something witty

I'm 22 and am exploring some feelings publicly

Dear White Women,

Hang on, don’t get upset yet.

I am half you. You raised me. You are so many of my heroes. You’ve inspired me and you’ve shown up lately. I appreciate that.

You are talented and one of your skills is making me feel small. You succeeded throughout my whole childhood, shaming me for pronouncing words incorrectly in the first grade, making an exception for our friendship because I’m light skinned and most hurtfully, for loving you too much.

White women, all I’ve ever wanted was to be loved in return by you; fro and all, but you continue to shame me. Oh, but it’s not just me- I’ve seen you do it to each other. But as a little brown girl, I took it heartbreakingly personally. Why don’t you love me like I love you? Why don’t you see me like I see you?

Let me explain… My mom is white and dad, black & Native American. Until I was four, my mom raised me alone. A white woman, her white mother and father were the first people I knew. They loved me. But out in the world white faces didn’t love me like the white people at home did. The white faces outside and in school squished everything inside me they could reach until I did nothing without asking their approval. Because white was all I was educated by, influenced by and friends with until high school I always sought belonging. I imitated you and would do anything to stay close to you.

White women, you are my mother and I just want to belong to you. But over and over again you don’t let me in. You don’t embrace and accept me like I’ve always craved from you.

I’m older now and getting more woke by the day.  I’m starting to see you, white women, but more importantly I’m starting to see me. It is hard on me to stand in front of you and ask you to love me like the white people at home. It’s not your job to love me like that, but it’s my job to free myself from the power we both think you hold over me.

The power I think you have over me: I think you’re the keeper of my love and belonging. The power you think you have over me: I can’t speak for you, but maybe I scare you so you send in the troops of your superiority to put me in my place- but really, to keep you in yours.

I don’t understand you, really. Why do you yell at strangers over being inconvenienced at super markets? Why do you feel entitled to treat us (and each other) like we’re nothing?

Some day soon, we will both realize I am the same size as you and you will never succeed in making me feel small again. Some day I will realize I don’t need you to be loved and belong. Some day soon, you will lose the power we both think you have. Maybe that’s why you roar so loud these days.

White women, one day we’ll realize we’re one.

Until we’re both the same size,

Alyssa

 

Healing Grief

Hi all,

I wrote an article published to Elephant Journal about a recent loss.

Check it out.

When she Died, I made myself Sick—and Began to Heal.

Should we Stay Where it’s Uncomfortable? Or Move to Maui Instead?

People everywhere are like… “Quit my job and moved to Maui.” “Selling my house and I’m moving to Israel.” “Moved to Portland and live in a Tiny House.” The articles are all over the internet.

At first, these stories seemed so radical. Remember how Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat Pray Love awakened everyone’s secret desire to just leave it all behind and find serenity/authenticity? How amazing and courageous and unconventional of her to just leave what wasn’t working and go seek better lands. And now she has this book and she’s hangin’ with Oprah and like… WHY DON’T WE ALL DO THAT? Elizabeth and others like her are the heros of our society. They’re the role models, the ones who did what we all want to do. Leave. this. shit. behind.

It seems like the right thing to do. After all, “YOLO” and “Carpe diem” and “life is short,” and all that jazz. We MUST be happy. We must be comfortable. We must find and dwell in our bliss.

Or must we? And if we must, must we leave?

This morning I picked up Pema’s book When Things Fall Apart again and opened to the chapter titled “Not Causing Harm.” Pema discusses the practice of mindfulness, or noticing and refraining from responding to thoughts, feelings etc. impulsively. For example, when you’re sitting down and your nose starts to scratch- refrain from scratching. Let yourself be uncomfortable. Let your nose just itch.

Pema was given a meditation practice which combined mindfulness and restrain. She was instructed to notice the physical movements that arose when she was uncomfortable.  When her back was tight, she readjusted. When her nose itched, she scratched it. When her leg went numb, she moved it etc. Even if nothing itched, she scratched, too. In this meditation Pema realized that whenever she began to feel uncomfortable- she did things.

