Cabin Fever, Writer’s Block, and A Brief Break from Reality.

Photo Above via nypost.com

It’s so annoying to not be able to finish something. Like a man in his 50s, suddenly losing his vitality, I find myself in a lonely, stagnant state. One moment, you are flying; the words pouring out of you. Everything makes sense, characters come together and a beautiful story emerges from the maddening swirl that is your brain. My brain, to be specific. I know I am capable of doing something. Creating something great. Like Kanye West’s Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, the voices in my head are stamped out with each growing pain, each blink, each muscle twitch.

I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how to do. I can’t make myself feel. It’s the ultimate paradox. Or perhaps, conundrum. What are these words? What do they mean? I doubt my existence. I watch characters on a small screen; their lives are so complex and intriguing. I can only imagine myself in their shoes. I love the escapism, yet I feel a deep, aching sadness that I can’t create. Or perhaps, I just won’t. I can’t make my brain work correctly.

I want to close my eyes and sleep forever. I am just so tired. Life is utterly exhausting. I find the life draining out of me with every passing day. The meeting of my eyelids is the only thing that washes calm over my stiffening body. Dark swirls of heavy rest are around; I can see it in the air. And I’m lonely. Sometimes, I hold my own hand, and for a moment I pretend it’s someone else. Someone sleeps next to me. He’s beautiful, with azure eyes and thick, black hair. He pulls me in close, whispering that I’m safe. He loves me. I love him. I only see him when I sleep, though. He has no name, he doesn’t need one. He’s just a part of me; my other half, absorbed into my own being. I know he’s not real, but it doesn’t matter. He comforts me, he makes me feel less alone. He’s no god, he doesn’t demand I worship him. He’s a peaceful fantasy. A blissful figment of my imagination.

I know I must sound crazy, dear reader. I assure you, I very much am. A calm, gentle, calculated insane. Not to instill fear, but I must explain. I mean no harm, but I know my synapses are wired wrong. Or, maybe everyone else is wired wrong, and I’m the only sane one. I mean imagine that! What if everyone in the immediate world came to the consensus that the sky is orange? You can see it is clearly, plainly blue. You point this out. You are ostracized for daring to challenge the authoritarian. That is what I feel. I poked the bear.

I Almost Died In A Car Crash and Other Fun Things That Happened in the Last 36 Hours

Guess who’s back…back…back…back again. Ah, yes. I took a bit of a hiatus.
I apologize, dear reader. But, I promise I have a good story to tell out of this rather traumatizing series of events.

After a freak, bone-chilling snow storm hit Northwest Ohio and Southeastern Michigan, I found myself in Michigan, about 45 miles from my home. I drove home carefully in the thick darkness that is US-23 South, paranoid of deer and snowbanks, listening to Iliza Schlesinger. I made it home close to 1:00am, tired but alive. I even stopped at a supermarket to procure a congratulatory snack (Fruit Gushers; for my foreign homies, they are delicious!). Mission accomplished. I felt like Homer, completed his Odyssey like a goddamn boss.

The next morning I woke up at 7:30AM, dreary but ready to head back to Ann Arbor for my 10:00AM hostess shift. Business as usual. Donned my makeup and my cute little outfit and hopped in my cute little Honda Civic, shiny and a bit frosty, but ready to roll. I was cruising carefully (note: carefully) down the slightly frosty highway. Focused on the road, the ride was uneventful for the first half. The song “Cool It Now” by New Edition turned on while I approached my halfway point, a small Michigan town called Dundee, home of a huge outdoor sporting goods store called Cabela’s, where one can procure roasted nuts and an assault rifle all in one trip!

This next part is important and forever seared into my memory. There is a slight curve whilst driving past the overpass past that exit. There was some noticeable ice on that section of the road. Going no more than 75 miles per hour (120 km/h), I braked to change lanes and avoid that patch. Suddenly, my car fishtailed, spinning out of control. I spun like an old-school top, and smashed head-on into a concrete divider, finally ending up parallel on the side of the highway after my rear right side cracked into it.

My life didn’t flash. I screamed. I gripped the wheel and felt the impact. I was aware and fully conscious, yet out of control. Time didn’t slow down. It just happened. And then it was over. I looked around, audibly hyperventilating, trying to process what the fuck just happened. A man and woman in a teal pickup truck stopped on the opposite side of the highway, having seen the whole thing. A pudgy, bearded guy, possibly in his 40s rolled down his window and called out to me. I said to myself first, “I’m okay? I’m okay. I’m okay! Holy shit! I’m okay?!” I repeated that like it was the only comprehensible phrase I could utter. It truly was at the time.

The couple in the pickup, after seeing that I wasn’t horribly injured and urging me to stay in the vehicle, called the police. A tired, young, blonde female officer approached after about five minutes. I tearfully sobbed to my mother, telling her what happened over the phone. It was so surreal. I had never gotten into any sort of crash before, yet here I was. I was a literal mess. I was shaking, terrified, adrenaline still pumping through my veins. The officer was kind and professional, letting me sit in the squad car while she completed the paperwork and waited for the tow truck to haul my once-pristine car off the side of the road. Dozens of cars whizzed by, nonchalantly. It was like a dream. It didn’t seem real.

I went to the ER after my mother picked me up about a half hour later, in the parking lot of a gas station. Still sobbing and terrified, I began to feel the pain. My neck and my shoulders were stiff and sore. I had a thumbnail-sized gash on my knee, surrounded by a mild bruise. By and large, I came out unscathed. It’s remarkable really.

So, I now have a bit of survivor’s guilt. It sounds quite terrible, but it would’ve been easier if I had died. Now, my family has to incur the burden of the damages. It was almost $400 to tow the car from Michigan to Toledo. The mechanic said there is likely $6,000 worth of damage to the car. I paid only $6,500 for it. It’s a joke. The bullshit, scam auto insurance I have didn’t pay a red cent because of some legal loophole. Luckily, I bought the car from a mechanic/used car dealer who offered to re-buy the now-junked car for between $4,500 and $6,000. So, now I’m back to square one. I’ll have my red 1999 Acura 3.0 for the remainder of the winter because I now have no other options for transportation. Life’s great, huh?

