Ramadan Day 3 – Ok with the Headache

 

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I considered breaking my fast early today on account of this demonache that’s kicking my ass. Yesterday, I took 2 tylenols and then 2 motrin and still couldn’t kick it. Oh well.

Winnie called to tell me of her adventures. It was late at night, and I couldn’t speak for long due to the seismic nature of my brain throb. Winnie likes somebody but recently ended it with somebody else. She tells me she needs some space to address the changes in her life. It’s nice to be around queer folk with an active dating life; I think that maybe some of their energy will rub off on me. Winnie is asking herself how much space to take from the first huni as opposed to the second huni.

 

Some people need more space than others. It’s tricky. The balance of space as opposed to interaction. I remember a friend, La Profesora, who once told me not to take too much space during a conflict. It’ll get weird, she said.

 

I never get the timing quite right when I take space from people. More often than not, it’s because I miss them more quickly, or because I’m taking longer to process what is happening within my world, and so often, it’s because of external factors. Because we never really know how space lands on someone.

 

Maybe that’s the point of space, though. That it causes things to change so things are always a little awkward when two people come together again. There’s something new. They have to be willing to get to know this new person.

 

I’m not the best at distancing myself from my emotions, but when I go into a space of processing my feelings – I go deep. All the better to come back out with gold.

 

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Debbie used to tell me all the time when I was dating someone to stop talking to them about the problem. Spend some time together, she’d say, without the problem. Enjoy each other’s company. Constantly addressing your problems doesn’t help your relationship. You need to have fun to remind each other of what is truly great about being together.

 

This advice is now bittersweet to me. It’s also wise. Thanks, in part, to this advice I have so many heart-ripping memories of my time with Penny before we split. Debbie’s the same person who once told me that most relationships end because one or both people in it don’t have the tools to navigate difficulty. It has nothing to do with how much they love each other, she used to say. You’re either mature enough or you’re not, and both people have to be there.

 

Another friend, River, once said to me after a break-up that she was very hopeful for love. We were at a sports bar in Brooklyn taking refuge from the pouring rain. I’m single and I’m heart-broken, she said, but know that I have the capacity to love deeply, so if I can love that way, somebody else can feel that way about me too.

 


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“Allah wants you to take joy in your gifts. He didn’t give them to you to cause sorrow.” The Doctor always advised me not to worry about becoming arrogant or to be embarrassed when I did something great. He told me that even though empathy has caused some problems in my life, that it also allowed me to accomplish those great things. How much time do you spend thinking about all the great things you’ve done? Is it as much as you spend thinking about your mistakes?

 

There’s a secret blessing to Ramadan. Spoiler alert (but only if you don’t observe Ramadan).

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It’s a reset button!

 

No, seriously. You know how everybody wants to rest their mistakes, or take back those words that hurt you (yah I know it’s a song), or mend fences . . . well, it’s not that kind of reset. Sorry. In the sense that life isn’t about regrets. It’s a reset for your emotional state You get to reflect. To clear. To change yourself. And, one of my favorites, to forgive yourself.

 

While fasting, I lack the energy to fight the truth about myself and the hard feelings that inevitably arise from those truths. I only have one direction I can travel:

 

INSIDE

 

And it’s beautiful here.

 

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I thought about not going on the hike at all. McClellan Ranch Park. The beating sun. The wild turkeys. My headache had moved into the territory of aftershocks, but still. As we winded our way through the hills, we passed the cemetery where my father was buried. I tensed.

We made a single-file line through the path. My sister, one of my nephews, my mom, my brother, my cousin, his girlfriend. I was being given an antidote to exhaustion. My brother noticed I was lagging.

Do you want to sit down? He asked. Are you okay?

I looked up and said I needed to take a picture.

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There’s unresolved conflict between my brother and me, between my sister and myself, between (well maybe it’s me…hmmm…), but we were walking in the sunlight.

 

I didn’t have the energy to hang on to worry or doubt over how we’d resolve these fights. So I hung on only to the joy of being together.

