Stuff that keeps the panic away

morning coffee

Not completely away, if I’m honest.

But far enough that, if I look with my spiritual eye — the one that can hardly see with because of older age and a bunch of other things — I can take that breath that lets me decide to look away.

I’ve spent too much time looking too deeply into what being American actually means. And it broke a bunch of things in me. Some expectations gentled during President Obama’s time in office. Although even those softer Obama-era hopes were bound about with nascent fear that America, being America, wouldn’t let him and his lovely family survive the experience. Do I have the Secret Service to thank? I would guess so.

Anyway, being a Black American woman can be such a boon, such a gift to my life on this earth. I mean, our legacy is unmistakable, epic, formidable.

But our present also reflects our past in sometimes being horrific, epically unfair, filled with aggression at every scale, and all just for being ourselves. No excuse for this treatment matters. Those who try to excuse it are just making it worse. I suspect they know that and revel in it.

At some point, I had to step back. Not away from being a Black American woman, because why would I refuse such a hard-won gift? But away from the waterfall of bullshit that surrounds being my natural self.

I was scrolling through my news aggregator, and found this 2013 article about baby boomer suicides. Sad stories. Then this sentence leaped out:

African Americans and Hispanics tend to have lower rates of suicide than whites, possibly because of stronger community connections, or because of different expectations.

Mercy mercy me.

Now, I bet there’s truth to that. Community connections can take on a variety of forms. Anybody who grew up in the segregated version of the American church knows that, for the most part, Black folks worship in a very different way. We bonded together because White society offered no other choice and backed up that lack of choice with every pattern of violence. And that church habit continues because I guess lots of folks feel that being religious is a good thing (it’s not for me, but I think I understand the impulse).

Then there’s the gigantic idea of expectation. Groups of Americans who’ve been badly treated for centuries have realistic expectations of the treatment America is prepared to provide. Never mind the treatment America will own up to.

My prescription, in these internet days, includes actual prescriptions, coffee, music to listen to and music to make, re-reading the classics: Samuel Delaney’s ’Tales of Neveryon’, Ursula LeGuin’s ‘The Left Hand of Darkness’, Octavia Butler’s ‘Wild Seed’, Toni Morrison’s ‘The Song of Solomon’ and so many others.

Binging and re-binging Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett’s ‘Good Omens’ series is part of my modern self-care. When Eve and Adam take their place as a dark-skinned couple navigating the first journey, I smile every time. I enjoy the mature, subtle delight the outwardly male angels take in each other.

Last but never least: it is my great good fortune that my loved and liked ones are a diverse lot. My family and my family of choice bring me so much joy and support, in part because they are so diverse they complement each other like a sublime tapestry filed with all the colors.

I guess I’m supposed to have some advice here. But first, let us note, for the record, why Ms. Morrison laughs:

One day, when she was about 2, her parents fell behind with the $4-a-month rent, so the landlord set fire to the house. While they were in it.
“It was this hysterical, out-of-the-ordinary, bizarre form of evil,” she says. “If you internalized it you’d be truly and thoroughly depressed because that’s how much your life meant. For $4 a month somebody would just burn you to a crisp.
“So what you did instead was laugh at him, at the absurdity, at the monumental crudeness of it. That way you gave back yourself to yourself. You know what I mean? You distanced yourself from the implications of the act.
“That’s what laughter does. You take it back. You take your life back. You take your integrity back.”

If you have loved ones, love them and let them know that, if they let you. Whether you have loved ones or not, find folks in need, and help them where you can (please be respectful! sometimes help from afar is a better choice).

If you have been consuming lots of things most of your life, see if balancing that with making things takes your spirit into a place of delight and healing. That’s what I’m doing.

I have no idea how America is going to emerge from this period of White society learning about consequences. It would be great to see more deep listening and acknowledgment. It would be great to see more acting on what you hear from the rest of us, and evaluating it based on empathy and common sense, not the banality of ‘well, actually’ or that marker of historical ignorance, ‘well my life isn’t great either’, or that admission of ignorance of the science of trauma, ‘well you didn’t suffer from that, and I didn’t do it’.

It would be satisfying and surprising to see America take this slow-rolling conservative train wreck, which you’ve been ignoring warnings about from the start, to wrench it from the brink and turn our deeply dopey country into something truly great.

The sheer delight of finally making a thing and why you should do it

I’m finally making a thing. It’s been in my mind for months. This is me doing the prep to make the thing.


I didn’t make the actual thing tonight, only the demo. The workweek starts tomorrow, and I started later than I intended to. Actually, I made less than a demo, because as I looked for angles that would at least make me look the way I look in my head (tall order for a short person), I forgot to turn on the camera for most of it. So I only shot part of it.

That’s good. Why? Because I got to practice, and run to get the things, and create a real-life picture of how to share the little dab of knowledge that up to now only existed in my head.

I think I felt so shitty yesterday in part because I didn’t work on the thing. My various issues flared up, and I felt heavy and unlawful, and plain out of luck.

That was yesterday. Today, I woke up feeling the same way, then, just did this odd…leap…over how I was feeling. I didn’t stop feeling it. I just pretty much put it to the side, and said, nuh-uh, not now.

I need to make a thing.

So, I puttered and glided through prepping (that is my place, prepped, so yeah). Then I listened to a bunch of good stuff that kept me close enough to the creative impulse and far enough from the Resistance my body manifests as various issues.

Because I’m a podcast person, here’s what I listened to:

The Professional Left with Driftglass and Blue Gal politics podcast — true, down to earth and sometimes all I can stand

Seth Godin’s Akimbo podcast — y’all know who he is

The Read Kid Fury and Crissle on pop culture from an unapologetically Black perspective

Benjamin Walker’s Theory of Everything I like the lens he uses to dive in-depth on lots of cultural stories

I Made It by Jay Acunzo for Podia — candid interviews with creators, not asking the same questions everyone else asks

Code Switch Journalists of color telling deeper stories about race and identify

Yo, Is This Racist? unfortunately, nine times out of ten, it is.

I didn’t listen to just about any of these all the way through. They were my curated soundscape as I went out and got the things I felt I needed to make my thing.

So, anyway, yeah, I started making the thing. I feel brighter, even though I didn’t finish it. I already knew a demo was going to be important. Now I have a better sense of what to do next.

But the main thing is, I finally actually stopped messing around, and start making the thing. And it feels wonderful.

Here’s to you taking that leap and making your thing!


Japanese idols – my advice for the ‘girl next door’

Having once been in an alternative pop branch of the entertainment business in Japan, I still follow the business news, and I had a mildly disgusted reaction to a Nikkei Asian Review article about Japanese idols:

The captivating ‘girl next door’

Mild because, well, who am I to tell these young ladies and gentlemen that what they’re doing isn’t admirable, that their fans are misguided, pathetic and sometimes creepy, and that their management are exploiting them to gain power.

I struggle with trying to be fair here. None of these people give a damn about my opinion – most of them probably don’t even read English. So the likelihood of inspiring anyone to break free of the system is nil.

But it galls me nonetheless.

I admit that I am a music snob, and that Japanese idols’ ‘art’ is one of the issues. The vapid, soulless pop, awkward dopey dance moves and overall superficiality are hard to take.

Yeah, I know, I don’t have to pay attention. But I’m thinking out loud about why I have such disdain for the whole enterprise. As above, it’s not just the music.