Death is such a good way out of trouble. I don’t want to die (always) but it has always been an option. I wouldn’t consider myself suicidal but it’s on my “lifeplate” constantly. And, it rears its ugly head. I faced death head-on and while yes, I was scared, I realize now that death could be…whimsical. I realize that I don’t believe in God, in any way shape or form. I never have. I don’t believe that any god or spiritual being “saved” me. Nor caused it to happen. It is just action and reaction. We make choices and everything is cyclical. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. There is no God, playing us like puppets on a string. I feel more at peace being real with myself, shedding the lies and mysticism and fantasy and devout bullshit now.

I told my mother tonight that I don’t believe in any god. And it went as expected. She looked at me like I was crazy. Like I WAS CRAZY. I don’t believe in a fictional book that tells about a floating being who controls everything and I’m the insane one. Okay, fine. It’s why exactly I didn’t bring up this topic; I didn’t need not want the judgement.

In the U.S., Christianity is so important, especially in the African-American community. It’s a huge stigma to be atheist. It’s probably worse than being homosexual, to be quite honest. To openly condemn the notion of a “God” or “Jesus Christ” or the stories of the Bible would cause a very visceral and heavily heated response. I don’t want my family to hate me. But, I can’t lie to them anymore.

I’ve never, ever felt any presence of “God” in my life ever. I’ve never, ever come home from church feeling better or more peaceful or affected in anyway. I’ve never prayed and felt comfort. I’ve tried, believe me. I truly have. But, I can’t force myself to believe in what I think is honestly bullshit, used to control the minds of the weak and weary. When you have nothing, you grip onto anything to bring you peace and comfort. And that’s what I told my mother. If it brings you peace and comfort, I will respect it, but just respect my decision to not believe. And also, don’t think my “faith” is just being tested or that it’ll come back. No, it was never there. I never bought into it. It’s a myth. I will never buy into a myth. To me, it’s idiotic. Especially for black people to be Christians when that same religion was used to justify your enslavement. Was used to control you. Was used to make you feel less than. I mean, come on. Like I said before, when you have nothing, you’ll grip onto anything that gives you some bit of comfort.

So, that was the last 36 hours for me. A few profound revelations and the fact I need to leave this place ASAP. I don’t need to be pressured to be someone I am not. I don’t need to return to school. I don’t need to do anything but live my life the way I want to live it, in order to not only survive but thrive.

I have S.A.D (Seasonal Affective Disorder)

…and some people don’t believe it exists. But, it sure does. Though I don’t owe any doubters an explanation, I’ll try to express it as accurately as I can. Around the fall Daylight Savings Time, the activity I feel in the warm, summer months seems to deplete. During that time, I feel tired, unfocused, dreary. Like I’m just existing rather than living. Sometimes, I’ll think of something sad or depressing, and my brain will latch onto that thought all day long. On a day like today, a windy, rainy day, it’s very apparent. It’s like my body knows; my muscles ache, my teeth clench, and my eyelids seem to droop. 

Sounds terrible, right? Yeah, it sucks. I think what sucks more is that it’s taken until now, at 22 years old, for me to realize this pattern. Looking back, I can clearly see a decline. When I was in school, the first few months would be fantastic! I was on top of my work, my relationships are passionate and dynamic; I’d be on top of the world. Then, my mental sun would set. I’d start smoking more marijuana to combat the onset of depression. Eventually, my grades would decline because I couldn’t get out of bed. I’d only leave my dorm room to eat junk food and return to my own personal bear den. All I’d ever want to do is sleep. No amount of sleep would ever be enough. I’d look around, angry that no one understood how I felt. How could people be productive in the cold, dark, scary world? 

The worst I can think of was the period where I had gotten into legal trouble. The $2,000 Yuengling (see in the archives for that story). I had been prescribed an anti-anxiety medication (Klonopins and/or Xanax) the summer before but it was at that period where I started to abuse them heavily. Huge chunks of that year are gone from memory. As much as I try, I cannot remember October of 2014 until January of 2015, when I was admitted into a hospital for overdosing on Klonopin. One evening, I took 9 of them, and smoked a bowl. I didn’t think I would die, but if I did, oh well. That’s how much regard I had for my life. And that’s how deep my depression manifested.

I’m not ashamed to admit my past problems. I’m in therapy now with a wacky, older counselor who is a self-described “Jesus Freak” who has 5 or 6 adopted mixed-race children. I think I feel comfortable with him because, though he’s an old, white guy, he can sympathize with issues that people of color feel since he’s raised black children. I admitted to him that I harbor a lot of guilt and shame; from my “attempt” to my collegiate failures. Admitting it has helped, and having an unbiased ear that will listen. That combined with my moderate dose of Wellbutrin, I hope I can beat this thing for the first time…ever. 

I Keep Having Odd Dreams

“Odd” in the sense that they are pretty fucking weird. I know that dreams are, in general, the way your brain attempts to make sense of things happening in real life. But, I keep having pregnancy dreams. And they really need to stop.

I remember the first was not too long ago. I was heavily in my second or third trimester, belly swollen beyond belief. I can’t remember who my dream baby’s daddy was or if my dream self even knew. My mother was with me; she kept dragging me around places like the grocery store. I was preggo, y’all. I’m not implying pregnant women can’t run errands or drive or do simple daily tasks, but my dream self wasn’t having it. 

Contrary to popular belief about the young black woman, I’ve never been pregnant. I’ve never gotten pregnant either. It’s a rather large concern of mine so I take all necessary precautions before engaging in sexual activity. It’s not to say I haven’t thrown caution to the wind once or twice and rawdogged it; but I have no shame in admitting that I waltzed into a CVS pharmacy and shelled out upwards of $50 for Plan B, an emergency contraceptive in the United States. $50. Ugh. American values… Either way, if I had even an inkling, I didn’t wait around to see. I nipped that shit in the bud within 72 hours. 

So, after last night, and having my second pregnant dream, I’m getting a bit concerned that my dream self is trying to tell me something. I don’t think it’s “have a child” but perhaps something is growing inside me. I just must figure out what these metaphors are! 