 

 

 


Q: In your dreams what do these new structures look like?

Ocean: I don’t know if it’s possible to say. I just feel the dream. I would articulate it as… Is it possible for queer joy—outsider-hood—to be so mundane that, in that simplicity, it’s radical? To insist that this joy does not have to end in tragedy, in death, in loss? We can just simply sit at a table and be okay for the next five minutes. For a lot of queer people, we can’t even say that. In most of our childhoods, we can’t even say, “When was I okay for five minutes in my consciousness?”

From A Conversation with Ocean Vuong on Being Generous in Your Work in The Creative Independent


 

 

Ramadan Day 2 – I’m Too Hungry to Feed the Pain

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“The urge to point out someone else’s failure to tidy is usually a sign that you are neglecting to take care of your own space.” – marie condo, the life-changing magic of tidying up


Today, like so many, I have a fasting headache. It started at around 4:30 or so in the morning right after I prayed and made some (half-ass…) dua. My sister texted me and asked me for a conversation. It was way too early for her to be texting me. I’m the only one in my family who observes Ramzan.
I’m praying, I texted. Are you okay?
Yes, she replied. How long are you going to pray?
When we finally spoke, she felt that I’d been rude to her. It was causing her some anxiety, she said, to have to address this with me.
Within minutes what started as a desire to get clarity and to ask to be treated in a way she felt she deserved — became an all-out telephone war, loud and brutal, with various accusations around how much we care for each other. By the time we hung up, nothing was resolved, and everything felt difficult and angry. Things were definitely somebody’s fault, but between my thirst and the anvil getting smacked on in my head, I wasn’t sure who was up and who was down.
I can’t deal with this right now, I said, as we ended the call.


I know it’s twisted, but there’s something really wonderful about fighting during Ramadan if you accept the premise that the fighting happened. Yeah, you could have saved the fight for another day. Or, you could just bite your tongue out of respect for the fast. But, hey a fight’s a fight.
Usually I feel so terrible after a fight that I can’t function because my emotions are at high tide. However, after this fight, I promptly went to sleep, and when I woke up, I knew that I didn’t have the energy to continue the fight. I knew that the fight would be waiting for me to deal with it later. I knew that the fight didn’t matter as much as keeping my fas. Plus, that pounding headache that required my attention.
I asked myself what the most important thing was for me to do, and the answer came at me with a chime: go to IKEA with my brother and get a desk.
So that’s what I did.
Fasting requires you to conserve energy and to do only what is truly important to you. This argument was a test. I wanted a wonderful, peaceful Ramadan without any difficulty. Instead, I made it through one day and then ended up in an argument.


There’s nothing quite so terrible as conflict with your family. It’s like the yardstick by which you can measure every other conflict. I know homies that are chill as all get out, but the second their mother asks them to do something or criticizes their appearance or tells them to change something up, it’s like nuclear meltdown rage. Or if their brother or sister makes some rude comment, the response is nothing less than a summit about whether or not you ever truly respected one another. Zero to 100 – family fights are like the porsche roadsters of the road.


Zero to 100 – family fights are like the porsche roadsters of the road.


Family trouble is ubiquitous. Nobody is immune. Least of all me.
The closer I get to a friend or lover, the more aware I am of how the ways in which they fight (or don’t fight) with their family influences how they deal with difficulty toward me. This doesn’t mean that everybody closely follows the pattern of their parent(s) conflict orientation style. It only means that people sometimes bring their whole history into any fight they have with you, and sometimes they’re trying to correct for that history. Sometimes they’re over-correcting for that history. So they’re like standing up to you in a way that isn’t actually about the fight that you’re having. If you call them out on it, then usually you’re screwed. Nobody likes to be patronized.


During my MFA program, I was angry at this white guy in my program who was, at the time, a dear friend. Marky Mark was the kind of person for whom the word ally was a label or a reward, but when it came to actually standing up to racism, he didn’t have the backbone. He had his reasons, but he wasn’t really the kind of guy who liked to fight.
I was hurt for a while when some racist shit happened in one of my workshops, and he wasn’t able to provide support. We tried but couldn’t move through our differences.

