the runs: poetic reflections

i don’t want to tell you about what’s happening here my last day in thailand, except i am obviously about to because i’m an awake writer experiencing something daunting. and everyone i could tell about this is asleep.

y’all. the speed with which microorganisms have put me in my place is so humbling. i am fascinated in my misery.

my weak american gut has been bested by something here, something that doesn’t harm those who live here. i am trying not to take it personally, even though being an american means always being somewhat responsible for the mess.

i don’t want to even guess what caused this, because i don’t want to cast aspersions at all the yummy things i’ve bravely tried. after my swift and violent midvisit reaction to the strange fruit called durian, i’ve been more cautious about putting things in my mouth. but i’m human, so i did put things in my mouth. delicious and sometimes mysterious things. and one of those things changed me.

this morning i woke up feeling like i was nauseous with hunger. i felt a gaping growing void in the center of my system, which slowly began to burp and bubble in a way that whispered, gently, ‘don’t fart’.

i tried to eat oatmeal, but the nausea was stronger than the hunger, so i chilled on that. after two sweet rounds with baby and parents, supporting them through a night that involved six hours of baby feeding and only two hours of sleep, i retired to my room feeling like a balloon. a balloon full of toxic carbonation.

there i tried to sleep the strange gaseous nausea away (but that just made it even bubblier, get it?). i brought a trashcan near the bed, because as a Virgo i try to never be unprepared for mess.

the alien force in my body apparently took that as a sign of welcome and immediately bent me over that trashcan and started trying to free itself through my mouth. i moved to the bathroom and got the cherished and, to date, avoided, experience of becoming a passageway, with a river flowing out from me in every direction.

i had the brief moment that i suspect most of us who live with eating disorders experience in the first seconds of the runs – ooh i’m going to lose some weight! then i was on my knees feeling how i love every pound of flesh i’ve acquired and apologizing for anything i did to bring this harm into me.

it was not beautiful. i prayed for breaks so i could breathe and wipe away tears. i felt cleansed at every level of my being. at this point i also had to relinquish the narrative that it was just gas.

gas doesn’t make fecal waterfalls.
too much?
yes, it is too much. but it’s also real life. and it’s happening to me.

i did research and found many names i won’t repeat (they all sound western and colonial) for what is happening to me, because fecal waterfalls, while cringe worthy, is the most accurate. i’ve spent the last eight hours trying to sleep between Jackie Joyner Kersee paced dashes to the loo.

the “sleeping” is hard because the bacteria inside me are engaged in a muy thai tournament to the death. i even attempted some slow, distraught packing, which looked like carrying one small thing at a time to my suitcase and then catching my breath. the whole time i heard myself chanting “oh lord God why do you smite me so? am i not your child, perfect lord? have i not tried obsessively hard to avoid fecal matter on food?”, knowing all along that my late grandfather would chastise me for only turning to Him on my deathbed.

the internet says i will be fine in a couple of days. it says to stay hydrated, a miraculous task i must somehow achieve with substances that only seem to source the waterfall. i’m chugging liquids into a dusty forlorn mouth.

i’m sad because i want to be relishing the last hours with my baby friend instead of laying in fetal position, feeling like a less than cute newborn giant who has no sense of shame or timing and probably needs a new diaper.

but this writing is cathartic, i really do need to process this in words, reclaim myself as a being of coherence, not incontinence. i don’t think you need to read about my fecal matter or anyone else’s, but i’m grateful for the imagined company.

and no regrets – i’m so glad i came here, i love it.

i’m really glad i went exploring yesterday, and that this didn’t come over me outside the hotel.

i got to chant with a protector Buddha, and do rituals with a reclining Buddha for beloved ones living and beyond.

i’m grateful for this journey and for getting to witness the first weeks of this dynamic little being who responds so sweetly to my silly auntie songs.

i’m praying that this resolves itself before my flight tomorrow. won’t you help me pray? that the chaotic little bacteria within me find peace, that they go back the way they came…no, let me be precise cause i can’t do that when-do-i-get-to-breathe barf thing again. let’s pray that they let go of their death grip on my tender-boweled body and go with the flow, back into that great great sewage of 18 million souls.

mkay? mkay.

when in thailand on the fourth thursday of november

I made gluten free stovetop mac and cheese with tapioca flour, coconut cream, and four kinds of cheese, none of which are cheddar. and none of my usual kitchen tools. and it’s effing delicious, because I am adaptable, and trust in garlic salt.

