I had only taken the first two steps into my bedroom in a lush Airbnb when I saw the message from my friend Jacqueline: OMG RBG. I knew what this message meant, and I quickly googled her name to reveal the long list of articles already written about her death at age 87 from complications with cancer. I stepped back out into the living room to tell my friend Vina. We both sat in the news for several heavy seconds, and then we remembered the reason we were at this house in another part of the Bay for the weekend. We had come here to disengage from social media and work and re-engage with rest and daydreaming about our visions for our individual lives and our work together. I had become so exhausted from the work of protesting what I no longer wanted, that I was too tired to radically imagine the future.
I put my phone down.
I pinpointed the mixed emotions of the death of a woman who simultaneously stood between the chopping block of too many rights for my body and autonomy and more, and a woman whose proximity and adherence to capitalist and white feminist worldviews and practices saw her not put together the pieces that drive us toward revolution. Worldviews that sometimes put others’ rights in jeopardy, and I cannot be free while others are not.
This was another notch in the ever-expanding belt of 2020 emergencies. But all I really had was my now — a moment set aside for rest and rejuvenation. She would still be gone on Monday. I would still wake to fight the anti-Blackness that runs deep through everything in our society. I shifted my focus for the weekend to the community of us that has always existed and how we get free ourselves. And that begins by taking care of myself.
So I rested. I painted. I drank tea in the day and bourbon at night. I walked around a beautiful lake through sunshine and pine tree shade. I wrote and meditated and enjoyed the smells of gardenia, rosemary, and mint. I drank all the fresh squeezed juices and thought about what it meant to sustain rest and joy. What it looked like to keep promises and commitments to myself.
nayirrah waheed wrote:
“i don’t pay attention to the
it has ended for me
and began again in the morning.”
I’ve learned throughout my life not to fixate on endings. I can’t invest my time in endings anymore. Not in a world that actively tries to end Black lives like mine each day. Not in a world that created a system that would have the rights of many rest on the life or death of one white woman. There is no world in which that is just. But that is the system we have until we dismantle it and build another.
Instead I focus on beginnings. New worlds and ways of being that remind me that there are Black people in the future. Beautiful, happy, free Black people in the future.
I knew I wanted to spend time writing during the weekend. I write because it heals me. And I rest because it gives me the strength to write. Toni Morrison said: “This is precisely the time that artists go to work. There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal.” So I speak, and I write, and I do language for the future that I can feel being birthed.
My friend Tammy reminded me that we have to lean into our spiritual practices now. the wisdom of our ancestors, the hope of our descendants and the things we know to be true. There is no losing when we ground ourselves in this. I’m learning more each year about hope as a discipline the way that Mariame Kaba describes it. It is not an emotion, not synonymous with optimism, but rather a commitment to the future that requires us to act. I’m taking steps toward the future.