In Which Life Stopped but Didn’t

Somewhere, hidden deeply on this blog of rambles and rants is a wise quote. A quote so wise that I’m pretty sure I didn’t say it and that I just paraphrased it. And I’m going to paraphrase it again because I literally cannot remember what I originally wrote.

“when a person doth die, it feeleth as though thine world should cease. Alas, it doth not.”

Moral of that story is that I couldn’t hang with Shakespeare on my best day.  A greater moral is that life truly does move right along with someone dies, and this truth is disturbing to say the least.

After finals wrapped up and I finally conquered Chemistry with a passing grade this summer, I thought that life was on it’s way up hill. Things were looking better and brighter. I felt like I was a young David and my stone had just pierced the delicate flesh on Goliath’s forehead.  Yes, I was victorious that Friday. And then Saturday rolled around. It was hot, of course, and sunny. I mean, it’s Mississippi. It’s hotter than….hot things….My stepdad came in the house, smelling like wildlife and magnolia trees, and told me that he was taking the neighbors fishing.  He’d already been fishing that morning, but was really excited about finally going to this secret fishing spot way out in the woods that our young neighbor knew about. I love to fish, but in that heat I let him have it all to himself. I figured I’d catch a fishing trip with him in the brief weeks between that weekend and the start of the fall semester. So we shared a good laugh, and I joked about him having to drive back to the house to get his phone that he left on the charger. As I watched him through the peep hole of the door, to ensure that he would not be knocking at the door for anything else he had forgotten, I didn’t quite realize that our jovial exchange would be our last.

Earlier that week I’d been having an odd feeling. I kept asking myself what I would do if David (my stepdad) died out of the blue. It was sort of the feeling I got right before my Grandfather passed away, but he had been sick for over a year so death was looming over all of our heads like a storm cloud waiting to erupt. I chalked the feeling up me just being paranoid. When you have anxiety, you’ll ALWAYS think, “well, what if the worst thing that could happen actually happens.” Never fails. It’s the unfortunate part of anxiety.  Well, Ma and I were customizing a pizza order for dinner when the neighbor’s mom came knocking at our door, looking agitated and pained.  As her and ma conversed, I thought that perhaps she was just wondering when David would be delivering her son home, as it was getting dark and the rain, which suddenly began pouring down minutes before, was not letting up.  But my anxiety started escalating as I heard them talking, and I knew something was wrong. And when I heard Ma say the words, “heart attack,” my heart sank. I rushed into the living room to stand beside her as she talked on the phone with the neighbor who had gone fishing with David.  From what I could understand, something had happened and they were thinking it was a heart attack.  Of course, I’m mulling this over like, “A heart attack? Okay, we’re going to go to the hospital and he’s going to have emergency surgery and everything is going to be okay.” Wrong. What Ma failed to tell me is that the coroner was already on their way to the fishing pool. That the neighbor had done CPR for 20 straight minutes to no avail. And that David was already gone.

Driving that long ass forty-five minute drive to the middle of Edwards, MS was like an out-of-body experience. The whole time I just kept thinking this isn’t happening. This isn’t real. This isn’t really happening to us. When we finally made it to the scene, the police standing at the road immediately took off their hats and began with the apologies. But Ma was a woman on a mission. Through their explanation of what happened Ma stopped the sheriff and asked, “Okay, where is he?” They pointed us up a long, gravel drive way and allowed us to walk up to where David was laying. Even as we saw him on the porch of the pond owner’s home covered in a black tarp the reality of the situation did not set in. Ma was praying and went bent over David, moving his head so that he faced her. Saying his name and patting him, praying that he could be that Saturday’s Lazarus. But it was not to be. And when they had to move him to a body-bag to prevent the ants from attacking, I just knew deep down inside, where faith and denial intertwine, that he was going to move. That a miracle was going to happen and he was going to bust the zipper on the bag or cry that he couldn’t breath in there. But it didn’t happen. Ma walked around, dazed and calling David’s friend for the name of a funeral home. I was dazed as I saw them lay him on the back of the firetruck and drive him to the front of the driveway to await the funeral home. And we were eerily calm. I’m sure the police officers out there were puzzled as they asked us if we were okay, and we said in even tones, “Yes. We’re fine.” And the wait. THE WAIT. The funeral home did not arrive until 10:00 PM.  So we had to drive home in complete darkness. And if I thought the drive there was bad, the drive home was worse. First off, we got lost, SUPER lost. My phone battery had died and Ma’s was dying, but thank God, we arrived in a church parking lot that was clear enough for us to pick up an internet signal. After Ma’s phone directed us to our designated street which would lead us to the interstate, it died as well. On a night that can make you question the inner workings of God, it also affirms that God was looking out for us. But we silently drove home. No music. No talking. No prayer. Just silence. And this thick cloud of disbelief. He was just fifty-five. It was a beautiful day. He never showed any signs. He is no longer here.

