Christmas

If you can believe it, I absorbed a marathon of cheesy Hallmark movies while Mariah Carey vocalized about “not wanting to cry” and “going the distance”. I lounged on my mother’s sofa and looked Picture Perfect Christmas and The Mistletoe Secret. I spent the whole day on the sofa in my pajamas. Later, I ate at least two medium sized plates of my mother’s famous Christmas ham, dirty rice, potato salad, and rice dressing. Because I owed no person anything, I sprawled back across the couch and watched “Christmas at the Plaza” and A Christmas Love Story.”

I arrived at mom’s on Christmas Eve. We promptly visited my grandmother’s house and were treated to a taco bar, a stupendous blend of lively music, and impromptu line dancing with a card game in the kitchen. What I remember most is how expeditiously all the decorations, plates, chairs, tables, and holiday millieu were cleared away. In what amounted to just under 20 minutes, my grandmother’s outside patio looked like it was about to be prepared for another party. Not a single person complained about having to participate in clean-up.

In 2019, I was thankful to have visited four different U.S. states. I’ve gone to Florida, Arkansas, Georgia, and Indiana this year. I have also seen the Carter and Clinton Presidential libraries. I have allowed myself to embrace musical theater in a way that I never believed possible. I have seen Wicked The Musical and Mary Poppins. Seeing these productions has informed my skillful attention to detail.

I realized this year that making the choice to stop drinking alcohol was something I needed to do so that I keep my brain ready for the next surprising chapter of my life. So I quit drinking on October 12th during a play performance of Joshua Hammon’s “Skin Tight”

I was nervous about seeing the play. The first bit of nervous energy had to do with the fact that the audience was overwhelmingly not African-American. I would have been the lone black man present were it not for another older man I noticed. He had arrived after my friend and I.

I ignorantly believed that having a beer would soothe my trepidation about the play. Alcohol seems to have only made me hate myself more for believing that the drink would calm my anxiety about assuage my feelings. I was further convicted when my feelings were reflected in Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of an Indian. The Native Americans depicted in the narrative told by Arnold Spirit described several instances of friends, parents, and families using alcohol to cope with the poverty, loss, and detachment that comes as a consequences of living reservation life.

Spirit’s grandmother uses a powerful quote that seems to have hardened my tenacious drive to continue sober living. She said: Drinking would shut down my seeing and my hearing and my feeling. Why would I want to be in the world if I couldn’t touch the world with all of my senses intact?

Today is December 26th. The 27th has already started in New York City. And I’ll have survived 76 days without using alcohol to cover my nervous , awkward, scared feelings. It’s been scary confessing that I used alcohol to ruin from guilt and fear.

Today, I also got my own disability placard. I used to feel like I needed to cover certain differences about being disabled just because people have shamed me about needing extra help with specific things.

It was nice to approach Christmas without needing to perform holiday cheer if I didn’t feel it. It was good to sing only when I feel happy enough to do so. It was great to admit that I had every right to choose to be around only the family members that made me know that I deserved to be there.

This year was more about finding my own facts. They say loving God is about loving mercy. Shouldn’t I be afforded the mercy to find acceptance with people who don’t force me to be something I’m not. This Christmas I was at peace because I allowed the people in, that took off my training wheels.

I probably have laughed more this year… than I ever have in the past. I’ve forgiven myself more this year than I’ve shamed myself. I’ve been straightforward about my own senses without rushing to betray myself in the process.

People say that I’m snooty just because I’m bookish and quiet. I think that’s all smoke and mirrors to save these lost people from consciously choosing to know the real me.

When you anoint something, you smear oil upon it. Jesus is supposed to be the anointed one. His blood was SMEARED upon a sinful human generation. And surely, people smear their beliefs, faults, and attitudes upon each other. I’ve learned this year that we have no control over the people who “smear” us. WE don’t control what influences become the product of the campaign. The campaign may never win over our enemies.

But I’ve learned this year… that the campaign is me. The campaign is about your process not those who vote.

The campaign is using every opportunity to forgive because we desire the smear of God’s forgiveness, his version of perfectness. We often forget that it’s not our job to make anyone change. We are to simply influence them.

I don’t know all about my future. But I am growing into what it’s like to trust God’s spiritual fruit: the love, peace, long-suffering, goodness, and faith.

My body

My body and I have a very complicated relationship. On an unplanned trip to a financial institution someone who had once known me said that I looked as though I was losing weight.

Nervous and unsure of how to respond, I replied that I had been battling a sinus infection for quite some time. Maybe, this was why I looked “like I hadn’t been eating” as this person said. That explanation seemed to be the one plausible enough to drive this conversation away from the condition of my body. I told myself internally once I got in my car and drove away that there was nothing to worry about. Surely, people are just curious about my ability to care for myself. After all, I am a disabled adult that has led a very sheltered and (up until 10 years ago) under-stimulated existence.

Weirdly days after that exchange with this well-meaning individual, the opinion that this person made about my body stayed with me. I do believe that people who are plus-sized, heavy, or large tend to impose an undue stress column on us thin people. Please hear me out on this.

