Friday, November 30, 2007

i go to group therapy...

...and this week we touched on dealing with emotional pain that comes with the territory of being a smart Black girl in a doctoral program in whitebread America.

I shared with the group that the part of my life that I am most dissatisfied with is my love life. Not that I want to up and get married in the next year or something, but it would be nice to have someone, a partner, someone to lean on.

I can't remember the last time I had a man call me up just to hang out or stay in a watch Blockbuster movies. The last time a man touched me was.... well, I can't even remember. This shit hurts. If touch and physical affection are human needs, I am drastically deprived. My shit is on empty.

One of the group members said something that resonated with me. She described this environment as "social assault" on Black women. In such an overly-competitive, academic environment, our professional colleagues aren't especially friendly and welcoming. Our social environment is overwhelmingly comprised of people who don't see me except as a caricature. There aren't many brothas to speak of. And when I'm in arenas with our brothas I don't necessarily feel especially loved or supported either. The reality is it's extremely isolating and oftentimes hostile to one's sense of self.

When I'm not numb to the pain, it swells and throbs and aches. And this is how we end up in therapy.

damn, december already?

I've been feeling kinda weird lately. Can anyone else get with the concept of "arrested development?" I recently discovered that my younger sister officially makes more money than me. Not only that, but she's shopping for her first home purchase. :(

I don't begrudge my sister anything. I'm so glad she found a job that she likes with a schedule that works for her and is making some money. But damn.... I've got 3 years on her.... I'm absolutely dying to make my first home purchase, but I have no down payment funds to speak of. And probably won't for a few years. Ouch. That hurt to say that.

Shit, fuck it, I'm jealous. I said it.

And she doesn't realize what she has.... I pointed out a free first homeowners seminar in the newspaper and she didn't even get the importance. *sigh* I would give my left kidney to have this opportunity within reach.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

wearing the mask

I'm probably a sucky friend. I'm supposed to go to a dinner party/birthday celebration tonight. I'm really just not feeling it.

Let me try to verbalize how I'm feeling in words... It takes a lot to put on the happy face in order to get up and go out sometimes. Sort of like that Paul Laurence Dunbar poem - we wear the mask. I have worn the shit out of that mask. Sometimes I can pick it up and put it on, sometimes I can't. This is one of those can't nights.

This is the same reason why it's so difficult for me to pick up the phone and call people. Who wants to hear from someone who's always feeling blah-to-crappy?

I feel bad/guilty for not going. She was really expecting me to come out. It's not like I'm sick or hurting or anything like that. I'm just not feeling it. And I have to come to terms with that and have it be all right - regardless of other's expectations.

bitter and disgruntled

Maybe it's just me... Listen to this scenario and tell me if it makes any sense to you. I don't get it.

I am absent for my classes last week because of an out-of-town funeral. I send a notice to my class informing them of why I will not be in class or available for the duration of the week. I tell them that class will go on as planned - with a substitute teacher of sorts - and to bring their books with them for an in-class assignment. When I get back to town, I see that 4 students didn't come to class. Why? I'm just going to assume that they're playing hooky because the teacher is out.

I email the prof that I teach with. She says to allow them to make up the assignment. Something about this doesn't sit well with me, so I get to thinking, ok, they can make it up for full credit if and only if they have an excused absence. Otherwise, they shouldn't have missed class, and when you miss class, as an adult you take the risk of missing out on something. And I'm allowing the unexcused absences to make it up for partial credit.

Well, the prof decides to pull rank and says that it isn't fair for me to assume that they're out playing hooky (*rolls eyes*, it wasn't that long ago that I was an undergrad myself, I know their games) and everyone is allowed a "free" absence, so I should let them all retake for full credit.

What in the hell kind of message are we sending here? It's OK to skip classes for no reason, after all, the teachers will allow us to remake everything I missed at full credit? Shit, why come to class at all, under this reasoning?

OK, to my credit, I ask the absentees if they have excused absences. One kid writes back. He says that he missed class because he had to pick up his best friend from the airport (WTF?). Additionally, he also missed class this week because he had to pick up his girlfriend from the airport (double WTF?). This same kid left class earlier in the semester to catch a flight. SMH. How in the fuck does everyone you know seem to fly during my classtime?

My feelings are.... you know what you risk by not coming to class.... I understand if you were sick, but to just not come to class for no good reason at all - and then to force my hand to reward that behavior is a bit ridiculous. Now does this make any sense to you? I swear, these undergrads at allegedly a top-tier university skate through college with inflated grade point averages and without a lick of responsibility.

Take an insider view on the situation. The American college education system is going to hell in a handbasket.

Monday, November 12, 2007

the first love song...

...I was ever sung. I really miss this melody.

"Well, I say you're my, beginning my end
You're my sista lover and friend
God is, your light from within
It shines through your beautiful skin"
-- Goodie MoB "Beautiful Skin"

one of my favorite scriptures

This is one of my favorite scriptures from the book of Ecclesiastes... I thought about it tonight.

For everything there is a season,
And a time for every matter under heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die;
A time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal;
A time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh;
A time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
A time to embrace, And a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to seek, and a time to lose;
A time to keep, and a time to throw away;
A time to tear, and a time to sew;
A time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate,
A time for war, and a time for peace.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

I've been thinking alot about life and death lately. Maybe because of the funeral. I cannot imagine the pain of losing my mother, but I know that that time will come. I feel like I'm working on borrowed time. I spent part of my visit back home being the supportive friend, but I also played good daughter and granddaughter.

