Terrors are turned upon me; they pursue my soul as the wind; my welfare passeth away as a cloud.
Once I took a creative writing course.
One of our assignments was write a short but comprehensive story about a character of our choosing. I wrote about a girl from the hood that married well and ended up pampered housewife. At the end we had to share our assignments with other classmates and give each other feedback.
“How is it that your character grew up in the most ghetto neighborhood and none of that rubbed off ?” One student typed to me.
Her question surprised me because the girl in my story was a lot like me. I was writing what I knew and all I knew was that perspective. My character didn’t identify with the overzealous bravado of the hood. She read books and watched movies about elegant places. Like me, my character wanted to be surrounded by gleaming white walls, crystals, brunch, and fancy centerpieces.
I realized early that I was a lonely girl. Part of my loneliness was my desire to disconnect from the lifestyle of being stuck in the ghetto. Being black is hard enough but being poor exacerbates your blackness. I felt ashamed for pulling away. Am I one of those monitories with self-hatred? But the thing is that I don’t mind being black. I just hate what it means to the world. I hate the history. I hate the politics of it. Every culture and color has their own brand of stigma to live with. Black people aren’t the only folk trotting around the beaten path. But still, there is so much to consider. My womanhood and my skin are too of the most complex concepts to swim through.
I reach out for peace but can’t quite grasp it. It is the core of my loneliness and it makes me feel a sense of loss as if I was born with a sacred human connection but lost it somewhere in my childhood. I remember playing and being happy as kid then vastly confused and hormonal as a teenager and finally resolved and lonely as an adult.
Don’t get me wrong, I have a lot going for me: Husband, kids, mortgage, SUV, and all media crap packaged as the American dream. Except of course my dream is a bit more complex because I am African American so it is not a standardized euro-American dream. Being both in and out of the world is confusing and it makes me feel so disconnected. Sometimes I feel like I don’t fit anywhere. Then I realized that this can be a good thing. By not conforming I’m being true to myself and perhaps even true to the universe. But this inner bond that I’ve made with myself does keep me away from others and this is where the problem lies.
When my mother died in 1998, the sense of loss spread in me like an overlay of butter. I tried to block it out with work, church, and dating but eventually the sense of loss turned into feelings of abandonment. Whatever I lost in my childhood was compounded with the loss of the only arms that I felt safe in.