Up Early

I just woke up too early. I’ve slept in four time zones in the past week, so my body is probably trying to do right by me. Tonight I’ll sleep in another time zone, whatever Chicago is.

Time zones are something I want to think about here with y’all for a second. The idea of time zones amazes me. Generally being able to identify that the sun moves across the planet, I get that. But to say there is a line, and on this side of the line it is 3:30, on this side it’s 4:30, that amazes me. Feels like playing with time.

Sometimes when something bad happens, I want to run west for a do-over, try that hour again. I can do better.

And we change time twice a year. Many countries in the world don’t do this, they just acknowledge that darkness and light can shift around in the hours. But we say: now we jump forward in time. Ok and Now we jump backward in time.

Mass time travel, just by all believing it.

I time travel a lot, and I think it’s starting to wear on me. Little changes, I move usually one to three hours at a time. But I do it a LOT. I used to sleep through these leaps, but lately I have had a complex relationship with sleep. Like right now, I would love to be asleep, but I woke up writing, and had to get out of bed to put it somewhere.

Time and money are so similar right now. No bail-out, new bail-out, let’s move some money from here to there. My friend Shea says it’s union-busting.

So my next step is to look through the various deadlines and to-do lists and see if there isn’t something useful to be written. I keep a list of topics to blog about, and sometimes I never make it to those things. Here’s a recent few samples:

– Obama-nut-cutting and Obama-seat-buying: not a good year for the Jesse Jacksons, eh?

– Beyonce’s latest album I Am…Sasha Fierce gives space to her alter ego, her stage-singer self, much like Mariah Carey did with her Emancipation of Mimi. In my head resides this other singer self who behaves and sings like if Marilyn Monroe and Aretha Franklin had a love child and only let her listen to Bjork, Radiohead, Woody Guthrie and Etta James. Maybe I should give her a name?

– Recently while sitting in a restaurant, a very very fat man at the next table got up to leave, and he had a piece of bacon stuck on his bottom. It was a moment of tragicomedy that made me giggle as I’m socialized to do, and want to cry and want to hug him. I felt the fatness of him like it was my own body, I wondered what would be the best approach, the least painful approach to tell him. The bacon fell off. The moment passed.

– When I wake up, my hair is sticking directly up from the center of my head. I didn’t think much of this until I was recently home and saw some baby pics, where my hair is sticking up like I am a recently-electrocuted baby, a mohawk’s 4-month-old dream. What’s that about?

– My sister Autumn said to me about child-rearing that our current norm is to raise children in a “Victorian” model in the home, then send them off to Company-Town model schools. In the home it’s about discipline, punishment, disconnecting the child from us as soon as possible (crying in the dark in their own rooms after months of being surrounded by mama’s beating heart). At the schools its chipping away at the original, unique, INDIVIDUAL child; shaping them to be docile, cogs in whatever factory or industry wheel is turning nearby. This is a large component of Grace Lee Boggs work/analysis as well. We raise our children to aim for jobs, mindless, unsatisfying, powerless jobs. We don’t raise them to be a part of community, of righteous, useful, survival based work. With the globalization of unfair labor practices by U.S. companies, and now the recession, it leaves a generation unprepared. It’s not too late, but we have to realize where the problem begins. This is long to be a bullet point but eh. I’m still awake.

And to close out with, a health check-in…there goes the little fear in the belly again – it’s like a little unhealthy self who has been happily in charge, and know that the more I point at her the less control she can exist:

It is time to admit that with all my travels and deadline based living, I have slipped into a sneaky comfort with Starbucks, McDonald’s, and Burger King. Specifically the double chocolaty chip frappacino (which my computer tells me isn’t even a real word), and whatever the sausage-egg-and-cheese thing is on the breakfast menu of the Evil Burger Empire places. They are dependable and familiar, no matter where in the country/world I am. Other than that…oh one other thing – Cheese-Its. Cheeze-Its? I have become a bit of a Cheeze-It vacuum. To place my food habits along a drug continuum, these are my crack.

Then I eat salads, drink hella water, eat around others in a healthy way. But these have become my sneaky traveling vices.

So. Having admitted that, I would like to cease and desist with fast food, even/especially while traveling. Manifestation begins with naming the thing I want to manifest, right?

I take off tonight for a board meeting in Chicago. Wish me luck!!

Mini Giant, Totally Alert
Mini Giant, Totally Alert
Mmmmm Food!
Mmmmm Food!

My nephew is the SWEETEST cutest thing ever. I am calling him a cellular genius, because he’s as big as some one year olds, but he’s 4 months. He thinks he can walk. His mama is radically and beautifully being a mama, and the way they love each other is remarkable. His parents blow my mind, bringing his Irish and Black culture together, weaving a story for this little baby.

