Author: r:e:k:h:a

Back to me

As I mentioned, the current state of mind in my life is that I have been in a funk that had started to feel like the funk of forty thousand years, and so I have been retooling my shit lately such that the funk will get sunk. I have named this effort Operation Joy It Up. Or, alternatively, Let’s Fucking Think About Me Again, How Bout Dah.

Here are some things I am in the process of instituting.

  1. Less Facebooks and tweety Twitters. There are a lot of things to keep up on, and it is true that one could check the news every hour and ever more dramatic things keep coming out, unabated, like a firehose of toxicity, but you know what? If I look at it maybe twice a day for a solid while, rather than 1 minute bursts every gotdamn hour of every day, I can still know what I need to know while not living in a constant state of doom. Social meeds that actually make me feel good? Instagram. So look at that all the livelong day, girl, I don’t care, but all the other stuff? Uncle Joey it and Cut. It. Out.
  2. Sing it Barbra: People…people who need….people… ARE THE PEOPLE WHO NEED TO MAKE RESERVATIONS TO FLY TO SEE THOSE PEOPLLLLLLLLLE. Reservations made. Loved ones! Ima come visit as many of yous as I can! Let’s run through a grassy field toward each other in slow motion while singing You Needed Me by Anne Murray!
  3. Put in time and effort for people who put in time and effort for me, and that’s kind of it for now. I need people who fill up my tank and at this point, let people maybe reach out to me instead of always being the one maintaining.  I usually am a pretty balanced friendship-haver but I have tipped over into doing most of the reaching out. This means that my social time will be significantly quieter, but that’s ok. Being Jack Reacher Outer is just not sustainable.
  4. Stay away from saying “fill up my tank” and calling myself the “reacher outer”, because it sounds weird and/or maybe filthy.
  5. Spend as much time as poss with my dude, because that’s when I am happiest.
  6. Read fiction and watch movies and teevees and listen to podcasts, etc. Somewhere around, oh idk, January 20 or so, I entered a hard core reading/watching drought. Since I have done the other things on this list, that drought is easing up. I am not nearly back to 2016 levels, but it’s getting better slowly.
  7. Think about all the ways that I am doing great, because I am, especially in ways that would not be evident to others, necessarily. Celebrate those things, even if just in my own head for a few minutes.
  8. Sit on my deck in the sun. That place has healing powers.
  10. Realize that I can’t do all the things. There is so much work to be done, and the world is terrible, and I am doing a lot of things, but there are only so many plates I can spin. Maybe do less plates and make sure some of the plates are about taking care of me.
  11. My homeslice Eric and I continue our text thread of songs back and forth each day. It’s kind of the best and I encourage you to find your music partner and give this present to yourself. It’s so fun. Here’s a link to our latest string of songs if you want to hear:

And if you don’t, here’s just one song off the list, with the catchiest beat ever.



Pal playlist

Looking over the past months’ sporadic posting and topics, you can tell that I have been in a bit of a funk. It has gone a little long now and is starting to feel like the funk of forty thousand years so it’s time to slap Nick Cage across the face, make my hair as big as poss Loretta Castorini style and SNAP OUT OF IT. Ima do my best.

One thing that continues to sustain me no matter what bullshizz is happening is my everloving peeps. I am a little bit mad at most of them for living in other states as me (RUDE) but still, they are what keep my boat afloat and my chips ahoy’ed.

One of my local peeps is Eric and he and I text each other a song every now and again. Ok, kind of every day. I love my music text friendship. It is like a little present I get each day from a fave who also happens to know what a jam is.

I thought you might want to get in on this week’s songs we texted. Need a little commute playlist to start your workday tomorrow or something? Listen to our silliness.



