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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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

Refuge

She unlocked the door, peeled off her layers, and removed her bra. It’s 6:30, and the might of the day has placed itself on the other side of those hinges. She wasn’t a champion of anything anymore, no — in that space of stucco and stains, she was just herself, reclaiming herself. On her naked floor, she walked around unclothed. The only face she saw was her own in the mirror, pensive and undemanding of her time and energy. In fact, nothing in this world was demanding anything of her right now. Even her newly treated apartment windows dappled the hazy evening light, as if the very building itself understood — she needed things diluted at this very moment.

Bare-bodied, skin left raw to the air, just free to close her eyes, close her thighs, close her mind, she slips on her gratitude. Thank you, she thinks. Thank you for surviving this day.


Daily Post prompt: Champion

The Night & I

I listen to the Night, raucous in its pitch-black silence.
If I scream into the Night, will it swallow all my sounds?
Spit it back out onto another Earth?
Will there be another me listening on the other side?

I stare out into the Night, inscrutable in its mystery.
What secrets does it keep, that the Night surrenders nothing to me?
What dark entity has paid for the Night’s loyalty?
Have I not paid enough in sleepless evenings to learn some confidences?

I feel the Night, my hands reaching for this onyx creature.
Feeling strength in its velvety wings.
I wonder, can I tame the Night?
Could the Night take pity on me, flying me away from sunlit realities?

I speak to the Night, my red-rimmed eyes struggling open.
Tired, I say, “Night, what purpose do you serve, keeping me from resting?
Why do you torture me so, lingering at my windowsill?
Causing my restlessness, then doing nothing to ease it?”

The Night replies in a slow and volcanic voice:

I do not torture; I mirror.
I am not the cause; I am the effect.
What you see in me already exists in you.
I, the Night, do not take action. Only you do.
I do not linger; my place is, and always has been, by your side.

I snort irreverently and think, Well, don’t quit your day job just yet.


Daily Post prompt: Unseen