“Noticing how we try to avoid it is a way to get in touch with basic groundlessness. Refraining- not habitually acting out impulsively- has something to do with giving up entertainment mentality. Through refraining, we see that there’s something between the arising of the craving- or the aggression or the loneliness or whatever it might be- and whatever action we take as a result. There’s something there in us that we don’t want to experience, and we never do experience, because we’re so quick to act” (34). (lol I cited that like a school paper.)

Okay. So. Here’s the thing. We are a culture really attached to entertainment. When we’re bored we have a flashy phone to look at. When it’s quiet we have access to any song we want to hear. When we’re bored, we have chocolate in the pantry. When we’re lonely, we have Netflix. When we feel unsatisfied with our job… well, we always have Maui.

But what if we didn’t pick up our phone right away? And what if we didn’t find noise to fill the silence? What if we didn’t go straight for the chocolate? And what if we didn’t run off to Israel and Maui and Portland?

What if we let ourselves feel the space between loneliness and the attempt to avoid it?

What if we didn’t have to ease discomfort?

What if we could just notice our experience for one second, if that’s all we can manage, before avoiding it?

What if we let ourselves fucking feel?

What if anger was a volcano that didn’t destroy the village? What if emotions were passing clouds?
What if we were mountains allowing everything to happen around and on us, but we stayed still to just experience it all without fighting back?

What if leaving where we are wasn’t the answer? That includes our jobs. Our homes. Our feelings.

I’ll ask again for emphasis- what if leaving where we are wasn’t the answer?

I don’t have the answer, but like… I’m gonna chill with Pema for awhile and see.

22 Years Old. Bae-less. Virgin. Not Gay.

My family is confused. My friends are confused. They ask, “Are you seeing someone?” I say, “No.” A not surprising, but still disappointing answer. Then I make up some false hope to ease the moment and say “but there’s this guy at work,” or “Maybe next semester…” The truth is- I’m just trying to conceal my shame because… I am confused, too.

I don’t know why it hasn’t happened. Of course, I have my ideas…

Am I not pretty enough? Am I secretly gay? Am I asexual? Is it my body? Is it daddy issues? Am I invisible? Am I sending out a don’t-talk-to-me signal? Am I unapproachable? Am I too elusive? Because I’m black? Am I not flirty enough? Do I not show enough interest? Do I not socialize enough? Am I too casual? Do I self-protect too much? Is it my hair? Is it my double chin? Is it my stomach? Is it me? Is it them? Do men not like me? Do they not see me? Do they not like what they see? Are they intimidated?

Is it timing? Wrong place wrong time?

I don’t know! I DON’T KNOW!

Literally everyone around me has had a boyfriend or at least had sex, but not me. I’m completely left out. I don’t know why.

My admission that it hurts not to know why I’ve gone unloved by a man for 22 years turned into me screaming at myself in the mirror. “You’re so ugly! I hate you,” was just the tip of the iceberg!

My face contorted and became demonic. I was like Smeagol crying in shame at Gollum’s wrath. I heard the voice screaming and in my reflection I saw a little girl bawling and ashamed saying, “I’m sorry! I’m so sorry that I’m not pretty enough to be loved! I’m sorry I am unlovable.”

Deep, deep shame at who I am and what I look like- that’s what I’ve been living with for all these years.

It’s not just one thing- it’s everything about me. I feel so ashamed of my everything. I wouldn’t dream of bringing it out of the house- my real hair, my un-concealed dark circles, my fat stomach… No, I make sure to bobbi pin the shit out of that breakage, conceal the crap out of my under eye and hide that fat stomach under a flowy “I’m-so-earthy-and-wise” top.

If I didn’t hide my fat stomach, then surely a man would walk by me on the street and say, “You should cover up all your fat.” Again.