I remember Amadeus, a freakin amazing poet, taking me aside and saying why are you taking his failure so personally? It got a bit heated because I thought Amadeus was full of shit. I said, I’m taking it so personally because if he really loved me, then he wouldn’t constantly be fronting that he was some kind of conscious activist type and then hanging me out to dry when people are like writing that Asian women are delicate lotus flowers they’d like to fuck.
It’s kind of selfish, Amadeus said, to take people’s failings personally. It’s not about you. It’s definitely not about whether or not they care about you. You could make an argument that people never do anything except to meet their own needs and that nobody’s behavior is ever about you.
And as we ventured back and forth into our philosophies of behavior, I caught onto the simple truth about why, so often, I fight with people in my life. Because I’m not sure they really love me.


Because I’m not sure they really love me. 


Fighting during Ramadan strips away so much of my pretense — and leaves me feeling vulnerable. I don’t have the energy to throw up all the defensiveness that is usually there for me. Mind you – my sister and I fought right after Suhoor, when I’d just begun the fast.
Ramadan leaves me present with my pain, but it also makes the pain more manageable because I have a distance from it.

As my brother and I walked up and down the aisles searching for a desk, I could barely concentrate on walking or what had just been said to me. I definitely didn’t have the energy to revisit my fight with my sister.

Pain, I realized, has an energy of its own, and it requires food and water in a way that I don’t. That seems like a funny thing to say, but that’s what I learned today as I was fighting with my sister — that my anger and feelings aren’t necessarily the things that should govern me. That I need a space to move through them that doesn’t feed them. That when I fast I’m not only abstaining from water and food, I’m abstaining from delivering my limited energy to my conflicts.


Faith
Tim Seibles

Picture a city
and the survivors: from their
windows, some scream. Others
walk the aftermath: blood
and still more blood coming
from the mouth of a girl.

This is the same movie
playing all over
the world: starring everybody
who ends up where the action
is: lights, cameras, close-ups—that
used to be somebody’s leg.

Let’s stop talking
about God. Try to shut-up
about heaven: some of our friends
who should be alive are no longer alive.
Moment by moment death moves
and memory doesn’t remember,

not for long: even today—even
having said
this, even knowing that
someone is stealing
our lives—I still
had lunch.

Tell the truth. If you can.
Does it matter who they were,
the bodies in the rubble: could it matter

that the girl was conceived by two people
buried in each other’s arms, believing
completely in the world between them?

The commanders are ready. The gunners
go everywhere. Almost all of them
believe in God. But somebody should

hold a note for the Earth,
a few words for whatever being

human could mean
beneath the forgotten sky:

some day one night,
when the city lights go out for good,

you won’t believe how many stars

 

 

When Ramadan Begins but Depression Doesn’t End AKA How to Fast While Depressed

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“…and now we know one of those murdered was a Reedie. Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche had just graduated last year with a degree in Economics from Reed College. We’ve had a lot of loss lately. This barbaric act is no more brutal because it took a brave young kid at the start of his life, no more brutal, but certainly a reminder to many who may not be paying attention that this problem — the disease of white supremacy and racism — it’s not just SOME of our problem. It’s not trivial. It takes us out. It takes you out. It doesn’t care about any of us, so every moment any one of us stands up for it or gets out of its way we all pay.”

Samiya Bashir

Poet and Professor at Reed College


I had written nothing. No, not true. I had two paragraphs describing where I think I am in life. It would be a pretty brutal read. I mean literally it started like this:

Ramadan Mubarak!

Then went straight into this:

Last year I didn’t keep my Ramadan journal. I didn’t fast. I actively hated God, and even reading that line hurts. Leading up to this year’s fast, the emotions that consumed me were doubt and aloneness and rage. Right before Ramadan last year, my partner left me footsteps away from what I thought was a move to California and to a new family – children of our own. She broke up with me a month after I’d returned from MacDowell – so close to a completed draft of a novel I’d been working on for nearly seven years. It was so easy. The summer came, the ground disappeared, and so did I.

