Sainthood Not Required

This was inspired about two weeks ago by a friend who seemed to want to control my memories. I think it’s pretty common, but it rubs me the wrong way. I understand not allowing outright lies or even disrespect, but no matter how close we are to folks, we know them differently than do others.

I’m sure my dubious reputation as a relatively friendly, fairly feisty, determined-to-be curmudgeonly crank is in no danger, but I want you to promise me that after I’m dead, you will not forget those contrasts in my personality. I promise that I will haunt you if you try to cover me with false ideas of perfectionism.

Don’t diminish me by glossing over my less than wonderful traits: I worked hard to learn how to speak up for myself, to curse, and to embrace anger. I like my sometimes twisted humor and have no desire to be portrayed in a one dimensional, sanctified way. I don’t want to be silenced in life and I don’t want the silence of the tomb to be the end of the complex human that I will have been. I can accept that I might be entirely forgotten- I’ve done nothing that rates immortality- just don’t make me over, for however long my name conjures up a picture in anyone’s mind. Enjoy the contradictory stories and opinions: consensus is not required, I changed over my lifetime and treated various people differently. I am as I can/should be.

My mistakes are mine

My struggle remains real

It took many years for me to recognize the inherent violence in perfectionism and ideologies of “sweetness” and being “good” that are thrust most particularly upon women, but just as damagingly, on the various subaltern peoples in societies that hold fast to the notion that we are inferior and must therefore strive harder to be better. It is a dehumanizing concept that supports racism and the institutionalized oppression of the many people who are literally beaten into simplistic characterizations, whether it be the “thug” or the “model minority.” Every stereotype is a diminishment of the complexities of human lives and a deterrent to human be-ing.

So have the laughs remembering the stupid things I did (please never forget jumping from a horse at a fairly high speed or crossing streams by swinging from vines in Dominica- I did that!) or the petty, snarky (yet hopefully witty) comments. Remember the failure to sometimes be there in some way when I might have been needed; the (many) times I ditched social events in favor of solitude. Maybe I’ve helped a few people, certainly I’ve hurt some. I hope I’ve been kind more often than not: I admire gentle souls and see the immaturity in my own restless, sometimes thoughtless spirit. I abhor liars, phonies, and respectability politics, but respect good bullshit, a well told story, and politeness. I’ve been blessed to have a couple of friends who’ve loved me enough to “pull my coattails” when I’ve gotten too narrowly focused or have been just plain wrong, and I can only hope that they’ll outlive me and keep anyone inclined to whitewash my memory from spoiling the party or trading in real memories for Disneyfied bull. Don’t try to control the way others who knew me saw me: they have their stories, their own relationships. But thanks for wanting to come to my defense, I appreciate the love.

I want my life to reflect my growth, my human be-coming, and memories of me should do no less. If you were lucky enough to have had the Anjana Experience, accept no substitute!

#Popeye ain’t got nothing on me.

PS I do expect to be around for another twenty years, so please don’t get freaked out and call me or start eulogizing me now. Respect the rant for what it is!

A Secret Garden

I actually attended a garden tea party yesterday. Devised by my gardening neighbor pal and her daughter in law who lives across the street, their original idea was to entice a new neighbor who’d expressed an interest in the possibility of creating a small garden. This is a shy and possibly introverted woman (I’ve yet to see her) and my neighbor thought it would be nice for her to meet a few gardeners in the neighborhood and tour each other’s yards. As a confirmed introvert, I knew that this was probably not a great idea and sure enough, the new neighbor demurred and sent her apologies two days before the event. I was now stuck, but at least managed to have legit reasons to come late.

By way of explanation: not only am I an introvert, I have some curmudgeonly ways. I’m friendly, but small talk doesn’t come easily nor is it a pastime in which I care to engage. I’m also not your typical suburban housewife and am pretty adverse to a large number of things that the supposedly “typical American” wants or likes. We’ve also been in a heat & humidity wave that’s left everybody miserable and angry and drenched in sweat before you can towel off after your multiple daily showers. Topping it all off, I’m also a melanin rich woman of colour with a Latino last name. Eleven years on Long Island have exposed me to some of the worst racism and class biases I’ve experienced in my six decades on the planet, including 16 years in the South, so excursions into new areas or among people I don’t know here are entered into with caution. I knew that everyone else invited would be white and that our hostess would not have considered the possibility that they might be less welcoming than she. I always consider such things, but having agreed that they could tour my new, very incomplete garden and meet my new chickens (the most exciting event on the block this week) I forced myself to show up. And yes, it was awkward. What saved it was the attendance of one of the happiest, friendliest, and decidedly cutest little two year olds I’ve met. We bonded and her escapades provided a mutual focus, distraction and source of amusement.

After the ladies and little “Rose” enjoyed tea, lemonaid, and a fluffy lemon cake, we toured each others’ gardens. We started with the hosts, who have created lovely spaces, one with a long double lot that allows for a woodsy feel, then mine, the youngest & least complete. We ended with this 30+ year old beauty, a cottage gardener’s dream. It has “secret” paths, lovely enclaves to sit, fountains, mini waterfalls, and a hidden space where one can sit behind a tall, graceful wall of bushes without being seen. 

