On Self Love and Loneliness: Black Matters and Reparative (Re)membering, No. 3

This piece is part of a series of meditations on race, gender, and sexuality called “Reparative (Re)membering.”  It encompasses personal and public memory at the intersection of prose and poetry. This piece is about process and a journey towards a more reparative sense of self and community. It may be disjointed here and there, but the words all connect. You’ll sense it.

On Being Quiet and the Hum…

I have been incredibly quiet. I would like to add “as of late” to the previous sentence, but I might not be entirely honest with myself if I did. It certainly feels like “as of late,” but my memory tells me otherwise.

I think I have become so adept at being quiet that I forget that I do it. I ignore. I silence, very well.

I have been publicly silent for a while. Publicly silent sounds very contradictory, but it feels appropriate. I feel like a very public person. I am out. I talk. I laugh. I engage. I host. I hold space for others and often. I welcome—and I welcome a lot. I reach, and I reach far and fiercely. And yet, deep below me is a quiet ache—a quiet moan, or sometimes, a throbbing and deadening hum.

I never give sound to the hum in public. Maybe it goes quiet during the day or I have learned to not acknowledge and just exist. It certainly gets louder at night. It visits me whether I want it to or not. It stays even when I desire it to go.

I have recently chosen to be conscious of this feeling, this sensation. Not that I have never been aware of the experienced feeling(s).  As I approach a third decade of life, I must admit that the sensation has been present with me for almost two of them.

It is an old feeling, an old silence for me. And the feelings have certainly made/make their mark on me—they have manifested through my sense of self and body in particularly ways over the years—either through throbbing and through numbness. And over the years I have responded by either ignoring or reacting through damaging ways to myself. Certain scars on my body remind me of this history when I actually take the time to look—at me.

One response to the feeling that has been most consistent (in addition to ignoring) is writing. Most of my writing has been reactionary—induced by moments of pure need to express, to confess, to make externally concrete. Writing has always been about survival for me.

These days, my writing has become more intentional. I have made space to revisit and edit my writing, voice record somethings, and even share with others (personally and publicly). Perhaps I am beginning to treat my writing as artistry. I now call old journals archives, pages—passages, and entries—pieces. I now desire to use writing to record my process and to tenderly tend to my oldest feelings and sensations.

Admittedly, my oldest feelings and sensations are wrapped within sadness, loneliness, and emptiness. Many fibers in my being prickled at this admission and I must be kind to those fibers and listen, instead of attempting to wrestle and mow them away. Although parts of myself hesitate at exposure, I have decided to continue and share.

In tending to these sensations, I wrote from the body, my heart, and memory. The first piece, “On Loneliness and Want, An Excerpt,” begins with blackness. I wrote about blackness in the cosmic kind of way, in the night time kind of way. I wrote about a blackness that is incredibly personal to me. It is full of memory, and memory is full of resources. This blackness is tied to a little girl that I must learn to claim and embrace. I am sure she calls on me and I am learning to answer her while also still fighting. I surmise that that that little girl helped with the second piece shared, titled “On Self Love.”

So I leave you with two of my most private writings. May they tenderly enter your world as they did/do mine.

On Loneliness and Want, An Excerpt

I am in a dark place—not dark in the kind of anti-blackness kind of way where black is immediately considered all things bad, evil—unwanted. I literally mean dark in a thick navy, a night time blackness—an emptiness.

You know when I was a little girl, say eight or so, one of my deepest fears I felt through my stomach was an imagined nothingness—like the vision of no earth, no such thing as space. It was a blank, black image and I was outside of this pitch blackness—at the center and observing—terrified at the possibility that there just could be nothing—no world, no sky, no beings—no humans, no plants—no dirt, no nothing—not even wind and definitely no sun—not even history or time—just nothing.

I do not know why I had these thought experiments as a little girl. I certainly have not imagined this since. It may have been because there were talks of God and creation. The debate of his existence—always a him—in my head made me think, “Wow—just imagine if there were no God or something—we would have nothing.” For some reason the fear stuck with me more so than the joy of the reality that I had blood in my body and breath to take.

I grew up Lonely.

The imagined emptiness was definitely something I imagined at night. I have one memory—and it could be false and that may not matter because it sticks with me. I am young and on our couch—most of the lights are off and I can barely see my father’s face. He is near. He may be intoxicated. We may not even know we exist although we are so physically close. I am there laying on my shoulder terrified that there could be no world, no nothing to consider.

I am shook.

I may have told my parents and they may have agreed or acknowledged, “Yes, that is scary to think isn’t it, Candy.” It still didn’t help me feel better because the thought was so real, thinking it so hard, hating that it was possible—feeling this imagined nothingness was acute.

I am in a terrible place right now. It is full of light—fluorescent and soft yellows, too. Music rings here—dishes clank here. People, people here. And I feel incredibly far. Not able to be reached. It is a horrid feeling. To be touched gently and not feel a thing while still wanting to feel good, to feel embraced, and you just can’t.

