self-isolation diary #4: you may not like what you find

Photo by Xan Griffin on Unsplash

so we’re at that point where you find out certain things. about who’s supposed to be your duly elected officials, companies, other political leaders, your friends and relatives. and yourself. in a time where you are probably undergoing extended self-isolation because of COVID-19 to the point where the days are blending together, these epiphanies have their way of showing up. and in some cases, showing their entire ass. you might find out something that you need to know or reaffirm or let go, and the truth of the matter is – you might not like what you find.

the reaction to these moments will differ depending on where you are at right now within your spirit. not everyone is going to meet these moments with some grace, especially when there’s a life-threatening viral outbreak running rampant out there. these moments vary – you might come to realize that the company you work for won’t even consider extending you working from home. or that they’re laying you off, sometimes via voicemail. you might discover that there’s some fraying of your family ties that you hadn’t noticed or put off until a time where you can confront it. you might feel some dissatisfaction at where you are in your own life. you might be totally pissed off seeing photos and video of people not taking the quarantine precautions you’re taking. you might find yourself replaying old conflicts and beefs in your mind. or reliving past moments you shortchanged yourself. you might even find yourself being irritated by those you love and question why they’re acting a certain way. crisis brings all of these turbulent emotions up and puts them in a blender along with your mood.

these moments might make you lash out, or add to your melancholy. it can be more intense whether you’re alone or with others during this time, fueled by uncertainty. and i am not going to sit here and act like you can just get through it, ’cause that would be a load of elephant turds. what you feel is going to hurt, and leave some residue. all of that surrounds the truth that can be found in that moment. it’s like getting one of those massive tacos and you’ve got so many layers until you get to the meat (or veggie protein for you vegetarians & vegans) of it. for me, this past week i had to deal with the recurrence of imposter syndrome which i hadn’t felt in quite some time which was spurred by a rejection of a pitch to an editor. being in that zone again and recognizing it early meant i had to steel myself for the wave of confusion and doubt that welled up. i had to talk myself through what was happening, openly. then i had to go back and look at my past work, and finally shake it off by affirming my worth. there’s people i know who are struggling and they display it through some harmful practices like excessive drinking and ego projection by spreading misinformation and being highly aggressive and defensive when confronted.

i say all this to say…you might take this time to dig deeper into who you are and who others are to try to be better on the other side of this viral outbreak and quarantine. if you are, there is a chance that you might wind up confronting certain things you might not be too keen on dealing with. self-examination and reflection isn’t always the Instagram-friendly zone some believe it is. it is work, sometimes rigorous work but positive. if you are reading this and you’re at that stage right now, be honest but be gentle with yourselves and others. and remember, these are difficult times for everyone. we all got our own dragons to slay.

i hope these words were of some help…until the next time, walk good.

self-quarantine diary #3: you got a right to not be okay.

this is the part where this can’t be reiterated enough – this entire situation with the coronavirus pandemic is absolutely, and totally fucked up. in all aspects.

and there is nothing wrong with saying that, writing that, expressing that in any fashion. because this is nothing that you can be or should be comfortable with. there’s currently 52,672 positive cases of those who are afflicted with COVID-19 in the United States alone, with 600 deaths at the time of my writing this post. and despite what a certain someone currently occupying the White House is saying, there’s no way this is going to subside by Easter. if you’re in one of the hot spots like I am in New York City, you are at home (if you’re able to). and your governor and mayor and other city officials have effectively locked down your city save for essential businesses. you’re in the second week of a quarantine with varying reports that it could be lifted as early as July and as late as November. the news reports are unceasing at times, with their statistics and the warnings of what could happen in terms of people getting sick and dying. you might be worried about your family, especially your children if you have any. you might be worried about your elders, who are at high risk and at the moment being talked about by some of these craven politicians as if they’re supposed to take that long trip like in Soylent Green or just sacrifice themselves like the followers of People’s Temple and Jim Jones forty years ago. you might be scared because you’re alone. or scared because you’re in quarantine with someone who you are terrified of because they abuse you and you can’t leave.

things aren’t okay. and it is okay to feel like the world is caving in. do me a
solid if you’ve read up to this point. i want you to take a moment. think about everything that’s been weighing on you these past few days and weeks.