I had a terrible night of tossing and turning. I dreamt that I was back in Italy in the lovely building that I stayed at in Rome (photos to come!). Except, it was sinister. There was, in real life, this narrow elevator that was classic and old. It had a gate and a see-through door that you had to close tightly before the elevator would operate. Sometimes, we wouldn’t close the gate correctly so folks on the bottom entry floor would buzz us on the 6th floor and intercom, asking us to close the elevator so it could be used. No big deal, right? My scumbag brain decides to make me have a dream where I let serial killers inside the building. It was night and I had on pajamas and for somet reason I rode the elevator down to let the folks in (in real life, you didn’t have to do that). 

Sigh. Why can’t I have nice, pleasant dreams? Why can’t my dreams be sweet like an Annie Lennox song? Boo. 

Modern Minstrels: The Value of the Black Entertainer

Dr. Dre. Oprah. Michael Jordan. These are some of the examples of African American wealth in our country. They have reached the upper eschlon of status: the billionaire. With a goddamn B, bitches. I should be happy and proud, right? Here are some examples of a post-racial society, black people can achieve a social status only previously achievable by white Americans or oil-rich Sheiks. So, why does the title seem demeaning? I read an article (that I unfortunately cannot find or was unsubstantiated) that there is no person of black American descent who has made their fortune outside of the entertainment sphere.

The term minstrelsy, according to Wikipedia, is “an American form of entertainment developed in the 19th century of comic skits, variety acts, dancing, and music…especially after the U.S. Civil War, by black people”. In layman’s terms, black people acting buffoonish for the delight of a white audience. It was a hustle that quickly boomed. There was a specific niche of audiences who loved to see a minstrel show; they were the same who harbored deep resentment in the Antebellum times. The black man could be free, but don’t think for a second you are better than me. In turn, if a young and talented black person wanted to make a living wage in something other than what amounted to indentured servitude, you became a performer. You hitched up yo’ britches, put dat corncob pipe in yo’ mouf, and danced for da white mens. And it worked like a charm. Nowadays, we may look at those performers as poor, uneducated, disadvantage folks who deserve our utmost sympathy.  Bringing up their mere memory would be insulting. No. If it were not for these talented and driven humans, many things would be different.

Take the actor Lincoln Perry, in my opinion one of the greatest character actors in American history. You may know him as Steppin’ Fetchit. Steppin’ Fetchit was a character created by Mr. Perry and quickly became one of the most beloved characters in America at the time. So much so that its a little known fact that Lincoln Perry was one of the first black millionaires after the character was featured in many movies in the early 1930s. What is sad is that Mr. Perry was marginalized by both races as the exemplified version of what white people thought we were—lazy, slow-witted, lecherous, etc. So it must have been a damn Catch-22 to be Mr. Perry. An extremely successful character actor, yet hated by your own people and an idiotic clown to others. I think what’s even more depressing is that Mr. Perry died nearly penniless. Little is known about how he lost his riches but I can assume that he had horrible management (if any) and his earnings were squandered and/or stolen outright.

Am I comparing Oprah, the Queen of Daytime TV to a singing, black-faced clown? Yes and no. Until she and others like her were able to achieve their own monumental success, they essentially were Lincoln Perry; those folks did as the white folks dictated. I recall doing a paper in the 6th grade on her and reading that she, once hired by a major news outlet in Chicago, had to chemically straighten her hair. The chemicals were too strong and the stylist was inexperienced with dealing with her texture of hair. Her hair was damaged to the point where she had to wear a wig for years. As a billionaire, she can rock her natural curls, no problem. But, for some odd reason, that was a big no-no. Too distracting? Who knows. It is easy for me, a black woman, to see how one has to shape-shift in order to not intimidate white people. I am a simple blogger; I’m not deep into the entertainment sphere as a career so I feel I can be “myself” in a way. I also have supportive friends, male and female, black and white, who love and support me as an individual, which is really invaluable. Oprah did not. She had to alter her appearance for the good of her image. As an entertainer, your image, not your personality, is your selling point. You are a product to be bought, judged, and sold. Sound familiar? Entertainers are chattel; perhaps that is why there is quite a bit of overlap with black people. Unfortunately, many black Americans believe that the only way to achieve massive wealth is to drop beats or bounce a ball. And, are they completely wrong?

The value of the black entertainer in American history is something that is apparent yet, not closely studied publicly. There is not much emphasis on the cultural value in entertainers. They really do shape society. Beyonce. James Brown. Michael Jackson. Diana Ross. Prince. Quincy Jones. Beverly Johnson. Michael Jordan. LeBron James. Steph Curry. Denzel Washington. The Johnson Family. These people are invaluable and highly influential to all Americans. Whether you are a fan of their talents or not, recognize that they have significance. They may just bounce a ball or sing a song but, they are the ones entertaining you. And they deserve the wealth they receive in equal proportions. The “modern minstrels” of today, whether or not you like that moniker, are the ones that influence others in a big, BIG way. And regardless if you believe they are stunting or furthering the “good of the race”, they aren’t going anywhere. It is up to you, the consumer, to stay informed and not be so sueded by everything you see. You can be a fan of Fetty Wap’s music and not emulate his behavior. You can own Jordans and not play basketball.

Entertainers: please believe that you, as a human, are valuable even if you would like to share your talents with the world for monetary gain. You are a person first, and your career is second. That is why, though I don’t necessarily consume mainstream rap or hip-hop music, I steadfastly believe that the Lil’ Wayne’s and T.I.’s have value in our society and will be known as key players in history. They just will; in the future, people will debate the cultural significance of Nicki Minaj’s butt. And, what a butt it is. I know my Anaconda don’t want none, though.

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Is Religious Abuse a Thing?

I wouldn’t call myself religious. And that’s apparently a thing. More and more people in our generation are shunning the church, in favor of a more personal spiritual journey. After seeing the corruption surrounding Catholic sex abuse scandals and the unparalleled greed of some pastors such as Creflo Dollar of Atlanta’s World Changers Church, I can see why a lot of people are pulling away from the pulpits.

