Of Imposed Silences

I have so many words I want to write tonight. There is much happening around me, around us that impacts me and people I know and care for/with. But we all don’t live by hashtags and selfies and the color of dress we choose as a statement. For some those things are beyond reach, beyond comprehension even.

There are things I would say and write but to do so would be to risk so much : the confidence of others, the comfort of my own steady paycheck.

So for now I hold not just my face but my tongue.

For now.

 

 

So It Begins

This is where the panic set in.

 

I decided I was going to write with the goal of publishing.

 

But but where the hell do I start.

 

What genre am I going to do this in? Is it through poetry?  A series of essays? Do I write about mami’hood? Organizing from teenage hood to now? My journey as a writer/blogger/journalist? The politics of blogging as a woman of color as tech was rapidly changing? Just the politics? Oh and the puterias – the good, bad and scary? I still journal daily and that’s where all the dirty details are. I have decades of journals. Archives of my lives, movement histories. How the fuck to cobble all those together into something tangible.

 

No pero that’s too much and I needed to focus and chill the fuck out or burn the fuck out.

And I’m not doing this full time. I’m working, mami’ing, and writing. I need to put up or shut up but I also need to be real.

 

So I took some concrete steps that sort of seemed to fall together at the same time.

 

Blogging daily is helping me get into the habit of writing for an audience.

 

I’m grateful to dear friends and loved ones who via social media and in comments have been affirming what I’m doing and also helping me frame it.

 

It doesn’t have to start as one huge project. I am volumes and so I think it’s more important that I write anything than getting stuck on the form.

 

I joined an online course on memoir writing where the outcome is an outline and a chapter or two that will be workshopped.

 

I’m working on a shortish manuscript to submit to Vona and if I get it I’m going damnit. So I have somewhat of a timeline that takes me through the summer.

 

Today I started something like a manuscript – a draft and I have a very loose outline.

 

Today I have 1500 words.

 

It’s s start

Access

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After 20 years of mamihood, I should be less surprised by the hoops various systems make you jump through in order to be “engaged”, “involved” or whatever other term these systems use to judge “parental involvement”.

But I’m still shocked, even as I go through the hoops with all the privileges that I have: language, citizenship, a certain level of education, a certain level of experience.

The latest adventure involves the Los Angeles Public School system and the hoops needed to jump through in order for me to chaperone my child on an overnight field trip.

Part of me gets it. We all want to ensure the safety of our children. But to be this level of “volunteer” within the LAUSD system means submitting oneself to physical examinations (to make sure I don’t have tuberculosis), submitting oneself to fingerprinting (to check my criminal record) and filling out a form that asks for my social security number and country of citizenship.

I don’t have much doubt I will “pass”, be determined to be healthy and moral enough. But those who can’t even read the application? Those for whom submitting to fingerprinting is too much like the biometric checks when they came to the US, were in various types of jails? Those who don’t have social security numbers? Those who see the question about citizenship and wonder what if this is used for something other than for just me wanting to be with my kid at an overnight trip?

Better to not “participate” at all but then risk becoming considered not engaged, not interested, not participatory enough.

Every Monday there is an assembly at my kid’s school. The routine is always the same. Pledge of Allegiance, some patriotic song, announcements, awards, and the school song. When I attend I’m the only parent (that I can see) who doesn’t do the pledge or sing the patriotic song.

But I submitted my fingerprints

Hold My Face

Hold my backback.

Hold my purse.

Hold my drink.

These lines

These words signify moments.

They signify places.

They signify something was / is about to go down

And your

Girls, your sisters, your women, your crew

Would be witness

Or

party to something.

On the corner around your / Our school.

In a club.

 

I graduated as an adult with a certain title

To holding my face.

Literally in a meeting I can / could be seen holding my face

Because it doesn’t  hide much.

I have a hard time holding in my expressions:

Twisted mouth,

Pursed lips,

A slight sigh of exasperation.

 

There is an expectation now as an adult

As a woman

With a certain title

To maintain a certain decorum that I will admit I’m not always good at.

 

I’ve become somewhat of an expert at holding my voice,

Holding back a curse

An accent

But my face always gives it away.

 

Today as a meeting ended I was told by a dear colleague that I was all in during the meeting.

I think I held my voice but I didn’t hold my face.

I didn’t apologize but just said something about it being a new year

With less fear,

Less desire to hold in things.

 

I’m still navigating my own presence

My own power

And balancing the expectations that come with being

A woman

Of a certain age

With a certain title

But

I need to own that I also have graduated

And have had certain experiences

That don’t require me to hold in so much.

There’s too much going on

For me

For others

For us

To keep holding in our breaths

Our faces

Our understanding of reality based on decades of

work/life.

Danger

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The other evening, on my bus commute home from work I was reading the Parable of the Talents and suddenly I recalled how my mother understood the danger my work/life puts me in before I did. I burst into tears on the bus

When my little apartment in Corona was broken into and ransacked, around the time I was writing about minutemen, she was the first person to suggest this wasn’t a regular break in. Nothing was stolen. My laptop was on my bed where I left it. I didn’t want to believe my words, actions, being had power or could perceived as a (counter) threat to a revived white supremacist movement. Now as doxxing, harassment, and other forms of digital turned real violence has become more commonplace, it’s easier to believe, even for me.

But there are other betrayals, violences, violations that our parents, our families don’t warn us about directly. Over the holiday break, on our last evening together between wine, cheese and the Real Housewives of somewhere, I confessed some of the challenges I was facing in my cohabitation. This felt like a huge admission as I moved cross-country to be in this relationship, leaving my family, my support networks, my city behind. She became emotional and I wasn’t sure if it was because she felt bad for me, felt sad for me, or if she was being empathetic. She said that after her own marriage with my father ended, she never trusted men again.