I prefer ham to any turkey ever.

I feast today in honor of indigenous people who have survived the long and violent encounters of colonization. survived with bows, arrows, wit, collectivity, protocol, culture, resistance. and adaptation. I grieve the role my ancestors and the country of my birth have played in breaking our right relationship with this land, and pray for those wounded ghosts.

I’m grateful to be working hard to get us right.
I’m grateful to be holding a sleeping baby who will be raised outside the narrative of American exceptionalism.
I’m grateful I met Alana and got to know her.
I’m grateful I can make yummy food in any conditions.
I’m grateful for my sweet father, born this day.
and so much more.

me, but in thailand

i’m sitting in a hospital lobby while sheets of rain pour down outside a wall of glass. in this nation of medical tourism, the hospital lobby feels like a four star hotel, including a man playing a baby grand piano. my way is the song of this moment. i’ve been in bangkok less than 24 hours and i’m quite taken with all the small ways i can feel that i’m in a new place.

the drivers sit on the right side of car. they drive on the right side of the road. i have crossed to the upside down of the world and the clock i know. what stands out – an open air night market, the green everywhere – close all around the buildings and shooting up even from the tallest roofs. and temples and altars around every corner. it’s humid heat, it slides into the skin fast and, for me, makes me move slower and breathe deeper.

i’m a journey traveler, i love the whole thing. i love getting lost, i can handle delays and changes of plan (yesterday i got lost at heathrow and had to spend the whole day there waiting for next flight out), i love being on planes and staring out the window, i love being surrounded by a multitude of different languages, i love intuitive sign language directions from the backs of cabs, and how google has made it both easier to get around and more hilarious (google translate told my driver i wanted to go see a really tall lady part, and i wonder how it knew that), i love the changes in culture and perspective, and then finding the ways humans are the same, children are the same, wherever i go.

i am here to doula for my friends, although their baby already came and the whole set up here is so sweet that a lot of my normal doula work – cleaning, cooking, cleaning – is covered. so i get to stare at this little one and then explore bangkok. with all the grief and crisis and excitement and work of this year, i have deeply needed this away time, it already feels so good, like so me, but in thailand. the rain has stopped. time for massage.

Dear Stacey

Dear Stacey,

Don’t give in.

I lived in Georgia for four years once. Sometimes when I tell my story I include the truth that I learned about racism in Georgia – I’d experienced it before, but Georgia was where it was organized, a shameless system.

Don’t give in.

Now I’m in Detroit. We had a relatively good election. But it was you I couldn’t look away from…I watched your race as if borders didn’t exist and I could vote for you! I couldn’t sleep until I knew you weren’t giving in.

Don’t give in!

We know you won. We feel it. You are real, and you love us, you won us. Every Georgian I know voted for you. Everyone else, we donated, we reached out to all of our Georgia people, we made calls, we spread the word. And we all plan to vote for you one day.

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Please don’t give in. Even if you can’t get light into every shadow of this race, even if you are told to concede, even if they try to complete the story, you ain’t finished yet.

You are a love scholar, a romance novelist – this is a love story. We see who you are, and we love you. We’re staying. We won’t give in.

love,
amb and errybody I know

election day spell

spell for election day; utter out loud anytime between 12:01 and poll closing where you are. #goodwitch #spells #castouttheconfederacy #blacknovember

we recognize that voting
is only meaningful when we act together
as movement, as future ancestors

today we put aside our egos
we set down perfection,
and our privilege,
and our butbutbutandand righteousness

today we show up for those furthest from power
those carrying the most of our burden
those we’ve already lost to hate in this pale time
we say no where it is the only humane word
and yes where it is a way forward, another breath

we hold history and future in the balance.
we vote to take up our responsibility
we vote as both prayer and blessing
we open the way, widen the way, change the way
ashe

we are intelligent (grieving alana)

my friend alana died last weekend.