The Unbearable Brightness of Seeing

When I was a kid, I remember my parents renting a mini-series called The Jewel in the Crown from our local video store. It was a prestige drama made in England, with fancy people in it like Geraldine James and Tim Piggott-Smith, and it had won loads of awards. The main reason they got it was because it was about colonial India and, although it was full of white people in almost every role, there were actually a few Indian actors. Actual Indian people who would play Indian people. Like, speaking roles and everything. The tv people were going to let some of us have screen time and say words, y’all. Stop the presses! It was a big deal. I remember feeling this sense of dread before we watched it, both for myself, and for my parents. We wanted those Indian roles to be good, those Indian actors to hit it out of the park, and for the script to not dehumanize them and therefore us. Please, let it not be terrible. It doesn’t even have to be great. Just let it not be terrible.

Recently, I heard the hosts on the NPR podcast Codeswitch use the term “rep sweats.” This term, as far as I can tell, was coined by writer Jenny Yang. In this article for Flavorwire about the show Fresh Off the Boat, she is quoted as saying “you get the ‘rep sweats’…[Asians] are so invisible, every time you have the opportunity to see yourself on TV, you hold your breath.” From that, co-host of Codeswitch Gene Demby adds his version of this feeling of POC-specific nervous anticipation: “I don’t know if I like this, but I need it to win.” This is what my parents and I were wobbling with as we popped that VHS in. I don’t know if I’ll like this, but I need it to win. Rep sweats. It is the perfect term for that feeling.

I know that I am becoming ever more ancient by the day, but let me remind you that this Jewel in the Crown viewing was not that long ago. It was in the late 80s. But this was a time when we never saw Indian people on tv, ever. I remember my mom calling me in my dorm room a few years later when I was in college just to tell me to turn on the tv because the barista on Frasier was Indian, and she got a line every once in a while. I would not be surprised if other Indian Americans my age remember the Frasier barista or had similar moments with their families. The character didn’t have a name, I don’t think, and she never had a story line, and she talked maybe a couple times per season, but she was there. I don’t know how to convey how much of a buzz we got from this. It was like seeing a shooting star. Did you see that? Just for a minute, it was there!

Although we are living in a time where we have a little bit more to go on than the barista at Cafe Nervosa, it is still a small handful, rare enough for the family alert system to go off for each and every one. In fact, I can probably name off every Indian person who has ever had a role in a major American tv show. Not probably. I could do it. And it would only take a few minutes. However, I think I may have, in 2017, for the very first time, had an experience that I need a term for, like rep sweats, but not.

Some months ago, I got a text from a family member saying: GIRL DID YOU HEAR MASTER OF NONE SEASON TWO IS COMING OUT?!?!?! The Indians-on-tv alert system occurs in all caps text format these days. In the weeks that followed, I started seeing publicity about it, and the descriptions alone sounded pretty great. Then it came out, and the alert system legit blew up. I got text after text over the next week or so. “OMG, have you seen it?” and “I cried, it was so great!” and “exceeded expectations, dude” and “it’s not just good, it’s maybe the best” and “maybe some of the best tv that’s ever happened?” and many more like it. My community had gone from I don’t know if I like this, but I need it to win to simply we need this to win, and it doesn’t just win. It fucking MURDERS.

I read a bunch of reviews, I listened to podcasts where people talked about it, I listened to interviews of the creators, writers, actors. I looked at all the plot summaries, and listened to my friends talk about their favorite parts. I didn’t care about spoilers. After a while, I knew all about every single episode of Master of None in detail, from beginning to end. But I hadn’t watched it.  I couldn’t watch it. Time went by, and more time. “Have you seen it YET?” my peeps kept asking. I kept putting it off because of this new feeling I was having. Not rep sweats. I wasn’t dreading feeling let down. I felt a giddy sort of heightened sensitivity. Like I had to prepare myself, emotionally, to see it. Like I was going to experience a way of feeling representational joy that I maybe had never had before. Having some part of my worldview portrayed on tv felt like being in the sun for the first time after a lifetime of being in a downpour. Exciting, lovely, beautiful, but one doesn’t just run out into the sun like that. I had to marinate in the idea of it before actually experiencing it. Does that sound dramatic? It was. Have you seen it yet?…Give me a minute, y’all. I need a minute.

