I’m not even sure where to start with this past month. So much has happened and for the first time words seem simply insufficient. I’m on day 89 of my quarantine. So many days of not seeing what amounts to the third part of myself; the person who basically did everything but sleep in our home, my dear friend. Sure, I’ve seen him from the end of his driveway a number of times, but it never seems to be enough being that far apart. It’s like seeing the ghost of what’s normally present. We’ve begun writing physical letters to one another and it’s of some comfort that it’s ripping his heart out as much as mine. To read that was… everything right now.
The world is falling apart. I’ve already written about COVID-19 and I think it’s enough to say that it’s still a thing and lots of places are still struggling while other places are reopening. It’s hope with the bitter background of potential horror and it’s scary and completely triggering to my anxiety and my general fear of getting sick.
I don’t share it with everyone, but I had a time in my life where I was sick for pretty much 2+ years solid. I’d be sick for over a month, well for 2-3 days, and plunge back into sickness again. Our health insurance was as good as non-existent. I could afford the tele-doc but not an in person visit with the wages I was making in a call center. We lived barely paycheck to paycheck and mostly off of $0.25 packets of ramen, food handouts from friends, family, and our neighbor who was indignant that the government wouldn’t help us when we tried to get EBT. We didn’t know about the foodbanks back then and no one we knew told us about them either with the exception of one Catholic pantry that would only let us visit once a month and give us 4 items a piece. We’d always choose the biggest bags of whatever rice or beans there were, things to fill. I sold nearly everything I held dear until there was only bare minimums left. I offered writing commissions at $5 per story and later $5 per 1000 words when someone told me I was underselling myself. It took me years to understand I was still underselling myself at that price, but it paid the rent and the utilities.
I thought, at the time, that surely I was sick because of poor diet and so much stress. That the tele-docs surely were right that it was “just a cold” or “just a sinus thing” and that it was entirely normal to be dizzy for 57 days solid, that it was normal to feel like I couldn’t breathe or think, like no sleep was ever going to be enough. I almost died one night, my O2 sats low enough it was in the severe brain damage territory and I still did not go to the ER because a $750 copay was not something we could afford. The system is broken, but that’s a whole other rant. Point being… we found markers a few years later that explained it all, a virus that could have murdered me. And ever since then I’ve been flat-out terrified of getting sick in any way. Hubby gets a cold, he sleeps in the other room. I get a cold, I panic until it’s gone. I’m perpetually in “do I have this??” mode and that means that despite everything opening slowly around me, I’m still on full quarantine and genuinely terrified of going out. I’m high risk as it is due to severe asthma and a few other factors, add that to the above experience coloring my vision and we’ll be lucky if we pry me out of here in time for GRL this year (assuming it still happens). I suppose time will tell.
So… that said, I have to say that I’m grieving for so many reasons right now. The forefront of it is civil injustice. Like many others, I fear my words are never enough in cases like this, but I also feel a responsibility to speak up, to use the privilege my skin tone affords me and speak out against the violence toward people of color. We’ve needed change for a long time now. For years whenever I get phone calls from politicians, I hear them out, I listen, and then I ask them about the things that matter most to me. Those things have always been (not in any order here): LGBTQ+ rights, the right for women to have a say in what happens to their own bodies and rights, the rights of homeless and the oppressed, racism, libraries and schools, and the continuation of programs like EBT and their accessibility. I dig into every single person before I vote and I always have. Yet, it does not feel enough to simply question.
I donate, I educate myself, I stop those around me from using slurs toward any person. I disassociate with the ones I cannot change. I’ve swayed many a person over to treating others without respect. And yet… that also does not feel like enough.
I’m not sure anything will ever feel like enough when the end of the line is still: we have a problem. Systemic, inherent, BULLSHIT. The system is designed to fuck with the minority and it does.
I implore you to read this full portion of what I’m writing before sneering at it that you’ve heard it a million times and see the part you likely have not heard a million times. I wasn’t raised to be racist. In fact, while a good part of my extended family are racist pricks that I moved on from long long ago, my parents somehow came out of it… mostly not. I say mostly because lately they’ve veered severely into supporting a certain president and his rhetoric. I’ve heard things from their mouths about Native Americans that made me sick. My own father posts things on Facebook that are not all how he raised me to be and I cannot understand it, nor do I truly know how to deal with it. I want to deal with it face-to-face, not across the phone or in a typed up rant on his posts. I want to sit down and address it across the breakfast table when quarantine is over and begin with the word, “Why?” Why would he say things he would be appalled to hear from my mouth? Why would he post things to intentionally insight one of my friends into arguing with him? Why would the man I looked up to for so meany years suddenly show this side of himself out of nowhere in the past 87 days?