There is always the implication, suggestion, and picture that the pinnacle of health is large. This is the new fad given all the “body-positive” media I’ve seen in the last few years.

I can tell you that I have been adversely affected by gobs of men and women who flaunt their large-sized pride in front of me as though my smallness as an African-American 140-ish weighed person is some kind of off-putting dig at the fact that most people are normal because they weigh more than I do.

I need people to know that it has taken me all of my life to finally not be ashamed of how small my waist is. I just recently accepted and felt grateful for the fact that I haven’t had many weight problems.

It’s been painful to watch black and brown people criticize me for being the size I am. I have been present for every accusation that I don’t eat enough of your heaping plates of spaghetti, greens, cornbread, chicken, pasta, yams, and etoufee.

I have also in my struggle with my “sliver” of thin and lean meat imagined that I would meet a heavier, nerd-ly, more brusque, opposing, full-bodied partner with which to balance my paper-weight frame upon. I have kept pull-over jackets and sweaters at the ready to cover arms that I once believed were scrawny and emaciated looking. I have buried my social media account with images of men that pump more iron than I do because secretly I’ve wanted to look as protein-shaked, bulked, and built.

I fetish-ize and fantasize about being “full-bodied” enough. This is because all the men I’ve ever met seem to dwell endlessly on how much they can benchpress. My own father implanted the burden of shame upon me. His own spouting on about working among men and women who needed strength gave me these very scary notions of what male strength and valor was supposed to be.

I’ve never had the urge to shame any person for how much they weigh. I’ve been always obsessive about looking in my own mirror. I’ve been afraid that I’ll blow up to a weight and waist-size that my disabled muscles cannot manage.

I’ve wished upon a star for a time that some “protector” type could cradle me and save me from my thin, self.

Do you know that I used to see how much I could eat because I secretly wanted the bulked up frame that is so celebrated. The bears, pandas, and cubs whether straight or not have a loving community that celebrates their heaviness even in the face of thin, wine-glass, coke-bottle woman or men.

I watched in horror how “Precious” star Gabourey Sidibe was attacked once she had decided to get her weigh under control for health reasons. It was painful seeing how she gained and lost fans all because she worked to be a little smaller and more fit.

A similar story seemed to unfold for once “heavy” songstress, Jennifer Hudson. Some women remarked while in my presence that Ms. Hudson looked too thin or sick, just because she was the version of “fit and trim” that she wanted to be.

It’s a challenge to love the me… that I am. And it’s hard (given the positive media that has elevated body-positive medium and large people) not to look at my own body and wonder if my “healthy metabolism” is less than the blessing it is.

Yes, I love my body now. But I remain intensely aware of any insult from those who believe that my “thin frame” is counterfeit. I always feel like I must defend myself for eating “vegetables and fruit” “soup”, hummus, feta cheese, or any whole grain. I like eating GREEN things. I’m trying to live better as a black man who is disabled.

Yes, I like fried chicken. But why the hell should I eat chicken every week just because you do? Why do I have to perform some ridiculous tradition just because you seem obsessed with performing this “blackness habit” that seems to encourage me to get diabetes?

I’m sick enough with worry monitoring how many steps I get on my Samsung Health app and my fit-bit that my sister bought me. I’m worried enough that I don’t hear people who love me talk about changing their own diets.

Let me worry about my own body please. Let me decide not to eat what you eat if that’s what I want to do. I think I have earned that right.

I’m scared enough about the day I won’t be able to walk around by myself. Let me have my apples, oranges, and spinach. I didn’t bother you decided to order that seafood platter. I let you put it in your body, and didn’t complain about how often I saw you grab a bag of chips or a mini-sized candy bar.

I don’t think that these body positive people ever consider how their anger about (weight acceptance) ever made me feel.

I don’t want to be suffocated under the weight of your scale reading heaviness. I, personally never criticized your size. I accept your weight. I kept silent when you had your strokes, your diabetic comas, and your high-blood pressure. I did that even while being terribly afraid and grief-stricken that I might be on a pill regimen just like you.

I love Subway sandwiches. I want to drink more water. Leave me alone. I don’t look at you with contempt. You have your own internal struggle. I ask that you be patient with me.

I have a nagging orthopedic doctor’s voice that’s long been in my head telling me that I don’t need to gain much weight. I agonize that one day I won’t be able to walk around at all.

That is my problem with my body. And I try everyday to smile at this arthritic, small, collection of arteries, lungs, ventricles, veins, skin, and bones. I want to take care of it better. I need you to stop pumping me with me shame because I want to treat it differently than you treat yours.

Just stop.

Love your own body. I’m gonna try and love mine better. I’m gonna try and move. I’m gonna try and lunge. I will try my best. I don’t miss the awkward stares of angry men and women who blame me because their body composition is different.

Whether you’re black, white, brown, Spanish, Dominican, creole, native, gay, or transgendered. WHAT ever you are… Love that body.