Part of what was happening in my mind was that this was more than just seeing another Indian person star in a tv show. We have a couple of those out there already, doing amazing work that I love. But this time the representation was about a specificity regarding Indian-American-ness, about a sensibility, an entire lens and way of being in the world. This is what felt new.  I am not trying to say that Master of None precisely represents me or my family. The lists of ways we are totally different is long. But the pieces that feel familiar make up more familiarity than I have ever gotten from American pop culture in my whole life. Consuming pop culture for me is always an act of building a bridge in order to connect, and all I am saying is, this time I still had to build a bridge, but the bridge was shorter. It was the shortest one I have built yet.

So, I don’t know what you call this feeling I was having, but I do know that as delicious as it was, I wait for the day that I won’t feel this anymore.  Some point when there are all sorts of representations out there and it will be an everyday feeling to see them. When the brown peeps alert system is no longer in use. When seeing a really great rep doesn’t feel like squinting at the sun. Now that I’m seeing some sunshine, I feel like the rain could actually clear up. I needed a minute to prepare, but now that I’ve seen this, I’m ready.



Positives and Negatives

So, we are on a once a month plan now, is the way it’s shaking out, I guess? Hi, June!

Part of my deal right now is that nothing is really going gangbusters for me except work and some activisms, and don’t nobody want to read a blog about me on my work grind, and my activisms may also kill you dead with boredom, so. Yeah. Um. This is kind of my life right now? (cricket sounds)

My mom, sister, and half the total number of nieces and nephews I have left yesterday for a month long trip to visit fam in Fiji and in case you haven’t noticed I didn’t include someone called MS. ME in the list of trip-goers. BOOOOOOOOO. This is not only a major bummer because I am not on the trip, but it is also a major bummer because I talk to my mom a lot and talking on the phone from Fiji is really not an option for us and so I don’t get to talk to her for a month. Let’s say it again: BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO. I am a grown ass woman but I already miss my momma.

As long as we are talking about things that are boo-worthy, let me complain about the following: why my favorite people all gotta live so far away? UGH, YOU GUYS, MOVE HERE, I AM LONELY.

Also, I am mad at public restrooms that make a loud sound when you unscroll the toilet paper. Why do other people have to know how much teepee is being unfurled? This should be a silent transaction.

See, I have all kinds of complaints, from large to small.

Let’s turn this frown upside down though! SOME POSITIVE SUNSHINE NEWS, PLS.

I have a new niece! All shiny, right out of the packaging, and she is fer-reaking cute.

Delium came to visit us from his new home in Arizona (where they apparently can’t even fly planes out of anymore because it is a fiery hellscape?!?) and we yukked it up. He’s only been gone a couple months but gotdammit it was nice to have him around for a weekend.

I have been listening to this podcast and guffawing on the train on the way to work, with snorts.

Sza’s new album! So delish.

I’ll get my equilibrium back soon enough, y’all, and blogging will pick back up I am sure. I hope you are taking care of yourselves and each other out there.

Home. Town.

OH HI. You thought I forgot about you, huh? No, in fact it is a true statement that I think about you pretty much every day. But life keeps going fast, filling up every dang minute, and this is it, May, before I blinked. “This is it, this is it! This is life, the one you get, so go and have a ball!”

If you read that and knew it was the One Day at a Time theme song, we are still friends. If you don’t know what One Day at a Time is, I won’t say we have to break up, but we may need to have a talk to realign our hearts. And the procedure for realignment may include watching One Day at a Time episodes.

