Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Random, But Focused

There is so much going on...where to begin?

4 days, 1 hour and 43 minutes from now, I will take the stage as Ms. Lena May Baker. After memorizing 16 and a half pages, searching for music, obtaining/creating props and having a mini panic attack, I can now focus on further developing the character; her strengths, her fears, her nuances, her posture, her insecurities......you know, making her a whole, three-dimensional woman, who is fully present in each moment. This may be the hardest work I've done (except for studying for the CPA exam). But my girl, the Coolest Coolstein, my favorite Chosen Person, has been a lifesaver! She is freaking awesome! And Lord knows I am not easy to please - most obsessive, compulsive, control freaks aren't. So, a million thank yous, C. Coolstein - you're the best - I can't quit you. And I will be sure to update you after Saturday's .

This Memorial Day weekend, I took a much needed break from doing stuff. There was cooking, eating, sleeping, TV, movies, sleeping. I even did my nails & feet. As exciting as all of these activities may seem, I did something even more fulfilling. For the bazillionth time, I re-read Toni Morrison's "Song of Solomon". This is my hands down, all time favorite , by my favorite author (she shares this #1 position with Stephen King) and there was a time when I read it once year (along with "Beloved" and "The Bluest Eye"). I have owned, loaned out and lost at least 3 copies of it and I hadn't read it in over 5 years. It was just as delicious as I remembered it to be, and like a decadent desert, I devoured it. When I read this book for the first time I was around 12 and I distinctly remember feeling full and satisfied after I finished it. I needed a weekend where I didn't have a million places to go and things to do and I needed to know that Milkman Dead could fly. Not only because he came from that tribe of flying Africans, but because he believed he could. Take wings......

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

as defined by me

*Below is my submission to the Erase Racism Blog Carnival. This carnival's description is "A carnival dedicated to ending racism, White Supremacy and unearned privilege". I have chosen to answer the question "What is racism?".*

It is ugly.
It is hurtful.
It is a learned behavior.
It is about power.
It is borne out of ignorance.
It creates fear.
It creates stereotypes.

It is real.

I experience most often in the form of ignorance. Ignorance in that 85% of the people that I come into contact with on a daily basis have never had a relationship of any kind with any person of color. Many claim “colorblindness”. This (absurd) label supposedly protects them from being labeled racist, but it also helps them maintain their ignorance. This colorblind foolishness, along with a heaping helping of political correctness, leads to the painful “description game” that we’ve all witnessed a time or two.

colorblind person: I was at Starbucks the other day & I saw that lady from HR.
Person Of Color: Which one?
cbp: Oh you know, um…*continues to hem/haw*
POC: You mean Brenda?
cbp: No, the other lady…*more stuttering*
POC: Sarah?
cbp: *frustrated*…No! You know, um…
POC: Well, what does she look like?
cbp: She has brown hair, not too tall, not too short, really pretty smile…
POC: *confused* The black lady? Carol??
cbp: *embarrassed* Um…yeah. Carol.

Obviously this is a silly example of colorblindness translating into an inability to acknowledge a person of color as a person of color. But really, every single person who lays eyes on me can see that I am a black woman. No “PC Points” are earned by pretending not to notice. Omitting my blackness from a description of me tells me that my heritage has no value; that my race is irrelevant; that my culture is not significant.

It is great to recognize that we are all human beings. It is disrespectful not to recognize our differences. It is great to teach children that no one person (or race or religious belief or gender or sexual preference) is better than any other. We do our children a disservice when we don’t teach them to learn all that they can about other people and to respect what makes them unique.

I have met many people who choose to remain ignorant about matters of race. Maybe they are uncomfortable talking about it. Perhaps they don’t think it’s important. Could be they watched a few music videos and UPN sitcoms and don’t need to “gather any more data”, thank you very much. I don’t know about anyone else, but when I evaluate a relationship to determine if it’s a friendship or not, one of the most important questions I ask is, “Does this person take an interest in me and in matters that are of interest to me?”

This reminds me of an observation I made a few years back. I was at work, the only black person employed in a position for which a bachelor’s degree was required, and needless to say, the only person of color in the room. It was a closed door thing, we were doing some mindless thing and the mood was very laid back & casual. The conversation somehow moved to hair or something and one young lady said, “yeah, I’ve just gotta know…I hope this is ok to ask you, but I’ve really been wondering…why in the world do you wear that plastic thing on your head when it rains?” (I am all about having an emergency rainscarf or curl bag on me just in case!)

Were it not for the sound of my uproarious laughter, you could have heard a pin drop. The other 2 people in the room looked like she had just punched me and they were waiting for me to knock her out! I know DAMN WELL neither of them knew answer to her question, but they sat there looking like she had just broken some bigtime PC rule by asking. This was one of those times when I said to myself, “Self, this gal is someone I can deal with honestly without censoring myself or wondering what kind of bag she’s coming out of.”