Love the skin you’re in. Take care of the one body you have. Stop entertaining people and their criticism and go to your doctor.

I just learned how to appreciate going to the physician. I am just now learning how to celebrate the fact that someone cares that I am loving my body.

I just learned that being thinner than a chubby person is okay. I just learned that I can be grateful for being a disabled guy that doesn’t rely on a wheelchair to do most things.

I just learned not to take my frame for granted. I just learned that I can wear clothes that are comfortable and classy without needing to write a thesis on why I chose those garments.

This is my body. I only get this one. And I must WORK HARD at loving this one body.

Deliver Me

My Aunt Mavis and I were on the phone the other day. We were having one of our many phone fellowships. She is an A.M.E. minister’s wife and serves as an awesome encouraging force in the Christian church. Anytime I can get her opinion, I take it. We were placing our own problems and fears at the altar. She shared what she was in the midst of. She talked about her grandchildren, who I miss often. She asked me how things were with her siblings. She made space for me to talk about my work life and ambitions as a library worker. 

We made one another laugh with a few choice expressions. But when we talk about the Savior and his presence in our lives… I truly feel connected to my aunt.

When we refer to the goodness of Jesus, each of us is filled with joy. 

I asked her: Is there a song you can recommend to me that helps you.

She said: “Exodus”. Specifically, the song is called Deliver Me (This is my Exodus).

This song was a Dove Award recipient in 2018. It was recorded by Donald Lawrence and the Tri-City Singers.  I have several Donald Lawrence tracks in my music collection.  But I had only heard “Exodus” during an impromptu car trip to Beech Grove Baptist Church last Friday. My aunt and my cousins (who are like extended mother, sister and brother to me) needed to run to the church to do some preparation for an event.

 I have been having an Exodus on an epic scale. According to the Cambridge Dictionary, an “exodus” is movement of a large group away from some place. In the Greek, the Collins Dictionary says an exodus is “going out of the way”. 

Last October, I had my last alcoholic beverage. I had been using alcohol to fight my loneliness and ultimately the fear that comes up from not fitting in with everyone else. I was so afraid of my different-ness that a good drink was often used as a buffer against social environments in which I felt un-prepared for.

Whenever someone aggressive, more extroverted, or brave intimidated me, I would use alcohol to numb feelings of regret, rejection, and unworthiness. I also used it as an exodus, a running away from who I was deep inside.

 I was afraid to be different and alcohol helped stretch my desires out so far that the desire to connect with people who were “not safe” outweighed the desire for self-care.

Since I stopped drinking, evaluating has been just freaking HARD… so complex. When I check in with God and look at myself, I see pieces that I never knew. Some of the new pieces make me laugh. But most of them send me into fits of mourning. Although I have much more peace and positivity inside now, there are still rough episodes.

And I have to stop and process those mixed-up emotions.

I have been bravely attacking bad habits that limit my ability to be emotionally, mentally, and physically present. 

 It’s been a scattering to see what actually works best.

It’s troubling as I discover things that I need to get rid of.

When I heard “EXODUS” on the radio, I had been out of the “gospel” loop. 

I’ve been rotating alternative rock songs, pop songs, and specific gospel tracks on my smart-phone.

I have taken to listening to our K-LOVE affiliate when I spend time with my friend running errands in Baton Rouge, LA.

I had not truly heard “Exodus” before. The conversation that had taken place between my aunt and her children in the car on the way to Beech Grove Baptist Church about this Exodus song felt disconnecting. 

 My Aunt Mavis told me that she had been meditating on this track. I similarly told her that I had been playing and re-playing Kirk Franklin’s “Father Knows Best”. Examining Franklin’s track and “EXODUS” is quite enlightening when looking at my own journey.

Father Knows Best by Kirk Franklin talks about the mysterious plan of God and the idea that believers never truly know the reason he takes people, things, and situations away from us. 

This is my Exodus reflects a new take on an old story, the migration of the Israelites to a new homeland. The Israelites in the second book of the bible must struggle with the tyrants of Egypt to eventually turn away and scatter to a new land. 

Father Knows Best refers to Isaiah’s prophecy about the Jehovah. Isaiah said of God “Your ways are not my ways… (Isa. 55)”

Exodus is about healing our souls…and how we un-willingly hurt ourselves because healing paths are blocked our refusal to be humble with ourselves.

I believe our going away, our leaving, our Exodus has everything to do with believing and hoping past the people, things, and relationships that have hung on to us like anchors at the bottom of the deepest lake.

As a disabled person, my Exodus has been learning to trust God when it comes to searching for the people and things that are custom-made for me.

There are billions of people in this world. I believe that God is a God that clears space for us. He can clear the way for us, driving away those people and things that are not healthy. But we MUST be willing to look deep at the core of our close relationships and face the painful reality. And we are not always ready to do that.

God is not going to make you depart a situation if your pride is not ready to leave it. This goes for every destructive pattern and relationship in your way.

