boundary moments

this is a boundary moment, and i want to make a brief offer into it.

a few weeks ago my partner and i got our first vaccine shots. immediately we felt different, and began renegotiating our own individual covid-19 boundaries in new ways. after over a year of Everything Is Dangerous And We Must Be Inside These Walls, we had/have no measure for what is normal, what is safe, or if safe is even possible.

i felt safe-ish taking risks to be with family. my love felt safe-ish taking risks to be with friends. neither of us was necessarily right or wrong, but we both felt the other was risking too much, and those feelings grew into a sticky situation.

i am sharing this because since this pandemic started, i keep noticing that we are all trying to navigate collective boundaries as individuals or pairs, because we live in an economy of hyper-individualization. but it’s so hard to navigate this way because as Sistah-Dr Alexis Pauline Gumbs teaches: we aren’t individuals. we are cells in an interdependent highly connected species.

it would be so amazing if the information was clear, and safety was guaranteed, and we could just live inside the boundaries as a species, rather than as a million different risks. but we are here, and now. what i want to offer is what my love and i eventually landed, which is helping. (this is u.s.-centered because that is the context in which i am navigating covid-19 boundaries, with the availability of vaccines now fairly high in most places, but without a majority of people accessing the vaccine yet.)

suggestions:

one, review the CDC guidelines on vaccinated behavior. it really helps to not have to debate over things that are known, like ‘don’t change your boundaries until you are fully vaccinated two weeks after the second shot,’ or ‘where and when you can be unmasked with other vaccinated people,’ etc.

*Update: i am a bit at a loss with the latest guidelines from the CDC (for those fully vaccinated to stop wearing masks). i don’t grasp the logic and collective responsibility of it.

two, agree on boundaries for this next period. prentis hemphill told us, ‘boundaries are the distance at which i can love me and you simultaneously.’ you can just accept the cdc guidelines, or you can do cdc guidelines with some flourishes that are particular to your health vulnerabilities and needs.

remember, boundaries are more meaningful when you discuss the consequences of what happens if a boundary gets broken, so get that clarity too – apologies? rapid testing? another brief quarantine? rolling back to earlier boundaries?

spend some particular time on any particular adaptations you may need based on your personalities. this ‘personalities’ part is really important – we have forgotten a lot about how to be social animals. being quarantined together means that many of us have been in a house with our person or family, operating as one creature. with this shift of increasing vaccination, our biodiversity will start showing again: for some of us, there is comfort in the highest boundaries; people beyond our pair or pod seem like a terrifying untrustworthy danger. for others, the need to be free and out and normal is a pounding drum within. many of us feel both things…and there’s everything in between. don’t underestimate the social impact of this boundaries moment. don’t assume you need the same things, and don’t pathologize the divergent responses you are each having to impossible pressures.

discuss what you personally need in this transition into the next phase of the u.s. pandemic. do you need to see everyone you love, immediately? do you need to go really slowly? do you need to keep wearing masks until there is more data? do you need to see vaccination cards for anyone you’re gathering with? do you need to understand better how the vaccine actually works? both/all people reflect on and share your needs, and then find the path that is most nourishing to both/all needs.

three, organize, advocate and donate to ensure that more people worldwide have access to the vaccine. what is unfolding in india is devastating, and we in the u.s. are benefitting from their labor, which produced vaccines that they haven’t been able to access. you can support mutual aid efforts there right now. and they aren’t the only place struggling to survive covid with little to no vaccine access – areas already struggling in conflict, occupation, war and economic collapse all need our collective attention. we are not individuals. we have to make sure that everyone who wants this protection can access it.

finally, four, love and protect each other every day. i saw a meme on the internet posted by @hillarydixler that said, “everybody needs more than anyone can give right now.” we are burnt out and overextended at the level of species, and we do not know all that people are holding. channel octavia e. butler’s earthseed wisdom: “kindness eases change.”

sabbatical boundaries

beloveds – i have had a number of somewhat panicked messages since monday that made me think it might be helpful to articulate how to interact with me on my sabbatical.

first, a couple of FAQ type things:

what is a sabbatical?
“a period of paid leave granted to a university teacher or other worker for study or travel, traditionally one year for every seven years worked.”