I could write about him all day, and all night. I’m hooked on him like Phonics.

Me and him:

No one on the corner got heads like us!
No one on the corner got heads like us!

the charmed life

i am sitting outside security in the new orleans airport. i got some whiskey before the bar closed, and have to down it all before i got thru security…plenty of time tho, as my flight is 3 hours delayed. i get into denver late, will be put up in a hotel, and then finish the trip tomorrow. everyone who i have shared this potentially woeful tale with has said it sucks. but here are the good parts:

1. there’s free wireless in this airport!
2. there’s a live jazz band (albeit playing jazz christmas music) in this sitting area, for a private party happening at one of the airport restaurants (which is such a special idea it nearly makes me cry.)
3. i get to stay in a hotel!
4. i get to travel at least part of the way home tonight, so i don’t have to be on a plane all day tomorrow, which dedicated readers will know is one of the pettest of my peeves.
5. its snowing in denver and i brought my snowboots for the philly-ny parts of this trip!
6. i have lots of work to do and i work best in airports while waiting. well – i work best in bed, second best in airports.

today i worked with the parent organizing group to figure out how they will make decisions, get their calendar/work plans set, determine priorities among all the amazing work they have to do, and continue just falling in love with them – three awesome women from VERY different backgrounds with a shared commitment to better education for new orleans, towards a radically better world.

a singer with a lovely voice is doing an a capella version of white christmas and the whole room is sort of silent and its oddly sweet. the universal appeal of a pretty voice trumps the collective annoyance of delayed travelers for at least a minute.

a too-skinny, remarkably-hot italian guy is asking me for help because he’s managed to land in new orleans with no phone, no computer, no place to stay. just a big smile. i suspect he’s a hustler, he’s too smiley and sweet and abandoned. brainstorming single straight girls in new orleans….ok we got him into a hostel. ciao ciao ciao!

security time, aka take off everything and look silly for no reason time. yay!

Ways to Work Together (From New Orleans)

I’ve never come to New Orleans with enough time to be here. I need to come down here some time when I can really explore the place.

This trip I am working with the staff of the Parents Organizing Network, moving quickly through 5 year, 3 year, and 1 year visions, creating work plans, outcomes, organizational culture guidelines, a decision making process, and a way to evaluate each other.

Each time I go through this process with a group, or with Ruckus, I am reminded that there a million ways to approach ANY organizing work. And then there are a few ways that just tend to work for groups a little better than the rest. These tools are especially useful for folks who are the category I like to call “The Reluctant E.D.*”

Reminders this time:

1. Check-ins between peer staff, or with a supervisor, can be structured as covering:

a) accomplishments for the last week (or past two weeks, whatever the period is between check-ins),
b) challenges for the last work period,
c) goals for the next week or work period,
d) feedback from peer/supervisor,
e) feedback TO peer/supervisor,
f) and a check-in personally (anything in your LIFE that may effect the WORK).

This allows the whole person and the work to be tracked and supported.

2. Create an annual work plan, and a decision matrix! Show who is responsible for what work, and roughly when in the schedule/timeline it should happen (even if its only what quarter or month, planning a day’s work a year out can be unrealistic), and who is allowed to make the daily decisions within that area of work. I have templates for this that I can send folks!! This doesn’t make things perfect, but it HELPS!

3. Hold a space regularly (once a month, once a quarter, whatever you need) for clearing the air. Stuff builds up between people simply because they are not the same exact person. Difference can be a strength or a weakness – its a strength when its acknowledged, celebrated, and invited to the table. It’s a weakness when it only serves to divide and confuse.

4. Think about the internal culture. Is it a culture of strong consensus? Appreciation? Structure and agendas? Accountability? Brainstorm ways that culture will be measured, and evaluate whether or not it’s happening annually, if not more often.

I’m sleepy, and tomorrow is another big day, with more to come.

In other news, I fall more deeply in love with New Orleans every time I visit. I love the architecture, the crayola colored buildings, the lay-out of the neighborhoods, the trees, the humidity, the particular proud-sad way people smile when they speak about hurricane season, the music, the black cowboys, the way the south is always calling me home.

In other other news, I am totally in love with the cat that lives in the house I am staying in. I am allergic to her, but not severely. We can’t touch, just talk and check each other out and co-habitate. And I just love cats. Certain cats, great cats with distinct personalities and obvious needs and slinky sexiness and independence and snuggle-ability.

Must. pass. out.

* Yes, that’s probably the name of my next book so don’t snatch it!

