But what will become of (y)our souls?. . .

Being apart from my Boo is hard. I miss the way he makes me laugh, his pubescent inability to get out of the bed in the morning and his singular obsession with eating. This is why the continuous flow of details about the children who have been forcibly separated from their parents really has me shook. . .don’t even get me started on the travel ban.

Make no mistake, the reality that our government is actually doing this is traumatizing all of us. We are being abused. . .our collective psyche, our sense of humanity, our national identity, our very souls. I don’t believe that anyone, including those who have not seen the photos or heard the cries is immune to the damage. Not a one of us.

In an interview about his role in the film, Twelve Years a Slave, Michael Fassbender spoke about how his experience playing “a sadistic plantation owner was so harrowing, he passed out during filming. He said that the scene when he has to rape and beat a slave girl was too much to bear and he ‘keeled over’ in front of the film crew. “(Thompson:Sunday Express: 2013).

Take that in for a moment. An actor, who knows he is merely carrying out a scene, saying lines he had memorized and rehearsed, performing under the glare of lights and the commands of film crew members, was so overwhelmed by the act of inhumanity and violence that he had to simulate on a fellow actor that he PASSED OUT COLD.

As a black person in the United States, I am well aware of the legacy of the trauma of slavery, Jim Crow, lynching, mass incarceration, redlining, discrimination in housing, education and healthcare. And it takes a long time and a lot of work for black people to remember that we are, in fact, the descendants of kings and queens and scholars. The work and determination it takes to recover our souls from the trauma of white supremacist institutions is herculean, at best.

But what becomes of the souls of the perpetrators and the beneficiaries of this system?

What becomes of one’s soul when you call the police on an 8 year old black girl selling water?

. . .or when you yell “all Muslims must die” at two young Muslim girls on a train?

. . .or when you overlook a job candidate because of their seemingly Latino name?

. . .or when you gentrify a neighborhood, yet protest the diversification of the local school?

I used to believe that the way black people fought against the forces of oppression was to be the best, to work twice as hard and to prove to those in power that we had exceptional examples that defied the narratives of black pathology. It was a moment to moment discipline of minding what I said, minding what I wore, minding the condition of my hair and the prominence of my backside. Not anymore.

White supremacy is the pathology.

It is the air that we all breathe in the US. It alters our cells. It changes who we are and who we are meant to be. It traumatizes our psyche. It is a disease in our souls. . .individually and collectively.

Michael Fassbender’s own body could not deny that fact.

It is only through the persistent dismantling of white supremacist thinking and being and doing that we can recover our souls. . .individually and collectively. It has to be a moment to moment discipline of examining one’s thinking and being and doing. . .led by the white people in this country.

It is only in recovering your souls that you will help all of us save ours. . .individually and collectively.

 

Collateral Damage

The first couple of days of the “mom”bbatical were difficult, I’ll admit. I’ve had “mom”cations before, but this felt completely different. I knew that in a year, my son and I would be changed by our experiences. Physically, he’ll likely look like a different kid altogether. His voice will have completely changed and I’m sure he’ll have added a few inches.

What I didn’t really think about was the impact this decision would have on the other member of the family. . .our cat, Ruby.  A house guest once shared a theory with me about Ruby. She said that based on her behavior, Ruby thinks that she and I are both raising my son. . .that she’s his mom, too.

I was surprised to learn that I was in an inter-species, same-sex relationship with my cat. But, as I observed more closely, it made sense to me. Ruby would curl up beside “our” boy while he did his homework, protecting him until I came home from work. If I was out of town and my mom was staying with my son, Ruby would abandon her usual sleep spot on my bed and park herself on his as protection. And if he didn’t come home from school at the expected hour, she would show her displeasure by peeing on the couch. . .worst nightmare.

Alas, Ruby was none too pleased when Emmanuel didn’t come home those first nights. When I woke up each morning, there she was sitting on the floor in front of his door, looking up at me as if I had betrayed her. Her meow was deafening as if she was asking, “What did you do with our kid?”

It’s hard to explain to a cat the changing dynamics of family life and co-parenting. She’s since transitioned from sitting on the floor in front of his door to laying on his bed, so I’d say she’s not buying it…

For Ruby, it’s going to be a long year.

From Mom to Me–no regrets. . .

A little more than 14 years ago, I remember sitting on my floor on the phone with my best friend and coming to terms with the fact that I was pregnant. This was not something that I had planned and I knew it was likely that the father did not have the emotional capacity to deal with the situation at the time. But, I also wasn’t a teenager. . .I was 31 years old, I had a good job and I even owned my condominium. And as I discussed my “predicament” on the phone with my bestie, all I kept thinking and saying was “I feel like I’ll regret it if I don’t have it.”

Choosing parenthood. . choosing motherhood. . choosing single motherhood is the most profound decision one bears on your life. It is choosing to give over your life for another. It is choosing to allow a piece of your soul to exist apart from you each day as it walks, breathes, learns, loves and hurts in the body of another. It is choosing to say “yes” to never being the same person you were before that child came along.

Fast forward 14 years and my son has just graduated from middle school. I couldn’t be more proud of who he is and who he is becoming. And surprisingly, I was given another choice in motherhood that I never imagined. . .no, I’m not pregnant again. . .I had been offered the opportunity to take a break from mothering on the day to day. . to take a “mom”bbatical for a year so that I could pursue my own dreams.

Against the backdrop of the recent family separations, I am reluctant to relish in the reality of getting a break from my daily parenting responsibilities. It is my mother’s heart that breaks at the sight of those children being traumatized at the hands of our own government. But as I reflected on the heavy lifting of the past 14 years, on the sacrifices that come with the role, I was overwhelmed by this blessing, this gift to pass the baton to his father, if only for a short while, and turn my lens back onto me. And as I contemplated my decision, once again, I had the feeling that I would regret it if I didn’t do it.

So, here I am, on my “mom”bbatical. The journey is just beginning and I decided to write this blog to share it with you. This blog is a celebration of all mothers. . .for the work that we do. . . and for the dreams we hold in our hearts

“Come to the edge, he said. They said, We are afraid. Come to the edge, he said. They came. He pushed them. . .and they flew.”—Guillaume Apollinaire