How to Be in Pain and Not Fall Apart

There is a fine, fine art to being in pain and not falling apart.
I have had several challenges in the last month. I was facing deadlines,
different areas of my life were flatlining, others were soaring,
it was real.

There are about four things that I have identified that have been
integral to being able to be in pain and not fall apart. They are
faith practices, a community of healing, self care and time.

Faith Practices
What ever your faith practices are, you will have to rely on
them a little more than usual and perhaps get into them a little
more intensely than you normally do. When your spirit is sideways,
and you have been brought to your knees, in many ways faith is all
you have.

Community of Healing
I don’t go to the hardware store for bread, I wouldn’t go to the zoo to
get a loan. I try and go to the proper places for the proper help which
means that try and see out folks who are a little more spiritually advanced
than I am when crisis mode has me against the wall.
I have about six people
who are more spiritually more grounded than
I am who I can reach out to
when I am trying to make sense of something.
This is new for me. I learned
last year that I needed these folks in my life, when I saw a friend who had
his own community of healing and realized that he dealt with things entirely
differently than I did, and he was far more sane and stable.

These six people are comprised of friends and family, others are people
in a self help fellowship
that I am a member of and then there are folks in my faith
community.
In terms of being in pain, the only way through it is through
it
, and I hate it. Not above, under or below, but through. There may be
moments where you feel like you are falling apart,
and that is okay, it is
a part of the process.

Just like my dear friend and colleague Tracey Rose mentioned
to me today, “You have to sit with the feelings because as long
as you fight them,
they continue to get stronger.” I was floored.
I looked at the phone, like, she crazy. However, I didn’t disagree,
I listened and it helped.
I sat with them, listened to some Al Green
and some new Kanye, it was uncomfortable, but ultimatly I felt transformed.

Self Care
Self care entails doing kind things for yourself. This may be watching
The Cowboys, making cinnamon rolls or going to the movies. There is also
an element of not beating up on yourself when things don’t go the way
you expected them. In many ways there is a kind of grace to it. For
me the ultimate self care is a pedicure and brunch, but with the economy
being what it is, the $30 spent on a pedicure and fancy eggs and toast
can used on a cell phone bill, a metro card, or my perpetual
library fines
. The general idea is that you take some time to be kind to
yourself.

Time
Being in pain and getting through it takes time. Giving that the holidays
are upon us, being around family can be both comforting and amazing,
however it can trigger old wounds. Getting through the pain takes time
and in many ways, being around family shows us that if we don’t deal
with it, it will be sitting there waiting for us, whether we like it or not,
year after year. The notion that all this takes time is arguably, one
of the most challending for me to deal with, and perhaps for you as
well. For me it entails accepting that I only have control over myself,
my actions, my thoughts. While I may want things to happen in the
time that I want them to, I simply can’t make them. Thats a fact of life.
So I struggle. I struggle with sitting with it, getting the work done that
needs to be done, and I am so grateful for when the pain is lessened
a bit. When that happends, it feels like a boot has been removed
from my throat, and
dios mio am I grateful.

I hope that these help you. I’d like to hear what you think
about my suggestions.

How do you cope with pain?
The big three, alcohol, sex, rage?
Do you shut down?
If you have tools, who taught you?

Biany, Joseph, Marquette, Matthew, Pathanapong,
Raquel,
Salina, Tracey, thank you for inspiring me to write this.

The Blues and Transformation

Still from I’m Through with White Girls


There is something to be said for
The “Borderless Relationship”
post, as it was was a catalyst for
change in M.dots world.

Out of a desire to both write in a way that reflects what we
have come to be known for, and to also avoid being
outta pocket (see that interest balancing, wink nod wink)
I won’t go into the fine print.

Bear in mind that I wrote the above sentence a few times.
I was unsure as to which tone to strike. Anger? Thats
conceivable. Empathy? Of course. In trying to empathize,
at first it felt like, nah homie, I ain’t doing that. But then again,
its one thing to talk that personal transformation
talk, but a whole other to practice it when tested. Besides,
aren’t life’s tests
designed to show us what we hold most dear?

In many ways it reflects what many of us do when sorting through
something. We think. We talk. We think. One of the amazing things
about writing is that you do have the time to think, revise, and
rethink, which can drive you nuts, but it can show you things
about yourself that you were unaware of
.

However, writing it has proved to be interesting. On one level I am
glad I had the courage to write, glad I was able to see The Graduate
and not rage at his borderless tendencies, glad that I could make a
connection between my borderless relationships of the
past and how it is playing out with Filthy right now.

Still it is hard, because their is a level of uncertainty, tension,
and proverbial sh-t hitting the fan, emotion wise.

I have always contended that “you don’t want to bring me
around” if there are things that you want to keep from yourself,
because more than likley those issues will surface.