Shock is the most powerful stage of grief I have ever experienced. When my grandfather died, I wasn’t at all shocked. I was expectant. And I was shamefully glad. He had been suffering for months with no relief. His kidneys were failing. He was in pain every second of the day that he was awake. He’d lost more than fifty pounds. I was happy that he no longer had to be in pain in an Earthly vessel which no longer functioned in a manner conducive to living. And when my biological father died I was only five years old. I understood that he was no longer coming back even though I didn’t understand death (and Ma didn’t tell me either), but with the support of our family who assisted us financially and emotionally I adapted to the loss. But when David died all I could think about was how he laughed on his way out of the door. How we were just planning to call him to see what he wanted for dinner right before the fateful knock at the door.  And to make matters oh so worse, we got up Sunday morning and the sun was shining. Cars were driving to wherever their destinations were. And life went right along. Monday came and we searched frantically for life insurance information and life moved on. Tuesday, my brother and Ma had to finalize a funeral home and life moved on. Wednesday, the stress took a toll on my brother and we had to take him to the emergency room. Shortly after getting him back home to rest, Ma and I rushed to a meeting at the cemetery. And life fucking moved on and in my mind I thought this is the most messed up thing. I felt like the whole world should have stopped. I wondered how we could live on, move on. What I needed to do about school. What ma needed to do about the house. Did we need to move back to our hometown? Did we need to sell everything? Panic consumed me and I just wanted everything to cease for just a minute so that I could catch up with the chaos that had unfolded. But it didn’t. It never does.

And then Friday, the day before the funeral, my sister gave birth to a six pound, nineteen inch healthy little girl and I realized that I needed to accept that life does not stop when a life stops. As the newborn baby squirmed in her bassinet, trying to warm up under the heater, the epitome of continuance sank in. Probably for Ma more so than me.  As crazy as it is, we have to move on, and it even sounds heartless to say. We have to move on. Our bodies are still functioning. Our lungs still filling up with air. Our hearts still beating. And we are still living even when we don’t know how.

Every time a person would ask me am I okay I smile and say yes. I joke. I laugh. Not because my stepdad meant nothing to me. Not because I’m made of stone. But because I can cry anytime alone. Anytime. All hours of the day and night. But I’d rather laugh and smile with others, enjoy that moment in life when I have it because once it’s gone it’s gone. Time will not pause for me to grieve. This isn’t to say that everyone should just stop crying and accept death. We each move at our own pace and mourn in our own ways. It’s perfectly healthy and normal to cry or to not cry. So don’t let anyone tell you how you should grieve. And I was fortunate and blessed enough to have enjoyed a moment of banter. To have seen his smile and heard his laugh. And when I think of him I see his happiness. His mischief. His annoying habit of busting into the room while I’m taking a quiz, talking on speakerphone with one of his fishing buddies. Or how he always ended a text or a phone call with, “10-4 good buddy.”  I’m glad I got experience having a dad, even if it was for a brief time. And I’m especially glad Ma got to spend a decade with someone who loved her and cared for her. To think that the day that would have been their 12th anniversary was the day she placed a rose on the casket before they lowered it into the ground is gut wrenching. But we’re still here. And we have each other. Plus, all of our family came to town and it was good for us all to be together again. It was like a signal that we needed to do it more often and on more joyous occasions. But we’ll have that chance because, once again, life remains. It hasn’t stopped at all.

I like to think that David is celebrating in Heaven. That he hates he left early and suddenly, but that he knows that where he is now is paradise. I’m still nervous about the future and what it holds for Ma and our family, but I plan to make the best of it. I’m still enrolled in school, and I know that David would want me to finish (he was more excited than me when I returned). And Ma has so many people looking out for her. Trust me, we got mobbed at church yesterday and our family has been texting nonstop.  So while life going on is pretty crazy, it’s also kinda beautiful in a way. But definitely more crazy.