I have many things to catch you up on, dear friends. Mainly, I TOOK A WEEK OFF. I am terrible at taking time off for the past couple years all of a sudden (WHO HAVE I BECOME) and it is straight bullcrap of the highest order. So many people don’t even have the luxury of such a thing as vacation days and here I am just letting them sit there. For Pete’s sake. More egregious than For Pete’s sake, actually. For Pete Gallagher’s eyebrows’ sake. Anyway, I did take a week off last month to go visit my homies in the homeland of Flint. First of all, my dear friend Map was celebrating her wedding anniversary and her kids threw her and their dad a surprise party for it. The entire party was a surprise, but me and my other friend Ali showing up from out of town was the surprise within the surprise. The goop inside the Freshen Up gum, if you will, only less disgusting. I have been to surprise parties before but this one was by far the best. First of all, because Map and her dude were HELLA SHOCK. It was so satisfying. And then, when she saw me and my dude and Ali, she was DOUBLE HELLA SHOCK. I mean, she looked stunned and she cried and was just speechless. I felt, in that moment, what it must feel like for Oprah. Just walk in and make someone lose their shit, you know? It was fun being Oprah.

Seeing those ladies fills up my soul. I am definitely a Friends-for-Life sort of person and if you are in my circle I give it my all, like FULL OUT, and if I am honest my Seattle friend-life has been sort of lonesome these days. It was so beautiful to be around these people that love me so unabashedly and unconditionally, the way I love them. THOSE LADIES! Love them like the dickens, for real. Plus, just the week was really blissful overall, hanging out with my beloved mama and tooling around town. It was perfect spring weather and flowers were blooming and everywhere we went we felt that Flint friendliness piling on. Seattle is cool but it doesn’t love me like that place does. My dude loves Flint as much as I do and we walked around my mom’s neighborhood and tried to figure out if it could be feasible to move back there somehow, because shouldn’t one live in a place that loves you back? We just couldn’t make it add up for now, for various complex reasons that are boring, and truth be told I know in my heart I would be singing a different tune if I got a taste of those ridiculous winters there again. I don’t have what it takes to live in an ice-based environment, as a person who is sitting here typing this while it is 65 degrees and wondering where my blankie at.

Anyway, dear Flint, thanks for making me who I am, and for still being there for me. I know part of it is that I am now an Old that feels almost nothing but nostalgia for better days, when my dad was here and my Flint friends were always there for me and I danced every day and the world didn’t seem as cruel overall as it does now. But I also love it for the parts that aren’t about me at all: so much beauty and dignity and fight there. I cherish that place, y’all, and will always be back. And my Flint ladies: until next time. LOVE YOU 4EVER and I wish I could Oprah you every day.

Stereo up and the windows down. Same old city, still driving around. It’s the only place I clear my mind. Passed the 7-11 and the neon signs.

Hold me close, then hold me tighter cause the world I know is falling apart, the world I know is falling apart 

–Michigander, Nineties

Run away with you

I am sorry to start off with mega banality but a few days ago it was warm and so I retired my puffy coat and I could not have been more excited to wear lighter non-puffed outerwear and then I went to work and the weather was like SIKE and I froze my patoots and so now I am back to Sean Puffy Coat. Until we meet again, spring jackets. We will be together someday.

Everyone I know seems to be in a funk these days. How y’all doing? I hope you are taking care, and taking care of each other. I continue to burn the candle at several ends but the upside is that I have been sleeping the sleep of the mummified at night which is a new thing for me. My nighttime self really wants nothing whatsoever to do with anybody or anything these days. It’s like the click of the bedside lamp happens and my brain says “DEAR WORLD, NOPE” and that’s that. How’s that for a bright side?