i say friend even though we had very little time in person together, and even though by the time i met her in person she was already diagnosed with metastatic cancer so there was a time limit, which i figured we could best with magic. really i was her fan. but i say friend because she was the coolest, and i dedicated part of my heart to her forever.

i fell in love with her in large part because my friend malkia loved alana in so big a way that everyone who heard about or witnessed the love felt blessed to hold a part of it. it felt like the parachute game from my childhood: everyone hold her here, and live in her beautiful circumference.

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after we met, alana and i played games together on our phones (she always won by a lot – and i never took it easy), and i meditated and visualized her health every day. i sent her original songs/jingles, tarot cards, energy and spells on big medical days. loving alana, with and in addition to malkia, became a daily practice. it’s a continuing daily practice for a huge community of people.

when we did hang out we talked. we got high together. we talked about fear and pleasure and big love and what really matters in life. we talked about mindfulness, and how she wanted to keep her attention on life and love. we talked about how badass she felt going through the challenges of cancer (“i was awake while they did shit to my brain!”), and about how much she really didn’t want to die. and then about how cancer was hard. and then about what shows i thought she had to watch before she died.

alana was intelligent – “having or showing the ability to easily learn or understand things, or to deal with new or difficult situations” (merriam webster)

alana had a kind of intelligence beyond any dictionary, too. it is the intelligence that recognizes how unique and miraculous life is, an intelligence that moves towards the best of life – love, pleasure, laughter, nature, connection, ice cream, dirty dancing, play. she rapped kendrick lamar flawlessly. she had an emotional intelligence that allowed her to feel what she was feeling and say so, and find love and connection that was about honesty and feeling together. when the worst news came, she could feel her fear in direct relation to all she loved, and she could wish such love and fear on everyone.

i want to admit that i have been feeling the peculiar bitterness that comes when i lose one of my intelligent friends on a day when lots of unintelligent (by any definition) people continue to live and make horrible decisions that effect me and the whole planet and future.

is there a name for that?

through my grief i notice how ok i am with the human reality that everyone dies, and how not ok i am with us dying in unfair ways, too early, for reasons that may be related to other people’s unintelligent choices about how to exist on this planet. i feel cancer that way, as some misguided response to an environment that is more physically and emotionally toxic each year. it makes me furious that cancer is so abundant and insatiable, and yet not one of the central focuses of our species…we’d rather foment war and wackness.

i feel angry and sad i didn’t get more alana in my life, and i’m grateful for how generous she and malkia were with her/their time, that i got to laugh and sing and learn with her, that so many people got to spend time with her.

and in her honor, i want to redefine intelligence. i don’t care if someone is really quick of mind, not if they only use it to compete with others, to deny the precious gift of life, to injure the relationship we have to the planet as a species. i want intelligence to be measured by the standard of alana – by a commitment to pleasure and loving life.

or the standard of my friend yulanda, who died last year, who made life – particularly moments of terrifying transition – delicious.

or my mother’s best friend kathy, who died last year, who worked to create abundant food sources so all humans could eat.

or my friend donaji’s son chuy, who died last year, who stayed a child in many ways, who giggled when he received grown up art projects (like collective get well cards).

i want intelligence to be a function of adapting to changing circumstances by always moving towards love and right relationship. not just surviving, but filling our days with pleasure and caring and delight, reveling in life.

i want to stop celebrating the quick stupidity of those who use their minds to keep us from each other, or disrespect/harm our connection to our only home in this universe, to those who choose misery, isolation, destruction and ignorance as a life path.

i want to change governance and schooling and media and philanthropy and architecture and math and research patterns and city planning and all human systems to align with alana’s intelligence.

during this thin time, i want ancestors old and brand new to be heard, telling us how precious the miracle of life is, guiding us to treasure it, to taste the ice cream, to say yes over and over to love, to organize our lives and structures around beauty and connection, and to claim our transformative capacity with each breath.