 

In Which the Wave Ends

I knew the wave of mania would end at some point. It stuck around for a good while, which was fortunate. But I’ve been expecting it for days, and the end finally arrived today, riding in with a cloud of rain as opposed to the cloud of fire that accompanied Moses and the Israelites. During these times I tend to have a lot to say and absolutely no words to say them with.  It’s when you’re restless, but you’re struggling with idleness. Your hands search for anything and everything as a means of occupation. You clean the bathroom. You sweep the hall, the kitchen, the laundry-room. You wash the dishes three times. Four times. You wipe the stove top and the counter down. You open the window, close the window, open the window again.  You pick at the strings on your guitar, but your fingers and your mind are too disconnected at the moment. It’s not music. It’s noise. And you finally force yourself to sit down and accept that you don’t really know what to do anymore.  You’re itching for some sign of life. A roll of thunder. A burst of laughter. Something. Anything. But the weight of silence, which first came crashing down, seeps into your skin and you slowly accept that there’s nothing. Nothing but the sound of the fan whirring on medium and your shallow breathing to fill the void. It’s these times that I take a deep breath and tell myself, “all you’ve got to do is survive. Just keep surviving. It doesn’t matter if you don’t do anything productive at all. Eat cookies, drink water, watch television, read, don’t read, daydream, toss, turn, settle down or don’t.  Just don’t give in.”

In Which I Got a Second Chance

I’m trying to ride this wave of positivity as far as it’ll take me. So this post is another fairly optimistic one.

Yesterday, after I typed that post about forgiveness, restoration, and the like, I closed down my computer and told a lie.  Well, to be honest it was at least four hours later, but here’s the deal. What had happened was….My stepsister got a 2011 Chevrolet Cruze about two and a half years ago. Ever since she drove it off the lot, in all its silver and shiny chrome glory, it’s been giving her all sorts of trouble.  Not even six months after she became it’s official owner the engine light came on and stayed on no matter how many times she took it back to the dealership for them to fix. Last week my stepdad noticed a puddle in the driveway where she usually parked her car.  Upon investigation,he realized that her car was leaking something, but he couldn’t pinpoint the source. Assuming it was the antifreeze leaking, especially since later that week the car began running hot everyday, he took it to a mechanic that he knew personally to have it fixed.  Lo and behold,  the guy delivers worse news: the water pump needs to be completely replaced. In his opinion the car needs to be fixed as well as it can be and immediately traded, as he feels it’s going to end up being a money guzzler.  As a result, my stepsister has been bumming rides to work with her friend in the mornings, and I have been picking her up in the evenings.  Yesterday she messaged me asking could I take her to work this morning at 7:30 AM.  Well, my exams are at 8:00 so I honestly have time to take her to work and still be on time for the exam appointment. Except I like to be at least 35 minutes early since the parking lot fills up and traffic gets congested since a middle school is right down the road from the college. Guess what this girl did? *hangs head in shame* I lied and told her I had to be at school by 7:25 AM. She readily accepted my excuse and said she would try to find another ride. The reality is I could have easily said yes and dropped her off, but I was being selfish and going according to my personal comforts. I wanted to be at the school by 7:25 but I didn’t need to be. I wanted to be super early so I could sit in the car and cram, but I didn’t need to be.  So I told a useless, selfish lie.

Immediately after telling the lie I was convicted. I knew the Holy Spirit was jabbing me in the heart going, “You could have taken her to work. You’d want someone to give you a ride if you needed one!” And that’s true. If I were ever in a situation where I needed a ride to campus or somewhere and my car was on the putz, I’d want someone to be there to help me out. Yes yes, I know. THE SHAME!!!  While dropping her off at her apartment following her night class (I did let her use my car to go to school so don’t judge me too harshly) she told me that the friend who had been taking her lived across town and would probably have her an hour late today. And the Holy Spirit started jabbing me even harder. I think he upgraded from jabbing to stabbing at this point. Gawd, I was getting shanked by Jesus. “Tell her you’ll take her. TELL HER YOU’LL TAKE HER!” And yet I maintained my resistance, thinking to myself that I was justified to stick to my schedule without her interruptions.  But once I pulled into the driveway back home I knew I couldn’t keep up my selfish charade. I sent her a text letting her know that I could take her to work. I didn’t tell her I lied because….well….I don’t have a legitimate reason but you would have done it too!!! She messaged me back letting me know her coworker was going to pick her up and thanked me anyway. I sent a reply letting her know that if the ride didn’t work out to just hit me up. And that was the end of that conversation.

Later that night I asked the Lord to forgive me for lying and being self-serving.  Even though I knew he forgave me I still was disappointed in myself for not being a blessing to someone. Which is ironic because every morning when I say my prayer I ask God to let me be a blessing to someone. And when he gave me the chance I blew it. *shaking my head* The guilt ate me alive all night. I mean, ALL NIGHT. I got up to use the restroom at 2:00 AM and the guilt greeted me in the bathroom, along with the realization that there was no toilet paper on the roll.  WHY MUST YOU PUNISH ME, JESUS! I tried to soothe my remorse by reminding myself that while I didn’t admit to my lie, I did extend the invitation for a ride.  But it didn’t work. The whole situation didn’t sit well with me at all.