Our whole relationship we talked about wanting to have kids together, and then one night after I went to yoni ki raat, I came back to our cozy apartment, and she told me about the birthday party she’d just attended, how much fun it was to see her friends, two happily married gay men who were planning to have kids, and by the way, she’d been talking to Jason at the party about how she was feeling, and she wanted me to know she wasn’t ready to have kids. A week and a half later, she was gone.

And I’m not proud of much, but if I’m going to be kind to myself, I’d like to say that I managed to learn one lesson from a lifetime of heartaches. After she broke up with me, I let her go. I didn’t beg for her back. I didn’t call. E-mail. Text.

I lived the lesson the Sufis taught me: if the sword comes, give up your wrists and let the cut be clean.

One of the hardest decisions I ever made was the one I made to get back up, to move from Brooklyn to the Bay Area, and to try and get pregnant with my family’s help, to be okay with a life as a single mother. It’s a decision that makes me cry because it’s so oddly heart-breaking and poignant to me. I can hardly believe I made it. Sometimes I can’t believe that somebody who’s lost their confidence can make a decision this bold.

That’s when I learned one of my favorite (or least favorite) lessons from the Doctor – just because you feel terrible, and on the outside things look grim, doesn’t mean you’re not handling things exceptionally well.

So yeah I’m the same person who sat in my sister’s house for the summer of 2016 crying when I wasn’t working, and one afternoon, after hearing one of my dear friends who was 40 that she was pregnant, I started to convulse and sob. She and her husband were so excited.

My sister held me as we waited for her kids and her husband to come home.

“My life isn’t worth living,” I said, “because I lost my dreams, and they’re never coming true.”

“You didn’t lose your dreams,” she said. “They just have to come true in a different order.”


“You didn’t lose your dreams,” she said. “They just have to come true in a different order.”


How to Fast While Depressed

I had written nothing, just jealousy with a side of fear. I wanted to shout happy things about peace and love to everybody, but why should I lie? Depression steals your decency.

When Pele called today to tell me her happy news about their much-deserved success – a new publication, all I could think was well I can’t get out of bed, and I got nothing going for me. I’m struggling with allergies that are preventing me from settling down into my mom’s house, with alienation, with an inability to write. I can’t even get a desk or clean out a closet or finish a book or get a goddamn sperm bank to call me back. I felt alone and pathetic.

Why should I fast? I thought. All my friends are happy and enjoying success and new relationships and writing and performing and even my beloved queer NYC community, full of angst, is all together fasting for Ramadan and giving each other love and solidarity, and I’m alone in the suburbs with a headache. All my straight friends have got babies and partners. And everybody who isn’t in any of the above categories is amazing, a survivor, tough, and has their act together and is on their way to finding everlasting love and happiness despite their obstacles. Everybody and everything in everyone’s world is fine. Except me.

Of course, if you’re reading this, and you call me a friend, I hope some of you are at least vaguely appalled that I would lump you into the category of people for whom everything is even remotely resembling fine.

But bear with me because this is my blog, and my internal monologue is hardly reality.

That’s the problem with depression, you know. It talks really loud. It fills a room. You ask it to leave, and it doesn’t give a shit about your awesome consent politics. It plays the same song over and over again. On repeat.


How to Fast While Depressed

I finally made it out of the house because Pele who I was so jealous of for being an awesome writer and having a girlfriend and living in NYC and being younger and hotter than me, and had more friends and who was a better friend and who even dealt better with their allergies than I had dealt with mine also told me that they were buying avocadoes and foods they wanted to eat so that they would wake up for Suhoor.