Actual Problems That Aren’t In Your Head

Been here just one day, and have heard this phrase three times – “actual problems that aren’t in your head”.

Its a qualifier – he/she is dealing with actual problems, you know, not problems in your head.

I like this, its a clarifying way to approach things. Every time I come to New Orleans, before and after Katrina, I’ve seen the difference…not the better or worseness…but the difference of actual problems, deaths, violence, poverty, hunger, addictions, loss; actual problems versus problems in your head – feeling stressed, overworking yourself and then falling apart, etc.

I can get caught up in my own or others’ head problems, but I want to focus all my work, all my creative energy, on solutions to actual problems.

One of my hosts’ neighbors has stopped by, is talking about love – loving self more than loving another, but missing that other so much. Love is so complex and has a lot of dark sides, but love for self is such a liberation. And love for another, I think, helps lead to a whole and truly intimate living human experience. He is reminding me of how precious love is, its humorous how he approaches the love but…i love love.

And I love neighbor culture in NOLA.

When Parents Organize

i’m writing this from a massage chair at my dear friends shana and abram’s house in new orleans. they are truly two of my favorite people in the world because they do things right, are funny, are just inherently on point with how to live and love. their place is wonderful, and i can see the differences now from the first time i saw it, and the neighborhood, when they were moving back in after the evacuation.

i spent the day today with the staff of the parent organizing network, very inspiring. the vision is to support parents to learn about and be active participants and evaluators of their children’s school experience – to engage the whole community in the process. we’re doing vision, roles and workplan here, which is always fun to see emerge.

on the health tip – i ate a po’boy today and then had several hours of tummy ache for overeating. it made me remember i have been doing that a lot lately, so want to start with that as an area of immediate shift. what does my body actually need, and how can i give my body what it needs at a pace that lets me know when i’m good. so i am not feeling like my belly might literally explode for about an hour after eating. that would be good. also had a bad chin day – where i saw a picture of my chin looking unfortunately non-defined. so – towards a chin and a nice feeling in my belly! onward and upward!

on the solidarity tip – nice job to obama for openly supporting the Republic Windows and Doors Workers in demanding their fair pay!!

thats all for now – i need to go be present with NOLA.

Snapshots of NYC + Philly

Soundtrack: Jazmine Sullivan (Lions and Tigers and Bears), Beyonce (Halo, Disappear, Single Ladies)

Some random snapshots:

– In NY and Philly its not so cold indoors and on public transportation, but people are wearing big coats, fur coats (fine as long as they deboned and ate every other part of the creatures, right?). I have always hated that aspect of winter, layers that give you no temperature flexibility. I love coming out of a warm space into the brisk gray of a city, and I love coming in from the cold to low yellow and red lights, to warmth. But I’m hot. Literally. I understand global warming through a metaphoric experience of my body when I walk, carrying too much, wrapped in too many layers, furnace in faux leather.

– Slipping into the city this way pleases me, like a shadow of my former self. I may look Californian now, I can’t tell. But NY puts a twist and snap into my hips, I stomp through the city listening to fierce women singers, feeling sexy, politically astute and anonymous. There are things that walking the streets of NY can do for your mojo that nothing else can.

– I read too many paparazzi mags when I travel east. Sometimes I find myself holding myself like someone’s taking a picture, caption: “Wannabe Black Marilyn hits the streets sporting her new generic purse…is that a baby bump??”

– I see the urban world overlayed with futuristic spaces – place gardens in small street parks and rooftops, add back and leg support pillows to the subways, add quiet places, temples and shrines and holy gardens and places to meditate all over.

– I wish we had public transportation running up and down. I was a New Yorker during September 11th, I watched the first plane hit the first building, I felt the city stop, and I would be fine never using underground transportation again.

– Speaking of September 11, every time I come to ‘the city’, I look at the sky there at the tip of NY with a kind of experiential melancholy, the way I pass by spaces where I made memories. I remember you, Twin Towers, sushi in that basement, pommes frites on 2nd Ave, my 20-something NY, sunrising rooftops coming down from center of the world parties.

– Two weeks ago I went to a Maxwell concert in Washington Heights where he redefined masculinity as a gentle, fluid, vibrating, square jawed, square hipped, crying sweating dancing grinding amorphous thing. I love NY because of the kind of crowd that will come see that show here, 50 year-old hetero-black couples in their finest, young dykes slow dancing in the aisles, Latino homothugs punching each each other playfully at the most erotic peaks, my best friend and I grabbing the edges of our seats and squealing and grinding like schoolgirls surprised by the first good grope of desire. Yes, he was that good.