now. let it out however you need to. yell. cry. wail. hit a pillow, curl up in a
fetal position, pace. this is a safe space to do it. once you’re done, you can
read on.


okay. feel better? good. and if you don’t feel all the way better, that’s fine too. there’s going to be good days and bad days and we’ve got a looooong
road ahead to get to the other side of these times under a pandemic. now, i’ll share this with you – i had a period of time this afternoon where everything weighed in on me because of a truly heavy moment. i felt the emotions well up and i let it go. then i went to my backyard, and watched the evening sun begin to sink. i felt the warmth on my skin, and it was a reminder that even in the middle of things being turbulent and downright scary, there are constants we have to hold onto in order to make it through. i’m not a therapist. i’m not a prognosticator. i can’t tell you when this current situation will end. all i am doing, all any of us are doing – is preparing for the worst and hoping for the best. that’s what has to be our modus operandi, and the basis for our desire if we choose to, to do more. to reach out more. to give more. to listen more. to heal more. to love more. but none of those things are possible unless we let ourselves in to the realities before us. that Churchill quote about if you’re fighting through hell, keep going?
valid.

you have a right to not be okay during this time. don’t let others tell you otherwise. but the next part to that is, it is imperative to not stay in that “not okay” space. because then you find it harder to claw your way out. and if you’re reading this and you’re in that space, be real about it. and reach out.
easier said than done i know. as a mass of humanity, we are faced with a challenge that hasn’t been seen on this planet in a century. it feels like the entire world is shifting. even if it might be a shift decades in the making. you have to feel every emotion there is in order to understand that, even the bad ones. because we’re all not going to make it through. but those who will, need to know that they’ve got a right to feel and express every emotion they have including fear. that’s how you learn there are more safe harbors in the hearts of people than you’d realize.

i hope these words helped you out…until the next time, walk good.

If you need professional counseling during these times –
https://www.psychguides.com/guides/mental-health-hotline/
https://www.nami.org/find-support/nami-helpline
https://nycwell.cityofnewyork.us/en/
https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prepare/managing-stress-anxiety.html

self-quarantine diary #2: keyboard thugs in the age of self-isolation aka stop sharing that bull***t

Photo Credit: Poster House NYC

The thing about social media has always been this – it’s a tool, and how you use it matters. And in these past years, we’ve seen both the good side and the awful side of how social media has been utilized by people. You would think that the presence of a global pandemic on these shores means that there’s going to be many who are banding together to recognize that we’re going through something very serious in this country and that they could actually try to not be that THAT PERSON. To not be a total crusty scalawag out here on the web. But unfortunately, this brigade of keyboard thugs is still working hard at stirring up hateful behavior and being dumpster fires in Dockers even as many are in self-isolation. And they’re taking their cues from the *President of The United States. As a result, this is how some of them look:

Yeah. I notice some of y’all taking this time to be EXTRA STUPID when it comes to how this coronavirus is spreading. I wrote about this happening over here as it was apparent that the United States was going to get hit hard with COVID-19. But there’s STILL a lot of deliberate racism directed against Chinese people and those who from other countries of Asian descent tying them to how the virus occurred and how it spread. It ranges from those who insist on sharing those videos of people eating bat soup in another country months ago to those who are now sharing videos of someone cooking a live dog in a kitchen. I had to put someone on snooze on Facebook and mute a couple people on Twitter for sharing that last video. Yes, you’ve got a lot of people who tend to say the quiet stuff out loud sharing these things without any shame. Shame. Remember when that was a thing here?


Now, you’ve literally got someone who’s supposed to be the “leader of the free world” sitting up there going from calling COVID-19 “a hoax” 2 weeks ago to now beginning all of these daily press conferences from his task force calling it “the Chinese virus”. He’s even doubled down on defending it. It’s gotten so ridiculous that there was a reporter who literally asked him today “is it safe to eat Chinese food?” More proof that all of those who voted to have this current administration basically voted for ignorance. There’s even those people from my own community sharing these sentiments trying to justify that “hey, they’ve been racist towards us for so many years, so I don’t feel bad.” Hiding behind some backwards-ass Black nationalism stance. And this is why you fauxteps online get clowned like this:

The thing about this rise in racism against Chinese people and other Asians is that it isn’t entirely new – you all have heard this expressed in jokes and memes but it takes on a more dangerous feel in these times. There’s people literally getting threatened and hurt over this. Yes, the pandemic had its origins in a province of China, and the details behind that are still sketchy. Do we know if there was animal-to-human transmission? There’s reports but none of them have been absolutely verified. What I’m saying is, have some damn sense. There’s some of you out there who want to rush online to prove your worth by sharing things that are hateful or haven’t been verified and all you’re doing is showing your unwashed ass might have really thought you won a lottery from a Nigerian prince at one point. Don’t think we don’t see that you’re not talking trash about some of these folks who flew from Italy all over the place being asymptomatic carriers. But your internalized white supremacy will have you talk out of the side of your neck about Chinese people and Asians on a whole. To them I say, you’re better than that.

There’s historical precedent for this too, with the Influenza Pandemic, otherwise known as the Spanish Influenza epidemic of 1918. It got labeled that despite the fact that it really originated on an Army base in Kansas. It got to the point that the Spanish government literally had to protest to the other nations of the world like, “don’t put that bullshit on us, yo.” But the newspapers of the time persisted because of a little trend back then called yellow journalism. Some of that is highly evident among a cross-section of people today in the way this stuff is shared online. Don’t be part of that crowd. Stop sharing it, call out people that do share it. Because that’s not going to make anyone feel safer during these times and those that are doing it need to do something more productive with their ashy-ass lives anyway.

Until the next time, thanks for reading and walk good.

self-quarantine diary #1: learning to release the bag.

Image by Matthias Böckel from Pixabay

so, since COVID-19 has hit the United States and the rising cases here in NYC and other cities and states have compelled folks to self-isolate and go into social distancing to stem that rise, I’m in the house with everyone else. Now, I normally work from home so that part isn’t new to me. But a pandemic changes the game entirely. The moment things appeared to go left over in Wuhan, China, my family and I started prepping. For me, that preparation was essentially re-learning to let go.

Let go of what? Now as much as I’m gonna sound like one of those old school Shaolin masters from a B-movie martial arts flick (yes, I’m already aware I’ve got the baldie for it), it’s learning to let go of the need to consistently secure the bag using my ego and my pride. to stop making it all about myself and figure out how I can step up and give to others. To quote Styles P, “instead of being selfish/I’d rather be selfless”. Trying to do that at first meant I had to give up the idea of looking foolish or wanting attention. You see, I haven’t updated this blog in over a year. And in that time, dear reader I admit there were things that changed in big and small ways. I got more writing work, bigger bylines. But as I gained those successes I lost a lot. Lost someone I came up with in a tragic motorcycle accident. Nearly lost my older brother. Nearly lost my nephew. Had a trip to the ER. I lost the desire to really write poetry. And, I lost my father. I won’t lie, that all took a toll on me.

The thing is though, life is about loss even as you gain. It’s appreciating both in their lane when the time comes. Same goes with this current outbreak of the coronavirus. As it became more apparent what was taking place, and the news and other media started sharing how deadly it was and how this nation on a whole wasn’t prepared, I felt that same fear of loss settle in. I was afraid for my mother, who was in the high risk group as well as my older brother and other family members. I found myself gripped with anxiety, to the point where I was sweating and thought I had the symptoms of the virus. But I worked my way out of it. This is why I will never sit there and belittle someone’s fears during this time. There’s enough uncertainty out there and with how some people don’t give a damn about others, even to the point of not giving a shit about social isolation to help protect others from getting sick. Again, it was about putting pride and ego aside and admitting that I was afraid. Admitting I was anxious but still needing to get past that to be there for others who would be as well.

I got a lot of inspiration in that regard these past couple of days. I got support through my sister and brother who came up from D.C. and from the rest of my family in their calm and loving way. I got that burst of energy as I was asked to be godfather to one of my best friends’ sons. I got that vibrancy from an old friend in town who wanted to link up and we did, catching a great art exhibit and sharing some wonderful food. And I got that from another good friend who put the call out to do something grand to bring people together in a video. See, the fear of losing is really the fear of feeling like you won’t have anything to give if things feel empty. I got to feel full and strong and to everyone of them (yourself included) I am thankful and grateful.