“ I know this is wrong,” she admitted but it was what it was.

I fought back my own tears. I felt sad for relationships she could have had and didn’t, relationships she did have and maybe never gave them all they deserved, and the relationship she thought she had but in the end didn’t.

I felt like she was crying because she was afraid for me. She doesn’t want me to end up like her. I worry that it’s too late – for both of us.

The gods have given us talents , we will be judged for how we use them

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I’m reading Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Talents for this new year and it feels appropriate. I’m not deep enough into the book to make a deep commentary about how it connects to (predicts? Seriously she predicts the whole “MAGA” meme) the current historic/political moment in the United States. What I am holding/taking from the book now has to do with my goals/visions (don’t say resolutions) for the new year.

I spent the last week of 2017 in the city that helped create me, with the family that helped mold me. My mother and I have developed this ritual/routine on the last night of my visits “home”. We kill a bottle of wine (or two), catch up on our lives as two adult women, while reality tv plays in the background.

I don’t know if it was the wine, the time of year, or the comfort of being the closest thing I’ve ever known to home but I had to confess my regrets about my writing, my lack of discipline, and my inability to trust myself and value myself enough (more).

This is one of the reasons why I decided to restart the blog. I missed the sound (action) of my own voice. I miss the practice of daily writing for an audience – imaginary or real – even though more than anything I’m writing for myself. There are also opportunities coming – spaces for me to reclaim myself as a media maker and as someone who actually had a role in creating the culture of online/digital media especially for women of color, for mamis, for put@s (or is it putx – my age is shoring) and for how multiple identities intersect with politics and how they are interpreted and spun and sold back to us by media claiming to know about us, be about us, be us.

The digital news/journalism realm has proven itself to be cyclical in nature and in lock step with politics especially thinking about how media, politicians and non-profit organizations work together to create narratives. Conversations about the DREAM Act being discussed alongside conversations about the rising power of white supremacy take me back to the late 2000s when we were talking about the minutemen and the DREAM Act and of course I could go back even further but you’ll have to buy the book I’m going to write this year for that.

And yes – I told my mom this. Half drunk, definitely full of myself, and on the real – exacerbated by seeing the same spin in a new decade with sort of new tools with young(er) writers thinking they invented analysis and the means to share that analysis.

So yeah I told my mom I’m writing a book. I may have tweeted about it. Now I’m blogging about it. I guess that means I need to do it.

PS – I know at least one of my beloved work wives has been reading the relaunch and I’m grateful for the audience and for the accountability. Hold me to all these things. It’s for all of us.

 

Volver a Empezar (2018)

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I am actually writing this as 2017 is coming to a close. It is the night of the last new moon of the year and I have a horrible cold that I swear was my body and spirit detoxing from a hard hard year.

The cold came a day after a day of hangover symptoms even though I didn’t have alcohol. Peeps in my office had me convinced that office yoga moved some energy in me. I also could have just been exhausted from two weeks of travelling (LA to Chicago to NY to LA to San Fran and to LA again). Did I mention I traveled with my 10 year old?

2017 was an intense year that screamed at me that things needed to change in my life. The outside world was doing its own screaming. We have our 45th president. I turned 40. My personal/family life was a mess so I began therapy. My adult child moved out. My partner and I started couple’s therapy. Two exes told me how wonderful I was for them because of all I did for them and all of this left me heartbroken and feeling like, to quote my 10 year old, my cup of care was empty.

There are a few things that did manifest themselves at the end of 2017 that seem to me like breakthroughs/visions. One of those things is how much I miss writing and performing and that the veil that I think exists between me as a “professional” and me as a media maker is an illusion. People in the NPIC where I now draw a paycheck knew me (and resented/disliked me) as Mamita Mala. No one talks about it because in the Los Angeles NPIC very few people are direct about anything. There is a lot of chisme and talking behind people’s backs. I prefer to be direct.

In December when my dear amiga brought me to an open mic and I read a piece almost as old as my older child, word got around quick. It felt good when I read at make/shift’s closing and it gave me the opportunity to reclaim and stand in my role as media make/writer. So I will spend much of 2018 figuring out how I reclaim and hold that part of me alongside the rest of me.

I’m not leaving my job anytime soon – as I – much to chagrin of many – am good at it, and I actually enjoy working with the people I work with and there are goals that I have for the org I serve that I would like to see achieved.  However I’m under no illusion that I will be in my role forever. That’s not healthy – not for the org or for me, and honestly while Los Angeles has been so good to me, it also has broken my heart and left me feeling very very lonely. I suspect I will also figure out a path that will eventually bring me back to New York. Again this will likely be a long path but it needs to be drawn.

Also I have recognized that for much of my life I have sacrificed too much of myself for the care of others – especially lovers- in the hopes of someone, someday eventually offering that much care and attention to me. It has proven a fruitless war with myself thus far – although there have been many beautiful moments of love, affection, beauty, sweetness and yes – good sex. There is something however to the words of lovers who have called me nurturing and even a doormat, all at my own expense and perhaps even at the expense of the well-being of my children.

So much of 2018 will also be about learning to put myself first, get my needs met first and not externally. I can take care of myself ( I have made it thus far – a little wounded but alive) and I need to put a more concerted effort in mothering myself, my work/writing, and my children.

The ever present exhibitionist in me invites you along for this journey

Welcome 2018

Pa’lante