why am i taking one as a non-academic?
i identify in the ‘other worker’ category, on good days an organic intellectual. in the last seven years i have completed three books for publishing and three books that are still making their way to the light, toured a lot of places, been a doula for an institute, facilitated and mediated movements i admire, and survived mad shit.

what am i going to do?
i am going to travel and rest, rest, rest until i remember how to really sleep and feel a good deep breath. i may study pace and creating in the realm of fiction, music and art.

and how can y’all interact with me on this journey? here goes:

send me beautiful, weird, cool, science/fictional, Black, liberation or other awesome things – i especially love pictures of bombastic creatures, proof of magic, and high quality memes.

send me positive vibes that remind me how each of us are more miraculous and valuable than anything we have or could ever produce.

if you happen to see me in the wild, know that i am aiming for anonymity. be kind, and let me go on.

i am aiming for unstructured and unplanned space. if you are not my family or woes, please do not ask me where i am going, or if you can join me.

do ask me how my heart is, what is interesting my mind these days, what inspires me.

don’t take it personally if i answer internally.

do not ask me to work.

beyond facilitation and writing, my work includes scheduling, brain picking, assessing, connecting, interviews, administration, and teaching. do not ask.

that includes not asking me who to reach out to in my absence about work – my auto responder and all social media have the email addresses to use for all work related requests: bookings@alliedmedia.org or emergentstrategy@alliedmedia.org – ask them…and please honor their answers.

especially don’t slide into my DMs/private messages to ask me to work, or to slip around my boundaries.

holding boundaries as people push against them is work. do not push against my boundaries. do not ask me to collaborate with you in breaking my boundaries.

if you aren’t sure if what you want to say or share is work or not, wait until June 2020 to say or share it. let’s share the interdependent faith that it’ll keep or find another space.

and finally, recognize how hard it is to need this, to write this, to ask for this, to take this moment for myself, to go into the unknown of myself. hold my hand by holding my boundaries.

with love!

ps. you can also give to my sabbatical fund:

you can send me money (thru apps below or send checks c/o allied media projects with amb sabbatical fund in memo line) OR e-gift certificates to online places where I can order books!

cash app: $adriennemareedough
venmo: adrienne-brown-25
paypal.me/adriennemaree

writing so hard

writing comes easily to me in that i write daily, and have since i learned the alphabet. i don’t really feel things fully, or understand things, until i have written them down.

writing is still the hardest work i do – physically, emotionally, spiritually, politically. figuring out what needs to be written, what needs to be uplifted, how to write it, who to write to, how much i am willing to share and to change…and, always, when to write – it’s hard work.

words are spells and invitations. they all exist, and we rearrange them over and over to say the truth.

the ancestors i love left me a river of words, and i am conscious of being a small stream flowing into it, sometimes guiding others, bringing myself to an ocean.

so. i just wrote for three weeks straight.

on the surface of it, i finished two books.

one nonfiction, on pleasure activism.

one visionary fiction, a novel on grief and transformation in detroit.

just under the surface, i edited an anthology that i’d been gathering for a year, with a lot of original writing on pleasure to weave it together. as i was completing it, i could see all these additional needs, and every day i was reaching out to people who would add the exact note to the chorus that would make it complete. it was exciting work. and i had to ask myself daily: am i being brave enough? am i telling the truth about my pleasures and vision and healing journey? do i need all these words? does it read like a conversation? am i enjoying this?

i turned it in to my publisher a day before it was due. it will come out this fall, it has a cover, it’s real!

and just like with emergent strategy, i wrote a book that i was longing for.

by the end my whole body hurt. there’s no way to write for 12-13 hours a day that doesn’t tax the body. i took baths and swam every day, celebrated each chapter upon completion, went for walks, sought pleasure.

still, it hurt my hands, my neck, my back, my ass.

my goal is to create a life in which i write 4-5 hours a day most days, an amount that doesn’t hurt. writing brings me unparalleled satisfaction. for now these marathons are what i have and i’m grateful.