And if I didn’t conceal my raccoon eyes, passersby would surely comment, “you look so tired.” Again.

If I let my hair down, curly or straight and wild, people would surely comment, “Did you cut your hair?” or “Can I touch your hair?” or “Your hair is so puffy.” Again.

No. No. I’ll just cover it all up, thank you. You can’t know the truth. You can’t know my wildness.

I haven’t been myself a day in my life. Who you met isn’t me. It’s a behavior. A protective barrier and manipulation to try to feel adequate.

So, no. I don’t have a boyfriend. And it doesn’t mean I’m gay. It means I hate myself so much I won’t let anyone love me. It means I’m so ashamed of who I am, I won’t let anyone near me. It’s because I keep myself buried so far from the surface, no one can touch me.

I’ve gone 22 years unloved by a man because I won’t let him.

I’m not committed to it always being this way, but this is where I’m at with it.

Now everyone can stop asking and I can stop pretending it’s anything other than what it is.

Happiness and why I Don’t Care About it

“Are you happy?”

Someone who loves me asked me this question. It was the only thing she wanted to know.

The answer was no, but I answered “I think I’m getting there.” I wanted to give her the comfort and reassurance she sought, misleading or not. She asked as though it was the most important thing in the context of my life, but it didn’t sit right with me.

Why is the most important thing to you that I’m happy? What if I’m not happy, but I’m kind? Is that not important? What if I’m not happy, but I’m generous? Is that not important? What if I’m not happy, but I am creative and free? Is that not important?

We’re so hard up for happiness, the idea is even being sold to us.

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It underlies almost all of our media and advertisements. Evidently we’re so desperate, advertisers think we’re dense enough to think buying their cars, happy meals and clothes will bring us happiness.

Even John Lennon believed in it, which is hard to dispute…

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But all of life is about me finding happiness? Really?

To me, this is too selfish an ambition. It is not giving or connective enough. Happiness alone has not brought me closer to someone. A practice in empathy is what I care about. I care about being kind and generously loving. I care about having a heart that is receptive and open. It is the sweet spot of humanity. And though the journey is full of barriers, fears and ugly, ugly things and I will unlikely be happy on this path, I will, with each step gain understanding.

This kind of practice does not wear on our faces like a smile or sunny disposition for everyone to see and admire. It’s a gentle soul and to those who can feel it, it makes a world of difference.

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So happiness. It comes when it comes and when it does, we enjoy it. When it doesn’t- who cares. We’ve got other work to do.

Trying to Deal with this Death that Just Happened.

I lost my oldest friend.

Not a friend that I’ve known for the longest, but literally my oldest friend. She was 90 years old. I was her volunteer companion in hospice and she died three nights ago. I saw her more often than I see most of my family- once a week for three seasons.

I didn’t know last week was the last. I had a good following week planned. I wasn’t going to get up to get a chair when she held my hand. I wasn’t going to break our connection when it came. I was going to stay where I was needed- with her in the moment.

The next week, though, didn’t go the way I planned. Or maybe it did. Because I stayed where I was needed- with her, each of the three days she spent dying.

I was there for her last afternoon, the last time she opened her eyes and her last breath.

I watched it all happen and I still don’t know how she’s gone.

I don’t know how our 8 months didn’t turn into 9. I don’t know how I don’t get another chance to sit with her. I don’t know how our time together is over. I don’t understand how it could all be over so fast.

Yes, fast. It only took three days for 90 years of you and 8 months of us to be over.

But I understand it was slow, too and you suffered a long time.

Still. I wasn’t prepared and I always thought our last visit would be more obvious. Like I’d have an instinct. Or something unique and meaningful would happen and I would be able to hang on to that while I grieved. But it wasn’t like that. You held my hand and I walked away to get a chair. I saw you out of the corner of my eye look at me, but I didn’t look back at you.

You reached out to me. And I wasn’t there.

I knew it then and that’s why I was going to be better next time.