I’m going to close with this – you don’t need to hold onto the bag of fear so tight that you can’t receive what and who you need in this moment. I’m not saying you’re never going to be afraid once you let it go, because that would be bullshit. But in times like this, you have to just suppress it, get past it and
accept what you can and can’t. And once you do, that bag does get lighter. Believe me.

That’s it for now, until the next time…walk good.

evening autumn jog 11.23.17

sunsetpalm_crimson

the tug felt beneath the shoulder blades
rivulets past the eyes
that sting and told me of the last round of shots
i had the night before
as i clutch the grey fabric at my knees
sunset shows you how the skies can bleed
to give birth to nights where promise, pain and paradise
all share the same dance floor
i jog home
and let the aches go back to singing

Life at 40.

Artwork by ESPO, Brooklyn Museum September 2017

Forty years old. That will come into fruition for me this coming Saturday.
It’s slowly sinking in as it approaches, and now I find myself in a state of
reflection.

I’m not the least bit sad about this milestone. I know some folks have gone
all to pieces about it, as if it’s a death sentence. But to be frank, being a young
Black person in these United States comes with certain realities and situations
that make reaching this age something to treasure and celebrate. There’s a
few people I know who hadn’t even gotten to be 21, let alone get through
their 30’s. If it’s not the speed traps one encounters in high school, then
there’s dealing with the preconceived notions that systemic racism has
embedded in the fabric of this nation represented in ways both overt and
covert. Add to that personal health situations and family crises. For me,
getting to be 40 means I survived the fucking gauntlet. I got past a couple
of the major level bosses without too much hit point damage. It’s a true
and honest blessing.

There is a tendency in these moments to feel down, like you might not
measure up to others’ achievements. Right now, I’m happy to say that’s
not the space I’m in. It’s partially due to faith, but it is primarily due to
one key point – I cut right through the heart of things and don’t get too
caught up anymore in past hurts and regrets. Even when I find that they
crop back up when I recall situations(they never really go away they just
subside), I basically work to dispel their effects. I start looking at the lives
of other family members who had a hard road to get to where they are.
I see how they get through it. The narratives of others fuel me to push
through those negative clouds. And most importantly, the body of my
own works and how it’s affected people in a good way. I have lived,
LIVED, I tell you. And I plan to do more of it.

So your next question may be, what about the party?

Well, for starters, I had intended on celebrating in another city or even
another country. But other forces within and without kind of guided me
to modify that goal. I was supposed to be in Las Vegas last week, but I
didn’t book because of conflicts with one of my clients and their work
demands. And as we all bore witness to unfortunately, a heinous individual
became a domestic terrorist and took the lives of 58 people who were
just out having a good time at a country music festival. It may be cliche,
but things do happen for a reason. I changed things up and instead made
a resolution to myself to celebrate until next October in different ways.
How so? First thing, I want to volunteer in some form or fashion each
month with different groups and charities. Another aspect is to hit up
at least one artistic event or any event that’s going to further open up
my mind and my worldview. As for the trips, I want to make short jaunts
and work up to longer trips. It doesn’t have to be to places I’ve been
before – I’m actually planning a day trip into upstate New York along
the Hudson River to take in the fall foliage. I want to write more – not
just my creative writing, but more letters and cards to my day ones and
others in my life.

I know that as you move forward in life, you lose things. I know that this
next decade could see me pass through some dark moments. Hell, my 30’s
were a roller coaster which you’ve no doubt gleaned some insight into by
reading this blog. But I clawed my way through and came to grips with a
few things that I needed to and found myself better for it. I want this
milestone of being 40 about honoring what still remains and what was
lost in a golden and timeless way.

I’m content. And dammit, isn’t that what it’s supposed to be about? Being
able to embrace and be content with this new stage of life? Especially if
you do it with mimosas?

Thank you for reading, walk good.

when poems are keepsakes

indoorbouquet_prettystuff

a writer can wonder
if the words they’ve given to someone they once loved
last as long as intended

do they sit on tables
out of close reach, greeted only by sunlight
and maybe, watered by the eyes

are they locked up in
shoeboxes, their vigor held in store
with the memories of so many others

do they come out to play
in the onyx hours
and add their perfume to the breezes they contain

or do they become ink
that stitches itself in the skin
permanent even into the next world

this is why writers don’t give their words lightly

national poetry month: overwrought rails

japaneserailway_emptytracks

so, it’s National Poetry Month. admittedly, while i’ve been writing
poems, it hasn’t been every day as in the past. i’ve had to deal with
growing work piles, a quickie health situation that meant an ER
visit out of precaution and other stuff. but over the past couple of
days, i’ve found that the words were waiting for me. waiting to
step forth into the sunlight. so, here’s one entry. to those taking
part in the festivities, may your pen flow as free as your heart.