And to this day, she is a really good friend. She never hesitates to get knee deep in whatever is happening with me, whether it has racial under/overtones or not. I mean let's face it, how in the world was she supposed to know what will happen to my hair if I let it get wet? She sure wasn't going to find out by watching TV or reading magazines (unless she subscribes to Essence or Black Hair). We talked for hours and hours and hours after she came to see my performance in Ntozake Shange’s “for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf”. When she doesn't know something, she asks. Remaining ignorant is not acceptable to her. She is a critical thinker so she knows that I don’t/can’t represent all black people. But she also respects me enough to know that our cultural differences are not only real, but they are valid.

Certainly I know that these 2 examples of colorblind foolishness & politically correct dumbassery are not at all examples of overt racism. Not at all. But I know for sure that the concepts on which these behaviors are founded keep racism alive and well.

I suspect that the “I don’t see color, I just see people” attitude has grown in popularity because it’s not cool to seem like a racist. And for some, avoiding being perceived as racist involves, not only resisting the urge to join up with the local chapter of the KKK, but avoiding any conversation that acknowledges race at all. Ignoring, downplaying, trivializing or marginalizing someone’s race (and the skin color, experiences & traditions that help define race for each individual) sounds like racism to me.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Happy (every day should be) Mother's Day

OK, so technically I'm a day late. But let's un-Hallmark this situation for a minute...

I don't love & appreciate my mommy any less today than I did yesterday. When we had our outing on Saturday it didn't feel early or in any way wrong. I guess because it wasn't much different from any other day for us (except there was a greeting card involved). There was smiling, talking, gossiping, laughing, hugging, kissing, eating, you know, the usual. Then the next day, there was a post-outing discussion & recap.

I talked to my step-mother and her mother and sent greetings to my friends' mothers, but I kept wanting to say "happy day" to my new blog buddies. Some I know are mommys, some are not super close to their mothers, some I have no idea. But even though it's a day late...

Damali, I hope the boys gave you the best construction paper/egg carton/pipe cleaner creations ever!

S*, believe it or not, I had a really hard time finding a card too. Maybe next year.

Rachel and ChangeSeeker, you shape young minds and introduce them to concepts & ideas that their in-home mommies probably didn't. Y'all rock!

BlkButterfly, Ra, and Cherryl, I have no idea if you guys are mommy's or not, but I sure hope you had a good day, hope you have a great week and keep on doing you.

Professor Kim, when "they " are shoving Tom Cruise's hijinks down my throat and trying to convince me that Natalee is the only girl to ever go missing, you keep me in the know about what's REALLY going on. Hoping your young 'uns showered you with hugs & kisses.

And for all of my sister-friends who don't have a page for me to link to, much love to y'all.

Friday, May 12, 2006

I *heart* Jim Halpert

As far as imaginary boyfriends go, this one is by far the best. He's cute, smart, funny and nice.

Oh and did I mention that he is not afraid to tell the object of his affections his feelings. Yeah, and when I say "tell" I mean actually say out loud with words that are clear, leaving no room for confusion or misunderstanding. Imagine that...

...imagine a world where boys are pro-active and take initiative in the relationship.
...where they have no problem having and even initiating conversations about emotional & relationship matters.

I know, I know, it seems far fetched. But wouldn't it be cool if there was a Jim H. for every girl?



Thursday, May 04, 2006

Who Knew?

I'll admit it - I'm one of those people who reads the daily horoscopes. Yes, I'm always interested in the advice, not to mention the added bonus of celebrity birthdays. It's supposed to be for entertainment only and I get my fair share of entertainment every day, between the Page-A-Day desk calendar, the newspaper version and the ones I have on My Yahoo page. So I start each day by reading not one, not two, but eight different horoscopes, ranging from a generic two-liner to the ultra specific Daily Work, Daily Singles, Daily Flirt and Daily Extended, and sometimes including a Weekly and Monthly just for good measure.

I'm sure this seems obsessive to you (actually, now that I've typed it out, it seems a bit extreme to me too), but let me qualify all of this astrological nonsense. I realize that none of these readings are even remotely indicative of what kind of day (or week or month) I'm going to have. Like today, my Page-A-Day says "...it's your life, not theirs, and in the end you have to uphold your principles and beliefs." Good advice, yes. Only applicable on Thursday May 4 to anyone born between Feb. 19 and Mar. 20, no. (It is nice to know that today is Audrey Hepburn's birthday, though. Everyone loves useless information.)