Well this morning, I get a message asking me to pick her up so that she could use our shower at the house since the one in her apartment always clogs.  Five minutes after I told her I could, I get another message telling me that her coworker’s tire went flat and she wouldn’t be able to pick her up. And that was funny….even though it wasn’t funny. Immediately I realized that God was giving me another chance to be the blessing I blew the chance of being yesterday.  I’m not going to say he put the poor girl’s tire on flat because if you have never been to Jackson….well, let me tell you. The roads down here are terrible. Pot holes everywhere you turn. I wouldn’t drive a brand new car down here if ever I got one. But he used the present circumstances to extend the invitation of redemption. Like, “Okay, you said you’re sorry and I forgave you. But now I’m giving you another chance to do the right thing.”  So I took her to work and guess what? My usual parking space at school was still empty (even though I missed my parking lot buddy this morning. I have no idea who he is but every morning he parks on the opposite side of me bumping Gucci Mane) and the school traffic completely cleared out. Of course, I did have to ride through some congested traffic on the interstate but it was hardly a hindrance to me being on time for my exam. And I also got there at 7:50, ten minutes before I actually needed to be.

So I was grateful that God allowed me to correct my mistake since many times we are unable to go back to fix a flub of ours. Am I going to tell her I lied? OF COURSE NOT! So she can kill me?!?! Well she probably wouldn’t kill me; she would have done that when I backed her car into a brick post two years ago. But instead of murdering me in the yard, she pitied me. Most likely because by then she already started hating the car.  Now she likely would curse me out or strangle me. But I’d live. And I’m still gonna live….with that lie cleverly hidden on this blog where she’ll never ever ever ever see it. That’s right, I’m taking it to the grave guys. Sue me! (please don’t. I’m a college student…..)

 

In Which I was Encouraged

I’ve been staring at my title trying to reconcile with the fact that “encouraged” is spelled correctly because I’m having one of those moments where words don’t look correct…Moving on….

Those who are currently in school, or know people in school, are aware that this time of the semester is riddled with mid-terms. You smell that? *inhales deeply* that’s the smell of coffee, stress sweat, and tears.  Other than finals week, this is the most stress inducing period of school. So far I have taken three exams and have two left before my trial finally comes to an end.  Now I’ll spill on my grades because it relates to what I’ll say later.  I took my Spanish Exam first, about two weeks ago.  I only missed one question on the exam, but I would have actually made a perfect score if the exam allowed us to go back to previous questions and change the answers (it was a computerized test). Unfortunately our teacher’s requirements did not permit this *side eye* Thus I missed a question even though I literally realized my mistake on the following question.  BUMMER. Such is life. Yesterday I took my Algebra exam and surprisingly came out with a 98. You’re talking about somebody being excited????  After borderline failing AP Calculus senior year of high-school ( I had a D every semester…except the semester I had an F) my confidence in my math skills shattered so this was definitely the boost my deflated ego needed. This morning I had my exam in Marriage and Family, which has proven to be my hardest class second to Algebra. The class is interesting and I honestly love the materials we study; at the same time, it’s reading heavy so it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. I’ve been managing to maintain an A in the class, but today….today I made a B on my exam. Now you may say, “Amber that’s still passing. Why are you whining?” BECAUSE I CAN! No but really, I don’t like to make below A’s in class because for one, I’m a full time student and have ample time to study. Therefore I should be able to study efficiently and diligently enough to make an A on an exam. Secondly, I’ve sucked at a lot of things in life. Basketball? Sucked. Dodge-ball? Sucked. Popularity? Sucked. But I’ve always done well in school. As a result, much of my identity is tied to my academic performance. Don’t be like that….it’s a slippery slope, my friend. Due to this my confidence took a hit when I didn’t perform as well on the test as I believed I should have. I know, I know. It’s such a shallow complaint.  But regardless of the shallow depths of my complaint, I was still upset with my grade. I’ve been messaging my aunt, since she was the relative most adamant about me returning to school, giving her updates on my grades.  I texted her today to let her know that I made a B on the exam, thinking she may say something about me needing to study more or something along the lines of what I would say to myself.  After an hour, she messaged me back saying she felt like cheering and telling me to keep up the good work. And that almost made me cry. Almost….I tend to be a bigger crybaby when I’ve consumed coffee which is unfortunate since I love me some coffee! But her message was truly touching because it’s the encouragement I needed in that moment.