In the African American community, its a very, very huge deal to believe in God. You can almost bet that talking to any person of African descent about God or Jesus, you’ll hear a cacophony of “yes, Lawd” or “mhmm, thank you, Jesus”. It’s been engrained in our culture for generations. And I understand why. Back in the early part of the century, the church was not only a place of worship, but a safe haven. It was one place where black people could gather amongst themselves and not feel afraid or marginalized. When Jim Crow was still rearing its ugly head, black people could not commingle around non-blacks in the public sphere. They were separated virtually in all aspects of their lives and made to feel less-than every waking moment. So, I get it. That’s a fucking hard pill to swallow. I’d take whatever solace I could get too. And here is Jesus; a “white”-looking character. He’s patient. He’s forgiving. He’s loving. He accepts you as long as you lead your life to his strict, but wholesome guidelines.

Fast forward to now. That generation has now seen a black president! We made it, right? Well, not exactly, but I digress. The younger generation is now technologically advanced beyond their parents’ and grandparents’ wildest imaginations. That thing always in their hand holds more information than every encyclopedia in the world. Suddenly, they are asking all kinds of questions? Why is God is jealous and vindictive? Why is homosexuality bad? Why should I punish my child by hitting them? Will I really go to Hell if I don’t give a tithe? Why does it seem women are subservient to a man? Why is this book so fucking long? No answers. We are a generation of instantaneous satisfaction. We want to know a succinct, 140-character-or-less answer in less than 10 seconds. Unfortunately, these two mindsets are clashing BIG TIME.

I watched the Bill Maher documentary Religulous about three times. Every time, I had my mind blown at the pure, unadulterated…I don’t even know what word to use. Ignorance? Blindness? I don’t want to offend and yet, I was absolutely mortified at how some people represented their religions. In particular, an African-American “minister” who used to be a singer for the R&B group, Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes. So, this clown, decked out in lizard skin shoes and more gold than a 1970’s pimp had the nerve to try to convince Bill Maher that he was not just robbing faith-blind people by selling DVDs and propagating prosperity theology. According to Wikipedia, prosperity theology is “a Christian religious doctrine that financial blessing is the will of God for Christians, and that faith, positive speech, and donations to Christian ministries will increase one’s material wealth. Hold the fuck up. So you are telling me that if I give my hard-earned money to a tax-exempt institution, that somehow that money will magically appear back in my bank account if I pray hard enough? In the words of Larry David, are you nuts? I won’t apologize when I say that is absurd. I didn’t realize being a Christian costs $25-$100 a week.

I write this post today because tomorrow my grandfather has once again guilted me into attending church services with him. Yes, guilted. I have not and most likely will not get anything out of attending church and that is a fact. Prayer is not a practice that I personally participate in and I believe that the Christian faith has been perverted to something I’d rather not associate myself with. Point blank. No one in the black community ever stops to think, “Hm, you know. This religion was at one time used to justify our enslavement…”. And that really concerns me. It makes me think that my family are SHEEP-le. People who follow the herd because a bigger, seemingly more important voice told them to. And that if they were to have independent thought, it would be misconstrued as doubt and God will punish them. That is no way to live; in fear of what amounts to a mythological figure. It’s funny how we categorize Apollo, Zeus, Hera, or Athena as “Greek mythology” yet we are absolutely, 100% sure without the shadow of a doubt that Jesus the son of God and he walked the Earth and died in the most fucked up way imaginable so that God wouldn’t nuke the Earth.

What frustrates me the most is what I just wrote, I cannot share with my family. I couldn’t go up to them and say what I just said. I couldn’t say that to most people in my community without a plethora of unfair, biased human judgment that would likely never end. Also, it pisses me off that it is guilt and fear-mongering that is the backbone of this practice. People actually believe that when they die, they’ll spend eternally burning like a Holocaust victim if they miss a church service or don’t tithe. No one should live like that. That is abuse. And, quite a few people live like that, in literal or psychological fear of retribution from their peers or from God in some form. In some religions, speaking out may mean death or something more sinister. Especially, if you are a female. I shudder to think of some women in countries like Saudi Arabia or Iran or currently, Syria, would may feel the same way as I but don’t have an outlet to vent like I do. I know my family wouldn’t physically harm me if they found out how I felt; they would just be a bit confused and hurt that I’m not living my life as one of God’s minions. I won’t apologize for that. Perhaps I’ll change my mind. But, for now, I am content with my decision and knowing that it was all mine and I’m not walking around being a hypocrite with cross and Bible verse tattoos. Whilst I sit on Death Row for robbery and murder. I bet that money wasn’t going to any collection plate, was it?

 

I’m Bad at Life, Worse at Death

I woke up this morning to a call from my estranged father. It had been so long since I had seen his number pop up on my screen that I had to literally Google it. It was him. I couldn’t answer. It meant only one thing. The second call from my aunt mere moments later confirmed it. My grandmother had finally succumbed to her long battle with cancer. And, I’ll admit, I can’t deal. I really cannot. It’s 2:10PM, and I’m still in bed, my cat wrapped up tight in my lap, and I won’t move. Not even to return their calls. 

The memories of my grandmother started when I was very young. I began a rocky relationship with my father at the age of 3 and being a young child, it was like suddenly being introduced to a strange man who I would have to forge some kind of relationship with. I remember very, very vaguely going to his city in southern Ohio for the summer beginning at maybe 5 or 6. It would only be a few weeks but would feel like a lifetime. I’ve always been an introvert, no doubt because of my only-child status. So, making friends with the few other kids on the block was a struggle. My father didn’t want me to sit in the house all day because he had random things to do; fortunately my grandparents lived within a block radius. She’d cook, taught me to crochet, and she had cats! I’d sleep in her bed with her every night, eventually eshewing returning to my father’s house (no cats there, man). 

