I’ve been trying to write for a while now. Several weeks. There’s been a lot I want to say, but I don’t know how to say it. I want to talk about depression and I want to talk about anxiety and mental health; Sometimes I want to talk about what’s happening in the world; I want to talk about addiction.
Mostly, I want to talk about pain. And, mostly, I haven’t wanted to talk or write or even to think lately. There are so many thoughts yet none seem to have any shape—no texture—not enough to write about, or through, anyway. Like that dullness of pain which has no center, which is only felt in what it should not be or what is missing, the thoughts are blurred and dull.
My heart has been breaking. I want to make some kind of meaning, see some sort of omen or symbol, in what is happening, in the murder of George Floyd on the day I was born. On my birthday, on May 25th, our worlds seemed to shatter and break. Many people’s worlds have been shattering, have been broken, for long before this.
What I’ve Been Hearing
I’ve been trying to write about wanting to help, about what I think about it, about what I think and what I feel and what I should do and what it all means to me. Then, I remember that my voice is not the one that is important right now. I have this desperate need to speak, but I also feel this powerful urge to listen.
So here is what I’ve been hearing.
I’ve been hearing that the world is a very difficult and scary place to live in in a black body. It has been for a very long time, we’re just seeing it more than ever.
I’ve heard that people’s lives are being lost all the time.
I’ve been hearing that I shouldn’t shop at Target, Starbucks, or Walmart. Or I’ve heard I shouldn’t buy Purell products, Aveeno, or a plethora of other products from companies who bring in profits on the backs of incarcerated bodies.
Or I’ve heard about Yemen and Beirut, China and Portland. War zones.
And I’ve heard that Breonna Taylor’s murderers have still not been brought to justice, and that Trump held a Bible like a trophy of his own capitalist endeavor while peaceful protesters were tear-gassed. I’ve heard running is not safe, being a woman is not safe, and that my ally-ship is not enough.
I haven’t been actively anti-racist.
I’m not even sure how to start doing that. I’ve heard how, and I’ve heard I need to be having conversations, but I don’t know where to have them. What I do know is that I don’t know where to speak about what I’ve heard.
Mostly, I Know What I Don’t Know
I don’t know how to tell people who don’t see the world the way I do that they are wrong without wanting to scream at them, to say, “Don’t you f**king get it? Don’t you see that you’re a monster?” and then I remember that in plenty of ways I’ve been a part of the problem too.
A while ago I wrote about my least favorite phrase, “You’re pretty good for a girl.” Here’s an excerpt of that unpublished thought-piece rant:
“Being a woman has its own set of complexities and negotiations of relationships which is different from being a man. Within that vast category of “woman” and “female” there are thousands of other sub-identities available. I am only speaking on behalf of my own, wondering about how my femininity intersects with my own surfing, yet I think this is a topic and concept that a lot of us question and wonder about.”
I’d written this piece a while ago, and I could never find the time to post it. I couldn’t tell if it was thoughtless, what I really wanted to say, what it all meant to me, really.
Wanting to Say More But Not Knowing What to Say
Then I wanted to write about the intersection of femininity and privilege in the water. It always blows my mind how much easier it is for me sometimes in the ocean. Guys are nicer to me: they let me take off, they call me into waves. In many ways, my white female privilege is something I take advantage of often and willingly. Is it wrong of me to accept this? To take some kind of advantage of it?
Obviously, I don’t know the extent of it either way. I don’t necessarily know what I need to do to stop being a part of the problem. I understand certain limits placed upon my life based on my body and my gender, but on any given day there are many ways in which I am benefitted rather than harmed.
How Do We Make Sense of This?
And what does it mean? What does it mean to be who I am in this world?
What does it mean to try and make sense of everything happening right now with an awareness and an acknowledgement of my very lack, the multiple limits of my understanding?
I’ve been wanting to write about this because I want to believe that something will shift in our world, and that my voice can be one of the millions out there speaking up right now. But I am also nervous.
I am nervous to say something wrong, to say something incorrect—for a while there, social media seemed to be flooded with everything I should do, and also everything I should not do, which was also confusing.
Post a black square in solidarity, but that black square is purely performative.
Sign a change.org petition but change.org also benefits from other petitions which are anti-black and pro-racist.
Write to local politicians and others; send emails; don’t send emails, speak with your dollars.
Talk about this, but also listen, don’t share, just re-post.
Pointing people in the direction of others’ knowledge has mostly been what I’ve done in the last two months. There is plenty more for me to learn, and plenty more for me to listen to, and one day maybe even say.
What I Would Like to Talk About Most
What I really want to talk about, though, is the surreality of inhabiting this world right now. Inhabiting the multiple facets of life we occupy in this moment is incredible. We are living in a world plagued by so much, yet we are going about our daily lives nonetheless. In Oahu, Hawaii, at least, the sun still shines and the waves are still firing (or not and we are lamenting it).
I’m still working on the computer trying to make a career for myself. The world still spins even as statues fall and our President tries to dismantle Democracy. I still get drunk and laugh and cry and listen to music too loudly in my car.
What I Do (Sort of) Know
I can’t speak to the dual experience of anyone else; I can only speak to my experience. I’ve spent a lot of time trying to think about how to talk about the world and the meanings engraved in our systems, the lies embedded in our society, and the brokenness of our institutions, and realized I can’t tackle systemic racism, social injustice, bureaucracies, and everything else in one post. I couldn’t tackle it all in 10 books, even. So I’ll leave that up to the millions of smarter and better educated people to speak on and I’ll do my best to read and share their words.
What I can tackle is what this all feels like, to me.
It feels like a silent / screaming shattering of the entire world.
It feels like burning fires are raging all around us and I haven’t been seeing them.
Where there’s smoke, there’s fire, and it seems like I’ve been quietly choking on the smoke without even seeing the flames. Parts of me feel like I haven’t done enough, but also that there isn’t much I know how to do from where I sit.
How to Start and How Not to Stop
I donate, I try, I write and I wonder and I share, but I don’t know if I’m truly doing anything. It feels like there’s more I need to be doing but I don’t even know where to begin. I’m afraid to say what I think because I see so many people getting angry and fighting with each other that part of me simply wants to share love and positivity only, to not even think about these fights and these fires.
But that’s not enough, and that is my privilege at work. I get to catch waves because I am a lady in the lineup. I am privileged, but also disadvantaged in my own small ways.
My voice matters, but it also doesn’t matter at all right now.
I feel I have no place in this, but that that belief alone is an exhibition of my luck and what I am allowed to believe or feel or see.
Mostly, I Probably Only Know One Thing For Sure
I don’t know what I am supposed to do most of the time.
But I’ll keep trying to do what’s right, each day, to elevate the world.
To take care of the people I love and care about, even those I do not yet or will never know. I’ll keep trying, imperfectly, to make something beautiful out of all this ugliness—in myself and the world—so I can look back and know that my voice wasn’t the loudest, or the most powerful, or the most well-spoken, or even close to anything like that.
But I’ll know my voice was saying my truth, was sharing love and a strength of belief and a conviction that everyone deserves to experience the beauty of life.
What is your voice saying?