On Struggling, Sharing, and Authenticity

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Am I the only person who feels like an epic fuck-up sometimes?

Like I just can’t get it together, and I’m destined to be a hot mess forever?

Like I will eventually die alone — and/or with lots of cats?

I’m guessing not. Last night, I got into a particularly self-deprecating funky funk that precipitated a panic attack. If I’m totally honest, I’m still partially in denial about panic disorder being a real thing for me, despite what my therapists and doctors have told me. Anyway, I had been feeling sad earlier, so I went to a coffee shop to write (and drink a well-deserved, boughie holiday hot chocolate).

It worked for about twenty minute before the panic gripped me again. At that point, I went to my car and proceeded to freak out in the parking lot for another half hour.

“Going to the coffee shop made things worse,” I texted my best friend when it started to subside. “I’m just a failure at life, and at this rate, I’ll never be happy.”

After chiding me for my self-deprecation, he responded with something I wasn’t expecting.

“I’m drinking and I feel like shit. I feel alone and like no one wants to be with me.”

I immediately went into best friend mode because (not to brag) my best friend is truly amazing. His confession snapped me out of my funk, but it also made me realize I’m not the only one who feels like they don’t have it together. It made me feel like less of the overly sensitive fuck-up I tell myself I am.

Of course, I was not happy to hear my friend is also struggling. (#SchadenfreudeSunday. Just kidding. I was really proud of myself for coming up with that). Nor was I necessarily seeking someone to commiserate with over wine and bad Christmas movies (though we did some of that, too).

Of course, neither of us has figured it out. Will we get the promotions and pay raises? Will we always be overworked and underpaid? Will those boys call us? What if 2019 isn’t better? I don’t know. So why am I sharing all this?

Because not doing so is what isolates and ultimately kills us. Sharing our vulnerability, deep insecurities and fears helps us to see that they are not so unique to our lives. It makes our suffering seem less personal and pointed. I’ve learned there is great power in honoring the struggle, in not rushing to qualify it or cover it up. And not only that, along the way I’ve found out I’m not the only anxious, overcommitted, just-above-broke millennial out there.

Cheers to authenticity? Idk. We’ll figure it out, netompaûog.

I don’t care what anyone says I love this song.

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Thanksgiving Thoughts from the Land of First Contact

Thanksgiving Day in New England: always strange, convoluted, fraught with intersectional complexities.

On one hand, it’s a day my family gathers, cook traditional Black foods, and fellowship. Holiday dinners are some of the few times of the year, in fact, that I feel unequivocally Black in a way that no one can contest or take from me. Surrounded my by relatives, lots of laughter, and stories, I once again understand myself in the context of the Black community of Rhode Island.

But what lingers, too, is the sadness around this holiday for those of us who are also Native in the family. So before we gather, I’m holding space for my Wampanoag relatives, as well as my Pequot relatives and ancestors.

And in light of my own disconnection and reconnection from my Pequot family and lineage, that is very difficult for me to engage with. I resent deeply much of the way people talk about the brutality my ancestors endured: It’s a holiday that celebrates genocide, killing off all the Native Americans and kicking them off their land. Well-meaning folks have said this to my face as if I’m not still here, on my land, fighting to be seen. As if I do not carry a special, pointed sorrow at being 26 and just now becoming conversational in my language. As if I am not acutely ashamed of the ways in which I have been disconnected from community and culture.

These are layers I don’t expect everyone to understand, and in the grand scheme of things, it’s nothing to become maudlin over. Far be it from me to police anyone’s tone. All I can do is endeavor to be as authentic as possible and offer loving suggestions when I think we can do better.

To my Wampanoag and Pequot family, I see you. To my non-Native friends, I see you, too; and I’d invite you to do your own work and not rely on Native people rehashing their trauma for your enlightenment. In telling “real story” of Thanksgiving, I invite you to hold space for the fact that living Native people in New England are still grappling with the effects of this particular act of genocide.

