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, a powerful & glorious mess

People are fragile. We all sit in display in dusty, long-forgotten rooms, like pieces of china ready to shatter at the bang of a door. We are put on pedestals and expected to stay up there — these are unsafe expectations for denizens made of glass.

We are so fragile that even occurrences from years and years past still leave marks. Sometimes, we are so unaware of our own fragility, that it takes years and years to realize that we have been experiencing the fallout of our own personal disasters for a long time.

* * *

I was sexually molested as a little girl. What he did, what he made me do — they are as misty as morning fog. I can still remember, but sometimes it seems so far away, like a dream.

The molestation itself is not what haunts me. It is the ripple effects that still leave me unsteady, and prevent me from gathering myself up again — like the fact that my sexual life did not start appropriately, or that I had a very unhealthy view of sex for a long time. My self-destructiveness rendered my body into trash, to be disposed of to anyone who paid attention to me, anyone who would bother to notice me, pick me up, use me, then throw me away.

I equated my self-worth with how effectively I could seduce someone.

“Love” was lust and being used. Jealousy was my go-to reaction when that attention I desperately craved was taken away.

My self-destructiveness eventually evolved into people-pleasing. I would bend over backwards, turn myself inside out, etc. for individuals whose approval I wanted — i.e. everybody. I would always allow the other party to wield more power, because I felt like I did not have the right to put my own needs first. I had the perception that I was helpless to change my circumstances. I always had an excuse for keeping quiet or for giving in:

“I’m not an expert on this,”

 “I don’t want to be an inconvenience,”

“I should just be content with what I have.”

After several heartbreaks and a couple regrets, I finally grew the instinct for self-preservation.

had  to protect myself — I was the only one who could.

I finally realized that my mind and soul, though deeply damaged, are worth saving. Through a few well-chosen friends, I finally realized that my mind and soul, though rather twisted, are worth celebrating. I am worth it.

* * *

As fragile folk, we need to recognize that the damage done to us does not lessen our worth. We are all imperfect and flawed, and we all absolutely need to be celebrated. There is no one like us—there is no one else like you—and we are all worthy of healthy, healing love. Sometimes, the hardest part is loving yourself, you with all your chips and cracks and stains and fractures.

People are fragile, and when the bang of a door knocks us off our precarious pedestals, we shatter and leave a glorious mess on the floor. But I am slowly learning to smile to myself, as it takes courage to leave my broken shards out on the floor, to better inspect them, and know that I can recover, all the wiser for it.

I am still working on being more gentle with myself, and to become accustomed to the idea that I was not—am not—the one to blame for the traumatic periods of my life.

You have power, I am learning to whisper to myself with love.

 It is my mantra every time I see the sunrise.


Daily Post daily prompt: Fragile