There were a number of reasons that my aunt’s text encouraged me.  For one, it was nice to be reassured that my “under performance” was not as big a deal as I thought it was. And secondly it reminded me of my relationship with God. I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned it before but I watch Steven Furtick’s sermons online each week. I started this tradition last year because while I worked at the hotel I never had Sunday’s off so I couldn’t attend church. Even though I’ve quit the hotel (because I’m obviously a quitter) I still watch each week because I genuinely enjoy his teachings. At some point this week I heard either him or the campus minsters at the church speak about how even when you feel like you didn’t live up to your potential or you feel like you slipped, God is still cheering you on. Don’t ask me which sermon. My brain is brimming with facts about cohabitation, distance formulas, and libertarianism so I can’t remember. But to me, my aunt’s message was God reminding me that God still sees the best in me.

This reminder is not only in regards to my grades but in my life in general. I’m hard on myself about everything I do. If I mess up I don’t handle it like, “Ah, well it happens. Get em next time, tiger!” It’s like, “What is life? Why am I failure? Why is crustless bread higher than regular bread? Woe is me!” I hang on to failure like I’m breastfeeding it, nurturing it, raising it.  I have a hard time letting things go. Most times I have to take a deep breath and chant, “It’s not that deep. It’s not that deep. Yea but I coul-IT’S NOT THAT DEEP!”  Thus when I fall short I’m thinking God is responding the same way that I would. We get this thought in our minds that God is shaking his head at us and questioning how he could have created such a flawed creature. When really he’s waiting to pick us up, dust us off, smile on us, and tell us keep going. And he never stops rooting for us.  A couple of weeks ago Pastor Furtick had a guest pastor speak and at the end of the sermon the pastor admitted to losing his job because of his alcoholism. As a preacher you have to imagine that was hard on him. It would feel shameful and embarrassing because you’re supposed to lead your congregation, but you’re struggling with an addiction which has now become public.  He ended up going to rehab and the weight of his condemnation burdened him to the point where the ONLY thing he enjoyed was walking and watching the sunset.  It was during one of these walks that he said God spoke to him, telling him, “I’m not done with you yet.” And that’s such an uplifting message because when you’ve fallen, whether intentionally or unintentionally, if you allow God to work towards your renewal and restoration he will. But that’s if you allow him to. So I’m trying to learn to take my disappointments to God in prayer and say, “God I know I didn’t do the best I could have or should have done. But I can’t hang on to this any longer. I’ve allowed myself to cry about it, but now it’s time to get back on the move. You’ve still got good plans for me and still see the best in me so I know that this isn’t the end.” As Pastor Furtick said, “God is the God of our dead ends.”

Now I do plan to change up my study habits and try to study harder, but at the same time I know that this slip up is minor in the bigger scheme of things. Of course, someone may be saying, “well I did something really bad! I mean…REALLY BAD,” which may be the case.  But God always allows for correction and always extends forgiveness.  One of the campus ministers from Elevation Church said in his devotional yesterday that forgiveness is a gift. It’s not just a dreadful shot to help you get well. We shouldn’t look at forgiveness as burdensome because needing it means we screwed up. But we should instead look at it like, “Wow, God loves me this much that he’s giving me forgiveness. He’s giving me the opportunity to start over again.” I know this may seem contradictory to what I said a couple of posts ago when I spoke about the infamous pastor accused of sexual assault by a few young men. But there is an important difference that must be noted. While sin is equal in God’s eyes, no sin is greater than the other, it is not in society’s eyes. So we take certain blunders more seriously, such as rape, murder, assault, etc. It is also vital to make sure people are aware that these things do not go unnoticed nor should they be tolerated because they harm others. Was I harsh in the way I said it? Yes. I tend to have the terrible habit of typing a post in the height of my emotional distress and thus being very abrasive. I later considered the fact that I could have maintained a strong stance but with a more gentle approach. Yea yea, I’m working on it.  At the same time, I stand by what I said about those issues being prevalent and needing to be addressed. But we have this habit, in general, of equating the world’s punishment with God’s forgiveness. Truly, if you commit a crime you will suffer some sort of punishment because we are not immune from the laws of this world. But if you have committed a crime or done something that would be deemed serious and you wholeheartedly ask for God’s forgiveness he will give it. This may not block repercussions, but it does make you right with him which is ultimately the most important thing. I know that’s difficult for those who have suffered to hear because I, like many people, have a hard time with forgiveness when I know I’ve been wronged. So I know those who have been wronged are justifiably upset. But it is still the truth of the matter that forgiveness is always available.

So I’m going to go ahead and wrap this post up. I’ve got to finish my philosophy for the week because I sense that this man’s exam is going to be tough.  Hopefully I helped encourage someone today. If not then just forgive me for crying about my grades; I am, after all, a sensitive little muffin.