8/30

copper and iron
knit electricity above
a doctor once told me to think of
the heart as a railway junction
words that skip rope from a far off room
as i try to sleep
connected to a monitor
that speaks in medical morse code
a woman next to me
cries out the “Our Father”
as nurses try to comfort her
my eyes flicker
and see another train disruption
on the battered TV above
and i think of those words again
and also
some old myth
of dictators making trains run on time
while sowing death and doubt
maybe what’s wrong with us all
is that we tend to forget
trains don’t always run on time
and hearts do earn their cracks and splits
just like overwrought rails

laying down our weapons of hurt

tumblr_nxn0arlxe91qc91i1o1_500

this is for the brothers mostly. and whenever we feel the
need to instantly dub someone “too sensitive” and how i
came to see that as more of a weapon than some realize.

one of the things that i learned to understand, more so over
these past few years as i was beginning the journey of redefining
my life and my purpose, was how those who weaponize their
hurt come to do so. and do so very easily.

it was in that space that i realized that those lessons often
come at the hands of those who claim to love us. mainly ’cause
it is how they have gotten by.

i say this because one of the things that has dogged me at times
is that i can live in the zone of being tabbed as “sensitive” when
there are situations that i find myself in that rub me the wrong
way or worse, and that i had been expected to overlook it. you
know that three word phrase – “get over it”. or get told to pray
about it.

i had to learn that to some degree, those doing that fell into two
categories – those who were going through or had been through
those same tribulations and saw no other way but to keep on
suffering it without relief, or those who hide their struggles in
the manipulation of the former category.

i had to learn that because, i had to unlearn the idea that being
too sensitive equated to not being manly. when you come up as
a young Black male, there is this push and pull effect that occurs.
for me, it was couched in the fact that i also grew up with three
older sisters and a mother whose love is fierce, and protective
to a high degree. with that, there would be those moments in
my early years that brought with it the usual growing pains. but
as i got older, i realized that value of inner sensitivity allowed me
to understand others. it allowed me to connect, empathize on a
deeper level. to listen more. the final step was to apply all of that
to myself.

i’ve written here before about how one period of time in 2009
led me to basically say ‘fuck it’ and do a reset. since then, and
not without a lot of pain and a lot of reaching out – and mainly
reaching IN – i had to admit that the push and pull took a bigger
toll than i could realize. it had left jagged cuts in my emotional
self. my health had silently gotten bad. with time, honesty and
a hell of a lot of work, i’m here to tell you that it has gotten better.
i’m here to say that it will continue to be better. i learned to
begin to dismantle my own weapons of hurt. weapons crafted
due to needing to fulfill some warped idea of patriarchal order.
weapons crafted so i wouldn’t appear “soft”. weapons crafted
to defend against a world outside that wants to effectively
cannibalize me for parts because it has done so for hundreds of
years. weapons to hide my insecurities that i didn’t want to
even have see daylight, much less work on. weapons to use on
others to make them feel worse than i did.

you sometimes have to sit and look at the record of every foul
thing you’ve done up to this point and ask why you went there.

and choose to fall back.

i noticed that when i started this process, the ones i cared about
the most, those who i didn’t think would hear me or would be
too busy – they stopped what they were doing ’cause they realized
what i was dealing with. my homeboys, my brothers – to hear
them encourage me, to see them shift ’cause they FELT i was in
pain…i count myself damn lucky because if you’re reading this
now, how many do you know that got lost out there? that found
themselves with no other recourse but to petrify to the point of
not ever being at home with themselves? how many of them do
you know that still do this? it’s been eye-opening to have these
moments with my own father, where he can open up gradually
in his later years. realizing that he didn’t fully have an atmosphere
of opening up like this, emigrating here with his family from
Jamaica, having to go into the army at a young age then off to
Canada to study medicine in a time that was in a word, unkind
to Black people. i’ve only begun to get bits and pieces of what
that must’ve been like.