I feel like I'm working on borrowed time. My grandmothers are still in good health, but they are getting older. In the past 4 years, my maternal grandmother's abilities to be self-sufficient have deteriorated swiftly. She used to ask me when I was done with school and when I answered, she would say that she might not be alive by then.

It is with a tremendously heavy heart that I board the airplane every time I come back here. There is so much life that I'm missing out on by being 1000+ miles away from home. You know, some people can't wait to get away from home, but my relationship with my birthplace is renewing. If there's anything that's sustaining, it's family. And right now they are too far away.

I'm missing the early years of my godson's life. Really, how much visiting can you do in the space of a few short days? I would love to take him to the zoo someday or just hang out at my house. If I have children, I want them to really know their grandparents because they've spent those early years seeing them on a very regular basis, and not just a voice on the phone or a signature in a greeting card. I want them to see where I grew up, how I lived. How I got from here to there.

Today I came back to Neverneverland under gray, cloudy skies. It is like this for months on end during the winter. Every winter. Not to mention the cold. It feels like gritting my teeth to get through the days sometimes. I take solace in knowing that this will be my last winter here. Lord willing.

Death is difficult, but it has opened up some dialogue amongst me and my people. How to go on living knowing that things are swiftly changing. Just like my grandmother did for her mother, she will have to leave her home of 50+ years to live with my family. How memories fade, like her short-term memory. How people pass on.

If love is what life is about, then let me live squarely in its center. This is my prayer. Amen.

making wrongs right

I guess I must have really given it to my roommate in that email... Not only did she apologize profusely for not being more cognizant of the fact that it is a difficult time for me, but she also admitted that she was wrong for inviting people over without consulting me first, and canceled NFL Sunday night. And when I got back this afternoon, she had purchased some beautiful flowers for me. What a huge lesson for me in "ask for what you need" and you shall receive, huh?

Saturday, November 10, 2007

back to my life

I am getting back on an airplane to Neverneverland tomorrow morning. I'm not ready. As much as I like some of the things that are going on professionally in my life there... everything else pretty much sucks. And it makes me hate going back there.

These past couple of days have been emotionally grueling. I just tried to do what I could do to be there for my friend. I read a few scriptures at the funeral services. Ran around doing errands for folks. Made family visits. Ran some stats and wrote a few pages on my dissertation prospectus. And last night was accused of being selfish because it was 7 pm.... and I was dead tired and didn't want to go out to dinner with the fam, which by the way, pissed me off. But hey, that's family, right?

I feel like I just need to sleep for a few days, but tomorrow, it's back to business as usual. Lawdhelpme. I have some thoughts on life, death, what's important, where I wanna be, etc., which I will share as soon as I've gotten some rest and what I want to say has gelled into coherent thoughts.

My God.... I really don't wanna go back. *sigh*

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

i am so pissed off right now

OK... so I'm out of town for a funeral. I check my email today and see that my roommate is planning a damn potluck dinner the night that I get back into town. No phone call. No notice. No warning or nothing. Just sends out some emails to invite a bunch of people to our house. How fucking insensitive can you be? Not only has this chick had visitors (her parents and boyfriend) at our house for the past two weeks, but she goes an invites the whole damn department to our house the night I get back from an out-of-town trip - without clearing this by me first? WTF? I'm about to e-tell her about herself.

Monday, November 5, 2007

comforting someone through grief

This news came out of the blue. One of my close friends from high school recently lost her mother to breast cancer. And I feel like it's important to come back home and offer whatever support that I can. It's a sticky situation because I'm not good in situations like this... How do you know what to say to someone after they have lost a parent? What will bring comfort? What if you say the wrong thing? Well, I pray that I figure it out.

where i wanna be

"I'm blowing up like you thought I would/Call the crib/Same number same hood/It's all good..." -- Notorious B.I.G., "Juicy"

I'm quoting Biggie because I'm having an awesome day. I had been having all this anxiety about whether or not I wanted to go into academia post-grad school, but I'm reconciling those worries. I'm living the dream and it feels good. I think I've found enough that I like about what I do in order to stay.

A panel that I organized got accepted to a conference in Chicago in March. I love conferences because I love meeting people and presenting my work. It seriously puts me on a high to share ideas with others who understand and are interested in the research that I do. I'm reprising my role as co-investigator of study on themes about Black masculinity in hip-hop music lyrics for this one.

I've gotten involved in a few new research projects that I am really interested in. I like to call the first one the "Baby Daddy" study. It's designed to look at social support systems throughout pregnancies to determine why there are racial disparities in birth weight for African American babies. I get to do interviews with pregnant women about their families and relationships with their baby daddies.

The second research project is on older African American women's experiences with depression diagnoses and values about medication. I get to lead a focus group to talk about some of their experiences. I'm super excited because we touched on some of the issues I'm interested in, namely "Strong Black Women," cultural mistrust of the medical system, the Tuskegee legacy, etc. Since my dissertation is on SBW, I'm super excited to talk to these women and really hear what they have to say. And I also had to deal with some stuff behind my own clinical depression diagnosis so I feel like I can relate.

And this morning I did a guest lecture for the class I'm teaching for. My partner-in-crime (my friend, research, and teaching buddy) and I put together some of our research and added some music videos courtesy of Youtube. It was soooo exciting. It was like lights, camera, action - and I was on. All 300 students appeared to be super-engaged, asked lots of questions, received great reviews, and even got some of the Black students to raise their hands and speak in class. This is a supreme feat, so I'm geeked.

It's moments like these when I know I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing. Things are going great. And better things are coming up on the horizon. At least professionally.