In Which I Cried

Why I feel the need to name all of my journal posts “in which….” I have no idea. But that’s beside the point.  After reading about Khaled Khateeb, the cinematographer for the documentary The White Helmets, being barred from entering the states for the Oscars I decided to watch the documentary.  As you know I love documentaries in the same way I love non-fictional literature. While I was on hiatus last year, I spent most of my days watching Holocaust Documentaries. I also was addicted to the show Evolution of Evil on AHC. Did I watch documentaries about civil rights or slavery? Well I tried, but it gave me such bad heartburn after hearing the word “nigger” repeatedly I had to literally stop before I killed over….or killed someone. You know I live in Mississippi. I would have been tempted to find the first house with a confederate flag…..Yes, I know. Sad *in my Trump voice* So I have to stick to reading books about those two topics. I handle those better. But I like to watch and read about these things, in order to learn more. A lot of the massacres, wars, etc are things we actually did not learn about in school. I guess our system is afraid that if we know about these things then we may be tempted to repeat them. So they stick to white-washed, watered down history. We end up with crap like this happening: https://petapixel.com/2017/01/21/artist-shames-disrespectful-holocaust-memorial-tourists-using-photoshop/ But we won’t get into that today.

ANYWHO, back to The White Helmets; let me just say that I cried the entire time. For one, I’m just a cry baby so you know….there’s that. But watching small children being pulled from rubble or hearing the volunteer men saying that every life has value….well, who wouldn’t have cried? You? You monster! Trying to detail the documentary wouldn’t do it proper justice so I encourage you to watch it for yourselves. It’s on Netflix (I’m not sure if it’s on any other outlet). It’s both heartbreaking and encouraging. The strength in which these men carry themselves, even in the midst of their own losses, is indescribable. And how many of us would do that? Of course we think of our own armed forces, whom we are thankful for because many of us wouldn’t dare sign up for service. Say what you want but I’m one of those people .Sue me. Rich people and the politicians who start wars are also those people but eh, that’s neither here or there.  Still, there is a staunch difference. Rarely are we attacked on American soil. When we think of our military men/women fighting, we think mostly of THEIR safety because they are the ones put in volatile and often unstable situations. Though they fight for the safety of the country, they generally don’t fear that while they are away something will happen to those of us back home.Because, frankly, over here in ye ole America, you’re more likely to be killed by your jealous boyfriend or in a crime of passion. In terms of Syria, they’re fighting on their own soil. They leave their homes to help put out fires and evacuate citizens knowing that a bomb might drop on their streets, killing their family and friends. And yet they don’t lose hope. And I’m not saying that to dampen the honor bestowed upon our military. But you do have to acknowledge the difference there is in the two situations.

So yes, the documentary is a must see. If you don’t like crying then suck it up and watch it anyway. Just make sure no one else is around. I hate that Mr. Khateeb was barred, and I think his work with the film was much needed. Not only were the men he filmed in danger, but he was as well.  The picture was eye opening and honest, without attempting to romanticize tragedy (you know, how fictional films do….it never fails). So yes; just yes.

In Which I Ask How

I was planning to do another political rant, but I decided against it. At least for today. I’ll bottle up all my rants, let them age like fine wine, and then pour them into the glasses of my unsuspecting followers.  Is this post related to politics? Eh….sorta. But just sorta. But on the plus side it will be quite short.

To those whose religious affiliation has put a target on their backs, has magnified the delicacy of their places of worship, has resulted in verbal and physical assault, what can I do to help?  Are there any trustworthy organizations (unlike Redcross) to donate to? And even more than donations, any advised action that I can take to help?  I usually spend much of my time wondering how the collective group of Christians can do better by our Muslim and Jewish counterparts, but I realized that I have to do my part before I can go spouting off about what everybody else can do. Because if I’m not doing my part, then flapping my gums is just me being a loud mouth hypocrite.

With that being said, I want to verbally (well this isn’t exactly verbal but you get my drift) state that I support the safety and freedom of those with Muslim and Jewish beliefs.  I understand that we have different religions and forms of worship, but I respect your beliefs.  I desire that you have no fear of someone harming you, insulting you, threatening you, etc.  And the fact that you have to even endure such, let alone survive in a society that embraces the violence against you, is beyond ridiculous.  I think it took the president far too long to respond to threats against Jewish people, and I can’t recall a single instance that he has responded to hatred against Muslims.  I do believe that he has refused to squash the budding Antisemitism that is rampant in his circle of followers, perhaps for fear of losing their support. His administration has said little of the Alt-Right movement which is overflowing with Antisemitism.  He has endorsed a culture that fears everyone who wears a head scarf and reads the Quran. Or who even “looks” like they are Muslim. His followers (and even some of his opposition because it would be a lie to deny the existence of Islamophobia in the left wing) blatantly ignore the fact that ISIS attacks Muslims far more than they attack non-Muslims.  They also insert violence into the Islam belief system though the Quran speaks against violence. Instead they group everyone in together, a tactic which could honestly be used with the Klan and Christianity if we want to be real with ourselves.  But I can’t change the reaction of the whole of my fellow Christian peers.  I can only offer my voice and whatever other resources are needed to be a help to those who are fearful, hurt, and angry.  I also don’t want to overstep my bounds by trying to the be the voice of Jewish/Muslim Americans since I am neither. I want to openly express disgust for the treatment you all receive, but I want to leave the platform to those who are directly impacted.  Because I’m just a extra in the movie. If I get to reading the whole script, while the lead actor stands in the back ground trying to speak over me, then I’m proving to be a poor ally. So I definitely don’t want to do that.