We cannot scatter ourselves or our resources on the water of life if we are bound by any abusive structure. Abusive structures are any substance or person that is keeping us bound.

When we start relationships, the need for closeness is so desperate. We cling to the first person willing to accept our broken parts. This closeness becomes more layered if the person accepting our broken parts is someone who we grew up with.

Sometimes our need for “togetherness” and mutuality is stronger than our need to choose what’s best for us.

I used to believe that I needed to be together with family at the sacrifice of my own sanity. I needed to be together and mutual in order to be (good). Any different choice was bad.

But this is my exodus. I cannot be a slave to anything that draws me away from the love of God.  Anything that disturbs the peace in my heart must be examined.

The father God knows best. And God’s way is better than my own selfish way.

I am still mourning. I still get truly scared.

But one day I will be totally delivered. One day soon, God will give me total peace that none can understand.

In recent years, I have given up what I used to love… or what I thought I used to love. The spiritual war toward deliverance is about self-control, self-discipline, and accountability, among other qualities.

On the push toward a new me, there is a struggle to release the past.

You must claim your own exodus, and pray and plead for those that are not ready to do the work.

Don’t ruin your exodus journey by refusing the clearing up of the brush. God has cleared much hurt from my life. And I am still working on my freedom. I needed someone committed to seeing me the way God already sees me.

 I needed my best friend Greg to help me discover the person I was without the guilt and trauma of my family structure.

I needed a therapist to help me learn about the hidden triggers within my own temper. I needed a new network of loving support to make hard, difficult and new choices.

The network is incomplete. But I love the person I am becoming. I am on the exodus and I believe that Father God knows every new path I must take.

I am straining to let God’s light in. I’ve discovered that competition does not serve me well. I’ve learned that quiet observation is better than yelling to prove that I’m right, even if it turns out I am. I used to believe I needed to be the loudest voice.

Before I began my exodus, I watched films without unpacking them. I heard music without asking myself what it meant to me. I joined environments without meeting crucial needs I had.

I still struggle with anxiety and its triggers but I know that conquering anxiety is all about understanding our bodies. We must listen to the tones of people’s voices, the intention behind actions, the tugging of our hearts when we feel fear. We must release away our authentic voices in a calm, safe environment.

I had a trigger today. Some said something to me that literally ripped my heart from its chambers.

I want whoever is reading this to know: WORDS have power and they damage places that the eye cannot see.

Some way God allowed me to stay silent when I was verbally assaulted. Luckily, I had a non-judgmental friend to process my anger and trigger with.   

I’m glad that God allowed me to hold my tongue before I acted in anger and malice.

We don’t always see how aggression and anger from others, can wear us thin. For black men and women, we come into the world front-loaded with anxiety.

Before we can understand the anxiety in relationships, we become stuck in the anxieties of racism and intolerance.

If we ever learn to express our anxieties around racism appropriately, we then can tackle the triggers and pain of mental illness.

But sadly, some of us never reach beyond that first tier of “racial anger”, the problem of us versus the others.

When you’re African-American the sources that drive anger, anxiety, and mental imbalance blend together to create a confusing mix of terrifying emotions.

Le’Andria Johnson sang: “All I seem to do is hurt me”. We don’t always see how we are killing ourselves. We don’t always see how we numb our pain. I had to learn how I was hurting myself before I could learn how to love myself again.

There are still days when pain blazes up. I still fight anxiety. But I can thank my colleagues, my church community, and my former instructors and mentors for choosing to see me in terms of my future self.

I am growing day by day. I am creating new memories. I am upholding new values. I am a constant work in progress. But for the very first time, there is REAL AUTHENTIC JOY in this journey. And it’s a joy that I found by being patient and kind to me and those around me.

There is still bread to cast on the water. There are still new roads to discover.

The beginning is the Genesis, the Exodus is the migration, and finally we separate. I am ready to separate because I’m certain that God will be me wherever I will go.

Embracing a “scattered” future

I have trouble remembering people who really do not remember me. I did torture myself assuming that my relative youthfulness meant I was a bad guy for not immediately latching onto these missed connections.

Why did I care so much about saving face? I think elderly and middle-aged people had wormed their views into my brain and wrought their folklore into my programming. I forget all the time that we don’t consider “MEDIA” as gestures, exclamations, guffaws, sighs, facial expressions, or awkward silences.

But that’s the way of some people. We have been lied to. We think media is just TV, streaming stuffs, and whatever comes from some executive’s idea of a “channel”. But media is very much a scattered thing. And how people relate their memory of me scattered my whole world.

I believed once that my future was fixed on the few people and things I had.  But maybe it’s time to re-evaluate.

Some people need to bust your chops about what they believe you should and should not relate about. People are full of their own prefabricated ideas about what things mean, what you mean to yourself, why you remember a song, or a conversation. And often those people are so spoiled in their own web of memories, the things that make them most happy and comfortable, that before you know it, being forced to save face and acquiesce to being “bad” for not savoring someone else’s connections is easier and more honorable, than admitting that you were never supposed to care as much as you once did.