I wish someone would call me right now. I want someone to want me right now. I have a girl in mind and I’m sure I am not in hers. I should get rid of her because of this. It hurts to want. Desire unmet hurts.

And I keep leaving. Keep desiring. Keep wishing. And I run far and far as possible until I get tired and I lay flat in bed with the thick navy across my body—the nothingness settles and sits, cements, and I suffocate. And there is no way to get back until I can find a way to venture and run and wish and desire until I must stay again, locked tugged and become thickened—by whatever it is that really doesn’t have a convenient name.

I don’t want to go home. Funny, whether you want or not—you get pushed out—like birth—home pushes you, forces you out. I don’t want to go my current home, just like the one I left.

I’m looking for a place to fall apart and be ok—arms, breasts, hands around me—an embrace.

Why did I get rid of her? Why does she not count?…

“On Loneliness and Want, An Excerpt”~Merritt, Candice

 

On Self Love

on-self-love

 

Black Matters, No. 1: Reparative (Re)membering

This piece is part of a series of meditations on race, gender, and sexuality. It encompasses personal and public memory at the intersection of prose and poetry. This piece is about process and a journey towards a more reparative sense of self and community. It may be disjointed here and there, but the words all connect. You’ll sense it.

 Black Matters: Reparative (Re)membering, No. 1

When I think of blackness, I see images—

historic ones shaped by

Memories

in History Books

Schools—

Field Trips.

We were ugly, I thought. I felt.

We had large lips. Odd heads. Wool-ed hair.

We were chained. We were bare.

We looked dirty.

We had no gloss. No airbrush.

We had no brightness. No illumination.

We were rough.

And our words always sounded funny or incomprehensible.

–we were animal.

In elementary school, there was a black history border around the classrooms and in hallways. It showcased our best, most notable—our brightest and most famed. The Named Ones.

There was King, Douglas, Carver, Robinson, and Marshall. Great men. I always, however, purposely searched for the women that sprinkled the timelines.

I only liked one or two images of the women. One was a real time photo of Mae Carol Jemison and the other, a painted face of Marian Anderson.

Mae’s picture I liked best because it was more “modern.” She looked lighter and more colorful like the pictures in other books. Anderson’s photo stuck out as well. She was not as light as I wanted her to be, but she shared my birthday—February 27.

I inspected these pictures daily. They etched in my mind and I dissected them meticulously. I looked at all of their noses (were they too wide or just right); their lips (were they full or narrow); their hair (was it straight or patchy); their teeth (were they clean or crooked), their color (too dark or light enough); and their skin (wrinkled or smooth).

This was a rigorous test of race, desire, and femininity. I did not have those words then. So, Truth, Tubman, Wells, and Bethune always landed on the bottom.

There was another test, however. One that did not rely on notions of desired body parts and bad ones. Perhaps this test wasn’t as painful to administer, but all the sense of immediacy and necessity still went into it.

This test ensued from a sense of magic and numbers.  Anderson shared my birthday. The twenty seventh day of the second month in the calendar year. Maybe people born on or around this day were special and important no matter how they looked. Maybe they had something that the others didn’t have and that’s how they got on the wall. For all I knew, Anderson had a photo, and if we shared a birthday, then perhaps I was special, too.

I focused in on this concrete detail. Twos and sevens became added, subtracted, and multiplied to make ones and threes. Letters in names became numbers, and digits began to have connections. Maybe my father’s commitment to the “numbers” played a role in this assessment since he engaged in predictive modeling of the daily lottery using pocket calendars and the backs of spiraled notebooks and legal pads. Whatever the influence, I could create a cosmic connection to the Named Ones.

I admit. It wasn’t a perfect connection, but it was something.

The cosmic connection did not tell me to embrace all black flesh. It did allow me to consider my birth and others a unique event that may warrant recognition on a historic timeline.

A part of myself would like to erase these memories of Little Black Girl Me. They come with a number of affect—among them shame, sadness, and numbness. Today, however, I make use of these memories. I choose not to lay them to waste. Today, I engage in reparative re-membering.

Reparative re-membering is about cataloging, experiencing, and analyzing memories. It is process-driven and may lead to unexpected connections and emotions. It can revive or revise historic narratives in service of a vision to create new narratives of self and place. Reparative re-membering is about making use of memory and making peace with them for self, and if deemed necessary (by you), for others as well.

In a time in which we cry out the value of black life, I think it no less essential that I begin to ruminate on blackness and its varied meanings for Little Black Girl Me and Black Grown Woman Me. Without re-membering, I will never truly be able to unhinge Truth, Tubman, Wells, and Bethune from the bottom, and historic images will continue their silent haunting.

As a starting point, I would like to re-member Little Black Girl Me as more than a point of pain. I would like to also re-member her as a source of creation and expansion of new meanings for blackness and black girlness.

As such, I re-member her and her cosmic connection to the past not as failure—but rather as the work of a creative mathematician. An astrological dabbler. Magic believer and cosmos dreamer.

She is joy.

This is the work of reparative re-membering and it is only the beginning.