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.