– Philly has a lot of Greek columns in the architecture, and kind of feels like being in the Roman empire. Beautiful and too big and unreal, downtown. It’s nice to be here for no reasons of my own, a bit of a work retreat in the middle of lots of cold buildings.

– Experiencing a city through one of its finer hotels is totally cheating. 10 years of couches and guest rooms and passenger seat or public transportation tours has given me a map of struggle in the US. If I had grown up in beds this big and soft, with everything at my fingertips, I wonder if I would have cared to develop analysis. Dipping my toe in a bit, I am more impressed by the wealthy people in my life who genuinely work for change. Luxury is such a particular kind of Achilles heel.

– I am 30 and I still tend to approach good music by finding a song I love, putting it on repeat for 3000 times and completely wearing it out. NY was Beyonce’s ‘Single Ladies’. I don’t try to reconcile my love of pop-femmes with any other part of my analysis – diva is as diva does, and I want a world that has space for super divas too. Philly is Jazmine Sullivan. Folks ask how can I go the repeat route, doesn’t that ruin it for the future? But the truth is there is so much music out there. I get my fill in the present, and there’s always a next song to overindulge in. I’m also a hyper-observer, I like to fully break down every aspect of the song, hear a beautiful voice, a unique sound. Weird thing is, I can listen to a song 300 times and not learn the words, just the way it’s sung. This has been a good phase for music if you really appreciate pop (in its mainstream, hip-pop, hipster-pop, etc versions)

That’s all for now!

All Grown, but Shrinking

I am poking and prodding around the edges of my new world, in wordpress. Thanks to Seth!! I am liberated from Friendster, where I started this blog years ago. I started it just to have something somewhere communicating that I am experiencing and thinking about life. It quickly became a step-by-step tale of heartbreak. Very cathartic. Now my heart is healed and happy, but I have another healing process I want to go through, and I think this might be the space.

Thinking about writing anything here about this…”thing”…terrifies the crap out of me and so I am pretty sure it is the right thing to do.

The thing: I. Want. To. Be. Healthier.

My forehead just broke out in a cold sweat, heart is pounding, hands are shaky. I have wanted this for such a long time, and tried to get there in so many ways, and failed on so many levels. And now I am 30, and it’s been 17 years of trying, my whole adult life. The only way of being an adult I know of, relative to my body, is letting my body be the front line of my emotional life. I can regularly find myself trying to change it, losing some weight and making changes, then giving up for some reason, then surrendering and accepting it, trying to be fat positive and love my curves, proudly boasting about my indulgent pleasurable life, then freaking out that I’m gonna die if I don’t change my habits, then wanting to change it all again.

These personal struggles with health and sustainability are mirrored by what I see happening in the world. We are unhealthy, we take up too much space, we overconsume, we try to be better, but we risk self-annihilation if we continue as we are.

Amidst this health/world view of chaos, I have had moments of alignment – where I was using my body in lovely ways, putting into it what it needed, having indulgences when those were needed but feeling really balanced, doing yoga, meditating, all of that. Those moments feel like windows of clarity in my past houses.

A good friend keeps telling me, “If something isn’t working, then there is a belief you need to change.”

I want to write those beliefs here, and then I want to apply my beliefs for the meta-universe to my inner world. I believe actions speak louder than words, and I believe in self-determination, and sustainability. I believe we must “transform ourselves to transform the world”.

And I believe the emotional journey of a life plays out in the body – the world body, the individual body.

I can look at my body, and my relationship with my body, as a story of trauma, hardship, celebration, love, and short-timers attitude.

In my teenage years my body was objectified and attacked, and my body became a place to survive inside of.

I spent my college years in a fairly large-scale denial that I had a body – sort of operating as a floating brain and heart. I set the patterns during this period of my life for working hard and playing hard and winning love with my wit and charm, willing people to experience me without seeing me. I wore baggy clothes, hair in a ponytail, a little bigger each year.

I spent my 20s using my body as a playground – not only did I have it, but it was the key to an Alice in Wonderland journey. Eat this I grow, eat this other thing I feel small, drink this I feel happy. Drink more. Smoke this and I’m a caterpillar with a pipe dream. I projected body confidence that was often skin deep, and I responded to whoever responded to me. Not aligned at all with my picky Virgo nature. I can look back on the experiences of my 20s as an ode to consumption, of people, places, pleasures. I don’t regret it, even if it clashes with my post-consumerist vision. It was a step in the healing process, to inhabit my body, learn what I liked and didn’t like. There are arenas in my life where radical love was strengthened and applied, but when it came to my physical body, I was so unhealthy.