Last weekend was the anniversary of the day that my dude and I met each other and it was kind of a big one in terms of number and it’s sad to say but neither of us could get our shit together enough to plan one gotdamn thing for it. We got up on Saturday morning and looked at each other over breakfast and I was like “fuck dude, I am so depleted” and he was like “fuck it, let’s get in the car and drive” and I was like “fuck yes” and he was like “fuck off Seattle” and we left. We got to Portland and HEY SEATTLE PEOPLE YOU KNOW WHERE THE SUN IS? IN PORTLAND. Those emeffers had all the rays, it was like Arizona except green and full of artisanal items. The first day we just walked and walked and talked and talked and by the end of the day I think I started to thaw my funk-ass heart a little. STRESS, SHAKE OFF. LIKE, BEGONE. We had a lovely dinner and then: oh sweet elixir of life, we got a pint of ice cream, laid up in a fancy hotel bed and watched HGTV and maybe idk smooched a little bit and that was thaaaaaa best. Oh hi, Chip and Joanna, Jonathan and Drew, fixy uppy flippy floppy tiny housey ALL OF IT. Now that we no longer have the cable tvs at home this was truly a treat and a half. The following day was a freaking delight and you know what really heals my heart? Looking at that dude of mine and holding him by the hand. I love him with all of my gutbones. Glad I found him all those years ago back in dinosaur times. Good job on that one, me. See how I turn it around and make it about congratulating myself? That’s just how I be sometimes. The point is, good anniversary time was had, love was felt, I am a lucky dingus.

On a related note: THIS SONG.  ❤

Runaway, Tay Walker

Sad song self care

Remember a couple posts ago when I went on and on about self care? Well, you know what I say to that person, who wrote that post? HA HA YOU SO CUTE BUT WHAT YOU THINK YOU KNOW ABOUT IT GO ON SAY MORE ABOUT IT YA DANG GENIUS.

I have been sucking at the self care lately, friends. Badly. I don’t know what happened! I used to have it figured out! But now! It’s all gone! Where it go? Why it gone? Sheeeeeeeeeeeet.

I have always been a busy person, a fill-up-my days person, a why do three things when I can do seven things person. So quantity is not my issue, I don’t think, at this point. But these days, it all just feels different. I feel like I have been living inside of a hurricane, and not the middle calm part, but rather the spinny part, and not the spinny part in the fun Right Round Baby Right Round Like a Record Baby part, but rather in the make it stop or else I may puke part. I had a dream one night that I was in a protest and my protest sign just said “U S A! I D K!” Which kind of sums it all up, in a way. There is so very much IDK all around that I am grasping to hold onto the knowns. The Known Knowns, as a certain villain of the past used to say. I want to say that I am tired all the time, but I have always been a person that is tired all the time. I haven’t really slept well since my early 20s so ain’t no thing but a chicken wing when it comes to tired. But these days, my tired at the end of the day is a hazy, glazy tired, where I just feel like what? What happened? Who now? What then? How come? Who dis?

Anyhoozle, on top of all that, I have had a hankering for melancholic music, the kind that has a heaviness you can feel in your guts. Before everything spins into the air, a heavy guts song can be just the thing. Take me down, Ye.

FML, Kanye West


We Three

When I was a teen, I met a guy. I dated that guy for a quick minute until we realized that what we really should be for each other was homies. So homies it was, shoulder to shoulder, just thick as mothereffing thieves. When my actual dude came along eventually and I paired up with him, my kindred homie inducted him into the BFF-ness as well. The three of us moved around the Midwest for a while, never far apart from each other. When Seattle came calling, we answered together. The two of them roomed together Oscar and Felix style until it was time for me and my dude to room together Coach and Tami style. My guy and I bought a house and our homie bought one just down the way. We hung out pretty much weekly for two decades. Our friendship never failed, never flagged, never fizzled. Tried and true. That’s my dear Delium, who I call Delium because one time he got mail addressed to him as “Delium Ulrichter” which is not at all his name but I wanted it to be so I made it so.

My dear Delium changed up his job and life and stuff and part of that deal was for him to move to another state. Which he did. This past weekend. Leaving a Delium shaped hole in my life. Like, it doesn’t compute that he isn’t just down the way no more, waiting to hang with us this weekend. I really cannot comprehend it. His final night in Seattle, the three of us went to dinner, and it all felt normal, us just yukking it up with our usual nonsense, because having him around is so normal; he’s like one of the main pillars that holds up the house that is my life. WHOA WHOA POETRY TALK, TAKE IT EASY. I am just saying, when you live for so many years with a friendship in your face, it becomes like air. They are just what you breathe, until one day, you don’t.