Sitting down and writing about this is making my palms sweat. Perhaps out of guilt? When my father and I had our falling out when I turned 18, in order for me to mentally survive I had to shun myself from all things him. As much as I wanted to keep in touch, it was too painful. The truth is, I’m weak and I’m selfish. I put myself first and my feelings when it comes to death and loss. I just prefer to ignore it. I suppose part of being not on pills and other drugs is letting oneself feel pain and grief and guilt and sorrow. But, it doesn’t make it any easier and to be honest, the first thing I want to do is get in my car and drive away. To where? It doesn’t matter. 

I have to face the music today. I have to hear my father’s voice and my aunt’s voice and the pain in both of those. I have to plan to see them at a funeral where I’ll have to look them both in the eye and somehow explain my absence from their lives for the past few years. And that’s shitttttttttty. 

As a person with documented seasonal affective disorder and an undocumented anxiety disorder, I’m not sure how this will play out in terms of my own sobriety. I fear that I’ll be so terrified that I’ll use anything to calm down. Anything. It has happened before. Once when I was in my early teens, I got fed up with my father and his regimented schedule of when I was supposed to call him (Sunday, Wednesday, Friday’s at 7:30pm). So, I didn’t. Not for a week or two. He blew up my cell and eventually, my home phone. My mom literally had to calm him before. And to calm my racing heart, I took a handful of OTC Advil PM. A handful, folks. It was better not to feel than to feel guilt and shame. 

At 22 years old, I should be more mature. It’s a process, though. No one seems to want to hear that. After writing this, I feel a bit better. Not all of my thoughts are weighting on my shoulders, crushing me into submission to the point where I can’t move. But I’m still not ready. I’m pretty bad at life, but I’m extra shitty accommodating at death and all his friends; guilt, loss, and shame. I was just sooo not in the mood to go through the five stages of grief again. Earlier this year, I lost two great-uncles and a great-grandmother. That brings the 2015 death toll to 4. Damn. Am I next? My mom? A close friend? These relatives were elderly and ill but still. 

The hardest thing is going to be finding the strength within myself to deal. Again. And without substances. Without crippling myself with anything within reach. To get out of bed. To bathe. To eat. To talk about what I’m feeling instead of just trying to escape by any means necessary. I’ve made some progress today; I turned a light on, illuminating my darkened lair. Perhaps I need to cry. But I can’t cry; I can only when I see others do it. Fucking mirror neurons. 

Today is like a Bill Withers song; ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone. Only darkness every day. As I peer through my drawn shades, it’s a windy, soulless day. I had a nightmare this morning. I had to go back to sleep after they called at 8:30 this morning. I really wasn’t ready to deal. My father appeared; a monster-like figure in a long hallway. He chased me slowly. I kept backing away. “Stop, I don’t need you!” I yelled. He silently kept coming. I ran away, trying to find help. He wasn’t trying to harm me, but I was still afraid. But of what? I found my other family; my mother and grandparents and he all but vanished, intimidated but Superman to kryptonite. It was all too real and vivid. I woke up again and looked at the clock: nearly 1pm. My back muscles burning from being a tight, fetal position. I just closed my eyes and went back to sleep. 

It’s nearly 3 and I have to figure out what to do. I just want to say that I loved my grandmother and a part of me, a rather large part, is happy she has finally found peace and an end to her suffering. It’s the aftermath that is painful. Wish me luck. 

My Favorite Films | Documentary

It’s not what you think. Just because I’m black doesn’t mean I have to be into some random rapper’s journey “back to the ‘hood”. While I respect their grind, I hear about that kind of shit every fucking day. I found this film randomly on Netflix about two years ago, being promoted like crazy on its homepage. I still remember the poster; a black-framed woman’s back with a graphic lookin like a fresh tattoo stitched on it. “The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia”. It took me a few months to actually check it out and BOY, I wasn’t prepared.

It was a lazy morning. I smoked a bit, lounging around in my room for an uneventful day during a break from Adderall College. As anyone in the U.S. knows, that calls for some Netflix binging. The THC in my brain told me “hey, check that one out”. (THC sounds like Cheech Marin, for your reference). So, I clicked it. I saw that it was a Dickhouse Production, the glorious team that brought us all things Jackass. I knew immediately that I had made the right decision, and thusly packed another bowl in preparation.

The film chronicles the lives of the rambunctious White Family of Boone County, WV. My grandmother (maternal) was born and raised in Kanawha County, WV, so I had to do a quick Google Maps search to see. Boone County sits in the midsection of the small state, smack dab in the middle of Appalachia. There are a lot of these folks in the family; our main narrator would be Mamie, the eldest living daughter of Bertie Mae and D. Ray White.

Now, their claim to fame is D. Ray, who was an extremely talented “mountain” tap dancer. Coming from a culture where it was always lithe, zoot-suited black men who tapped, I was shocked to see a wrinkled, near-skeletal, white coal miner going HAM on a wooden board outside of a trailer.  I mean, he was dope.

Unfortunately, D. Ray was shot in the 80’s and killed before his family could really benefit financially from his talent. So, what happens when a father dies and leaves a single, impoverished mother with thirteen children and a few grandchildren (at that point) in the middle of rural West Virginia? Utter chaos. Welcome to Boone County, bitches.

Along with Mamie, we met her brother, Jesco. Yes, JESCO. He, like his father, is a badass dancer. Unlike his father, I believe Jesco had a bit of a mental breakdown after his father was killed and along with the unfortunate gasoline-huffing habit he acquired, he’s now a terribly frightening yet sympathic character. He’s also a bit of a hero in the Southern states, performing at shows and venues to this day. Jesco, in the best way he can, describes his bipolar (possibly borderline personality) disorder as saying “sometimes when I laugh, it’s like fakin'”. Okay, Jesco. Take care of yourself, buddy.

We also hear the story of Sue Bob and her son, Brandon. Sue Bob is the youngest daughter and due to the fact she smokes and drinks like a damn fiend, I personally can’t put an age on her. Apparently, she made the “boucoup” of money stripping beginning when she was 17. And she’s the sexiest one in the family. Go, Sue Bob. It’s not all sunshine and rainbows though; her son Brandon, when we catch up with him, was in prison for being barred out on Xanax and other narcotics, getting pissed at Mamie’s boyfriend Billy, and in a total rational move, shooting him in the face three times. And Billy, being a goddamn beast, lived to tell about it with only a faint scar under his salt-and-pepper beard, clutching a Natural Light and contemplating whether or not to kill him if he ever gets out of prison. But, we don’t have to worry about that, Brandon was sentenced to 25 to life.