I think it comes from having seen the best and worse of my parents
at a young age. I survived by cultivating the ability to analyze intent,
capacity, anger and rage of adult human beings starting from the time
I was about 8. It was at that period that I realized that the people
that I knew my parents to be may or may not come back.
It has influenced that way that, perhaps in a way that I can’t imagine,
I read see an interact with people in general.

As a result, I have to be careful to not “tell people about
themselves”, simply because while it may feel like the right
thing to do at the time, it is, at the end of the day, it is none
of my business.

Blogging however gets me into that a gray area, because I am not just
writing about myself, but others as well, which may get me in that
sticky, icky, ooohhhh wee gray area.

When I write, I write to share, to make a contribution,
and many times simply to make a sense out of an experience
I may have recently had.

Many of you e-mail me to mention a post, to say thank you, or just to show
general appreciation for the fact that I shared something. It’s wonderful,
as I know that we are all busy so it shows me that their are folks feel
the contribution being made, which is validating in and of itself.

In the spirit of that sharing, I will say that, ultimately this past week
has shown me that you never really know what life holds and that it
is incredibly important for me to remember that I am powerless over
all people except for myself
.

How do you hold on when faced with uncertainty?

What coping mechanisms, if any, do you use to keep
your mind right, during uncertain times?

On Waiting Around for A Man

A few weeks back I was speaking with Tracey Rose about how as women,
we will drop what we are doing, a paper or a project,
to kick it with a man.
I understand that a distraction is a distraction,
and sometimes you desire
one because you just don’t want to
be working on what you have in front
of you at that moment.

However, there is something to be said how men can put work
first and companionship second, whereas we are willing to sacrifice
our work, for the opportunity for companionship.

I mentioned this to Filthy and he offered that as women,
we are socialized to make the love from a man our number one priority.

He and I than began to have a discussion about how one of the ways that
patriarchy measures manhood is by dollars so it makes sense
that heterosexual men are willing to put emphasis on work
over a desire to be with a woman. They do this because they have
been socialized to do so. This is a narrow cell to live in.
I sensed in him that it was a moment of realization for both of us.
It became clear that this may have a tendency to damage the quality of
life for both women. In that moment, I became empathetic towards
men about the fact that we may expect them to perform in ways that
they haven’t been taught or given the tools to carry out.

Capitalism is able to maintain its hold over the spirits of men by telling
them that they are what they take home after taxes
.

Furthermore, as Black people, who were originally brought to this
country to work for free, and to give birth to children to work
for free, I suggest that we be cautious with tying our humanity
to pay after taxes.

I also added that if men are encouraged to pursue work
over women, then implicit in that line of thought is
that women or a woman will always be around to be pursued.
This would indicate that we are expendable, replaceable
and in ample supply.

In addition, I heard him tell one of his friends in a conversation
about how women go about relationships differently and the
the implications that this may have for community organizing work.
He mentioned how women have a more astute understanding of
the fact that relationships need to be nurtured along in order to
thrive. I liken it to a church metaphor. If you attend Bible study
on Tuesday, and church on Sunday where you eat Ms. Johnson
cobbler or Ms. Jacksons greens, it is much easier to help Ms. Johnson
with her landlord problem
if you have been eating and praying with
her twice a week for the last
6 months.

Filthy and I went on to have a conversation about how, because
of our socialization, we tend to constantly evaluate
our careers against our relationships, trying to see how the fit, if they
are mismatched, how they are progressing into the future and
finally whether may be healthy or unhealthy. He remarked,
matter of factly that men tend not to do this because they are
not socialized to evalaute their careers against their families.

After that conversation I thought about the messages that
fairy-tales send us, I thought of my roommate in law school who
was working class Persian lady from Los Angeles who joined
a fancy and expensive art collectors group with the hopes of
meeting a rich man at an event, I thought of how some women
go to college with the hopes of meeting their husbands.

As for focusing on work or choosing companionship, I have done
both. On one have I have been too rigid in
insisting that my kicking it time is planned out ahead of time,
just so that I don’t, in my opinion let a dude know that he can
disrespect my time by calling me in the middle of a
afternoon Tuesday afternoon, (we were both students)
saying “What ‘chu doing? I am on break from class,
you don’t have class today, why don’t you come through?”
I remember look into the phone like, dude you don’t have it like that.
He then accused me of treating relationships like work product.

I have also shelved working on a project to hang out with a guy.
I knew that I was suppose to read for class, but I got a offer for
Sangria and see a new independent film. Next thing I knew I was in
the shower and out the door.

However, it became clear to me 2 years ago,
that there seemed to be something amiss in a mans
ability and perhaps more importantly the societal
expectation that he should focus on his work yet, I should
be flexible when he was free.

For instance,The Graduate stayed in the library. Sure, he liked
him some M.dot,
and would give lip service to wanting to hang
out, but whenever I would
catch him on the phone, he was
going to or coming from the library. In seeing how dedicated
he was to the library, and with my competitive nature,
I started going to library for five and six hour stints.