Naturally, I developed a terrifying ache for avocados after that conversation so I asked my sister to drive me to Trader Joe’s. On our way back, I confessed to my sister that I basically was a terrible jealous petty person who viewed my friend’s good news as basically a sign that I wasn’t any good or worthy.


a terrifying ache for avocados


I told her that I would never finish my book, and that I’m too old to have a kid, and that I’m alone in this world and I wasn’t even sure what I was doing fasting. There was a time when I was helping Pele along, but she never actually needed my help because it’s not like I was further along than her. I was just older. I feel like such a fraud that she used to come to me for advice, and I feel rotten because she’s a better writer than I am, and she’s way more successful now than I ever have been or will be.

Now I can’t even write my blog because then Pele will see it and she’ll know it’s her, and she’ll feel bad because it took her a lot to even share her success with me. She’s embarrassed, and I don’t want her to feel bad because this is on me.

Well, my sister asked, is anything making you feel better?

Yeah, one of my friends Zelda is depressed, so at least I’m not alone. But no seriously I texted her and I was trying to cheer myself up and I couldn’t write my blog post because it was so depressing and so I randomly asked for a prompt.

What did she say?

She said to write about being depressed.

My sister laughed. Maybe Pele will like seeing what you write, I said.

Probably not, I said.

Wait a second, my sister said – what about Bruno Mars? Or Sia? I mean they were always helping other artists and they like worked for ten or twenty years or something before they became famous for their own work.

I felt instantly relieved. Yeah, I said. I’m like Bruno Mars or Sia. I reached for my phone. Let’s listen to their music it’ll be inspiration.

I flipped the screen until I got to spotify, and then I kept typing in the password before smacking my head, realizing that I’d changed the password to something complicated and forgotten to copy it down.

I can’t even get spotify to work, I yelled. I am wretched.

We couldn’t stop laughing.


I can’t even get spotify to work, I yelled. I am wretched.


How to Write While Depressed

I texted Zelda today who was fasting in NYC. She wanted to know how I was doing, but I was mostly not wanting to share with people. I told her that I was trying to write my blog while she walked me through her various Iftar options. At least she has options, I grumpily told myself.

S: I need a prompt or topic for my blog.

Z: I been thinking a lot about depression during Ramadan.

S: I don’t want to post this shit bc it’s so depressing.

Z: LOL but if it’s real it’ll be relateable

S: Do you have depression right now?

Z: I have had depression most of my life lol


I’ve been kind of depressed and stressed out with the maze of the sperm industrial complex, I said.

Have you heard the story of the Persian King? my friend Asha asked me from NYC while we spoke on the phone.

Well there’s a great King of Constantinople or Alexandria or somewhere in the Middle East or maybe Turkey, and I can’t remember exactly where he was because this is a story that was told to me. He’s very rich and he owns all these amazing lands and treasures, and one day he says to his people, I want you to build for me a great library, and in it I want you to house all the knowledge and all the greatness and all the beauty of my kingdom.

So his people go and they begin to build the library, and every time they present a version of it to him, he tells them make it grander, greater, and more amazing, and so it takes them years and years and years and years…

And they finish it, and they unveil it to him in a magnificent ceremony. He takes one look and says, I’m older now and I can’t possibly get through all of this, and I don’t have time because I have to conquer some more lands — so I want you to take everything, all of it this entire library that you’ve spent so long building, and I want you to take it and make one room that represents everything that is the library.

And so his people are in shock, and they’ve worked so hard, and they can’t believe it. But they go and they begin to build the room, and even though they often think to themselves we can’t possibly do this – they continue to work, and finally they present him with this one grand room full of the kingdom’s books and treasures.

But by now the King has aged and so he turns to them and says, Actually this room is still too big, too much, and I can’t get through this whole room, so what I need now is a shelf, can you build me a shelf, and just condense all of this room into one shelf?

And so the people are like, how are we supposed to make all of this a shelf? That’s really hard. They still go and they manage to take only the most important books and things and to put them all on one shelf.

And after some years, they proudly present to him the shelf, and they explain that this one shelf contains all the important knowledge and priceless matters of his kingdom.