A great example of that scattered future thing would be the time I told someone a story and that someone only seemed to “get it” if and only if I was shaming or mocking the other people in my story.

We get a very human satisfaction from being Annie, saying that anything you can do, I can do better.

I have discovered that less and less do I care to remember stories that don’t build groups up or come with a character evaluation that has a sidecar of myth debunking.

For if I’m buried in the scattered mess of that, I cannot truly see what project I am building and what it matters for me. To go back to what I said…

I now mourn as often as I deem necessary for the present state of my scattered memory. And I accept that I do not have to know why that matters to you… if you are not going to help me fill in some blanks.

 For I have gleaned from experience and life as a single man that community only reveals its true self by the grace and bravery of time, awareness, and steadfast repetition.

If we all purposely accept the ascetic identity of the revolving door, there can be no way to understand who is an intimate connection, and who is simply “traveling light” with the intent of passing through.

How are we to consider our main-stay support from the “edited out” one-night stand?

When I remember the one-nighter, I refuse to limit it to the unbridled erotic creative sexual expression or the mass-produced empty longing. One night stands and standards are the minimalist, random texts and calls from people who never reply. “One-nights” are the strippers who wanted your tips but won’t remember your name from the next patron who grins at them 10 seconds later.

“One nights” are the “hole in the wall” places, people, and scenes wherein the lines blend together. There is no demarcation that suggests your finding a place where belonging is celebrated, necessary, or even optional. And so that is why…  

I no longer blame myself for the many faces of disgust I receive when I say with honesty and grace: “No, I don’t remember you.” Or NO…I don’t quite get that reference point.   

I am fresh off a 4 day run in the Midwestern United States. In my estimation, the Midwest is idolized as the breadbasket, the easel and canvas of the “All-American” boy and girl, the Old-Glory fantasy often reserved for a painfully specific American person.

We celebrate these towns on our televisions. When we are not doing that, we are hemming and hawing rivers, lakes, and streams of California’s fastidious spectacle, New York’s fruit-syrup that doesn’t skimp on diversity or fructose. We smile longingly then on Georgia’s peaches. And someone’s beach-combing and pining about the water in Florida.

My friend and I go to the Midwest for the scenes. I believe we need authentic proof to convince ourselves that communities can be well-kept, that roads are not always over-run with potholes that people with grateful attitudes are still in our nation. Alongside the autumn glories and frosty dunes of Indiana, Missouri, and Illinois, America seems more statuesque.

 It’s so unlike the jazzy haze of my own Southern life.

While living that kind of United States, I fought every frayed fiber of my being to forget the Louisiana I had left. Not because I hate where I am from. No. To be fair, Louisiana’s people have everything thing to do with why my scattered memory is what it is.

Louisiana is a bowl of culture confusion. We’re every color and most of us here do not fully understand what that can mean for the way we remember and relate.

We like our tribes, our football games, our team colors, and our breakfast and dinner behaviors. And we hold our gossip higher than we’ve held our connections with ideas, feelings, institutions, and churches.

If I do not always have the people who remember me— and who knows what ME they remember—neatly marked with the place and time they marched through my life and took what they wanted, I release the right to intuit where it all fits.

I am one month alcohol-free, trudging slower across my life here in this Southern crucible. Everything here is some kind of test of your attention and I’m always fighting to pay attention. While I was Mid-Western Harold, I was seeing a play called Alabama Story about why libraries, books, stories, love, passion and information get complicated.

While I was Midwestern Harold, I slowed down and held on to scattered ashes, hung garland and tinsel, and a really good cup of black coffee.

 I was able to put the madness of my chaotic Louisiana self down. I wrote on most days. I read my Bible every single morning. I prayed to God without always needing a reason. I turned my fears about the future into words, movements, music, and re-connection.

When I went away, I remembered me. I remembered the “me” in the near future. I realized that I am without as many fixed roots as others have placed in my soil. And if I were a tree, I would readily understand when the yield was not scattering and migrating to a truly transforming renewal.

 I remembered my education. I remembered why in this new scatter future I discarded so much. The Midwest beaming up to the grandeur of Lucas Oil, Castleton Square, Carmel, and Blytheville, Arkansas let me peek behind the curtain of my own becoming. What I saw made me so frightened of my beautiful self. I can now admit that I have been using fear as a bonding agent for so long that I needed to re-visit where I’d been to remember where I’m going.

I don’t remember people who do not remember me. Those who authentic see my “becoming” don’t rely on fear, guilt, or shame.

Best of all, they seem less worried about my ability to perform tired soliloquies that hit all the “right” targets. I was not worried about the qualities of my steadfast repetition. I was just repeating a posture that made my joints ache, made my heart hard and my feelings numb.

It was not the states we visited. It was not the play I watched. It was not about me and more about everything I failed to notice. When I faced the fears and pains within me, I realized that I cannot remember when I have not worked to build.

