The human body contains one of the most formidable protective structures in nature: the skull. 💀 Skulls house most of what we need to sense the world, including the brain. Despite outward appearances of endless hardness, what makes skulls so strong is the spongy bone sandwiched between dense tissue and (surprise!) blood vessels and nerve endings. You can feel things in those bones and it is precisely that makeup that makes them strong enough to withstand up to 1 ton of pressure.
Today, I want to get to know my skull.
With breaths in, I feel the protectiveness and value in remaining a force while feeling.
With breaths out, I remember all the times that I’ve been hurt or disappointed and push them away from my person.
Breathe in, breathe out.
Afterwards, I check in.
Am I thirsty? Two glasses of water for this confusing week.
Am I hungry? A meal in blessed silence.
Where is the woundedness? Am I feeling it?
Are my friends and family okay? Do I feel connected to them?
I haven’t wanted to write these past few weeks. After Mr. Stallard and Ms. Jones were killed in a hate crime at a Kroger ten miles from my home, I didn’t want to say anything because life was so complicated. Anice was out of town and my Mom was here and J had lice (“itchies”) and I just couldn’t prioritize grief. I needed to systematize things and get myself and life in order first.
Once I was ready to deal, the deaths of two more people populated my FB timeline and I noticed how little the emotional needle moved for me at first. I made a note in my journal and left it to sit on the stove. This needed to be considered and I needed to be patient.
I had a minute or two on a radio program on Halloween that really drove my feelings home with a trunk full of emotional groceries. It was drivetime and I’d already been kinda wary of being a part of any media circus. I waited my turn, listening as a man who narrowly avoided being inside the synagogue in Pittsburgh as parishioners were being massacred talk about his experiences. After ten minutes of conversation, they took a break and I was up next to talk about Louisville.
The radio personality, meaning well, admitted she knew nothing about what happened here until she’d heard about Pittsburgh. She then played the entirety of a news story, filled with half-truths and a factual but emotionally bereft recounting of the events. After it was completed, she asked me two questions (basically about where to donate and how Pittsburgh and Louisville were connected) and our time was over. I hung up, noted how frustrated I was by even spending time doing all that, and moved on.
I think it was about then that I started to feel the hardening of my heart.
I’m already fairly emotionally managed, so it was a little discouraging to know that if challenged my equilibrium could go from a managed -1 to a relentless -3 as a baseline for how detached I could be. Sadness gave way to a cold anger and it happened quickly. More than anything I’m frustrated by how far away I feel because I need to do that to be with everyone else that isn’t Black or Brown. Otherwise I’m counterproductive (worthless) or mentally ill (dangerous) or something else candy-coated with racial animus.
Don’t get me wrong: I know people have feelings about this. I also know that most of this public disassociation is about trying to live and move forward in spite of adversity. People do that. But the events that have transpired both during the real rise of tension and the aftermath, full of disengagement and false promises, have made me seriously re-evaluate where and how I spend my time.
I yell at people I’m angry at a lot more now. I don’t do it because I want the person I’m with to be scared or suffer. I do it because I’m starting to see that I’ve gained so little from being anything but clear and honest. Also, sometimes yelling at people – especially White people – is an appropriate response.
There are groups I’ll spend less time with. I still love them, but I’m recognizing that sometimes I give more than I get and I’m starting to see that some spaces need more attention from me. The end of the year is going to see a lot of polite but clear withdrawals from me.
Hate crimes are deemed hate crimes not just because they are heinous. They’re specifically designated because of the impact they have on larger communities that they target. When you say something is a hate crime, you’re saying “this hurt more than just the physical target. This injured a community.” That’s not to say all of Jtown or Louisville is a victim.. because nah fam. But Black folks here sure are and are grieving just the same in all the complex ways it shows up.
I’m waiting for folks to say that. All of us to say that. To acknowledge that something happened and that folks will take responsibility and not leave it to grieving Black people to figure it out. Until then, a lot of people will have a different experience with me.
It’s gonna be a cold winter. Be safe.