Again if anyone has suggestions on ways I can help, let me know. And if there is anything in my post that needs to be changed, then also feel free to let me know. As the old Baptists say, “Charge it to my head, not my heart.”

Remember when I said this would be short??? Yea…..I wrote that so long ago that you probably forgot…..

In Which I Try to Anchor Down

Is anchoring down correct sailor terminology? I can’t even swim so I know nothing of sailing. It’ll pass though.  I’ve realized that my mind has become a very chaotic place lately.  Between quadratic formulas, travel bans, and the like, the space behind my forehead has become a pool of muddied waters.  And really it can be greatly overwhelming and has proved to be such.  One of the first few posts I did on here was about different things that anchor me whenever I begin drifting into no man’s land. Usually these anchors are effective and help me to settle back into the soft hands of sanity.  But as of late, my anchors are failing to provide me with assured stability.  I imagine that it gets that way for everyone from time to time thus I’m sure many can relate.  The best way I can describe the feeling is the constant need of a Xanax and sleep because we are constantly being bombarded with often discouraging news and thought provoking work (darn you algebraaaa) which leaves us drained and listless.  It seems that when I am not doing homework, I’m on Yahoo reading about our corn husk in chief and his committee. With that comes the opinions of his little kernel followers who do their best to peg every opposing party as delusion or demonic.  And politics have become so ingrained in my every day life that it feels like it is controlling every fiber of my existence. I would rather not three to four posts straight relate to Trump or my disdain, but I’m quite consumed by the need to voice my opposition to him so…well….you get it.

I usually branch out on some general statement which will shortly follow.  I think when you have certain ascribed statuses you are unable to fully break away from social and political issues.  When your status is included in the minority group then you are more keen than if you are the majority. For one, minority history begs that we be more vigilant than our majority counterparts lest we fall victim to the repetition of history.  So when we are often told that we “don’t understand” (specifically “blacks don’t understand.” Don’t do that. It’s black people. People of color.  But don’t use blacks. It’s just not right) then I most often think that it is actually the other way around. We understand more than our counterparts because the realities of the injustice and unfairness of our world are exposed to us at young ages.

I remember when I was in the third grade.  We had a pool party at our teacher’s house as a reward for good grades and behavior.  Two weeks prior I went to the Wal-Mart in Senatobia with my mom to pick out a swim suit. I don’t remember the style of the suit, but I do remember it being a blue and sea foam green one piece, since blue was my favorite color.  My mom didn’t have the funds to splurge on the suit at the moment so she put it in layaway for me.  The plan was to come back and get the suit before the party.  Well, the plan fell through after she completely forgot, and we ended up at our town’s Wal-Mart the night before instead. There I found a two piece swimsuit. To best describe it would be to say that I was channeling my inner Lava Boy.  It was a fiery orange and yellow; the top was a tank and the bottom were shorts.  Nothing too scandalous other than the fact that I was suddenly The Flash.  When I went to school the next day, as we would ride home with our teacher Mrs. Hawkins later, I took out my swimsuit for my friend Alaina to see. The look of excitement beamed in her eyes through the thick lens of her glasses. “I’ve got the exact same one!” she exclaimed, reaching in her bag and pulling her lava suit out.  All we needed was someone with a blue and gray suit to be our Sharkboy at that point.  While we both chattered in glee another classmate, who was white, came over and stopped dead in front of me. Apparently she was less excited about the quaintness of our local Wal-Mart as it turned out that she had the exact same suit.  “Why didn’t you get swimsuit for black people, Amber?” she spat venomously before she walked back to her group of friends.  Mind you that Alaina who is also white shared the same suit, but she was immune from chastisement. It was only me who had breached some unspoken rule.  Following my return home from the party I spoke with my cousins about the matter. And well….if you think that I’m bad on here they’re a thousand time worse in real life.  The girl’s name was as good as mud by the time they finished spitting and stamping on it, her parents, and her ancestors.  At the time the moment stuck with me and my dislike for her grew to unknown depths.  It was only later, when I was much older, that I thought to myself, “I wonder what her parents said at home if she, a third grader, thought that I didn’t deserve to wear the same bathing suit as she did.”