It was in observing him that I came to see how someone
placed reading and writing at the center of their schedule
and built everything else around it. I am sure he dated and
that were women on the scene, but his main priority was taking
care of his grad school work.

Thinking about this issue has reinforced, for me, how the
gender roles and
expectations that we are expected shape
our choices and actions.
For instance, even when my female friends
have mentioned to me that I should focus, or that men are a distraction
for me, or that I should not give out more than I am getting, I think to
myself that their
comment is about them, not about me. I also think
that perhaps they are not
taking care of the things that they need to
do hence the desire to tell me what to do. I have also wondered if they
would say the same
things to me if I were a man.

Thats not to say that they don’t mean well when they say
these things because more than likely they do.
However, I know that all personal transformation takes place
from the inside out, so someone inquiring about my essays,
about how my book is going, how grad school is going, how 100 V
is going, how Filthy is going and then proceeding to tell me
that I need to focus, is highly unlikely to inspire reflection
or transformation.

What I do know after reading think about this, is that being
a gender rebel is not for the faint of heart, feel me?

Any one tell you to focus recently?
Have you had any second thoughts about changing your
plans to hang out with someone
?

Thoughts on Men, Emotions and the Feedback Loop


It wasn’t until December that I learned the extent to which SJ
was looking
at the front door.

We were talking, something that we did 2 or 3 times a day,
and he casually mentioned “This is the best conversation
that we
have had in like 6 weeks”.

I was like errrrrk record scratch.

I knew the relationship was going over a rough patch,
but sh-t, on a scale of 1-10, 10 being good, I though it
was at least 4.5.
Apparently he was on some 2.5 type
sh-t.
I have always contended that without feedback, you just
can’t get better.

To be fair, I was not in the place to do something
constructive with the feedback. Anger at life got in the
way. But there is something to be said for stating,
“M.dot, yo, this, this and this is a deal breaker and
if it doesn’t improve, I’m out. No threats, just putting you on”.

I also know that this is a culture that teaches, rewards
and instills
in men that emotions are feminine and to
be avoided at all costs
.

The lack of feedback reminds me of how, in law school,
there is this expectation that you are suppose to just “figure out”
arcane jurisdictional rules
with other students who
are fumbling around just as blindly as you are.

There is nil feedback. In fact you have to fight for it.

That being said, the only way you learn is by constantly
participating in the feed back loop, like a second seed team thats
gunning for the upset
.

You practice. Play. Review your success. Watch last week’s
game tape. Review your mistakes. Watch your
opponents game tapes. Takes note. Adjust your strategy.
Turn around, start over gain at practice.

So yeah fellas. Mentioning the extent and scope to which
you are unhappy would really help us in deciding how we will
respond if at all. I am sure that the ladies could stand to do the
same.

This post is brought on in large part by the fact that Filthy is here.
Last night he continually asked me, “How you Feel?”

For him, it’s reflexive. For me that sh-t was annoying.

Now you know me. I am more inclined to answer a question,
an inquisitive in the gristle question, provided I know that
the other person is going to reciprocate.

Upon reflection, I get it. The “How you Feel’s?” are
an effort to instill a continued Feed Back Loop and
I ain’t mad at that.

===
===

Men and Emotions and looking at the front door.

You give feed back or you just let ’em dangle in the
wind and keep and eye on the door knob?

===
===

72 Hours of New Amerykah: Part II – First I was Malcom, now I’m El Hajj



Last weekend, in BK, I resided with
Mean Sexy‘s sister,
Flybug Starski
.
We had one of those 4am, in the gristle
conversations. We discussed our paths in life, whether
we where we wanted to be and coping and planning for the future.

It was awkward, painful and necessary. She demonstrated
to me how my people can hold me down if I actually plan
ahead and ask for help.

I met Filthy Dubois in person for the first time and that
sh-t was bugged. You ever been caught off guard by how
easy it is to chill with someone?

I think we had an entire dialog using
Illmatic lyrics. Man. That sh-t had me gone.

Filthy ain’t Black. So, I caught some sideways glances from cats
while I was walking with him in Harlem. He was not
phased. I was just like “ay, blood, these dudes are tripping”.

But then again, chilling with him, forced me to confront my
own issues of seeing Black men with White women.
White parents with adopted Asian daughters.
My issue with Black men, who get degrees,
and then say that they are not dating Black women
anymore, because we “have too much mouth“.

In fact, SJ continually got on me about how careless it is
for me to make sweeping statements about some
white folks, or about any group in particular.
We all human, no?

Clearly, I have a lot to ponder.

====
====

Last week, I wrote on my hand,
“I hate these, I am going to meet my fate moments”.

We are entitled to our truth, but that confrontation
process is not what the streets want.

I am really rethinking the racial lens through which I see things.
Like first I was Malcom, now I’m El Hajj.

====
====