Monthly Archives: July 2016

Love Matters

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Yesterday was July 24th.  It was the one year anniversary of my collision with a distracted driver that resulted in a very large scar on my lower left leg and a few scars on the inside as well, that have taken some time to heal.

 

After the accident I journaled a long play by play of my accident and published it as a blog.  It was long and overly detailed and also just in general overburdened with the raw energy I was experiencing at that time, as well as the souped up pain medications I was on.  People were forgiving.  Nobody complained.

 

But this afternoon I was doing some reading.  I’m reading a book called “When Things Fall Apart,” which was suggested by a friend.  It’s hit on several things I’m currently working on in my own life (like not distracting myself by drinking lots of wine at home alone every night, or overeating and then forgetting to take care of my mental health–when do we get to the point where we get to be perfect and not have things that need work…where’s easy street?)  Sometime I work on these things with more success than others…like last night I considered myself a success because I was sad about the state of our world and really would have liked to have stopped on the way home from work for some wine.  I had a conversation with myself while I was riding my bike…”meh, it’s okay,”  “Nah, you’re running into problems with this, and it’s the same thing every time,”  “Come on,”  “Trust this.  Trust what’s happening here.”  With that I conversed myself past Trader Joes wonderful wine section and straight up the hill to my house.  I promised myself yoga, which I did, and I drank sparkling soda out of a wine glass so I’d feel sophisticated.  I’ve promised myself for a while, to only have drinks outside the house with friends.  I’m trusting the process.

 

What does any of this have to do with my accident?  Not a lot unless you count fear.  I have always been one of those ridiculously fearful people.  I think I’ve mentioned it before, my great fear of dying of different things.  Like that time in basic training I had to rappel down a building and I got at the very end of the line and cried all the way up to the front.  I have terrible anxiety.

 

A year ago yesterday I was hit by a car and it changed my life.  I had been speeding through life working as hard as I could.  That week I’d committed to ride over 250 miles on my bike.  I’d almost made it too.  I had one more day of riding to my job and 24 hours of riding after that.  I was riding in 24 HOB.  Then I saw the car.  Knowing there wouldn’t be time to change course.  Knowing I was possibly looking at a death sentence and seeing that car continue to accelerate to push through the left turn quickly,  was the most “I’m going to die,” experience I’ve ever had.  My very first thought was, “I hope I don’t die, but I probably will,” (imagine Eyore).  But my second thought was, “I hope Madison will be okay.”

 

Later, when I told her that, here’s what she said, “I want you to know Mom, I will be okay.”

 

But then I wasn’t dead.  And that’s when things really sunk in for me.  I wasn’t getting up from that accident.  There wasn’t any rushing off to be fabulous or strong or any of the things I tell myself I need to be.  I wasn’t going to ride for miles and I just had this.  I just had this sorry, broken place where I was laying down.  I just had this loneliness and wanting of love and connection.  That’s what sticks.  To this day, through all the anxiety and brokenness that i experienced on that day and after.  Love and connection is what I recognized was lacking.  

 

It was lacking that last summer in particular in my need to work and ride and work and ride.  That was Madison’s last summer at home and I was staying busy because it made me sad to think about it.  I worked.  Then bam, I had to sit in a chair for three weeks while my daughter prepared meals and just hung with me.  While friends came and forced me to endure unfathomable kindness.  I had to just sit in that chair.  It was hard not to move, but it was also the most loved and connected I’d felt until just then.  I had to let go of all my show of strength to do it, and all of my, “don’t worry, I’ve got everything together,” in order to live in that spot.  But it was totally worth it.  Those days have changed my life in a way that i’m not sure I can even put into words successfully.

 

They made me recognize that love and connection is more important than ego.  It’s more important than whether I look like I have it together and whether I seem strong and tough to others.  It’s more important than whether I think i have the right answers for everyone.

 

I’ve spent my time since trying to reimagine community and inclusion.  I used to spend a lot of time wondering if I was welcome.  My hope now in the world is that all feel welcome connected and loved.  Our lives are so stinking short and growing shorter by the day.  The things we keep saying matter are not the things that really matter.  Love matters.  Love what matters.
In my life I’ve had two moments of being absolutely happy to see someone’s face.  It was the same person, both times.  The first time I was so stunned and happy to see someone was the first time I saw my daughter’s face.  The second time was when I was being wheeled out of the emergency room at the hospital after I’d been hit by a car last year.  Madison was suddenly standing in front of me.  Her face that day was the best thing I’ve ever seen.