It is much the same when young women report on the ages that they were first sexualized.  Many stated their teenage years when breasts are beginning to blossom and hips begin to spread. And a surprising many revealed that they were 4 or 7 or 9 when their bodies were commented on sexually. This was especially common in young black girls, who often develop younger than their white peers.  Some stated that they were deemed fast tailed for wearing the same shorts that their skinnier, less curvy friends wore to beat the summer heat.  Or that people made comments about their sexual activity, of which many were not engaged in, being evident due to their thick hips and lips. And curves aren’t necessary to warrant lewd comments. You can be straight as a board and thin as a pencil and still have your grandmother tell you to put some longer pants on because your uncle is coming for dinner. Childhood is often short lived for us.  My first encounter was while I was standing in the line at Kroger at the age of thirteen. I had on denim capri pants with brown, suede criss-cross stitching up the outer leg and an old red band t-shirt I’d borrowed (stolen) from my sister.  As I waited in line, I could hear two firemen behind me making comments about my legs and quite obviously eyeing me. And when I looked back at them, to ensure that it wasn’t my imagination, this did not cause them to cease.  I quickly paid for my items, probably junk food, and shuffled outside to the car where my stepdad sat waiting.  I never mentioned it to anyone.

There are two things that you constantly made aware of: your gender and your race.  These two characteristics will dictate your pay, your chances of getting a job/loan, your likelihood to get arrested, etc.  They are not things that you can strip out of after a hard day of bearing the weight of the world.  Now, the lines of gender are further blurring so that’s a whole other thing. Not to mention the disproportionate assault/murder of transgender people so that really is a whole topic within itself. But generally if you are a woman and you are a person of color, the cushions of being a child are often snatched away well before  our male and white counterparts are made to part with theirs.  Of course this is not always the case, but it is most often the case.  Each day while Ma helped me bathe (I couldn’t be trusted to be in the tub without being monitored. I played with bath toys and got out smelling like dirty water….) she would point at my flat chest, my behind, and basically circle my entire pelvis with an imaginary laser while she rubbed me dry with the towel with the vigor of sanding wood and remind me, “Don’t let anyone touch you there. If it’s not me or I’m not there don’t let them touch you!” Only for me to go to school second grade year and have to go to the office with a group of female classmates and report a boy to the principal for grabbing our butts everyday. Like soldiers we lined up in front of the principal’s desk, but holding our heads down, ashamed that we were even knowledgeable about butts much less speaking about them being grabbed.  And I remember Ma sitting my brother down and talking to him about how to act if ever the police stopped him. He was no older than thirteen.  For us there tends to be no shield, no blinder that stays in tact until we graduate from high-school and branch into “the real world.” Our real world starts when we are much younger.

So I really don’t want to have post after post after post about politics, crime, racism, sexism, etc. I generally don’t like to be serious. But now a days, I’m just tired. I told my friend while we were discussing the opposition to the Black Lives Matter movement that I was exhausted. Can you win for losing? It’s difficult to break away from reality because it rules our timelines, our new stations, and ultimately our conversations and thoughts.  And the more I read my recent posts (this one included) I realize that it’s almost impossible to break away.  It follows us.  And I believe it follows minorities more so because we suffer more in its wake and must always be prepared to stand for something. Even when Rosa Parks stayed in her seat she was standing for something.  I can’t think of a time when we don’t have to reply, debate, protest, defend, answer to, fight. Is there ever really a break? I used to think that I was grasping onto the discrimination of yesteryear.  That division was non-existent. Then life delivered a reminder, certified and signature required, while walking on my uncle’s land with my aunt for exercise in the heat of June. I had on shorts, because who in their right mind wears long pants or tights in Mississippi during the summer?  My aunt and I chattered away, mostly about her hate for exercise, as we walked within the safety of the fenced in acre. Across the street a pick up truck occupied by two older white men and some kids pulled to the end of their driveway. The truck was rusty and red, with mud splattered on the grill.  The kids were sandwiched between the men, barely able to peep over the dashboard. The man driving looked at me and called out of the rolled down window, “that nigger’s got some nice legs,” waiting a minute, likely for my reaction, and then sped away.  And I was the one embarrassed about the encounter, as though I had caused it. It was my mark, my blotch. And that’s what life is like.  So yea, I probably will get on here and continually rant and rave. And when you think to yourself, “they don’t understand” what you really need to ask yourself is do you?