Moving on, we enter the life of Bo, Derek, and Susan (who’s affectionately nicknamed Kirk). Bo (the middle daughter, with a star tattoo on her raisin-y face) is Kirk and Derek’s mom. All are heavy drug enthusiasts; particularly weed, Xanax, and any opiate. Kirk, when she’s first interviewed, is clearly high as SHIT discussing how she attempted to stab her ex-boyfriend to death for cheating on her, all the while her wild 7-year-old son Tylor plays in the background listening. It’s like one thing after another with these folks. With Kirk, we skip ahead about six months and she’s in the hospital, having just given birth to a baby daughter. The baby’s father: the wounded ex. But, uh-oh, Child Protective Services actually did their job and found a small pharmacy in the infant’s system and took her. So, most of Kirk’s story line is dedicated to her regaining custody.

Why do I like this film, you ask? It’s nothing but a bunch of hillbilly rednecks who’d likely see a person like me and promptly try to kill me while screaming “The South will rise again!”. Because it’s about as far removed from anything I’ve ever seen. It’s like a white, Jewish kid from a wealthy suburb in Cleveland who saw Boyz in the Hood or listened to Tupac’s various LPs and it opened his eyes to a world he’s been carefully sheltered from. There are people like this in the world. In our own country.

West Virginia is only one state away from me; but this kind of rampant poverty and disillusion with social norms is present. And, I can see why the White Family behaves this way. They are just trying to survive in every action they do. Every swig of “alkyhol”, every crushed-up Vicodin, every robbery, every tattoo memorializing a fallen family member is just a whacked-out method of survival. To make one feel normal until their God calls them home. Now, whether they go to Heaven or straight to Hell (as the title song croons), that’s not up to me or them. That’s up to any higher power they choose to believe in.

Rubbing Off White Girl-Induced Insecurities After Years of Self-Doubt!

Nothing to me is better than a shower. I love to shower. I’ve literally have had to limit myself as to not waste water. I love the warmth, the relaxation, the feeling of getting nice and clean. This evening, as I stripped my clothes off, I walked past a full-length mirror in my closet and caught my nude reflection. And, for the first time in a while, I looked. Really looked. And I didn’t have any feelings of “I need to tighten up” or the reflexive act of squishing my breasts down. No, I just stood there and felt…normal. And even though I was harboring a first-trimester food baby (IT’S A GIRL!), I still felt pretty…well, that’s just it. I felt pretty. Attractive. Not in comparison to someone else, but to me. We tend to be our own worst critics as women; we love to compare ourselves to unrealistic standards of beauty. So to think that it has taken twenty-two years to finally look in the mirror without crippling self-doubt? Wow. What the hell was I doing beforehand?

For some reason, I thought of a girl I went to Adderall College with (see “I Got Arrested for Underage Drinking for more about Adderall College). Let’s call her “Helena”. For all intents and purposes, Helena was “hot”. The standard, Eurocentric ideal of beauty. She was thin with a perky dancer body. She had perfectly styled, straight blondish hair, highlighted to the gods. Her family was pretty well off from a small town in Western Pennsylvania (Taylor Swift territory, for your reference) so she dressed well. Basically, if you asked any male, she would be described as “hot” before much else. And her personality was exactly how you think a basic, hot, white girl would act. Oh, yeah. I thought of Helena because I definitely compared myself to her in the past.

Although I never had a weight problem, I thought I could be more lithe. I wanted that dancer bod, yo. And the attention, of course. I was friends with Helena, beginning at orientation, along with Becky (see the aforementioned article to learn more about her). Helena, Becky, and I, along with another, chunkier blonde girl branded ourselves “The Wolfpack” and trotted around the campus those first few weeks like we were hot shit. The point I’m heading to here is that after I began to semi-date my first college boyfriend “El Loco”, I sort of started to ditch them. I had access to some dick now; fuck those bitches. But, one night I went to Helena’s room with Becky to hang out and drink a bit. That was the first time I met Helena’s beau. Let’s call him “The Wigger”. Although I don’t like that term, it’s EXTREMELY appropriate. Again, Helena was from a rural area of western Pennsylvania and The Wigger was as well. I think that’s about all you need to know. The Wigger sold weed, dropped the ‘n’ bomb more than most black hip-hop artists, and cared way too much about his sneakers. Personally, I only could stand to be around him because he smoked us up for free. Afterwards, I had to feign straight illness to relieve myself. It’s true; the prettier the girl, the more susceptible to totally bullshit she is. He would verbally abuse her, never let her have male friends, visit every, single weekend, and during the week demand that she call him at all times. Yet, he would talk to other girls, of course, which only made Helena doubt herself and go BATSHIT crazy, getting into Facebook wars with girls with tattoos on their vaginas.

In addition to the craziness that was Helena’s romantic choices, she said one thing to me that would forever change the way I would look at her. This event came about a year later, when I had just happened to be in her room which was in the same dorm as Becky’s and mine. Her and The Wigger had finally parted and she was dating a new guy. She was going into odd detail about their sex lives, and I was applauding her on finally getting some dick from a human who wasn’t a total trash bag. Somehow the topic of mastrubation came up and she responded, “Ew. I’ve never done that”. WHAT THE FUCK. Hold on. My brain nearly melted through my ears. How in the world can a woman have sex and have never mastrubated? It reminded me of one of the funniest scenes in The 40-Year-Old Virgin where Paul Rudd’s character comes to Steve Carell’s character’s house with a box of porn. Steve Carell’s character was so uncomfortable and admits to never have mastrubated. Paul Rudd, in his genius, replies “What mastrubate? Dude, I’ve jacked it twice since I got here.” That was basically my reaction to Helena’s outrageous statement. I wanted to assume that she was lying, but why would she be so candid about her sex-ploits and not about something so totally natural as masturbation? DOOOOOOD.