I never built my past without fear as a bonding agent. And that explains why I don’t connect the same anymore. The Midwest had no nostalgia of the old Harold just the continued thrum of new roots. My new roots have come from understanding that my future self is scattered like bread upon waters I haven’t seen. The new “me” must be free to go. The new Harold in 2019 must be willing to question more than just tree. I must dig into the soil.

The Saturday before having dinner at a McAllister’s deli, God revealed a mystery to me that I had been too hurt to grab hold upon. I noticed that I was walking on a snowy pave where salt had been sprinkled. Ice needs salt upon it so that people do not stumble. And there in the white specks, revelation blazed up into my spirit like fire. God revealed scripture to me and said: See that salt? It’s you. You have allowed the gifts I gave you to lose their intended use. You’re the salt and you must start working to make your seasoning worth something more than being a mere step-stool. I cried and laughed in my heart. I knew what God meant. Salt is a life-giving agent, but we choose the remembrances, the magic, and the force with which to share that life. I can either be psaltery of tragic comedy or the psaltery with purpose. But before the salt does it job, I must keep facing forward and attack the old bonding agent… thawing the ice that threatens to kill the scatter of my hope. Thank you, Indiana. I received my sight back.

Waking Up

Yesterday, I spent a long while talking to another library worker about life. It’s fall. Louisiana is finally getting cold. It’s not the cold that exists in the Northern and New England American states where it’s more likely to snow and roads are almost always covered with black ice.

This cold is the kind that make you unsure about whether to choose a long-sleeve shirt or a hoodie jacket or both. It is a windy cold that blows hard and seeps in around and under your socks and shoes. It a cold that leaves you with sinus infections because tomorrow could be twenty degrees warmer.

We don’t have real winters here. When it does snow, the city is at a stand-still because there are no snow plows our government has paid for. If we had a snow plow or street clearer it would be used once every decade. This morning I woke up to a drafty home that has no central heat. But I was grateful for a roof that keeps most of the elements out. The roof is awesome given the years of hurricanes my grandmother’s house has seen.

Once I bathed and got my head on straight, I walked out to greet the finally turning auburn pecan tree in the yard.

I saw my cousin “stoop-ing”, perched on the step gazing into her iPhone. I decided to go over and talk to her about her day.

She is like a sister and she’s struggling through her 20’s just like I was. Although she’s a young woman she has that same cocky, curious, strong-willed spirit I had when I bore my college 20’s

She is trying to awake to the life around her. And she is wondering who is going to be consistent and listen to her. She is very unimpressed by words. She notices human patterns much faster than I did. She looks with urgency on the word and examines if speech connects action. She asks: What will you truly do when I help you? Will you fall away like the shedding leaves? Or will you be there? Will you judge me or will you teach me how not to fall back?

Fall or Autumn is a falling way. Trees shed like furry dogs trying to renew themselves with a touch God’s grace and environmental elements.

I worry more about my cousin as I join other adults in the circle of life. Am I walking worthy of the blessings God has given? Or am I like the colored leaf in the driveway?

Have I despite my effort failed at waking up to the fresh hell in my own backward?

In her falling, there is the sea of love. The erotic, the ethos, and the energy is a Charlotte’s Web of choice-points. There is the sea of ignorant men who tell her she’s pretty just so they might fool her with charm and status.

As she is growing into a tree that might not be moved, I look into her eyes. Her eyes speak volumes about the stress of being a woman. I have had to learn through her how not to use my maleness to treat her with nothing less than grace and elegance.

It is not easy to do. For I have fought. And I still fight the PROGRAMMING of my male community. I scream back to a persistent, gruff voice that says women are to be used for upward mobility.

And I have had to re-program my mind and heart toward gentleness. I am still falling way from a brotherhood that taught me that women are not deserving of real trust. I am falling away from a program that says women are only child-bearers, burden-bearers, saviors of men, and problem-fixers.

For in her eyes, her mother’s eyes, her auntie’s eyes, her grandmother’s eyes, I found my true essence of manhood.

I would hope that she knows that in my mind learning to value women like I value myself wasn’t some easy transition that I just happened upon. I have needed black women, white women, all kinds of women… to understand myself. I finally get what my own story should be. But I needed women to throw me about, to mine my heart for pure gold.

I learn to respect women only when I understand that they are gifts and not people to be owned or experimented with.

Only when brave, outspoken women awakened me to how I became a tool for sexism, for homophobia, for machismo, for false strength could I began a hard shift.

A woman inspired my librarianship. A woman taught me what a life without feeling is.

And women are my team-mates. And while I’ll never understand women… I don’t need to. I need to listen. I need to show mercy. I need to forgive. I need to shoulder weight. AND I NEED to wait.

Autumn leaves have their purpose. I can only hope that I continue celebrating the women who give me the ticket to my own authentic self.

The lens: thoughts, sights and fear

If I view Baton Rouge through my own lens I see education. When we do “schooling”, the idea is to bring out and bring forth something.

And Baton Rouge through my glasses is not always bringing forth the right emotions or lessons in me. Learning to hope using the lens I’ve been given is no easy or enjoyable task.  