so then it was time for the novel. the novel has been showing itself to me for five years in short stories, through a nanowrimo, and a month long writing residency january 2017.

it’s an emotional lift. it’s all about grief, so of course it’s full of ghosts, and i have to step into my own grief to write any of it.

for two days of the work i wrote for 17 hours, no breaks, no swim, nothing but the work. and my pulsing sense of scarcity, that i only had six days left. then five. i moved like a dying snail through three small chapters. my eyes were trembling when i laid down to sleep.

then, the third morning, i released my outcome orientation. i accepted that i most likely wouldn’t finish in the time i had. that i may never finish, that i can’t approach this book that way. i scolded myself for being out of alignment with everything i believe in about creating.

i course corrected.

i let myself deepen into the story, lose myself in the content, feel it and weep, take risks. i went swimming daily, took more epsom salt baths and let myself feel as excellent as possible. i connected with others, friends fighting cancer and heartache and nightmares. i watched planet earth ii.

and, to my surprise…i finished something i’m excited to read, to share. i feel satisfied.

and i remembered, then, how i wanted, needed, to finish the novel before i turn 40. i am aware of time passing. i love aging, and i live in a perilous world.

i noticed how people, people who love my writing, don’t quite understand that writing is hard.

i set relatively soft boundaries around the writing – i won’t answer emails, i won’t be on facebook as much, i won’t do other work. just for three weeks. people used the private space of every social media platform i’m on, my text messages, and friends in common, to still send me requests.

“i know you are writing but…”
“i hope your writing retreat is fun, can you just…”
“congratulations on writing, what about…”

i initially resented this. then i realized it’s the ongoing lesson of boundaries. i am responsible for my life. i can’t have slippery boundaries and expect others not to slide into my sacred writing space.

there are so many societal reasons why boundaries are hard for me. for all of us. and for me.

and, every day, i see how the work of creating and holding boundaries allows my life to be lived in a way that satisfies me. not in reaction or resentment, not protecting my projections of other people’s feelings, but in reveling, in the miracle of being a creative, curious person.

i keep telling the truth these days: no. no and here’s why. no, i’m writing a book. no. i’m writing two.

no makes way for yes. and i’m 39, i want all the yes i can get in this life.

time is both nonlinear and magical. AND finite in the sense of a life. actual years. death is always with me. the week i finished the novel was the 50th anniversary of martin luther king’s assassination.

when i turned 39 i felt very aware that it was my mlk year. 33 was when i compared my life to the brief miraculous life of jesus at the age of his assassination. it’s ridiculous to do this. so what.

39 is the year when i am noticing what i have (and mostly haven’t) done in relationship to mlk. (there are other such years, if you’re into such things.)

i have felt a lot of admiration for mlk as i have aged. he was a human, a direct action hero, and a writer. we remember him as an orator, but that’s because the words he wrote to speak were such radical love poetry.

now i am a 39 year old writer deeply disappointed by the nation of my birth, losing faith in the species at a large scale, but gaining faith in the planet, in the intimacy of communities, in what love can do, and…in what i can envision beyond the mountains of struggle and pain before us.

i see free people.

writing in the context of white supremacy and militarized capitalism and patriarchy ranges from annoying to devastating. writing about concepts that were articulated clearly 50 years ago, and thousands of years before that, is humbling.

will the conversation ever change? it’s changing all the time, of course, but will it ever really change?

i think about how hard it was to write the words “i may not get there with you.” to have a wife and children, a flock, a following, security and a god…and to still know no safety. they are true words that shouldn’t be true. this far into the human journey, speaking truth shouldn’t be fatal. but he didn’t stop writing, speaking. mlk was generous.

i get inspired by this when i dabble with hopelessness and rage. i don’t stop writing, even though i rarely claim originality. i am in the chorus i believe in: i sing of justice, i sing of liberation. i write what i need to read, to hear, to say. i feel when it’s true. i celebrate when i feel truth from others – it’s so easy to perform, to promote. but all i want is truth.

junot diaz just wrote something i needed to read, to hear. it’s in the new yorker, and it’s a #metoo story.