I guess I revisited that memory today because she didn’t show herself love. She didn’t love her body enough to make sure she gave it pleasure before anyone else had a turn. I don’t think, even now, she’s at a point where she can look at herself naked in a mirror and not see nothing but a bunch of flaws. I can’t fathom still to this day how a dancer, a person who uses their body to evoke so much heavy emotion, could be so repressed! It saddens me in fact. But, it made me appreciate the fact that I see myself in a different way. I’m not ashamed of my body in any way anymore. I have back acne scars and some stretch marks and scars from clumsy accidents—and I still get bitches. So it would seem that comparing oneself to another is a very, very silly practice. You never know what’s going on in the inside. I took a peak at what society views as “ideal” and it turns out that it SUCKS. So, I’ll take my body any day now. Although it may be on the fringes of what society may view as ideally beautiful, I’m feeling pretty solid. And, I’m going to continue to make a very conscious effort to take care of what has been created especially for me. If only I can convince myself to actually use this $21.00-per-month Planet Fitness membership! UGH. GYMS. Oh, well. One thing at a time.

I Got Arrested For Underage Drinking (The $2,000 Yuengling)

What I think is pretty funny and extremely ironic is that I, not the Young Alcoholic, got arrested for underage drinking while in college. Oh, America. What also is thought-provoking is that I remember everything. My memory was not in any way impaired (well, I’ll expand and let you decide, dear reader).

From Fall of 2011 until I transferred in May of 2014, I attended a small, liberal arts college in southern Ohio. Ohio is a virtual playground for an odd combination of intellectuals and complete rednecks. The school I attended (let’s call it Adderall College) and the town (let’s call it Townsville) it was in was an excellent example of what happens when you take a bunch of overly privileged kids, fresh out of the house, and drop them in a small town environment that had been affected by the closing of a major industrial plant. The money had been siphoned off and moved elsewhere leaving an underemployed, drug-addled population in its wake. On one hand, you have the aptly, if not slight offensively-named “townies” and the students. The school was only a few thousand students deep, tucked away on a cute, tree-lined street near the downtown.

Like any tiny school, the minority population was even tinier. Miniscule. So, of course there was tension. The minority students always felt like they had to watch their backs walking down the main road connecting the academic buildings to the dorms. Even though that stretch of road wasn’t even a quarter mile, the sound of a grunting truck could instill fear in one’s heart–especially at night. I heard horror stories of passing vehicles throwing piss, or screaming racial epithets. The usual. But like any minority student knows, it’s the police and the campus security that you really need to look out for. You know, the people that are supposed to “protect and serve”. Those guys. And, since there was an extreme overlap in Townsville’s Police force and Adderall College’s campus security team, a simple mistake could have major legal consequences.

At the time, I had a lovely roommate who we will call “Becky”. Becky was a bubbly, white, sorority girl from a happy hamlet in southeastern Michigan. We became fast friends at orientation and even though I didn’t join her sorority, we remained very close and lived together sophomore year. Our first semester was uneventful; a swirl of parties, hangouts, snacking, studying, and bong rips. The second semester found us in a new dorm, on the opposite side of the street, quietly tucked near an open quad and closer to the academic buildings. We had a favorite spot, a bench by some trees and a parking lot that sat wedged between our dorm and a friend’s. It was perfect; we nicknamed it “The Bench”. It became our little hangout/rendezvous place where we could smoke cigarettes or discreet bowls, chat, giggle, and have a good vantage point if a Security car was coming. Or so we thought.

One Saturday evening, perhaps around 9pm, we decided to go to The Bench with a male friend of ours, “Rob”. Rob was 21 at that point, still in our grade but slightly older. Becky and I had had one beer each at that point in the evening, most likely the beginning of a typical Saturday night of light socializing with friends. I don’t remember if there was any specific party or event we were preparing for, most likely just a calm night. The three of us decided to smoke a bowl or two of Rob’s weed at The Bench, a practice that was pretty regular between Rob, Becky, and I. Rob usually had pretty dank weed so we were sure to hit him up, plus he lived on the first floor of our dorm so he was usually a door-knock away. Rob fancied himself a wine-connoseur so he brought along a bottle of red wine out to The Bench. Now, side note: at the time, I was prescribed Xanax for anxiety. So, I had taken one dose earlier that evening before eating and drinking. This will come into play later.

As we were smoking and minding our own business, we heard giggling from the uppermost floor of our dorm. We assumed it was some girls pre-gaming a party and ignored them. Then we heard, “HEY STONERS! YOU SMOKING POT?” High people generally don’t like to be called out on their smoking habits since it’s still a stigma to smoke even though a large portion of people across races, generations, and economic statuses do it. So again, we ignored them. Maybe yelled a “Fuck you, drunk hos”. You know, the standard debate. Well, I do not know for sure, but not too much longer after that as I was about to hit the pipe, I heard “drop it!” I looked up, and an Amazonian female Security guard was striding right toward us, with a fat male one trailing behind. DAMMIT. We got busted. The flashlight shone all of our contraband including Becky’s pipes, a 2-gram sack, Rob’s grinder, Becky’s grinder, and a little tool she used to pack the bud down. And, Rob’s wine. This is where everything gets interesting. So, according to the guidelines of the school, apparently when paraphernalia is found on school grounds, they HAVE to alert the local police. Just no chill. Because none of the materials were mine and Rob and Becky were honest, I could have left. I should have left. But I stayed. Maybe because I was stoned. Maybe because I was freaked out a bit. Maybe because I was curious. But I asked the fat Security officer if it was okay if I stayed just to make sure Becky was alright. She was extremely scared and I felt too guilty to leave her.