But the King is old and weak and has fallen ill, and he says, I don’t have time for a shelf. Look, can you make me one book, and just put what I truly need to know in the book.

So the people do that, and they give him the book.

But now the king knows he’s dying, and so he says, I don’t have time to read this book. Look, take this book and write me the one sentence that I need to know before I die.

And the people write down one sentence on a piece of paper, and they hand it to the King.

The King opens the piece of paper and on it is written:

This too shall pass.


 

“That’s Your Depression Talking. You don’t know what’s going to happen.” – The Doctor

 


 

won’t you celebrate with me

Lucille Clifton

 

won’t you celebrate with me

what i have shaped into

a kind of life? i had no model.

born in babylon

both nonwhite and woman

what did i see to be except myself?

i made it up

here on this bridge between

starshine and clay,

my one hand holding tight

my other hand; come celebrate

with me that everyday

something has tried to kill me

and has failed.

KIT Friendz

I’ve been blessed to have friends. When I left DC, the Bay Area, LA, I tried different things, but I’ll be honest that it was my friends who excelled at keeping in touch that have kept in touch with me best.
A friend once accused me of having an inner circle and an outer circle. It took me a long time to realize that he was afraid of what this meant for himself. He was someone who had a really hard time allowing people to be close to him. I’m one of those people that once I feel close to you, you’re in — it’s always the same – even if years have passed. Many of my friendships have stood the test of time, and some of them have not. Most of that, to be fair, isn’t determined by keeping in touch, or not.

Here are some lessons I’ve learned about keeping in touch:

1. 1-1’s (video or phone)

Scheduling 1-1’s are necessary but not the most important thing, contrary to my instincts. If my friend or I tries to schedule a 1-1, there needs to be follow-through. Very few things feel worse than dropping the ball on the 1-1, but by the same token, I find that the ball gets dropped on scheduling 1-1’s quite a bit.
I think this is because at some point in any LDR — long catch-up conversations can cause people anxiety. Usually this is after a few months of being apart. The trick is in recognizing when it’s important to make time for a 1-1 because one friend or the other or both needs/wants that support.
By that same token, it’s hard to relive difficult and even happy moments with several friends, and if a catch-up is delayed for a longer period of time — that can often require a lot of emotional intensity. If a person goes through a rough patch, or any period where they’ve had a hard time catching up with many people — it leads to actual stress to try and schedule 1-1’s with several people. Be wise about when you schedule a 1-1, but do schedule them whenever you can as nothing quite replaces a 1-1 over video or phone.
(Many people hate phone or hate video – it’s important to understand your needs and your friends needs in this department)

2. Frequent texts and snapchats and messages about little things tend to help (a link about an article, a meme, a funny picture — anything of interest to you or your friend — or any small thing that says I’m thinking of you) Thanks to my millennial mentors on this one! I often feel intrusive reaching out, so this is a good one for both parties, even if it’s small, it tends to open the door to connection. That’s a two way street that leaves the option open for less awkwardness when you do see each other or have that 1-1.

3. Visits are the best thing — I wasn’t able to visit LA frequently which affected things when I left. Hit Me Up if you’re coming to the Bay. Not everybody can travel though, so this worked better with very mobile friends. Many people have started getting less and less mobile though as they’ve aged — especially those who’ve had kids, which is interesting to observe in the queer community where many of my friends have chosen to not have children, and many have. I would say more of my straight friends have had kids, however, then those in my queer community, though this is starting to change slightly.

4. Build community – Friends of Friends connections (already existing or new) really help. This one surprised me. It’s easier to KIT by grouping your friends (or if your friends are friends with each other) and to stay in touch with a group where there’s several energies all trying to keep the entropy from winning. Also, ppl also feel empowered to reach out when they’ve had contact with you as part of a community or group.