It’s not about policing; it’s about shifting your frame of reference. I say this in love. I say this because I think we can do better.

Happy Thanksgiving. Or not. Here’s to family, to friends, to remembering, to healing, to our futures.

Happy Indigenous People’s Day…From My Couch: Rest as Resistance

I did not partake in any celebrations this year: instead, when I finished my work today, I rested. As Indigenous people we believe we have to be 10x better, that we always have to be “on,” ready to educate and engage. We exist in a society that links self-worth to productivity inside of a settler colonial/capitalist narrative. So here’s a gentle reminder to all you fine Native people out there to take care of yourself, because you’re poppin and you deserve it. Happy Indigenous People’s Day, netompaûog 💗✨

Poolside Epiphanies

For the first time in a long time, I’m happy with my life. By 26, I wanted to have my Masters (in what, I had no idea); be married or at the very least heading in that direction; and live in a big city. But instead I dropped out of grad school and left New York to work in the Native community back home. The last year especially has been particularly trying and transformative. So here I am, a few pounds heavier, a lot less worried about what other people think, grateful to be surrounded by wonderful family and friends, open + receptive to the weird and wonderful adventures life brings me. Here’s to self-love and late summer poolside epiphanies for no particular reason 🍻

Resistance & Revolution

Last week on the Fourth of July, I was asked to partake in Resistance & Revolution, an awesome program at the Robbins House in Concord, MA. In addition to participating in the readings, I was there to acknowledge that Concord is on stolen Massachusett and Nipmuc land. It was powerful to be able to bring the reality of Indigenous displacement and dispossession into the conversation about Independence Day. 

Also, the history of the house—and the free Black family that built and inhabited it after the Revolutionary War—is beyond cool. Go visit! The story of the site resonated with me particular because there is a myth that there are no Black people in New England. But the reality is that we’ve been here since the beginning, and our families have long and rich histories of resilience and survivance here. I feel very connected to the Robbins/Garrison family, the ancestors who once lived in this house, and grateful I could be part of the work we did at the Robbins House today 🙏🏽🌀

Open Letter to the White Woman Who Tried to Take My Photo Even Though I Asked Her Not To

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I know we’re poppin, but like, yall (non-Native people) need to chill.

Dear Random Settler,

You’re lucky I was dancing jingle this weekend.

Why? Because the jingle dress is a medicine dress. Not that you know this; not that you were listening when the MC explained our dance; not that it occurred to you that our regalia has any sort of meaning.

I say you’re lucky because, had I not been wearing this medicine dress, I would have definitely cussed you out.

You’re not the first white person to run up on me like you did yesterday afternoon, brandishing a phone camera, ready to do a cultural drive-by. You are, however, the first  to try to take my picture after I asked you not to.

Your actions were beyond disrespectful, but they were not surprising. Unfortunately, my people know your colonial gaze all too well. In the paternalistic traditions of Roger Williams and John Eliot, you extended settler violence by objectifying me.

I know exactly what kind of white liberal New Englander you are, showing up at the powwow as if that absolves you of your investment in colonialism. And I’m sure that you “mean well.” Don’t you all? I’m sure you knitted a pink pussy hat when your president got elected; voted for Elizabeth Warren; cheered at Harvey Weinstein’s fall from grace. But I’m willing to bet that not once at the powwow did you think about consent. And when you accosted me yesterday, you decided your cultural voyeurism was more important than respecting my culture. And me.

Hence I’m tired of white folks who “mean well.” Your people’s “good intentions” are, more often than not, burdensome. And it seems like whenever you come into our spaces, all you want to do is take. Appropriate. Steal.

Here’s the thing, sis. Not only is your patronizing fascination with Indigenous cultures burdensome, it is an extension of settler colonialism. At the core of your forefathers’ lively experiment called genocide was the belief that my people are sub-human. You felt entitled to take a photo of me, without my consent, because at some fundamental level you believe I am sub-human.

Whether or not you actually walked away with a photo is besides the point. I hope at the very least, your interaction with me jarred you out of stereotyping my people as docile, silent, and obedient.