i write these words as a reminder to myself, and a spur for other
brothers who may be dealing with life with this push and pull
doing harm inside of them. as we are in the midst of the confusion
and chaos that’s elevated more than usual in the age of Trump,
it is more vital than ever that we learn to dismantle these weapons
of hurt we find ourselves in possession of whether we realize it
or not. they might’ve been handed down to us by any means.
but we have the means to remove them. for our own good. for
the good of those who love us. for our greater good. i see this
happening more and more for my brothers, and my sisters who
are leading a path for others. let it continue. and if you feel that
you need to be on this path, i hope this helps you.

as always, thanks for reading. walk good.

 

resolve in the face of chaos.

issueyr_masao_h

2016 is almost at an end.

typing those words, would seem for many to be associated with a
sigh of relief. this year has been an absolute roller-coaster. tragedy
and shock and bigotry and loss reverberated throughout the year
and seemed unceasing. i had heard about how leap years bring about
more catastrophe and turmoil. never really put stock into it until
this year.

on a personal level, i went through a series of moments where
that rang true. a period where stress and anxiety caused a bad health
flare-up. dealing with racism in a subversive sense and overtly
due to a poem on this blog. inconsistent work flow. dealing with
people who i thought were cool but turned out to be only out for
themselves. family members going through it.

but that cloud lifted. and the remainder of this year turned out to
be tremendous. i got to leave one trying work situation and enter
into working relationships with awesome publications and sites.
i pitched a lot more, and got good feedback and encouragement.
i got to bear witness to the National Museum of African American
History and Culture. i got to see one of my sisters honored for her
work in the community. i got to volunteer over Thanksgiving. and
connect with great souls.

with that said, if you’re thinking that this post is going to be all
about New Year’s resolutions, you’re only partially correct.

i’m writing about resolve. in its main definitions whether used
as a noun or verb, it is meant to be a decisive course of action. a
firm state of mind. and as we exit this tumultuous year and go into
a year of uncertainty, it is what is needed to go into the year to
be bolder than before. to be more aggressive in holding onto what
has been fought for, to maintain what is needed for our lives and
those of others and those after us. resolve.

see, resolutions around this time have been denigrated to cute and
buzz-worthy topic lists or fillers for newscasts or bandied-about
social media topics. bump all of that.

this is a time where you take stock of everything, then re-calibrate
and gain new focus. now more than ever, as the masks have come
off of those in close proximity to us, we need to commit to having
greater resolve. how? have greater resolve in calling out others for
their insensitivity, especially as it scales up to outright racism, sexism
and other isms of hate and ignorance. even if these others are your
neighbors, or family. have greater resolve in valuing those who are
there for you. have greater resolve in checking your own missteps
and don’t prolong beating yourself up over them. have greater
resolve in not just standing by in certain times. have greater resolve
in exerting kindness. have greater resolve in saying no when you
need to, to whoever you need to. have greater resolve in letting go
of people and situations who do not consistently value you or only
seek to take from you without redamancy. have greater resolve to
not position yourself above whatever truth you’re trying to bring
about. have greater resolve to seek joy, and celebrate your joy and
that of those you’re close to. have greater resolve to call out bullshit
even if you feel that clamminess of fear well up in you. even if it is
from your close loved ones. have greater resolve to continue to define
who you are. have greater resolve to fight however you need to in
whatever fashion seems best. have greater resolve not to shame others
for doing what you’re afraid to.

let’s face it, we’re at a moment where every action in the previous
paragraph and others not mentioned is going to be needed. given that
the nation has elected someone who is inherently unfit for the office
of leading this country, given that there’s a rising tide of hateful
bile strewn across the ‘Net and directed at women, people of color,
LGBTQIA and others, it’s imperative that resolve be a highly active
word in your vocabulary. i realize that by stating this i’m one voice.
but one voice, planted in resolve, can do so much. look at all of the
lives that went to the other side this year alone, the famous and the
more impactful close to us that aren’t celebrities. look at what they
did. resolve. it’s powerful. it’s meaningful. it’s necessary.

if you’ve read this far, i do resolve to write more on here. to be that
radical hope and change that’s needed again. and i hope that you
will be too.

thanks for reading. walk good.