5. Cards & Letters / Physical mail is probably as good, if not better, than 1-1’s — though admittedly this is not my personal strong suit, but I

6. Common External Interests — Organized activities & interests & even common identities are particularly as a launching point. Like if we share an affiliation — for example fasting for Ramadan/Islam or are both writing buddies/groups/like certain types of music or we have a book clubs — finding a way to regularly keep in touch about these things can take a lot of the heavy lifting away from keeping in touch

AND

7. Has anyone done regular friend hours where they set aside times that they’re around, and anybody who wants to talk to me comes online?

This feels weird to me, but maybe I shouldn’t dismiss it. An ex of mine used to send monthly newsletters about how they were doing, and this isn’t really my bag in terms of generating my own (though I do personally enjoy reading them), but people should keep it on their lists as an option.

8. What is loyalty?

I only wish I had the answer, but here’s some cents.

For me, loyalty is about learning to let relationships change, and this includes quantity and type of interaction, without letting the truth and strength of that bond change. How do I stay committed to a friend even when they’ve disappointed me? Understanding that much of disappointment is about internalizing things that are usually about somebody else. This comes with the maturity it takes to understand where other people end and you begin. This comes with undertaking a spiritual journey which means constantly having to work hard on knowing yourself and your own emotional energy. I’m lucky that I’ve had friends teach me how to be loyal by doing this hard work for themselves.

As a result of these lessons, I take things way less personally if people can’t or don’t want to stay in touch. Of course I fail. Of course. And I fail my friends too. All. the time. But, I’ve improved, and I hope dear ones — that will give you hope on your own spiritual journey.

 

A dear friend once told me that Loyalty isn’t about taking sides, it’s about continuing to hold space for a person even and despite difficulty. Loyalty is fucking hard.

 

So my loyalty lesson has been to go toward the love, to resist my desire during hard times to stop and take stock of who’s not there for me. Because when I start thinking about who’s not staying in touch or thinking about the bad stuff, I start rejecting all the good people and good things that ARE there for me. I’m actually hurting myself and making myself mad by either actively or passively rejecting all the doors that are opening in my life.

 

If a person is currently showing me love — I spend as much time as I can with that love because it’s a gift. If a person shows me no love – I try not to spend too much time obsessing about this. They usually need that love  for other things going on and other people. People’s batteries get drained. I can give them that love of taking care of my self and protecting myself from what is ailing them.

As a side note, friendships start when people have made a love or support connection with you at some point. If somebody never gives you love, or only takes from you, then they’re maybe don’t spend your energy on whether or not they’re your friend. Or, maybe your friend is going through a hard time and needs your love and understanding about why they can’t be there for you during this part of their journey, or even this part of your journey. Does it really matter? Understanding the differences between a friend who is actually never your friend vs. a friend who is going through something will actually twist your brain. Maybe only time will tell, and the thing that you need to focus on is whether or not you can or want to give — maybe you should be taking care of yourself and figuring out what you have to give to somebody else. In fact, if you think I’m making an argument for spending your energy on yourself and your boundaries as the pivotal definition of friendship, you’re right. That’s far more important often than focusing on what your friend gives or doesn’t give you.

 

One aspect of loyalty is not holding grudges toward people who genuinely care about you because grudges don’t allow your relationships or your friends to change. So if a friend shows love after a period of being absent or after you’ve put each other on ice (whatever the reason – thanks T) — I can’t think of any instance where I don’t accept it or work to accept it when thaw time is here. Holding a grudge isn’t my thing. Being ready to thaw is. But it takes hard work to un-grudge, to forgive disappointment that often isn’t personal. I believe in giving myself space when people hurt me, but I also believe in returns when that space has served its purpose. Being petty is usually because nobody has taught you how to let go. It’s much easier to hold on to a grudge than the work it takes to keep that love connection to a friend. If I ever told you I love you, then I meant it, and I’m gonna be loyal to you.