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What Freedom Means…It happened one July 4th…

This morning I woke to the news of the latest police brutality incedents towards black men (two murders)  in our country, and I cried.  I sobbed hard tears because while I’ve become absolutely used to black males alone in some situation getting gunned down by police or frightened folks “Standing Their Ground,” this was the first I’ve seen of a black man being shot in front of his family while just traveling somewhere.   I feel I can’t express enough that when we no longer care that children involved are witnesses to the worst, the ugliest, fear, racism and violence we hold inside ourselves, we’ve come to a place from which it is difficult to return.

I don’t know what to do.  When I don’t know what to do, I read and I think.  This morning I pulled out my giant book of poetry by Langston Hughes and I just read.  The book is all of the poetry that Langston Hughes has ever written, so it’s huge, and it is chalk full of work that sounds like reading the lyrics to old blues songs.  I always read this book during terrible times.  I laid in bed with my X husband years ago reading it after 9/11.  I read it after every new mass shooting encounter that happens.  Sometimes I quote poetry from it on Facebook because my own words seem terribly inadequate.   I read these poems for two reasons.  1) The world has been full of madness and murder for a really long time and racism/classism isn’t new.  2)  There have always been thoughtful people in the world who have been willing to strive for freedom for everyone, no matter what the personal cost.

The other thing I do when I don’t know what to do and I feel like it’s too much for silence, is I write.  So today I thought I’d tell a story.  It was July 4th, 2000 when my X-husband was going to pick up our family’s car, which had been in the shop.  We had just the one car, so he was taking the bus to get to the shop where he’d left it.  He’d made arrangements to meet with the mechanic, go pick the car up, and we’d drive somewhere to watch the fireworks with our three year old daughter.  We were all really excited.

We saw him off at the door and awaited his return.  I tried to keep our daughter occupied, and slowly, because we’d had a whole plan for the day and the trip should have taken an hour or less, the time ticked by.  It was in the year or two before cell phones became a big thing, and neither of us owned one at the time, so there was no way to contact my x to figure out the status of our car, or his location.  I continued to wait as the hours passed.  I was worried, I was dumbfounded–he’d never just gone off somewhere and not returned without explanation.  Six hours passed.  It was getting late, and dark, and my daughter and I both wanted to know where Daddy had gone.

Then he finally walked through the door.  But not his usual self, someone else that I could barely recognize.  Physically, he was the same.  He hadn’t been damaged in anyway, but something inside had shifted, and he couldn’t speak.  He went in the bathrooom, took all his clothes off, turned on the hot water and sat down in the shower.  He put his head in his hands and sat cross legged.  He cried.  I’ve never seen anyone as lost as he was on that day and I’ve never forgotten it.  Every day on the 4th of July I don’t think of our Nation’s Freedom or Blessings, I think of my black x husband, sitting on the floor of the shower crying.  He’d been detained by police for standing in the wrong neighborhood while black. The mechanic had never showed, and eventually, hours later, the police had driven him back to the car lot and helped him break in so he could prove he wasn’t a criminal by showing he owned the car in question.

Until that day I never really realized the gulf that exists between people.  Especially when white people allow themselves to live seperate and apart from people of color, from people who are poor, and from people who maybe have a different language, culture or religion.  I realized that day how naive I was.  I’ve received a handful of tickets in my life, and any time I’ve been stopped by police I’ve managed to somehow charm my way out of trouble of any kind.  My X is an upstanding citizen, he’s always been employed, he’s a veteran and he’s well spoken.  He irons all of his clothes.  He has tried to the Nth degree to be a successful part of “society.”  But on that day, on the 4th, he was just another black man in the wrong place at the wrong time.  That’s the kind of experience from which it is difficult to recover.  It’s the kind of experience that even if it just happened once, it would mark you.  But it hardly ever just happens once.  It’s an ongoing American social experiment which has continued for a very long time.  The results of our ongoing demonization of black men have been a disaster.

Looking at the videos of the last few days I know that my daughter is very lucky that her father came home that day.  That he’s still here.  When white folks get defensive and say things like “all lives matter,” I have to think that if you’ve never had to worry about getting shot during a routine traffic stop, you probably don’t need a slogan.

This fourth of July I worked at B-Cycles, and as I do every 4th of July I thought back to that day so long ago.  Because frankly, I call into question the concept of a “free America” where we aren’t all actually free.  So I’ll end with a poem I found today, one of many, that expresses this:

 

Dream of Freedom, by Langston Hughes

 

There is a dream in the land

With its back against the wall

by muddled names and strange

sometimes the dream is called

 

there are those who claim

this dream for theirs alone–

a sin for which we know

they must atone.

 

unless shared in common

like sunlight and like air

the dream will die for lack

of substance anywhere.

 

the dream knows no frontier or tongue

the dream no class or race–

the dream cannot be kept secure

in any one looked place.

 

this dream today embattled

with its back against the wall–

to save the dream for one

it must be saved for ALL–

Our dream is freedom!