Breathe Easy, You've Found Me ((HUGS))

People will wonder why this blog is needed, why minority midwifery student? It's very simple actually; I was looking for this blog...but I couldn't find I created it. We all have unique experiences, and every experience, every story, can help someone else. I am a black girl from the hood at an ivy league professional school. That, alone, is reason enough to write. Somebody was looking for this blog. Someone wanted proof that what I'm doing can be done - even when you come from where we come from.

To that person especially, WELCOME.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

The Love of Family

What do we make of the love that strangles, chokes, brands us? The last name that branded me is one I was/am so attached to that I did not give up when I married the man. "I've known you all of 6 months...and I'm supposed to give up my name? Hell naw." "Did I ask you to give up your name?" Oh. Right. He didn't give a damn. I was just on some tangent based on what I thought he'd want. But why was I so ready for that argument? And why was I so hellbent on keeping my name...a name that wasn't even my mother's? Right now I'm thinking, I would have liked to have had my mother's name...but even she didn't have it... I was not willing to give up who I was/am to be married...and my daddy had/has no sons...and I belong somewhere...and my name tells me/you where. If I am lost, near death, or have lost my mind completely and don't know who I can find my place in this place by that name... I am not alone in the world... But then again, it's only a name... it's a brand, like cattle - it shows where you belong... who you belong to. Me and the man played around with making up our own last name, and we came up with a pretty good one...but we chickened out (or, more truthfully, we knew we would never do it but it was fun to pretend) knowing we needed these names we were given to remember who we are, where we come from, where to return to. The man has both of his parents names, I only have my father's. But when we married I only added his mother's name to mine. He said hers was more important. I woke up thinking about that this morning. He didn't flinch when he decided. He doesn't even acknowledge his father's name as a part of his name unless someone specifically asks his full name. The man has one of those beautifully ghetto's five names long and was made up by his mother...a name that rolls off her tongue easily, but one of those names that is pronounced correctly by only a few on the first try. Certain people snicker and sneer at these names..."ghetto"..."too long for the baby to learn how to spell"..."they will know he is black just by the name and they will not give him the job"... I get it . But I will not conform on that point. My children will have first names that give me a certain feeling when I say them. We will not be compromising on the selection of their names based on society's ability to respect it. But what of their last names? We made this decision when we got married, so it's not really a matter of what their last name will be, but rather how I feel about what having that last name - his (maternal) last name - means to me. Will they feel bound by the name? Is the space where these people, his people, our people, collect going to be a good place for them to call home? Will they be free to be who they are, even with this name?

When I think of my last name (and my mother's name and my stepfather's- who is simply my dad/father -name) I think of love. As mushy as that sounds, it's true. But what of this love? Is it healthy? Does it make me feel whole? Is it forgiving. strengthening. coddling. encouraging. stifling. suffocating. wise? Love, for me, has always been one of those things that just is. I don't spend a lot of time trying to explain it, define it. Commitment I can explain and define. Trust I can explain and define. Loyalty I can explain and define. But love. Love just is. (Or always has been, I should say) It is simply something you feel, no matter how you came to feel it, once you do, it's there, with you. My limitation in talking about how love manifests in families is limited because I...I believe in it...with all my heart. Maybe family is what manifests as god on earth for me... maybe that doesn't make sense? This is more philosophical than I imagined it would be... For me, family is love. And when I ask myself what I want in this lifetime, it is love.