Even if I was fooled by that generic pile of lovingkindness, the "Love & Relationships" forecasts would put an end to the illusion. I have been single since February of 2005 and I've been on approximately 4 fruitless dates. But every day (and week and month) Astrology.com insists that the man of my dreams is going to appear that very day, completely prepared to sweep me right up off of my feet and usher me into the world of happily-ever-after, except for a minor bump in the road late in the week, which can only be resolved by quiet, alone time on the 23rd.

Yeah, not so much.

But still, I read them every day.....for entertainment purposes only.

And every now and then I run across some astrological tool or some other such personality thing-a-ma-jig that actually seems accurate. My most recent find, the Jung-Myers-Briggs Human Metrics typology test, was one of those.

After answering a short series of multiple choice questions (somewhere between the quizzes you find in Cosmo and the questionnaire you fill out when you go to a new therapist) the thing tells me that I am an INFJ, also known as a "Counselor Idealist". Sound sketchy so far?? Keep reading...

Counselors tend to be private, sensitive people. They are complicated and can understand and deal with complex issues and people.

Okay, private - check, sensitive - check, complicated - check. I'm intrigued. What else ya got?

Counselors can be hard to get to know. They have an unusually rich inner life, but they are reserved and tend not to share their reactions except with those they trust.

Well I think imaginary boyfriends and frequent out loud dialogue with myself qualifies as having "an unusually rich inner life", don't you? But what do those letters mean?

Introverted iNtuitive Feeling Judging (Introverted Intuition with Extraverted Feeling)


As an INFJ, your primary mode of living is focused internally, where you take things in primarily via intuition. Your secondary mode is external, where you deal with things according to how you feel about them.

Yeah, I had an ex-boyfriend who had a big problem with the whole "how your actions make me feel" thing. He was dumb.

INFJs place great importance on having things orderly and systematic.

Mmm-hmm..to the point of being compulsive about it, it's true.

INFJ is a perfectionist who doubts that they are living up to their full potential - there's always something else they should be doing to improve themselves and the world around them. They believe in constant growth.

Well I think we can all agree that I'm all about the self analysis, introspection and personal growth.

As you can clearly see, I think this is pretty cool stuff. Many thanks to my good buddy Osmosis Jones in San Diego for sending it. I bet she didn't think I would spend 2 days obsessing about it! Boy was she wrong.

Oh, and as an added bonus, I got a listing of famous folks who have personalities like mine. Yep, turns out me, Sidney Poitier (who I share a birthday with) and Ghandi are 3 peas in a pod.

Who knew?

Monday, May 01, 2006

slightly less random

Ok, so it's Monday and I have a bit more focus than I did Friday. Not a lot, but it's enough of an improvement to rejoice about.

I had my first rehearsal yesterday for "Who Will Sing For Lena" & I managed to get through it without an emotional breakdown. Now I just have to memorize a 45 - 50 minute monologue in the next few weeks. Hopefully I will do an acceptable job telling her story. I'll keep you posted.

This weekend, instead of having an Oprah-thon, cleaning my house or sleeping for 3 days straight, I read 2 books. (I Wish I Had A Red Dress & Some Things I Never Thought I'd Do) Reading Pearl Cleage is like talking to a good friend. Her writing style is familiar and conversational. The romances are honest and mature. The drama is realistic. The happy ending is never syrupy. What a refreshing change of pace!

Silly me, I thought I'd break up my P. Cleage-a-thon by reading a popular academic . Not a good idea. This dude (I won't mention any names) was so far off base with his theories, I got about half way through the first chapter and put that mess in the "return to the library" pile. So much for trying to educate myself on another person's viewpoint. Tonight I'll be returning to the safe haven of Ms. C and her latest novel, Babylon Sisters.

In other news, the March issue of O Magazine taught me a new way to do something I've been doing forever. At first glance, "The Empathy Workout" seemed to be another attempt to get people to identify with others as humans before judging or labeling. And the bulk of the article does just that. There are exercises to help the process and everything. But the real bonus for me was the metta-tation.

I grew up practicing metaphysics, so the idea of meditating is one that I'm quite familiar with. I don't make time for it like I should but I am always happy to send out positive energy to anyone who needs it. However, I had never really made a formal ritual of sending the +E. It's always been pretty random. Effective, but random. The article provided a guide for this type of meditation, called metta-tation because metta means lovingkindness among other things. So that means that now, when I tell y'all that I'm going to send out some +E, there will be some structure to the process.

And in a final attempt to be slightly less random and overindulgent, I am going to attempt to give up pork for 2 weeks. It's going to be tough, 'cause I don't think I've ever said no to bacon, I've found a place that serves some pretty tasty pulled pork and I haven't gone two weeks without a carnitas fajita from Chipotle in a very long time. But I know that I have been way overdoing it lately, so I'm going to give it a shot. Who knows, if this works, I may try giving up some other nasty habits. (No need to follow up on that - I'll let you know when that happens.)

Happy Monday!

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