But I didn’t get a next time.

Not the way I wanted one. Not in a way I knew you were listening.

I don’t know if you knew I was there. I don’t know if you heard the things I said to you. I don’t know and can never know if you understood how much you meant to me.

I don’t know how I’ll be able to accept all this, but I know regret is a natural part of grieving.

I just hope that during our time together, you didn’t feel alone. I wanted to be there, not just with my body but with my heart. And I was scared a lot of the time. Scared of the vulnerability and openness. You were always so brave with yours. So generous with yourself- your love and your yelling, alike.

I hope you knew the truth, that despite my lack of frequent expression I loved you. But maybe you didn’t. And I’ll have to find a way to accept that.

“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” –Rumi

And boy do I have quite a few barriers.

Almost Died Today (3 years ago)

While it’s hard to know what difference it would have made had I died three years ago, the fact remains I survived.

Survived what, you ask? A tow truck smashing into the rear of my mom’s car on the freeway. I remember my mom looking in her rear-view mirror saying, “What’s this guy d–” and before she finished her sentence, the car was flipping.

It was traumatic and life changing, both instantly and over-time. Instantly my family and I were going to the E.R. instead of my Aunts’ house in Big Bear, CA. My sister had spinal surgery, my grandma’s shoulder was broken, my mom was limping and I was convinced I had internal bleeding or a brain injury that hadn’t killed me yet, but would in the next few hours. (Not in a funny, hypochondriac way… I seriously was worried I was going to die.)

How can you wrap your head around something that makes no sense? What a random thing. Without reason or purpose.

So it seemed.

I feel like when the unexpected tragedy occurs, everyone expects there to be some magical outcome. Some profound lesson. Like– Because this terrible thing happened, I decided to this other thing and now I’m telling Oprah about it on Lifeclass.

But mine didn’t go like that. I remember wanting to find the meaning behind the accident within the week that it happened. I didn’t want to be in the experience. I just wanted to get to the Oprah part. But I also used it against myself and against my friends. I used it as a separation. I used my bad experience as a protection. I told my agents I needed some time off and was too shook up to audition. I told my friends I couldn’t hang out because I was too afraid to drive. I stopped my life for this thing. I think I was looking for a proper reason to stop auditioning in LA and participating in parties with friends. I didn’t like those things. So even though, acting in LA and my friendships would have likely broke down anyway– this accident came and provided me an opportunity to let them go sooner.

I blamed the accident for a long time, but really I should be rejoicing in it. It gave me the life I wanted. Now… this doesn’t make any fucking sense. It just shows us all how clearly insane I am. I had two agents and didn’t want them. I had auditions and didn’t want them. I had friends invite me to things I didn’t want to go. I had a path and I wanted off.

Instead, I wanted the suffering that came from the accident because somewhere in my subconscious, I knew it was more real than the state of naivete I lived in before. I wanted fear more than I wanted security. I wanted to leave Los Angeles and live in my grandpa’s basement. I wanted to go back to school and work jobs that don’t make me happy more than I wanted to spend every day for the rest of my life trying to please every casting director in Hollywood. I. Wanted. This. Struggle. I always wanted it. I still want it. I would rather live this complicated, often shitty life than the numb, single focused one I had pre-accident. I want this hot mess version of myself because it’s real. It’s unpredictable. Anything could happen. I could choose anything, be anything, do anything.

I want to know suffering because that’s how compassion is cultivated. I want to know struggle because that’s how strength is built. I want to know death because (you know what’s coming) that’s how we understand life. I want to want what I really want, not what I’m advertised to want. I want to question everything because that’s how I find the truth. Starting with the accident, which caused me question my sense of security, entitlement and naiveté.

I guess you can say that I almost died because of that accident. But I also almost died without it. I would have never gotten the experience of life I really wanted. Because I am a person that wants to know all of life. And now… I’m getting to know suffering.

I guess I did get that profound lesson, after all. Where’s Oprah?