As we walked out of the restaurant and said our goodbyes, I gave him a hug. And when we started to unhug, I all of a sudden could not let go of him. So I hugged him, and cried, and hugged him some more, and cried some more.  And he cried, and my dude cried, and it was truly awful. I know we are still homies and he is just moving away and this may sound dramatic to you, but whatever. It felt awful. I know a part of the awfulness is because, in the past few years, huge parts of my life have fallen away and although I have worked hard to let them leave gracefully, I have disliked every last bit of each time. The holes that those pieces have left have yet to be filled in and maybe they never will be. Maybe the way life goes is we walk around with gaping holes in us, I don’t know. At any rate, letting go has become a practice, and I could feel my Letting Go muscles flex, and I hate those muscles, you guys. I never really allow myself much time to think about how much I hate it, because what good does that do? It doesn’t stop the leaving from happening. But this time, I let myself feel it. Outside of the restaurant, freezing our butts off, on Delium’s last night in Seattle. Our little family unit tearfully held on, held on, held on for the last few minutes of an over-twenty-year streak. And then. We let go.


Dance card full up

Time, as Steve Miller would say, keeps on tripping tripping tripping into the future. WHY AM I QUOTING STEVE MILLER IDK THE APOCALYPSE IS HAPPENING THIS IS ONE OF THE SIGNS. If I start saying Jimmy Buffet things, please proceed to your panic rooms and don’t come out.

All I am trying to say is, honestly, I do not know how my days can get any thicker. I am packing the everloving shit into each and every waking minute, y’all. I feel like there will be a breaking point, but so far the seams are holding. The density of days is contributing to this feeling where time is simultaneously moving slow over the longer term (only one month since inauguration day? HOW?) yet at lightning speed within each day. Can we just take a moment and congratulate ourselves on filling the days to the gills, please? How are we making time expand to fit it all in? To keep up with work, and organizing, and friends, and fam, and community, and projects, and you know, desperately doing all the things to stop that fire hose of garbage spewing at us ? I know that whatever I am doing is never really enough, but let’s not focus on that for just one second and focus on the fact that I am LEGIT HUSTLING, and if you are too, GO YOU. If this shit goes down the crapper, it’s not because we didn’t work our fucking asses off, right? At least we can say that.

I just realized that the lyric is time keeps on slipping slipping slipping into the future. I think? Dipping? Flipping? Quipping? OH PLEASE I WANT IT TO BE QUIPPING. This makes it more appropes to me.

Anyway, just checking in to say WHEW, and OMG, and CAN YOU BELIEVE THESE TIMES, and, especially to you if you are hustling your hardest: WE GOT THIS OR MAYBE WE DON’T BUT WE ARE DOING ARE GODDAMNEDEST SO YAY YOU.

Let’s go, quipping into the fyootch, friendlings.


Self care

Can we talk about self care for a quick sec?

If you were to ask me: should we take care of ourselves? My answer would be, unequivocally, yes. Eat healthy, get some shut-eye, breathe. I was brought up by parents who worked hard AF and never complained a day in their life about it, and so I inherited some, well, let’s just call them (non-judgmentally, please) tendencies in that vein. But I also received from them the beautiful gift of living with a lot of joy and unapologetically loving myself, which means that I think taking care of The Me That Is On This Adventure (to quoth Martin Blank) is important. Not a bad combination, really.

Given this, why do I find some talk about self care helpful, and other talk about it low key annoying? For a long time, I did not know. I just thought maybe it was the fact that the activities that people talked about when they talked about self care were hella corny. Wine, bubble baths, walks on the beach, pampering. Who am I, Mariah Carey? I know, unfair, but I’m trying to say that when I listened to a lot of the convo about self care, I just was not vibing with it.

Recently, there was an article that was going around the bookfaces and other social medias that was talking about self care during these trying times, as people embrace activism with new or renewed fervor. I figured I would give it a read since, although I have been at the activism table for a while, if there was ever a time to make sure we are all healthy in our soul guts, it would be now. Shit be stressful as we near End Times, you may be surprised to hear. Thus, I re-opened my mind to the self care chitty chat.