 The English born owner- a sweetly ancient, retired teacher who drives like a bat out of hell- leaves the gate unlocked so that neighbors can enjoy its peace and beauty when she’s not at home. It was a special and inspiring surprise I view as a kind of karmic reward for being sociable. It was worth the trip.   💚

Earworms and the Search for Meaning

Ok, everyday of my life, I wake up with a song/music playing in my head. It can be anything, but whatever it is, it tends to stick until I sing it, or play it, or override it with another tune. They sometimes keep coming back into my thoughts, persisting until I stop and listen or drive my husband crazy, as he’s forced to listen to my speculations over the possible meaning or (maybe worse for him) my singing the same tune multiple times. 
Sometimes it’s about the lyrics, and sometimes the tune is appropriate to my dreams or agenda, or related to whatever we watched on tv that night.  They’re often silly: occasionally jingles from childhood tv ads or tv theme songs. More often than not I’m amused by these mental musings. I don’t know if this is an experience common to many, but it’s the way of my little world.

The songs from my teens bring back the dances of that time and more than once I’ve had to stop what I was doing for a minute and take those rhythmic steps back in time, bringing laughter to my family and reclaiming a tiny bit of a girl that once was.

Today’s song is unrelated to anything current in my personal life, a blast from a favorite 1974 BBC miniseries. Now it may be stuck in your heads, too (sharing is caring)

I just realized the big difference between many of us:

I am furious, certainly frustrated, but I’m not afraid! Yes, this ish is frightening, but the US has NEVER been safe for me or mine. This land, this homeland that was once a place where my ancestors lived in relative civility, was not “America.” The nightmares of history aren’t ancient dusty memories. My childhood was peopled with family who had been enslaved, neighbors with tattooed arms, grandparents who told stories about parents returning from the Trail of Tears. I’ve had more encounters with racism (including being held for hours when trying to re-enter the US every freaking time I’ve traveled) than you’ve had pairs of shoes.
So none of this is new or surprising, nor did it happen overnight. This is what it’s always been, just now in your face, yet apparently still deniable for many. It stinks, and I’m really glad that people are protesting and organizing and resisting. It’s about time all you Rip Van Winkles woke up, and I hope you’ve got your crates of social No Doze/Redbull/red pills handy and that those political alarm clocks are on on a timer so that you don’t drift back into that convenient and comfortable coma. We have grown old and tired in the struggle, waiting for the heat to get close enough to singe you into not only wakefulness, but the genuine solidarity that can only come when you really get what chronic oppression, equality, and justice mean, on the ground, not as merely as words or symbols, or intellectual agreements.
People keep talking about “love” to me, but by the way that they’re using the term, it’s like spitting at an inferno. True love grows. It develops over time and trials, errors (complete fuck ups, actually) and a whole lot of difficult, painful, monotonous encounters, confrontations, tears, deep listening, real talk, and maturity. It grows from the trust that can only develop over time and going through shit together and getting through it, like veterans of war.
S0 stay woke, friends. Stay sober, woke, and committed. You must do right because it IMG_4436is right, not just because it touches you and yours, and most certainly not just to win. I know we will, but we’d better have a clear vision of what that means, the costs, and our willingness to get there. This is life work, my friends, not a “moment.”
A luta continua
My FB page 7:59 AM

Daughters: It don’t have to be true to be real.

MomMozella Hatwood 12/31/06

I have just figured it out: for all women raised by southern women-Black, White, Native- it doesn’t matter- there’s a common denominator, a way of dealing and not dealing with stress that seems to be passed on from generation to generation. The thread of a very particular insanity flows through us although I’m unsure as to whether or not it’s in the blood, the bone, or the brain.

We seem all, in some way that’s not always obvious, to be playing to a “theme.” Yes, any good shrink will tell you that all humans are playing out certain archetypes and that the archetype has a story or stories and that in the course of our lives, we might play out several such stories, but there’s generally an overriding “type”that fits. Yet the southern version is a bit different. It’s more immediate and both less and more mysterious than the eternal struggle between the ego and the id. We write books and plays, choreograph and perform dances, skits, and dramas, on and off the stage. We sing, we decorate, we fashion our lives to support the theme we’ve been given and we pay homage, more consciously than most, to ancestors we may or may not venerate.

We “daughters of the dust” know better, and yet we still believe. That’s the essential difference and I cannot account for it other than to say that we’re taught by mothers-mouth to ear- who themselves excelled to varying degrees, in creatively draping the windows to suit the motifs  of their own lives. We are the best of good girls and we bring being bad to high art. We seem more often than not, to know who our audience is (the family, of course) and we seem to accept the boundaries on some level even when we dance on stages ten thousand miles away. We will dazzle and thrill you, charm the whiskers off a cat, go all “Bette Davis ” on you if need be, invoke the wrath in a glance, and we do all that we do wrapped in a cloak not of invincibility, but of right(eous)ness. We may be crippled and crazy and we may have made a complete mess of our lives and the lives of those around us, but in our hearts, we know that we do know what’s right and the proper order of things, and that if we can only “get ourselves straight/harness our resources/muster our strengths/ rest awhile/gather our wits/regroup/have a lie down/ a cup of tea-coffee-pick-me-up or just a finger of Jim Beam or a drop of whiskey or rye or a glass of sherry, nice ripe wine, grandmother’s ‘medicine’, a simple ‘cokecola’, or ‘that nice chamomile/peppermint/sassafras tea’, then We-the true women among women- can still somehow make it all work out!

I no longer care to delude myself that this is not true. It’s what we believe and it was passed onto us in some mysterious way, from our adored and benighted mothers, no matter what our relationship to them might be. There is great humor in this, often intended, frequently unamusing, and certainly not jokey.  I’m not sure how this works and why it’s different than the relationship that all other daughters have with their own crazy mothers, I just know that it is, and maybe that’s the only real point. My upbringing tells me so it must be true. Hah.