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Saturday, February 27, 2016

Part 1: The Pregnant Trophy

After my last post, I have done some self-reflection. I asked myself the same question I posed in that post; What poem do I find myself writing over and over and over and why? For me, there are a few, but this has been on my mind for the last two and a half years.

I have written countless poems attempting to sort through the situation, my feelings about it, and the ultimate effects it has had on my life, but I have not been satisfied. After reflecting I have concluded that maybe I just need to tell this part of my story, no metaphors, no finesse, just the straight forward truth, so that is what I am going to do.

Before I begin, I want to say that I don't plan on telling it all in one post. It is too long and at moments, too hurtful, so this story will be told in parts. This is part one. 

There is also some background information you should know. First, my husband and I are in an interracial relationship. He is black and I am white. We have had a variety of experiences with people who don't necessarily agree with us being together, but my immediate family has always been supportive and have welcomed him into our family with open arms, as has his immediate family with me. 

Second, when I was growing up, I had no contact with my dad's side of the family for about ten years. To this day, I still don't know exactly what led up to this, but after the story I am about to tell you, I think we can all take an educated guess. When I was entering high school I lashed out at my parents, blaming them for the lack of contact with my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. It was this argument that played a hand in regaining contact with them. I feel guilty about being the one to initiate the rebuilding of those relationships every day. After you hear this story, I think you will understand why.

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Part 1: The Pregnant Trophy

I was still a student and gave tours of the college. It was a weekday and I had just gotten into the office, greeted my coworkers, and went into my boss's cubical to find out what the plan was for the day. She wasn't there yet so I sat in her cube and checked my cell phone.  On the screen was an alert for a message. Assuming it was from another tour guide, I opened it.

The message read something along the lines of: What is with the comments on Facebook from Brandon (my husband, then boyfriend) about you being a white trophy girl and pregnant? Are you pregnant?

At that moment about a million questions ran through my mind. The first was who is this and what are they talking about? I immediately forwarded the message to Brandon with a question mark and went to check my Facebook.

At first, I didn't know what this person was talking about. I had no notifications, let alone any from Brandon about me being a white trophy and pregnant, but eventually I came across a picture we had taken together that weekend. It was posted to his page and there were lots of people that had liked and commented on it. All were very nice and respectful. One of the newest comments, however, read something along the lines of: Nice picture with your white trophy girl, bro. So when are you gonna be a pops?

BUT it wasn't from Brandon (as I had figured) it was from someone I didn't even recognize. Brandon texted me back. He was horrified with the comment. It had been a cousin of his who he hadn't seen in years, but still remained friends with on Facebook. He told me he had deleted the comment and apologized.

Still not knowing who this person that had texted me was, I sent a simple message back explaining the situation. No, the comment is not from Brandon. He hadn't even seen it until just now. It was a cousin who he had not seen in years and was probably just trying to be funny. No, I am not pregnant. 

Time and pain have blurred certain parts of the story, one of them being the texting conversation that followed. Eventually though, I realized that it was my grandmother on my dad's side, which brought up a variety of other questions.

Since when does my grandmother text? How did she find the picture on Brandon's page? She wasn't friends with him so why had she been searching his Facebook? What had she been searching for? What was an eighty-something year old woman doing on Facebook at all?

I contacted my mom to explain the situation because, knowing my grandmother, within a few hours the rest of the family was going to find out about the comments and our conversation. I didn't want my dad to find out from her and get a twisted version.

For a while, nothing happened. My parents were not worried by the situation, knowing that the comment from his cousin was in no way a reflection on Brandon's character. Brandon was horrified that my grandmother thought this way of him. He even deleted his Facebook saying that if someone could warp his image so quickly and by just a simple comment, he wanted nothing to do with it.

Unfortunately though, that was not the end...

Monday, February 15, 2016

Never Ending Poems

After the last post I wrote, two things happened.

First, I attended a lunch seminar at my job about mindfulness and the benefits. This was ironic because the woman began her presentation by asking if we had ever driven in the car, gotten home, and not been able to remember how we got there.

In my head, I screamed, "YES!" She proceeded to tell us that this was referred to as "mindlessness" and that she was going to teach us about being "mindful" and aware of our surroundings as well as our body.

Second, a friend came up to me and said she had read my post and that she had heard that technically we become hypnotized while we are driving, which is why we can't always remember how we get places.

Both of these things reiterated my concern. How many other moments are we hypnotized to the point of "mindlessness?" What effect does this have on the rest of our lives?

Though these questions are still lingering, the woman giving the presentation about mindfulness said that simply thinking "I am breathing," or "I am currently driving home and passing the grocery store," or "Wow, I am thinking about that specific topic a lot" is considered being mindful and can have an enormous benefit on our health.

As I was thinking more about the mindfulness practice, I came across a TED talk from one of my favorite poets, Sarah Kay. (Video posted here for you to enjoy!!!).

In her talk she shares (along with some of her amazing poems) that while teaching poetry one of her biggest tips is that:

" is tempting to keep writing the same poem or to keep telling the same story over and over once you have figured out it will gain you applause. It is not enough to just teach that you can express yourself. You have to grow and explore and take risks."

This advice hit home for me in a way I hadn't thought about in a while. I haven't written poetry in months and as I began thinking about why, I realized that it was because I was writing the same poems over and over and over and was never satisfied with the results.

For me, it was not because I wanted applause from an audience. It was to sort out things that I haven't realized I still need to sort out. When those poems didn't do that for me, I was left unsatisfied and found myself continuously writing about the same topic.

So, after listening to the mindfulness talk, hearing Sarah Kay's advice, and trying to break myself from the hypnosis of life, the first mindfulness task I set for myself, was to be aware of the things that I think about too often, the things I wish I could write the perfect poem for and really hone in on the "why?"

This week, be aware of the thoughts you have over and over and over that you may not even realize you are having. What poems do you find yourself writing over and over and over because you haven't sorted them out yet and why? Why that topic? Why isn't it satisfying yet? How can you get there and once you are there how can you continue to grow, explore, and take risks?

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

The Things We Miss

Last Friday I was driving home from work on exactly the same road I had the day before and the day before that. It was one of the warmest, sunniest days we had had in a while. The music on my phone was on shuffle, a ritual I follow each afternoon. The traffic was fairly mild for a Friday with very few brake lights in view.

As I was driving through a forest preserve, which I have driven through almost everyday this year, I realized something...

I didn't remember how I had gotten to that point on my route home.
     Couldn't identify what songs I had just been singing along to.
     Couldn't tell you which lights I had made and which I had stopped at.
     Couldn't even tell you what time I had gotten into my car to leave.

And then I panicked. Was I losing my memory?

After driving for a while longer on that same road, still heading towards home, I realized something else. If, everyday when I got home, I tried to identify details about the trip, I probably wouldn't have been able to tell you the songs I had sung, how many lights I had stopped at, or what time I got into the car.

And this wouldn't be because of memory loss. It's because this was a routine I followed everyday since September. And everyday it was the same motions I went through.

While this realization made me less nervous about my brain's health, it made me worry about something else.
     How many other times in life had this same thing happened?
     How many times had I sung, danced, laughed and can't remember them, let alone why?
     How many "lights" had I made or missed without paying any attention to it?
     How many people had slipped out of my life like this?
     Could I even identify what happened along my route that led to this?

And this is the scariest thought of all. There could be so many things that I missed in life or people that I let go because I was just going through the motions, following my daily routine, and didn't think to pay attention to the details.

So I find myself asking, why is it that when the weather is warm and sunny we lose focus and what kind of effect does it have on the rest of our lives?