Y’all, I still can’t get down widdit! Ugh! It kind of made me feel like a ninny all over again. And to be clear, I am not saying it’s not for you. Like, I don’t find it wrong. I just feel like it’s a conversation that alienates me. That’s the bad news. The good news is, I figured out what my deal is. I now know why come this convo isn’t my convo! Wanna hear about it? Allow me this navel gaze. Perhaps we have the same navel and this will help you too. (Sorry, look at me, always Making It Weird).

One premise of the dominant self care talk is that it’s about getting away from the things that are causing you stress. Unplug, tune out, netflix and chill. Basically, the theme is, think about something else. Give the old noggin a break. And listen, I am not going to sit up in here telling you that I don’t like to Hulu the shit out of an eve, because you have met me and you will object. But, the things that are usually stressing me out, as a woman of color in a public servant type career, living in these United States at any time but especially these times, are: well, being a woman of color in a public servant type career, living in these United States at any time but especially these times. And so, fundamentally speaking, I don’t really tune out much. Like, it doesn’t seem doable most of the time, even if I wanted to. When I am Netflix and Chilling? I am not unplugged, because, hi, have you met our entertainment industry at all? Oh pick anything. Mad Max, Fury Road. I am that person sitting there, enjoying the movie, while also thinking all the thoughts about representation. I can’t stop myself. You know this about me. Remember when I got mad about Game of Thrones? And it’s there even when I am not mad. When I am watching The Good Wife, part of my brain in on constant OMG KALINDA I LOVE YOU LOOK AT YOU GETTING IN EVERYONE’S FACE WITH YOUR BROWNESS I CANNOT BELIEVE THIS IS HAPPENING ON TV LOVE LOVE LOVE. If you think this is pathological, I have exactly uno thing to say back to you: it’s the system of racism that is pathological, actually, so don’t hate the player, hate the game.

There is an argument out there that, if we don’t learn how to unplug, to fall back into some state of comfy amnesia for just a little bit of time, that the result is that eventually, the awfulness of the world will be normalized. And that anti-normalization is foundational to opposition to the awfulness. Said in a less ridiculous way: if it becomes normal, we will stop fighting it. In response to this idea, my gut wants to Randy Jackson you and say: wow, dog. Wow. Let me get this straight. Experiencing something in an unrelenting way = normalizing it = getting comfortable in it = no more fighty fight? But the thing is! You know who experiences things in an unrelenting way? Marginalized people. You know who is not comfortable in it? Samesies. You know who keeps fighting anyway? Yeah, now you’re getting it.

So, why do marginalized people keep up the fight despite the historical and current normalization of systems of oppression? Because the stakes are different. That’s all. The power relationship between marginalized people and these systems is different. So, perhaps, the self care conversation needs to be different too.

Am I saying that the conversations about self care, as I see it happening in dominant culture, are wrong? Nope. Am I saying that people should feel bad about that walk in the woods, or their yoga class, or their manicure? Nope. Am I saying that marginalized people don’t feel refreshed by these things also? Nope. OMG GIRL WHAT ARE YOU SAYING THEN MAKE A POINT. My point, quite simply, is that I wish that conversations about self care would consistently acknowledge that stakes are different for different people, and that power is always in play in the ways we take care of ourselves. Yes, I want that in every self care conversation, every time. Because if it’s not said, we perpetuate the idea that power and positionality don’t matter. Which is an act of oppressive power in and of itself.

