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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Tower of Babel

babel-06
‘The Fall of the Tower of Babel’ by Cornelis Anthonisz (1547)

* * *

How do you show your love for me?
What languages do you speak, my love?
Dare I ask, do we share at least one common dialect?
Can we, please?

How do I show my love for you?

I prefer to wrap you in words:
In bandages, for your pain (or mine?)
In wrapping paper, for the gift that you are
To wrap you is to suffocate you, my darling;
the better to contain my pleasure & pain

I prefer to assign songs to you:
Wind Of Change, to signify hope in troubled times
So Far Away, to show longing through the distance
To speak to you through songs you love;
for better writers to better express what we both feel

I prefer to add disaster to our story:
You washing away in a flood of indifference
Me trapped in an earthquake, trying to reach you
For our love torn apart is a world torn apart;
it is nothing less than catastrophe

Here I am, raw and yearning and bare
Communing with you in the only languages I know
Of metaphors, music, and natural disasters
Is it enough for you?

We are building the Tower of Babel
Destined to reach the heavens and defy deities
Alas, they chose to bestow upon you one tongue
And I another; are we destined to now fall down?

And so I ask you again:

How do you show your love for me?
What languages do you speak, my love?
Dare I ask, do we share at least one common dialect?
Can we, please?

Have you ever, with a stranger?

* * *

Have you ever fallen in love with a stranger just because?
Caught their eyes, smiled a bit, was intrigued, was surprised?
Have you ever caught the eyes of a stranger just because?
Well, I have — they were yours. And I was mesmerized.

Have you ever talked of life with a stranger just because?
Reminisced, wept out loud, voices cracking in the dark?
Have you ever reminisced with a stranger just because?
Well, I have, with you, my dear, and on me it left a mark.

Have you ever felt the soul of a stranger just because?
Held their pain in your hand, in your head, in your heart?
Have you ever held the pain of a stranger just because?
Well, I have, it was yours — and I simply fell apart.

* * *


Daily Post prompt: Rhyme

Infinite you

This morning, I woke up, and the first thing I saw through my thicket of eyelashes was the skin on your cheeks — tan, slightly porous, little pricks of hair sticking out. You shaved the day before, but adamantly, they push through your skin and out into the air again. Your skin looked different up front; more real, more flawed, more intimate. It wasn’t at all like the skin I see on your face when I peek at you while you’re driving — there’s no dappled sunlight to wash over everything, adding a natural filter.

I love these quiet moments in the morning, when it’s just me and you in our biome of tousled sheets, the promise of life inhabiting every corner of the bed, as our toes stretch and contract, our lower backs rubbing against each other, trying to recover some semblance of the pliability they had the day before. You and I, a slow-moving forest, a couple fossils waking up from our slumber.

I look at the skin on your shoulders, smooth and brown and darkly freckled against the white sheets, like goose eggs found in the wild. The contrast is almost a shock to my eyes. I look at you, and see the miracle that occurred within your mother’s body for the nine months that she carried you; she made your long limbs and your puckered lips and your earth-colored eyes. In the soft, soundless chamber within your mother, a cell would attach to another, infinitely, to make the promise of you, the you that I saw in my bed today. I think of you, and feel the universe that aligned to bring you into my life — what a world to be alive in, the world that introduced me to you.