 

Loyalty is a Tough one for us all. The deepest loyalty, the kind I feel I can offer, comes from loyalty to my self. The care and attention I put into transition or change internally when a friendship starts to trouble me or disappoint me or even simply become hard to maintain is essential the same care and attention I put into how I want to be as a person. Change is so hard for me, so my intention here is simply to pay attention to myself, to what it is that I want or need, and then to set about acting true to my intention. But none of that can happen if I don’t really give myself tons of love and loyalty first.

This is how I prioritize (but that’s another post altogether). lolz.

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Any Way the White Wind Blows: how “Poetic YellowFace” serves White Supremacy

I stand up with my teacher David Mura and so many to criticize Sherman Alexie’s decision to publish a poem by a white man written under a deliberately chosen Chinese pseudonym in Best American Poetry. (What many have rightly called “literary Yellowface.”)

This isn’t just about poetry. It’s an echo of what we see everyday in American society.

Sherman Alexie writes: “And, yes, in keeping the poem, I am quite aware that I am also committing an injustice against poets of color, and against Chinese and Asian poets in particular.”  I worked as an affirmative action activist through my twenties, and Alexie sustained me through many of the hardest years. His words above broke my heart because I worked to build coalitions and to educate that an injustice against any group of color was part of systemic racism and must not be overlooked.

California – pre and post proposition 209 — are we willing to forget? Remember how White people have a history of fetishizing and “Orientalizing” Asians? They love our culture, our art, our religions, and they love to make money from us. They especially love to compare us to other people of color.

Using the stereotypes of well-behaved and smart, they love to compare us to other people of color to try and end affirmative action.  We’re one mass to them — not Vietnamese, not Korean, not Filipino, not Chinese, not Malaysian, not Singaporean, not Japanese, certainly not Indian, South Asian, not Bangladeshi or Fijian, Pakistani or Sri Lankan, or Polynesian or Cambodian. We were one group that had “merit” when it came time to argue affirmative action was dangerous for us.

They, of course, also complain that too many Asians attend the UC system, and they want to go to schools that aren’t peopled by Asian robots. Schools that value football more, or the “American way of life.” I never forgot — these were the same people who made us fear for our lives as they pasted a red sun on the cover of magazines and said Japan was taking our automative jobs. These are the same people that talk about our elegant and submissive women, our massage parlors, and the small dicks of our men, our slanty eyes. In their hands, our martial arts are used for good. In our hands, we’re the sneaky enemy on the battlefield or assassins.

Who are we to them?

By assuming our names in publishing contexts (and you should see the fucked up shit they do to our bodies and our culture when they write about us in science fiction/fantasy using their own names), white supremacists elide our great poets and their content; they elide our character; they elide us. We, they say, get published more because of our racial identity.

Didn’t we advance in society not because of our identity, but because of our merit, our hard work? Or, wait, but are we advancing in writing only because of our identity? Anybody with an Asian name can get ahead? I don’t know, seems confusing. Smells like White power.

If we aren’t vigilant about our relationship as a group within the non-Black people of color disapora — and with white supremacists, they will wear us like a glove and wield us like a hammer against all people of color, and always, against ourselves.

Why?

Because white supremacy is not a classroom issue or a poetics issue alone. It is a real system in which people dictate that equality for people of color amounts to “special treatment” and “tokenism” and “reverse racism.” The Asian mantle will be used strategically and deliberately in whichever way the racist wind dictates.

But get it clear peeps: We’re not your bridge group among non-Black POC. We’re not fooled. This shit won’t be on our backs.

We see what you’re doing.

It happens in daily life, in politics, in education, in so many styles of cultural appropriation, so of course it’s happening in poetry. Let’s read some great Asian Am poets like Hoa Nguyen, Ching-In Chen, David Mura, Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, Timothy Yu, Jenny Zhang, Franny Choi, Jane Wong, Bao Phi, Minal Hajrtwala, Ginger Ko, Sueyeun Juliette Lee, Kazim Ali, and so many more for a little refreshment amongst these tired old antics.

Here’s David blog if you want to read a great critique – one that re-centers what being Asian Am has to do with writing Asian Am poetry:

http://blog.davidmura.com

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