While we are talking about positionality, let’s just go straight to the article that I mentioned earlier that was being passed around the sosh meeds, which made me balk six ways to Sunday as I was reading it. One of the things in pull quotes was “you don’t have to suffer to make a difference.” Although I understand the point that the writer was trying to make, and I agree with it in certain ways (if I can’t dance I don’t want to be part of your revolution and all that biznass), let’s think about this for a second. “You don’t have to suffer to make a difference” assumes that you are not suffering to begin with. That your suffering may be the very state that propels you to try to make a difference. Also said in the article: do not let anyone shame you for being new to activism. Again, I can see what the writer is going for, and the example used (if you didn’t protest Obama you shouldn’t be protesting that new guy is indeed dum dum talk) makes sense. But most of the “shaming” (a word I wouldn’t use in this context) that I have been around has been very real, very raw critiques from marginalized communities to newly arrived, more privileged activists, sharing how they have felt resentment over not being supported before now. These critiques are valid, and necessary, and are not about shaming. They are about honest feedback on how we can do better as we move forward. Maybe part of our self care should also be about building up our ability to not be so fragile.

So to wrap up this unplugging business. My problem was that I did not understand it, because the conversation isn’t talking to me. Y’all are talking about unplugging and I am all, where is the plug, even? This seems to me to be a fully integrated system from which there is no plug/outlet relationship. There is no off-switch type space for me to inhabit, and further, this is not something I seek, even if I could. And so when you are talking about the plug and unplugging, by all means, go for it. Just at least acknowledge who has plugs and who doesn’t.

What does all this mean for me and my own self care plan? For me (PLEASE UNDERSTAND THAT PHRASE “FOR ME” IN CASE YOU DIDN’T NOTICE IT MEANS IT IS FOR ME NOT NECESSARILY FOR YOU DO NOT GET MAD) what I need is reciprocal self care, which is a term I just made up. This style of self care has three parts.

  1. WHO’S GOT THE POWAH (please say this to the tune of the song by Snap, thank you)

My self care needs to be grounded, really overtly, in the power dynamics that are at play for me and others. This doesn’t mean that I have to live inside a mindset of deficit at all times. I hope I don’t need to remind us that residing in our current sitch means an awareness of oppression and privileges but it also means an awareness of our resilience, strength, and joy. Acknowledging power means acknowledging that power runs in many directions. Greater than the things lost to me because of intersectional racism by far is the love I feel for my own brown woman’s body/mind/heart.

2. DO YOU SEE WHAT I SEEEEEEEEEE (to the tune of Do You Hear What I Hear, Whitney Houston version only, please)

I need self care that is grounded in seeing. Much of my woc life consists of experiencing things that dominant culture either doesn’t want to acknowledge or actively gaslights, and I spend a lot of time simply demanding for those things to be seen AS THINGS. That’s why unplugging and/or “getting away” as the central idea of self care seems off to me. Not that I don’t need time to quiet my thoughts or be alone. But I can tell you this: every time there is a racialized incident, large or small, in my life, the first thing I do and have observed other poc do, is to find each other and say: well. That is a thing that happened, huh? Sometimes this occurs just via locking eyes across a room, or a nod on a crowded bus. It is resistance based on realizing that a fact is indeed, a fact. That just happened. Confirmed. Those instances feel more to me like self care than the most Gwyneth of strawberry facials one could get. In other words, stress isn’t interrupted, for me, from trying to create a neutral space. It’s interrupted by creating an oppositional space.

3. CAN YOU FEEL, THA LUV, TOO NAHHT (say it in that accent Elton John uses when he sings)

Most of all, my self care is centered in loving relationships. Living in a racist system is lonely, y’all. It is isolating. It seeks to break our bonds with each other. The work to oppose it is difficult, and heart wrenching, and full of so much weight. But, as I have done this work in the ways that feel the most right to me, what has come out of that are deep, soul nourishing communities of people that inspire me, make me think, and affirm everything that I am fighting for. Many of those communities face challenges that I have never had, and have so many more reasons to “burn out” than I could ever imagine. But I see, every day, how they meet those challenges with so much energy and vision. I do not feel fatigue when I am around these people. I feel the opposite of fatigue, because I feel accountable to them in a way that nourishes me. Rejuvenation means turning toward them whenever I feel low. I love them, and love is power.

All of that said, I will not say no to a Gwyneth strawberry facial. Just to be clear.