i am a survivor of many kinds of sexual harm. among these is harm that came at the hands of a male survivor of rape. i didn’t know that until later, it was all a mystery in the moment. i experienced harm inside of a sort-of-relationship where i believe we truly loved each other as much as we could at the time. we both carried so much unspeakable baggage in the door that we could not see or hear each other. and i experienced the physical harm of his trauma, coming through his body into how he interacted with my body. he didn’t mean to hurt me. he did hurt me. writing about it hurts me.

i could feel in junot’s words a pain that has always been under the surface of his books. the yawning chasm. the unspeakable baggage. the truth. i know it hurt to write this piece. everyone needs to read it.

writing shapes and reshapes the world, even if the words are simply rearranged dreams, visions, confessions, truths. matter doesn’t disappear, it transforms. we are of it, we shape it. writing so hard that the truth comes forth changes the world, and it changes the writer.

in all of this, in small and undeniable ways, i feel different than i did last month. this is internal. i told the truth. i am 39, and i am slowly seeing who i am.

one week down, two to go

i love this. this being: writing nonstop.

i have been writing and editing the pleasure activism book for a week. here’s a bit of a report back:

it has been an intensive reminder on how to boundary my life. here are a couple of lessons so far:

– no one means to cross the boundaries. some people apologize as they do it or try to diminish the request. there’s a lot of love and longing out there, intentions are usually good.
– it’s actually not up to others to uphold my boundaries. if i can’t hold the line, it won’t be held. so i am shoring up with as much love as possible.
– i can’t dabble with Facebook if i want to finish anything else in my life. i tried a few half boundaries and kept finding myself scrolling away precious writing time. so i am stepping back further, removing the app from everything.
– boundaries work best when rooted in abundance. i am not keeping myself from fun or connection, i am gifting myself the delight of total creative time. all the good things will be there on the other side.

i love the routines of this process. my routines here include tarot, yoga, swimming, eating in a uniform way (when i write i graze, so popcorn, sunflower seeds, those puffs that are like flavored air, those are go tos), and dance breaks.

i am especially committed to being in a state of pleasure while creating this work, so there are baths with fir salts and there’s an excellent soundtrack and i am only wearing super comfortable clothes.

extreme solitude feels good in a way that let’s me know how far my healing work has moved.

i am befriending trees!

i am a writer writing in the woods

i haven’t brushed my hair since i arrived. i have taken epsom salt baths and two-headed showers. i have to remind myself to brush my teeth, and something about this pleases me, the hermit-nature of it. i am a virgo, this is extra. i have left the house twice, both times to walk to the nearest body of water and listen to it, the waves lapping song against the shore. looking among the ducks for the giant swans that i see bobbing there each morning. today i saw one in the late afternoon light – it looked like it was my size, so i said ‘hey thick ass swan, looking good’!

i have written for about 24 hours now, with daily dance breaks. am i delirious? only with pleasure. pun intended, but i only expect those in the know to get my drift.

please don’t ask me where i am, i appreciate feeling like there is some mystery about all of this. when i want people to know where i am, i geotag myself and scream it from the mountaintops. but right now i appreciate the solitude, even if it is mythological, or generated only from my boundaries. boundaries are life’s work! i love boundaries. this whole paragraph is a boundary, do you feel my joy?

i have been practicing not looking at incoming requests, and deflecting folks when work comes through personal channels. it’s hard and i am doing it.

the things that come through are only things that do not wait – things that make me cry instantly, an assassination, the death of someone fabulous, a new cancer, an older one, a heartbreak or two, a grief cycle.

in the face of the massive and melancholy, i appreciate how clear and small the editing process feels, how instinctive and nourishing the weaving of these pleasure tales feels. writing, total writing, is an erotic experience for me. i feel so alive.

i removed social media from my mobile devices (instagram is not social media, it’s like hbo) and yet the web of superconnection is like moana’s sea, it calls me! so i am being patient in the withdrawal, noticing each time i go out of my way to plug in, and what i actually need.

at least it is still a choice. (suspicion voice tho)

the soundtrack so far is Joi, Lizzo, DRAM, and Prince. the number one snack is homemade kale chips, tied with a homemade honey peanut butter.

happy new moon. hope to sleep soon. <3