Indigenous people are not attractions. Powwow is not a freak show. We do not exist solely to satisfy your colonial fetishes. That’s not how any of this works, and none of us owe you an explanation for the fact that we’re still here.

Signed,

A Jingle Dress Dancer  Who Refuses to Engage in Your White Nonsense

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Yes, we look presh. No, you can’t take our picture, sit with us, or make us buy into your dehumanizing settler lies about who we are as Indigenous people.

What If You’re Wrong?

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Narragansett Town Beach in Narragansett, RI. This was my first beach day of the year, and it was sooooo beautiful. I’m convinced that we have the most beautiful beaches in Rhode Island.

I have an invitation. It’s a beginning of summer / full moon in Capricorn / Mars retrograde meditation, of sorts.

What is that thing nagging at you? That circumstance you’ve accepted as immutable, that relationship that seems like it will never change?

Got it? Good. Now:

What if you’re wrong?

Go with me.

Once it became clear that I would be spending most of my summer in Providence, I decided it was going to suck. (My relationship with my hometown, for those who don’t know, is strained more often than not). I was ready to resign myself to a season of preparation and waiting for the next “thing.” In typical Aries fashion, I made up my mind to focus (on the future) and buckle down.

Which I definitely have been, to an extent. But there’s only so much preparing one can do. Maybe it’s because Mars is one of my cosmic rulers and I find it hard to sit still. Or it could be that I’d had enough isolating. Depression and anxiety are funny that way—they trick us into believing something has to happen “out there” in order to activate our happiness and fulfillment.

Point being, I can’t identify exactly where the shift happened. But little by little, I started showing up for my own life. Spending time in nature. Accepting invitations. Reaching out to friends and family I hadn’t seen in months. Exploring new places. Trying new things—namely, food. (By the way, the restaurant scene in Providence is bar none).

Before I knew it, I wasn’t obsessing about the future elsewhere. I wasn’t isolating, over-thinking, over-analyzing, and otherwise finding creative and highly intellectual ways of making myself miserable. The time and energy I spent worrying I channeled into actually living. And it’s made all the difference.

Back to my invitation.

What is your storyline?

What if you’re blindly committed to it? Even if it’s self-defeating?

What if you’re wrong? What if the detour is the path?

What if you made space for other possibilities?

And what if being wrong is a massive blessing in disguise?

PVDFest Was Lit

Providence showed up and showed out this weekend at PVD Fest! I saw everyone and their mom (like, for real); made some new friends; danced everywhere; and above all, I was amazed by the representation of Black and brown artists (!!! since we know Providence likes to act like we don’t exist). I underestimated my hometown, but I ended up having a blast this weekend. Summer is officially on and poppin’ in the Creative Capital!

Wequashim Wóhsumóe

Full moon musings:

The moon is super important in many Indigenous cultures on Turtle Island, and particularly so for those of us who are coastal, given that the moon affects ocean tides. Part of my own (re-)Indigenizing and (re)matriation practice includes reclaiming ancestral knowledge and (re)rooting myself in the natural world—because everything is connected, and because the fundamental objective of colonialism is to break our connections.

I’ve been in a season of unlearning harmful, self-destructive ways of being and understanding myself. Still feeling the illuminating, healing energy of last night’s wequashim wóhsumóe, full moon, as I move into a new season of building a new foundation of the old ways: Sankofa in practice. Grateful and continually growing.

I’ll Always Come Back

It’s counterintuitive, but Newport is the only place in Rhode Island where I feel totally comfortable. My great grandmother lived and died here, and while I was growing up, coming to see her and my great auntie was always special. And so now, every time I’m here, it’s like I’m returning back to Nana – and to my true and highest Self. Here’s to this beautiful island that has taught me so much about myself over the last 26 years of my life; and to the less glamorous but infinitely more beautiful Newport on the other side of Bellevue Ave. Like I’ve said before, no matter where life takes me, I’ll always come back.