethnicity, your culture, your appearance — and how people treat you as a result of your appearance. I want you to know that there is a difference between gender identity and sexual preference. I want you to recognize that in this instance, you are able-bodied and mobile.

I want you to be self-aware and to constantly think about how you think. I want you to know the patterns of your mental and behavioral habits. I want you to be a more empowered thinker.

I want you to have options—real options—in who you are, and what you do. I want you to not be constrained by expectations often pushed so early and so often on children.

If you are born a biological female, I don’t want you limited by the color pink or white Barbie’s or the phrases “you look so pretty today” or “boys pull your hair because they like you” or “don’t ask questions”.

I want you to hear the phrases “you can be anything you want to be” or “you are so curious and smart; I love it” or “you know you can say no”.

I want you to have full range of motion, to not wear constricting and form-fitting clothing, so that your perfect arms and legs can reach for the sky and plant themselves firmly on the ground, and in general, take up as much space as possible — so that when you are grown into your body, you are not held back by the very clothing you wear, or the voices inside your head telling you that you are not worth the space nor the time. You are free, you are worth the space, and you are worth the time. Don’t let anybody tell you any different. You’re my baby, and for as long as you live, I want you to feel empowered to pursue happiness in whatever form appeals to you.

If you are born a biological male, I don’t want you constrained by the color blue or plastic toy trucks or the phrase “don’t cry; it means you’re weak”. Right now, that is all I have for you, my unborn male child. It doesn’t mean that I love you any less, because you are also my baby — and I acknowledge that I just have less to say to you at this point in my life. And that is all I can do right now.

There are only three things I want you to be. I want you to be kind, I want you to be honest, and again, I want you to be self-aware. Be kind, honest, and self-aware.


Daily Post prompt: Focused

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Onomatopeia

Tentative

What a beautiful, apropos word for my mouth to capture. Even in speaking the word does my tongue perform a dance that lends credence to its meaning; the three delicate t‘s are timid pecks of the tongue to the roof of my mouth, each touch asking a question. Do you want me? Are you with me? Do you understand me? It is then followed by the slow-burn buzz of the v, almost like a love letter to indecision.

Oh, such uncertainty and possibility captured in one lovely word.


Daily Post prompt: Tentative

I leave the bed unmade

I have a penchant for leaving the bed unmade.

They say making your bed is the right way to start your day. To that, I have things to say.

Who is this ‘they’? Who started this whole culture of manic productivity? Is this the same ‘they’ that popularized that narrow-minded phrase “pull yourself up by your bootstraps”? Because if it is, I have no interest in listening to ‘them’.

Who decided that the right way to start your day was to convert your bed from a soft, forgiving sanctuary to a neat, unapproachable rectangle that screams “we are never ever ever getting back together” (Taylor Swift voice included)?  What is this PSA to the world that tucking in corners, smoothing out surfaces, and fluffing up pillows was the right way to start your day?

Who needs that self-masochism first thing in the morning?

Is it so I feel guilty to get back in, ruining the tucked-in corners, smoothed-out surfaces, and fluffed-up pillows? Is it to invoke the same kind of guilt I feel when I start poking my fork into a beautifully arranged meal? See, I don’t need that. People are already so tucked in and beautifully arranged every day, not a hair out of place nor a trace of dirt underneath their fingernails. It’s discouraging to behold and exhausting to conform to. I am mentally sighing as I write this.

We are always so focused on industry and measurable self-improvement that it has become unforgiving of flaws and the beautiful humanity of just letting things be. Why would I make my bed? Some of the most self-restorative activities I and many other humans need take place in a bed: I sleep, read, and make love in a bed. I confide to my partner in a bed. I cry in my bed. So why, in the name of all that is good and compassionate, would I make it? Does it need to be made? Does all trace of my bodily imprint need to be swept away every morning, like a secret to be ashamed of?

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Does this image make you feel uncomfortable?

No. No, I don’t need that.

I’m going to get up, and savor every wrinkle in the sheets and every disheveled dune of fabric. I’m going to trust that when I need it again — whether it’s 12pm or 12am— it will take me back with no guilt or effort on my part, ready to take in every flawed part of me.


Daily Post prompt: Penchant

Memorization is for basic b*tches

The first thing I could remember memorizing was my multiplication tables in the third grade. I spent three full evenings trying to cement those numbers in their neat little columns into my brain. I recited them like a mantra, for that was what brought me nirvana at the time — pleasing my teacher, Ms. Betty.

Since then, life has been a blurred montage of things to memorize: best friends’ phone numbers so I could call them right after school, addresses, birthdays, street directions, credit card numbers, my passport number when I am lucky enough to travel … all of these a random jumble of letters and numbers. We leave a trail of them as we shuffle through life, walking through doors that only these alpha-numeric keys can open. I look at my trail behind me and I see evidence of someone who has lost several credit cards, moved many times, owned a couple different cars, has had a few boyfriends whose birthdays she has cared enough for to remember. It’s a seemingly ordinary life, if you were to look at my record.

Just remember, it’s the stuff you don’t memorize that make your life incredible, precious, and uniquely yours. It’s the stuff you wrote down, like journal entries you’ll forget and look at twenty years later and chuckle at how much of a hot mess you were. It’s the stuff you felt with your own skin, like the very first time your newborn wrapped her whole hand around your finger. It’s the stuff you utter out of your own mouth, gone into the air and never to be said exactly the same by anyone else on Earth ever again.

Memorize the rudimentaries, but leave enough of your mind uncluttered to experience life at its most complex and messy and beautiful.


Daily Post prompt: Memorize