sugar is a white noise

as soon as i slow down i can see it’s not about the sugar, it’s about the pain.

it’s not just eating more greens, cutting out this or that from my diet, doubling my water, exercising. those are good smart things for humans, yes. but i have to give myself adequate room for the pain.

there is a way sugar is, in nature, a way we are meant to have it. the impact of a banana is so different from the impact of a bar of sea salted caramel chocolate with pecan bits…my body knows, because it is of the earth. it remembers surviving and grieving before sugar was our primary collective comfort.

it remembers that pain takes time.

beyond that sweet way of nature, sugar has a disorganizing effect, blurring the edges of life between infusions. i was feeling something hard but then i found the whiskey.

perhaps this is why we start comforting and rewarding children with sugar so early. the pain is coming and it cannot be avoided. but here is something faster, more tangible than god, and it will make the pain taste sweet.

after the service there were cookies, i anticipated those more than scripture.

then later in life you, i, try to make grief sweet.

in the quiet and the stillness i can feel the ache of who i don’t have, the presence throughout my body, the longing to hold my unborn nephew or niece, to look at charity’s smile and tell her how much i respect her, to hold my grandfather’s big hand and let him pray over me, to watch david perform a new poem, to ask sheddy about love, to meet aiyana and treasure and eric and renisha and mike and trayvon and jordan and see how precious they all are.

yesterday i was biking up a hill, and i tilted my head down so that my new turquoise straw hat, which is very glamorous, blocked the view. i convinced myself i was going downhill, looking only at the concrete moving under me, thinking like ender. i willed it into being a coasting, not an effort. it worked most of the way and i was giggling. and then the truth showed up in my thighs, my knees. look up. this is the hill.

this is the grief.

the dissonance comes when the sugar high, the delusion of sweetness, the delusion of control, is gone. the pain is not sweet, even though it is love. and it is not gone. it is sitting as a sharp emptiness in my gut, and it wants to be respected.

not reasoned with. it is, i am the one who has to accept it.

sugar is a white noise i make to block out the sharpness, the wailing, replace it with insatiability. i want, i need, i am alive.

then it’s dark, and there is no desire that will feed me, there is just sitting with what is, humbling myself before the things i cannot have, letting them go.

when i lose something, i try to keep tokens of it in my body. perhaps if i am bigger, softer, i can fit more memories inside myself, carry all the lit flames with me forever. this is semi-conscious now, i can’t claim the cluelessness of my younger grief and comfort eating. now i know, i know what i am trying to do, i know that it doesn’t work, i go through the motions, still hurting.

what i can carry has no weight. the little essence of a human, the distinctions, they don’t need heft, they only need time. i have to sit still and say their names. i have to let that sharp feeling move through me gathering up breath and tears and volume.

sugar is a false comfort, wrapping a festering wound in a beautiful scarf when actually it needs oxygen.

i have to let it out.

everything is undoable, and no two people, even in the most intimate togetherness, remember the same way exactly what is done. even if i can’t remember it, what i have consumed lives in me, what i have loved, when i have fucked up, when i have misunderstood, where i have held my integrity. it’s done, it’s perceived, it happened.

i have to remember what we did. i only have to remember my part of it, but i have to remember it.

my perspective sometimes feels so tiny, compromised. sometimes it seems like only the parts of my memory that hurt are really clear. maybe everyone isn’t like this. maybe it is a choice?

yesterday i felt 36. i was wearing sensible shoes and a wide brimmed hat, overt glossy sunscreen. i thought it would redirect certain attention, but still there were men in town trying to speak to me about sex while using other words, asking me to go swim or walk with them. i felt amused because couldn’t they read the CLOSED sign of my shoes? i felt enraged because couldn’t they see that i was preparing to cry?

i am learning to shake my head no in a more definitive way.

i am learning to care for my body.

i am learning to place my longevity ahead of social norms for how a woman like me should present herself.

i am learning i can’t make everything feel good.

i am learning to be still and quiet for a long time, with myself.

i am learning the limitations of coping.

i am learning to feel.

i think pain is teaching me these lessons.

letter to charity, as she goes home

i just received the news that my friend and comrade charity mahouna hicks has made her transition. here is the statement on her life from lila cabbil:

Our dear Charity Hicks joined the ancestors on July 8, 2014. She had recently directed her community in Detroit to “wage love” as a strategy in our fight for justice and equity. Her mantra was her love for her people and consistently bringing in the voice of those who were marginalized. As we prepare for her homegoing services let us reflect on her rich legacy of passion, knowledge, vibrancy, sharing, commitment, mentorship, persistence, giving, wisdom, advocacy, and deep pride of African heritage and culture. We are all Blessed by her God given gifts. The global beloved community she cherished is collectively charged with continuing her extensive, unmatchable, intellectually brilliant, work that reached out lovingly to people world wide.

Support for services (including bringing her home) can be directed to Gofundme.com/wagelove

i have been writing to charity since the accident, trying to understand it all. here are some words pulled together from that writing and in response to her transition:

charity love,

i write this with tears in my eyes – i just heard that you’re gone, at least in the way i know you. black beautiful soft round tall beaming you. i want one of your hugs. i have a hard time believing your body could not recover. i knew it was impossible, i knew it. i thought of you as a cosmic ancient superhero.

when we worked together, i found myself trying to keep up with your mind, trying to stand with you in massive emotions. your mind moved faster, drew easily on more data, connected everything together. and the connections you made filled you with rage, with sadness, with incredulity…and with such tenderness.

the way you would take my niece’s face into your hands, the way you would hug people in greeting, the way you would listen to a curious young visitor to detroit and then affirm her curiosity by blowing her mind out with an explosion of stories and facts. you brought to the world equal parts tenderness and fire.

and no one could bring fire quite like you.

we had our different approaches. i wanted you to focus, you wanted me to ignite. the place we found each other over and over in our work together was love – for family, for Detroit, for justice, for our own bodies, for the ways spirit was moving through us and our lives, for new ways of grasping the universe, for our own potential. i loved our kitchen table talks. i wish we could have more of them.

and what will Detroit do without you?

for the years we worked together i watched you with amazement and worry, as you tirelessly attended one meeting after another on the unreliable bus system of Detroit, carrying a mental map of issues and people and histories, bags full of documentation and computers and flyers, a hundred keys to the universe hooked to your top.

i remember meetings where you stood up and demanded that we all get naked, say what we really meant, say what we were going to do. you were daunting, generative, wholistic, healer, soldier. if there was a right action you would take it first. you embodied a commitment to justice.

i didn’t always understand your fire, love. you were a friend and a mystery, deeply rooted and incredibly complicated. Detroit needs your fire now, your kind of thorough love, compounded, burning out of control. the world does.

you led with your love, water warrior earth goddess in motherland cloth armor. you have always been larger than life.

when i last saw you, i felt awe. even as you were in the between place, your vibration filled the room. i hope you heard and felt all of the love that was flowing towards you, from me, from Detroit, from all of the people you touched.

i need you charity. you inspire me. simultaneously, i hold on in disbelief, and i let go wishing you only ease and rest and goodness on your journey. keep an eye on us, on Detroit, send us some divine sacred fire for the work and the change that is coming.

love you, and miss you
amb