Appearances and Publications, Nonfiction, Parenting, Pop Culture, Resisting Motherhood

Busyness, Business, Birthday, Buzzfeed.

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I haven’t been able to blog here in over a month and I miss it. I didn’t want anyone who follows me here to believe I’ve abandoned this space. It’s my sanctum. But I’ve had the very good problem of being swamped with paid writing work — in so much that some of the things I might’ve written here have been placed — or will be placed — at very cool websites.

Writing on deadline and being increasingly line-edited by people committed to making the work better than I can make it on my own (disjointed as my trains of thought have become with the noise of my toddler, the relocation of her dad to town, after years living on the other side of the country, and the demands of raising a child while working a day job from home) has been rewarding and humbling.

October was a rough month for me. My life felt racked with big, disconcerting change and I wasn’t sure how to adjust to any of it. I’m still figuring that out, but I’ve had experience. I have to remind myself that, in the years since my daughter was born, I’ve transitioned out of adjunct college instruction, moved from Michigan to Maryland, navigated the IEP and pediatric audiological processes with my daughter, written for various national publications, started an online community for single parents of color, and scored a fellowship in social media community engagement. I’m constantly criticizing myself for not being “further along” in my career, but sometimes, we’ve just got to stop and assess the ground we’ve already gained. In fact, if we don’t take the time to do that, we’ll reach a point where it’s difficult to know what’s left to conquer and which direction to turn in order to pursue any of it.

In less than a week, I’ll turn 35 — and it’s a good age, a good time. I’m not at all where I envisioned myself, when I was younger and strained to imagine what it would feel like to be just five years shy of 40. But I’m making my way and it’s been an incredible trip. The past month in particular has been teaching me things I’ve actively avoided learning:

  1. Forgiveness from afar looks different than forgiveness up close. And sometimes you think you’re over things, simply because you’ve enjoyed a great deal of physical distance from them. But there’s always a closing of that distance. There’s always a day of reckoning.
  2. I’m not my best self when I’m afraid. And it’s incredible how quickly and drastically fear can make you regress.
  3. It’s an honor to be receiving an increased number of requests to write. But it’s also okay to decline those requests when I’m overextended or just going through something that’ll compromise the quality (or punctuality) of the work. Not everything is about “writing through it,” and you don’t always have to push yourself. Or, I don’t, at least. I shouldn’t speak for anyone else there.
  4. If you sense that you’re plateauing, you probably are. Take on assignments that won’t be such cakewalks for you. (For me, that’s meant scaling back my unfiltered, unedited blogging here and letting my words go under other writers’/editors’ scalpels. It’s changing the way I compose and making me less certain of where a piece is going — which can be pretty thrilling (if also terrifying and debilitating).
  5. At some point, it can’t hurt to find yourself a therapist. I’ve never had one; finding one will probably be my birthday gift to myself. There are things I need to work on in the next five years that aren’t career-specific or even particularly measurable — social and emotional things — that I don’t think I can handle anymore without help from an objective outside party.

My performance of adulthood has sharpened in my 30s. Like Nicole Richie is saying in the gifs above, I’m finally ready to declare myself a grown-up. Mostly. I’m definitely still living like a glorified commuter student in a lot of ways. And that’s okay. Mostly. There’s no one way to live, no single set of social markers that we have to reach in order to declare ourselves mature or well-adjusted or highly-functioning. We just have to keep going.

So I plan to greet my next year of life, incomparable gift that it is, with contentment.

In the meantime, I’m pleased to announce that I’ve been published in Buzzfeed. Twice. Here, I’m talking about mothering and empathy. And here, I’m talking about Bill Cosby’s pre-Huxtable persona and how it leaves me feeling less shock and betrayal about the “good” doctor’s alleged bad deeds.

Also look out for a short piece on The Hurston-Wright Foundation I’ve penned for the Jan/Feb ’15 issue of Poets & Writers, a piece in The Guardian (hopefully; I’ll edit to embed a link when/if that goes live), and a long feature on black fatherhood in Colorlines, scheduled for publication in the upcoming week.

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Nonfiction

The Jesus Year.

At 33, she was no longer appalled by herself. She had taken self-inventory, considered her broken parts, set about mending them. For her opinions and decisions, she was beyond apology. She knew leanness, empty pantries, the anesthesizing tartness of liquor. She knew when to laugh. She did not quite recall the electric pulse of new lips against hers. She still had very little idea how to comport herself in the company of men; they were still hunting her gaze and trying to hold it, still asking with concern if she was all right. She still worried that her large, imploring eyes were an undertow: if she looked at men full on, she would drown them.

She was losing her taste for grease-soaked potatoes. Only certain pizza seemed palatable now. She understood the purpose of bicarbonate and Tums. Cold weather was beginning to set her joints ablaze. On occasion, the prospect of death, which she had never feared, began to unsettle her now. Breath caught in her throat whenever she imagined her daughter muddling through menstruation, sifting through racks of prom gowns, tackling FAFSA and early admissions applications, or readying her wedding without her. Death was no longer an abstraction; it had measurable consequence.

At 33, she began to pray a bit more for a longer life. She began to pray a bit more in general. She knew that most people who were raised in an insular faith, then ambled into a larger, less devout world, redoubled their belief as new parents. But hers was an inching back, rather than running. She wanted to be careful, discerning conjecture from catechism. She wanted a faith that felt self-possessed; she did not want her place in eternity determined by anyone else’s fears or cliches or convictions. She did not want to waffle.

If this was the year when her life would most fully parallel her Savior’s, she would spend it empathizing. How would she feel if she knew her fate was sealed, was clearly marked, was imminent? How well would she sleep, if she were apportioned — every day of this year– a greater measure of mankind’s fickleness and suffering? What would it mean to know that thousands of years after she shed this sinew and bone and skin, the streets she had once tread would be filled with the discarded bodies of others, that the sky which God had opened to receive her spirit, would be filled with the endless din of missiles and drones? How would she reconcile the selflessness being asked of her with the selfishness that would consume every corner of the earth later? Would she feel the injustice of it all, the colossal affront? Would she understand how very young she still was?

Since she was not Him, not without sin or fill with preternatural wisdom and unable to prostrate herself in humanity’s stead, what would she be able to do about it?

This is the mystery she’d spend the year solving, the question she’d spend her life answering.

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