If I peer into the frames of education’s walls I see: Baton Rouge Community College, FORTIS, Camelot, Remington, Delta, Southern University, Grambling University and University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

Students are Colonels at Nicholls State, Lions at Southeastern, and War-hawks at the University of Louisiana at Monroe.

Louisiana is a slew of thought sloping high on plateaus of discussion, dialogue, knowledge and experience.

Racial bias or racial awareness taught me previously that I needed to use my lens to place one college, institution, or “thought-bucket” higher than the other.

They said: “Prize the more African-American leaning seats over the predominately white ones. You’re black and verily the black schools need all your energy.

But I cannot do that. You’d be shocked to know that I have no favorites. My lens is mixed up. For black people were not the only professors and counselors that propelled an educated, yet biased me, past the tired idea that the world turns on how predictable I am within the group.

If a lens is a transparent reflection, I must face the fact that life that there were just as many black, white, and red influences that shaped the new lens with which I stare at Baton Rouge each day.

The same lens shows me running like Sonic the Hedgehog away from news organizations that tell me to be “proud of Baton Rouge” without understand the source of my pride. I should be ever so sentimental while I see my black people killing other black people and threatening me with aggression because I willing choose education over the popular “thing of the day” that swirls around in the vast hurricane of trending topics.

What are our learning places bring forth? Are we bringing forth substance abusers who believe that the myth of Kanye West is the way to freedom? I see rap through a lens of negation. Surely, rap can be a positive art form. But I always see it fanning the flame of anger through my black brothers and sisters. This anger drives them to shoot and kill each other as well as the next person that says that they might be out of line.

I cannot let my lens believe that a single group is the enemy of me just because one man decides to mock and vandalize American society.

If a lens is your reflection, it takes a persistent and altogether different person and force of nature to convince you that your lens is so scratched up by the outside turbulence that you need new glasses.  

I should be proud of our city although I waited until after graduation to see Governor John Bel Edwards celebrate fixing the road fixed near Thomas H. Harris Hall, the place responsible for the English coursework that eventually got me a Bachelor’s.

Or should not I look deeper? My lens is a lens that finds me navigating life with Cerebral Palsy. I looked deep enough to find that a library was more than just stacks of books in an air-conditioned room waiting for someone to take them home.

I learned that a school is not just a building with classrooms of people that cheer for teams, games, matches, and letterman patches. Schools are ideas. And it humanity’s role to decide what looking glass matters the most. Are we just being program to use the clout of the network?

I’ve learned that the path toward a brighter, more vibrant and dynamic lens is examining one’s own energy.

My cousin said the other day: I don’t need your energy.

My energy has not always been filtered through a lens of shared responsibility. My energy before the journey of higher learning was selfishness, shame, and anger.

I believe that through the lens of my own disability, people owed me their sacrifices. I was so sheltered in this former life that I was scared to crack the protective coating of my lens and make a new one with which to see the world.

She doesn’t need my energy. What energy does she mean?

Is it my energy to listen to her concerns, the problem? Or perhaps it’s the energy to forgive her when I see falsehood and sabotage staring me in the face.

I needed someone else’s energy to call “foul” on my own stupid choices.  I needed a professor who had the energy to fail me until I could learn the proper value of a well-researched argument.

I need the energy of tireless women who told me every hour in their presence that the prescription in my lens was counterfeit.  

If I look at the energy of Audre’ Lorde, she’d say:

 Harold, your silence will kill you. I can no longer sit quietly and stare with a foggy lens at anyone who willfully chooses to complain about things that are changeable.

With a sober mind, I can’t say that “my energy” is always the right kind.

But as a story-teller and observer, I must take heart there will always be idiots that want “my energy” when agreement is easy.

And while schools have a direct effect on the power of confused people to do great small things, the lens through which trauma shines is a garbled, anxious mess of hurting people that co-op the peace of others because they are alone, unloved, and just too freaking afraid.

Worth and Cerebral Palsy

I don’t know who said this. But I’ve heard it several times from several different people and in several different, separately unique stories. Someone said: Make peace with your past swiftly because your enemies and fair-weather friends will bring it back to your remembering at the most inopportune time. 

Maybe, he or she or (they) — if they are gender-non conforming) — never said this with the right grammar rules applied. But this idea was always implied, inferred, suggested, underlined, and highlighted in my life experience. 

Accept your past… (the great spirit said) for it will come back to your remembrance at odd, WEIRD times.

So when I write ANYTHING… the sole purpose is usually excavating and mining the peace from my past. I write because I believe that personal stories matter. I write looking deeply for WORTH.

My Cerebral Palsy, a disability that I came out of the womb with, has been the adversary’s weapon. It has been closely associated with my ideas about WORTH.

I ask myself everyday what is this condition I have WORTH?

Cerebral Palsy is my past. But wait…It is also my present, My now… my (in the next ten minutes) and my “as long as I breathe.”

And when I’m done living on planet Earth, I will have lived a life with Cerebral Palsy in the present future tense. 