Because families are made of imperfect people, they can not be everything you need them to be. Because families are a collection of people, they are flawed, terribly flawed. There are people who hurt each other, kill each other, even. There are people who lie to themselves and everyone else. There are people who prey on the children, and people who do not or can not keep the children safe. There are people who are addicted to all kinds of things. There are people who feel isolated from the whole...because they are...because they are gay or dark or ugly or the child of you know who, who did you know what or they are too smart or too loud or they are a girl who doesn't want marriage or babies or boy who doesn't play sports or they don’t go to church or believe in god or wont limit the number of children they have or any other offense that somehow embarrasses the whole.
The irony lay in the fact that each member has committed some embarrassing sin, and therefore, by their own rules, no one should belong. But of course it doesn’t work that way. There are things that people are willing to look the other way for and things that are simply unacceptable. But what if being who you are is unacceptable? I worry about this for all of us. What if I don’t want to be one of the 'smart ones' anymore? What if I detest the very idea of "smart ones"? What if I never wanted to make it out of the hood, I just wanted to be able to live- fully, as I am- in the hood? Fireworks are going off in my head right now… I never wanted to leave the hood, the family…I just wanted to be me in the hood, in the family…if I felt like I could do that, there would be no reason to leave (and not come back) Hmm family who ever sees this will wonder…they will say, 'but you can be you here." But that is not true. Not because they won’t allow it, but because the environment is not conducive to it…my neighborhood, my community, my family is not conducive to it… the half-nerd I was and you know me to be, aint got shit on the real me. A real me who becomes clearer and clearer every day. A real me who might not have even been able to find herself if she hadn’t found this ivory tower – even with all its attempts to annihilate her – that encourages her to dig deeper, read more, question everything, learn, grow, learn, grow, ask, learn grow ask debate read read read readreadreadlearngrowreadlearngrowread. Naw yall, I couldn’t get that at home. I wanted it so badly. I still want it. I want to be able to do this on my own street. With my family. But the environment was not/is not ready. And yall knew it. Correction, yall know it. When I think of love, I think about how wonderful it was to be left alone to read…how much I appreciated the books, and the space to read them. I am so grateful that ‘nerd’ was used in a loving way in my community which allowed me to embrace the word despite how much venom was used in grade school when it was spoken. But right now I’m thinking of how much farther, faster, I could have gotten if people were able to love more fiercely. If families could love more openly. If they could love in new(yet old) ways. Where would I be if my reading were not only tolerated and encouraged, but also cultivated and guided? If there was a community of people who read with me? If people were able to/had chose to challenge me intellectually? If people could love me in not only the ways that they did, but the ways I needed?
What if instead of counting people’s children and how many men they went through to have those children, we simply celebrated and welcomed them into the world, into our family, our community? We do this in my family (welcome and love all the babies) but we do not spare our judgments about their mothers…can you love the child without loving the woman who brought the child into the world? Really? How much would change if instead we actually sat down as women and talked about what we need and why…if we could say openly, without shame, that we just want to have sex without the cover of “he loves me, I love him, we’re together” and yada yada yada? Would we have fewer babies because we could/would protect ourselves openly? And why do we feel the need to limit the number of babies in the first place? I know money is the first answer. But if we removed money from the equation? I think we’d find something else to replace that answer because we’ve internalized the need to control people’s reproductive freedom. What if we believed that there wasn’t only one god…and that he’s a man…and that anyone who calls god something else according whoever they know it to be in their part of the world was not going to hell to burn for eternity? What if we openly questioned what we’ve been taught and analyzed it critically? What if we just stayed home from church every Sunday like we know we want to? What if there was no guilt that came with that? Or in the very least what if we could wear whatever the hell we felt like to church and of instead sitting there listening to one man’s interpretation of the holy bible, we sat around the floor together with multiple “bibles” of multiple faiths written by diverse people which we were all free to share and interpret among each other? What if I came and sat and read a poem by Nikki Giovanni that speaks to me about faith in an odd, reassuring way? Couldn’t you still love me? Or can we only love those who close their eyes and sway to the beat as they sit on the pugh ignoring the words. I understand this kind of love…I do… I sway and bounce and snap to a buncha songs as I try to drown out the words, too. Thank god for Lupe Fiasco for trying to bring consciousness back to mainstream rap.
I am saying that I am here, and I am me, and that I am like you just as much as I am different from you. I am saying that I love the yous that I know yall to be. But more importantly I love the yous that you could be if only you allowed yourselves…if only we allowed ourselves…to be free, to be loved, to love unconditionally. This is hard. We, people, do not just automatically open our minds to the possibilities of living whole, authentic lives…first we have to see what it is about our lives that is not authentic…and that takes work. This one of the areas where yall never get to see the real me…the real me is always, always, always doing the work of attempting to build an authentic self, but it’s a mental dialog that I haven’t shared very much…because yall weren’t/aren’t ready. But love, when narrowed down to terms, is also truth. How can we love eachother if we don’t tell each other the truth? I am so ready to live more fully, more openly with those I love. How amazing would it be if through the process of sharing more and more of myself I see more and more of the you who lives inside your head and we both learn that we aren’t as weird as we think we are? Can somebody, anybody, from my community please step up.
If the love that says “I am the parent and the adult and you are the child, so therefore you can not, will not be smarter than me or talk back to me or question me or challenge me in any way” were not such a given…if it were not the only way we knew how to parent…knew how to give love…who and where would I be? I think families give the best that they’ve got…as long as it upholds what they have learned is important. That is to say that I think a mother will let her child grow only as far as it does not threaten her position as the mother…because when her position as the mother is challenged, so is her position as the daughter. And we have accepted these positions as love. Submitting to the hierarchy of ‘respect’ is supposed to represent love. To obey your parents is to love your parents. To honor your grandparents is to love your grandparents. To submit to your husband is to love your husband. To sacrifice yourself for your children is to love you children. But in my adult life I am hardly ever as liberated as I am when I replay the moment of my mother telling me she didn’t want children. Liberation is love. She probably doesn’t even remember it. I don’t even remember the details, all I know is she said it just as matter of factly as someone would tell you what time it is. My point is, real love is that which honors the self and tells the truth…and then offers that to the other person. I still believe that love, unconditional, unwavering love is the answer.
I wanna come home. I love yall. We share names, histories, children. I love not only the yous you are right now, but the yous you are in your heads. I don’t believe I need to build this community of people to love and be with…I think I need to encourage the family I already have to be that for each other. I believe we can learn together, if we wanted to.
The question is, and always has been, what if no one wants to join me?

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