Now I am 30. Diabetes and heart trouble are showing up like dark shadows on my family tree. I’ve been running hard, sleeping less, coping with little “manageable” vices – a whiskey here, a rolled cigarette there, a baguette with goat cheese and salami there – that don’t stay manageable in the long-run. I don’t feel healthy, even though I am relatively happy. My family and loved ones are asking me when something is gonna give. I am asking myself the same question.

So what are the beliefs I have to let go of, or acknowledge, to move forward?

1. That if I get smaller, I’ll be in danger. This may sound crazy, but there’s a certain safety in being seen as a big mama – politically, physically. There’s a certain amount of bullshit, fetishism, disrespect and other things, too. But I while I am a thick sister I have less eyes on me in a predatory way.

1a. Counterpoint – For better or worse, I’m a fine thick sister and still get a fair amount of attention. I can take self-defense classes that will leave me a lot safer than I am currently, where I couldn’t run away to escape a rabid dog. The bs, fetishes and other stuff is other people’s problem, the danger of not being healthy is much higher than the danger of imminent attack (this too is a political analysis – the unsustainable nature of our approach as a nation to consumption, greed, gluttony and short-term rewards is much more likely to destroy the planet than terrorists operating from fear.)

2. That I don’t have time to be healthy. If I’m working hard, I can’t have time to be working out, cooking, meditating, doing the things I know create health for me.

2a. Counterpoint: Working hard is not always working well. When I meditate, and work out, and cook for myself, my mind is clearer, I am more competent, and I actually have a purer sweeter gift of self to offer to my work.

3. What’s the point? Why deny myself the indulgent life of pleasures and vices I so enjoy – we all die anyway and at least this way I’ll have a great time.

3a. What do I really enjoy? I want to indulge in my loved ones, my little nephew. I love the pleasure I get from swimming, from the sun on my body, from skiing and shooting hoops and scuba diving and hiking and bowling. My current vices make it hard for me to enjoy all those activities, and shorten the amount of time I will get to enjoy this life.

4. I don’t like people telling me what to do, I already know. As soon as I say I’m heading towards healthy, other people start monitoring my behavior and I just want to be free to do whatever I want!!

4a. Ah, I can tell people it’s my own process and that I appreciate silent and/or positive support best of all. Freedom is wonderful, but I don’t live in a vacuum. The people who talk to me about my health are impacted by how well or not well I am, and would be much more devastated by health-induced tragedy than I would.

I’m sure there are more reasons, but those are the main four that pop up as soon as I let my inner eye turn towards true behavior change. So this is step 1, going public with the blocks, and the counterpoints. These, of course, are only words.

The first action I am going to take is to see how deep the rabbit hole is right now, and document my food and other consumption choices. Not for anyone reading this, but for myself. This won’t be all I write about here, but I commit to following this process here as I am able, in hopes that the chance someone else is reading will result in that silent positive support, or help someone else who is facing similar hurdles.

Ok so I am going to publish this in 1, 2, 3…

cab drivers are my favorite

today i got in a cab from the oakland airport, feeling guilty for taking the cab, and jetlagged and like i was carrying too much. i looked at the airbart shuttle for a while, and then decided to treat myself.

almost every time i take a cab, i get into a conversation with the cab driver. recent conversations have included railing about airport security, talking about love, talking about family. mostly though, its about politics. these conversations are among the rare times when politics doesn’t feel like people playacting on a stage (this may sound hypocritical from someone who can’t stop watching Beyonce’s Single Ladies video, but I like when my performers call themselves Sasha Fierce and do Fosse, not write policy).

i learn a lot. cab drivers who started life outside these borders have taught me more about pakistan, somalia, senegal, brazil, saudi arabia and iraq than i’ve ever learned from news or history class. i keep meaning to write it up somewhere.

today my cab driver was super friendly, asked me about the holidays, then quickly got to talking about obama’s security team. he said it was a shame that people in america didn’t stay informed, when so much was happening as a result of us. policy in other places.

overall he felt the security team selections were good, hillary seemed like a good choice. this led him to rail about the ridiculousness of sarah palin, and we debriefed the campaigns a bit. but overall, he said, any changes would be well received around the world. he was so excited by how many countries celebrated obama’s win, and i told him my theory – that election night was the largest simutaneous moment of celebration we’ve ever had in the world, since people were able to access the information internationally instantaneously.

i said i hoped people saw it as a beginning, not an end – that politics can’t solve all our problems.

he said it wasn’t the politics that mattered…”politics are a dirty game.” what mattered was the hope, that people needed hope to get through this dark moment. his analysis was so astute, so much better than any morning talk show. moments like that remind me that people are awake and paying attention.