About five minutes later, JUDGE DREDD showed up. A fresh buzz-cut and an attitude for days, Judge Dredd thought himself the Judge, Jury, and Executioner of this night. With the voice of a military drill sergeant, he scooped up all of the contraband and demanded all of us come over to his squad car. Intimidated, I followed along. I was completely unaware of “detainee” laws and such, and because I wasn’t a part of the “roundup”, I realize now I did have a right to leave. Oh, well. So, Judge Dredd, having an attitude because he actually had to do his job, decided to arrest Becky and I for underage drinking after shoving a breathalyzer in our mouths, seeing that wine was present. We had maybe a sip each, but remember, we had one beer each earlier in the night so it registered. I still remember what I blew: .028. The equivalent of less than one beer. I believe Becky blew around a .03. An EXTREMELY low amount of alcohol. But, it registered and out came the handcuffs. Again, maybe it was the fact I was stoned in conjunction with my anti-anxiety meds, but I really thought that Judge Dredd was joking. That this was all some very odd attempt at scaring us and that he would let us go after giving us a stern warning. NOPE. He must’ve had a bee in his bonnet that day because he tossed us in that squad car and took us down to the city lockup (which was only about 2 miles away). Rob, because he was 21, got a ticket for his drug paraphernalia and a court date, but was let go.

I can’t really describe what it felt like to be arrested. Scary doesn’t exactly cut it. It changes your perspective on life because you begin to think you are a terrible person. You begin to revisit everything you’ve ever done wrong and compare it to that moment. I had my hands cuffed behind my back, in utter confusion, and I looked over at Becky. Terror and tears shrouded her face. I immediately began to understand why I stayed; she couldn’t have handled this alone. And I wouldn’t have been able to forgive myself if I had left and found out she was arrested. So, off to the jailhouse we went.

Processing is an interesting “process”. There was an almost office-like setting, where your mugshot, fingerprints, and the like are taken. Inside the brightly-lit room, were a band of officers that literally looked like the cast of Super Troopers. I kid you not. It was the weed taking over my brain because I found that amusing. My intake officer was a jolly obese guy who saw me shaking like a goddamn leaf and told me to take a deep breath and calm myself, that I was just going to holding and as soon as they were done, we could call a ride to pick us up and the most that would result would be a fine. That brief moment of human kindness in the face of Judge Dredd’s death-stare, bitchy attitude made all the difference. I gave them my information, had to take off my jewelry and hair pins, and poor Becky had to give up her sweat jacket and had to wait with a spaghetti-strap tank top. There’s a procedure that you have to do that involves taking your shoes and turning them a certain way to be photographed. The officers joked and asked if we were “actually drunk” because we did it with ease. That was a real moment, because here we are, DEAD-ASS sober at that point being arrested and put into holding for having the equivalent of a swish of Scope in our systems.

After about a half hour, a tired-looking, bleached blonde female officer handed us a couple of blankets and plastic mats and placed us in a small cell. I will say, those blankets were thick wool and actually quite comfortable. Inside the cell, a woman was snoozing like she was at the goddamn Ritz-Carlton so we elected to put our mats on the floor and sit, wrapped up. Poor Becky had a near-breakdown, sobbing quietly over our circumstances and the fact her parents were going to definitely FLIP SHIT once she told them. I was worried about telling my mom of course, but I was more concerned about the small fact that I almost got caught with unprescribed Adderall (yo, Adderall College, man…). Luckily, I had the two pills in the same bottle as my prescribed Xanax so they believed that I just consolidated medications into one bottle. HELL YES. I realized later that our little minor misdemeanors could’ve been full-on FELONIES had that come out. Thank god for Xanax and quick thinking.

We were only in the cell for about 10 minutes. Possibly less, since the Townsville police station was 2 miles away from campus downtown. Becky had called Rob, who alerted my boyfriend at the time, “Fred” to gather the troops and spring us. He found a friend with a car and Rob and Fred came down to get us. I’ll never, ever forget the look on Fred’s face seeing me get out of the little holding cell, get the cuffs removed, and my belongings returned by Officer Blondie. He was peering through a little window that separated the hallway and the main processing area and gave me a cute wave with a look like “Oh shit, I have no idea what to say to her right now but I definitely shouldn’t laugh, holy shit this is awkward!”. Because what DO you say to your girlfriend and her shell-shocked roommate at that point? “Hey…? Want to drink…?” Well, anyways, I think I fucking nearly overdosed on Xanax that night just trying to forget and probably smoked a ton more weed in order to laugh it off. Becky probably went through an entire pack of cigarettes and ended up sleeping with a guy who was totally into her out of pure stress-relief. I don’t blame her at all; I most likely nearly raped Fred because what else do you do to feel better? Bang it out.

The porky intake officer was right; we did get hit with a series of hefty fines. We got a good, but expensive lawyer and paid court cases and fees amounting to around $2,000 (including the lawyer’s retainer). Yes, you read that right, two grand for a beer. Townsville had quite the little money-making scheme going on. Pick up rich kids from the school, charge them for retarded shit, and hit em where it hurts—the wallet. It’s been two full years since that incident but I remember it not-so-fondly. I haven’t gotten into “trouble” since and I don’t plan on it. Now, it’s reduced to a silly story; a drinking quip that gets me attention. Plus, I can say I spent a “dime” in jail—TEN WHOLE MINUTES. It makes me a bit hard, does it not? My record isn’t squeaky clean, but has but a small dent in it from a momentary lapse in judgement. If I had the ability to go back, would I change it? No. I believe strongly in the Butterfly Effect and who knows what would’ve happened in return. Jokes aside, Becky and I did break the law and we paid for it. And, although it was a very minor offense, it was an offense. It led me down a long, hard road of self-destruction but I have reached the more mature side of it all.

Unfortunately, Becky and I’s relationship dissolved. She lives in Michigan but she works a lot and doesn’t have time to socialize. I try to reach out to her but I’ve accepted that she may want to put Adderall College days behind her. And, I have to accept that. I’ve tried to do the same but I try to maintain the relationships but I see how it could bring up painful memories as well as fun ones, too. If she ever reads this, I hope that she is well and that two years ago, about one month to the day exactly, her and I were sitting, shaking in terror like crackheads in a cell in Townsville and I made an Orange is the New Black joke which wasn’t funny, but hey, dammit I tried to lighten the mood. That’s what you gotta do sometimes. But quietly so that the sleeping drunk redneck lady doesn’t wake up and fuck us up.