For now, I have chosen to send him 13th by Ava Duvernay and ask that he watch it. I have chosen to make my voice stronger to overpower his words. I plan to find something on Native Americans to send to him that is just as powerful as 13th (if you have any recommendations, please please share them with me in the comments).
It breaks my heart that someone this close to me, that raised me differently is doing exactly what I was taught not to do.
That said, we have a hell of a long way to go in teaching about racism and what not to do and what struggles people that aren’t white face. I was taught not to use certain words, that others were wrong when they said them. I was taught “skin color doesn’t matter” to the point I had no idea why my friend was being teased incessantly on the playground or being called the things I wasn’t supposed to say. I had to have it explained to me that those people were wrong and rude. The thing is… that’s not enough, because it never encouraged anything but quietly drawing her away from it and then going to play elsewhere. It never told me to use my voice and tell these kids it was wrong. It never told me to go tell the principal or a teacher about what was said. And more than that, it never ever told me WHY these things were wrong. Sure, later in school I learned about slavery, in the same dull sorts of way all public schools seem to teach it; a glossed over version of “this was a dark times, they were used as slaves, we stopped it, end of discussion”. Wait… no… hold that fucking train, y’all. Because that is NOT the end of the discussion. It shouldn’t have been when I was in school and it certainly shouldn’t be now. THAT is why we’re here again, in the second civil rights movement. It’s why the world is cracking and crumbling around us and why it feels like horror and terror and agonizing pain… and that’s just what /I/ feel, as a white person. I cannot begin to fathom what it feels like to be them. I will never ever know that pain, that fear, that injustice. But, damn it, we should be teaching more about it. The TRUTH no matter how ugly and kid-unfriendly it is. Those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Well, we’re repeating it, aren’t we? Why? Because we didn’t LEARN from it. We aren’t taught it, the truth is hidden from those without the curiosity to dig deeper or someone around them who makes it a point to share more deeply with them and part of that is why half the white populous is presently asking every person of color within range to teach them. They have no idea what to do other than ask. Most people in my experience don’t understand how to do online research well enough to weed out fiction from fact. God forbid they take the first thing they read as gospel and move on. That said, hit me up if you want some advice on how to do research that’s at least a little more likely to yield truthful results. I’m more than willing to help. If you follow my Instagram, I’ve been posting resources to my stories since Saturday and will keep doing it. (My husband recommends watching this as a start to trying to figure out how to navigate digital information: CrashCourse Navigating Digital Information Series.)
(To anyone presently yelling in their brain that all lives matter, I present you with the best point I’ve seen all week on that: It’s not that your life or anyone else’s lives don’t matter. We’re not saying that they don’t. We’re saying that right now, right here, the struggle is about BLACK lives. Black oppression, black rights, black murder, excessive use of force on black people. We aren’t saying your struggle isn’t present. Your struggle could be ENORMOUS. It’s just not what we’re talking about right now. We will and we can, in the right venue. But replying all lives matter to black lives matter posts is not the right venue and it never will be. I say the same to those of you who ask when the straight parade will be or straight night when we have pride parades and pride nights. Those nights are also not your venue to be heard. I have news for you: white night and straight night… are EVERY SINGLE OTHER NIGHT. It’s white cis het privilege. And one more thing: as a member of the LGBTQ+ community, I will gladly set aside the fact that June is Pride month and let this month be about the thing that needs the platform most right now: Black Lives Matter. I’m certain we can all find ways to celebrate Pride Month that actually help the voice of #BlackLivesMatter. In fact, I’ve already watched a few of the platforms I follow on social media do it these past 2 days.)
Amidst all of this, I lost my rabbit of 12 years today. I’m heartbroken and I was already as heartbroken as I thought I could be before that. I’m not coping well. My anxiety is through the roof, my depression is soaring (partly due to lack of going outside for more than a few minutes at a time for the most part), and I generally feel like well-boiled shit. To cap it all off, I feel horrible for grieving over my rabbit when I feel like I should only be grieving over the tragedies befalling people of color right now. I keep repeating to myself that this isn’t about me, this is not my time or my platform. Then I shove it down deep to deal with later and later ends up being an hour later when I burst into unexpected tears again.
I am nothing short of a mess. I can only hope my words above are not toned by the mess that is my emotions, but I also know that they probably are.
I grieve. I cry every single day now. I have not felt like editing in three days and I’m falling behind and holding my actual editors up on my book. My focus is shot and the world is crumbling. I am chicken little and the sky IS falling. We are ALL chicken little and the WORLD is falling.
So with that, I say… help where you can. Do what you can. Donate, reblog helpful things, listen to the people of color around you. Take a moment and remember self-care in the midst of all of this (yeah that’s a note to me, too). Most of all: spread love, not hate.
Go forth, my readers. Wander into this world and let’s all try to see if we can get this sky to stop falling, shall we?