I did not always have peace with this disability. As a child, I fought against it. And for a significant period in my 20s, I believed I could make deliberate choices that might help me deny Cerebral Palsy and its pressing relevance to my success and failure. 

People today still are great at using Cerebral Palsy to attack my worth.

Yes, the same disability that made me adorable to doting grandmothers, well-meaning religious adherents, and “people just trying to help” also worked as a mechanism to keep me silent.

I’ve been gender mis-identified, sexually misfited,  called “too quiet”, deemed mentally-retarded, and these are just a few episodes of the ever-evolving narrative. I was always made to question how worthy I was. 

I was also introverted when I didn’t know what “INTROVERSION” was. 

And so there was for a long time… the idea that I’m in trouble if I acted, and then in just as much trouble if I kept quiet.    

If I stopped and tallied the number of instances and experiences that have amounted to  “keep silent because your life isn’t important enough”, I would already be rich enough to have my own home, at least one well-kept car, and one manuscript on the New York Times “Best” list. 

To go back to what I just said: I write to get peace with my past. And my past is very indicative of verbal abuse. And I let other people tell me what my “WORTH” was.

 
While some of the verbal abuse was characterized as “tough love” deemed to shake me up so that I might craft some arrogant speck of newfound bravery, most of it was unhealthy, unwarranted, and eventually toxic to the overall development of my own self-worth. 

What is self-worth? 

Sometimes it is rejection. When we develop a good sense of self-worth, we learn the difference between being used (for one’s resources) and being valued.

When you’re USED. You are the good time person. For as long as you are the life of the party, you are called upon. USED people are only good for the life of their product cycle, the second your product stop being good, people discard you.

But when you’re VALUED. There is worth generated on both sides. The group or person that values you gives you the space to change your mind. More dialogue flows through. Communication is a joint deal. And when both the giver and receiver get VALUE, there is less opportunity to feel scared about stating facts, even when those facts are hard to digest.  

So worth begins with a PURPOSEFUL rejection. The rejection I am talking about is of the graceful kind. It is a REAL and deliberate weighing of what is really VALUABLE. and asks Is my action, task, or motivation (valued enough) for me, for others, for society’s betterment. 

How does this rejection relate to making peace with your past? 

In my past, I relished the role of sidekick. I was the sidekick in a movie where the film’s purpose is forever shrouded in mysteriously vague theming.

 Sure, you can act the part. You know your lines. You’ve anticipated when the characters in your movie do what they do. But after several months of production and executing your role, you’ve accepted interviews and accolades and still cannot understand why you agreed to play the side-kick. 

Cerebral Palsy made me the sidekick to myself. In the service of others, I lost myself.

And when I tried to make peace and find myself. The word arrogance kept coming up. When I stated my needs and tried to talk about achieving balance, I would get an argument about why what I asked for was not worth a discussion… and there was NO compromise.

COM- PROMISE (com) means TOGETHER , promise (agreement to do something)

But I really don’t think that people know the meaning of arrogant. To be arrogant is to claim yourself. Sure. But when you’re truly arrogant… the root is altogether NEGATIVE. You claim yourself with no space for another person’s point of view. 

In order to find my “WORTH”, I needed to work on learning to limit, manage, or classify the various points of view that were webbed into my own environments. Maybe, that’s why I’ve grown to appreciate keeping records.

Maybe that’s why I started reading so much. To read well, I had to limit how many people… and how many viewpoints distracted me.

For me, worth is refocused as strength.

I’ve noticed that whenever I speak authentically about worth, guilt always shows up around the corner. But I can no longer use guilt to frame my road ahead.

Silence really does equal death. The longer I allow my worth to be determined by a well-meaning person that is fearful of listening to the facts, the more I cut myself and my community off from evolving, growing, and learning.

I do have a physical limitation. But if my worth is only shaped by my physical limitation, how then can people who have never experienced Cerebral Palsy understand the prejudice that reveals itself in a structure that says you’re only human based on what you’re able to do?

I must continue rejecting ableism. I must reject your idea that I am “helpless”. I must re-frame the notion that I should fade into the background. There is no “I hope that you get better.” Because this disability does not “get better” in the sense that I’ll be “ABLE” like you.

And I am a person of faith. I tell God everyday that I’m glad to live this life.

You are incorrect to assume that because my Cerebral Palsy is “happening” that I cannot pray enough, or serve God enough.

I’m sure that most of you don’t realize that your assumptions about how “worthy” I am at life are not always about making me feel inferior. But sometimes they do.

I am worthy enough to be me. You are worthy enough to be you.

Tip: The next time you tell a disabled person (like myself) why don’t they just break your legs? Ask yourself how you’d feel if the doctor simply decided to break your legs.

Just because my Cerebral Palsy is uncomfortable for you to see… that does not mean I am always uncomfortable. I have gone from torturing myself about my worthiness to choosing when and how to start a conversation.

And while conversations about disability are difficult and awkward… it beats staring at a person (that is staring at me) and waiting for them to say something offensive.