Archive for category Marriage
Tweetit was about ten years ago that i received a certain letter from nick
and he used a phrase that i haven’t forgotten after all these years. he wrote, “today was such a beautiful day and yet i know that it’s also a day that i’ll likely never remember.” i remember reading that sentence and being struck by its complexity about the gift of our lives, compounded by our inability to remember much of it.
today was like one of those days. i would call it a perfect day in my little life // perfection, as in, i had a day that perfectly reflects the joy in my current life situation. not the absence of flaw. //
nick was off with his best buds, enjoying the morning after cinco de mayo in pittsburgh. and i was left with nothing but a bouncing two year old with an expanding vocabulary and eroding interest in naps, along with one of the most gorgeous weather days cleveland has ever seen. i kept wishing my skin had a sensory camera to capture the sweet lavender in the air, the near aqua skyline, and fresh burst of lime green trees. it was almost unreal, my eyes kept scanning the horizon of wherever I was, i just wanted to keep taking it in.
isaiah wondered into my room when he woke up and proceeded to tell him me that he did NOT want to go to church. i wasn’t alarmed. he also says that he doesn’t like pizza and i know that is definitely not true.
i spoke sternly to isaiah to stop playing with my glasses case because the cleaning cloth i stored inside the case was missing and i knew he was fond of opening and closing it when i wasn’t looking. as i turned my back on his somber face, i wondered if i had come down too hard on him. the thought evaporated as he gleefully called my attention, “mama! look!” as he held the small piece of cloth that had been missing. “it was on your chair!” he said proudly.
i couldn’t believe he found it.
I packed cheerios (“mama! that’s too much cheerios!” he said as i filled the sandwich bag) and pretzel rods: his staple church food. i loaded him in his red wagon, strapped him in, and tossed his diaper bag and my monstrous purse in the empty seat and began the slow wagon walk to church, closing my eyes into the wind. the quiet was delicious.
we parked the wagon in the back of the church and slipped into the cry room where isaiah has learned to behave quite well for an hour mass, including shaking hands and giving peace greetings.
we headed home.
we danced in the kitchen to FM radio and changed our clothes to play outside. it was only 10:30am and i felt he and i had already loved each other and the world more than three times over. our heads were delirious with excitement over nothing.
i had more energy than i knew what to do with and washed the windows outside while isaiah trotted back and forth on the lawn, pretending to mow it. after i dragged his miniature basketball hoop to the front stoop and began taking impossible shots from the lawn, isaiah quickly learned context as i shouted, OH MONEY! when the ball swooshed through the net.
he ran around dunking it screaming MONEY! MONEY! MONEY! for ten minutes.
the neighbors think we’re wack.
then our favorite next door neighbor, ms. m., came outside and we talked on and off while we both worked on our homes and trees, weeds and herbs. isaiah talked to her as well:
ms. m: how are you isaiah?
isaaiah: great! did you see squirrel in tree?
ms. m: the squirrel? oh yes. all the time. they run everywhere. they’re so…so…oh what’s the word?
ms. m and i laughed for a good several minutes at isaiah’s vocabulary suggestion.
as i pruned the trees that draped from our property onto ms. m’s driveway, isaiah dutifully picked up the long branches and put them in a pile. this went on a few hours. neighborly exchanges, borrowing tools.
when we went inside, i was shocked that i was already 3pm but isaiah’s tired hungry face didn’t lie.
i filled a plate with a sandwich and a few of his favorite treats, marshmallows. a glass of milk within arms length. within minutes the food was gone. i turned around to ask him if he wanted more and his head was hanging low, his eyes half closed.
the kid was asleep on the table.
i gently picked him up and his head rolled onto my shoulder and brought him upstairs. he smelled of the earth, spring, and toddler sweat. a perfume of boyhood and love. i laid him in his bed, second guessing if i should change him. he was adorable, but filthy. for once i let him be dirty. i took off his sandals and his fat sweaty toes instantly took a breath. his eyes never once opened.
i wandered to the kitchen, wondering how my allergies had not yet kicked in at all, or my seasonal asthma. as i chopped a baby eggplant and sautéed it with garbanzo beans, i nonchalantly labeled it a miracle from god. i tossed the eggplant and beans over small serving of golden fluffy couscous and a king size bed of mixed greens and ate until my heart’s content, feeling like my appetite sharpened from so many hours in the sun. as i admired the rare occasion that our house was tidy and our landscaping was reasonably under control, i heard a familiar laughter in the driveway.
nick was home.
as we exchanged updates about our weekend, we laughed like a couple on a date, when everything someone says is fascinating yet familiar which makes you laugh even harder.
as i laid back in the couch, i heard nick rustle and felt him gently lay his head on my chest. quiet.
we could feel the spring wind coming through the newly washed windows. a small kiss. made me think that our 7 year anniversary is in a few weeks and felt, in that moment, “this is exactly why we got married. to have this moment right now.”
and before i could tell him that, i heard the pitter patter of excited feet, the small wood groan of a door on a rusty hinge, and a voice, “mama? mama?”
i walked up the stairs and turned the corner to find two huge brown eyes looking for me. they were my eyes, but nick’s expression. dark pupils, an unassuming spirit lingered behind them. his father’s son indeed.
nick went into laundry gear and I went on a bike ride. a 43 minute cruise of the noiseless streets, with a scant showing of human existence. everyone seemed to be elsewhere in the world. i didn’t mind.
i strapped on my heart monitor to keep track of my workout pace and challenged every hill i could find. push. push. push. puuuussshhh.
when i came home, isaiah met me at the door, squealing and nick was on the phone with his parents. he was updating about our impending events. my father’s 70th birthday party. nick’s graduation and graduation party the following weekend. then memorial weekend. it was a busy time.
isaiah came outside to help me put my bike away and somehow found the remnants of the costume he used when making a snowman. he flopped on the hat and swung the red scarf around his neck. and then he grabbed the shovel out of the driveway. as i swept the helicopter leaves, nick talked on the phone, and isaiah the snowman started shoveling non existent snow, my heart swelled.
an ordinary sunday evening at dusk, with no particular reason to be grateful except that’s all my heart could muster. even this photo of isaiah is ordinary. slightly fuzzy, the lighting off, begging to be sharpened, but it’s real. it’s perfectly imperfect. it’s isaiah. it’s life.
i whirled a spaghetti and garlic bread dinner as “a league of their own” – nick’s favorite movie – came on tv. we ate, chatted, joked. isaiah tried out his newly cemented manners, “i don’t like this anymore, thank you.” as he pushed his plate as far away from him as possible when he was done eating.
we watched the rest of the movie, dancing during commercials and tickling each other until someone screamed STOP.
and then we ate vanilla ice cream with sprinkles before showers, prayers, and bedtime.
and now i write this.
i write this not to share what a grand life i have. i write this not to throw joy in your face if you feel joyless. i don’t even write this for anyone else but myself. to remind myself that every once in a while, a day, a moment comes along that gives us amnesia. it has no memory of what brought us to that day, it only knows what is happening in real time. in those rare moments, there is no past or future, or even whimsical dreams. there is only now.
i write that moment down now so i can have that fraction recorded somewhere. i write it because i know that most things written today are about anything but what i just wrote: un-newsworthy events that affirm every goodness still in the world. a sunny day. a child’s innocence. gardening. dirty feet. a conversation. spaghetti. a photo taken. scrubbing a toddler clean.
and these things i write are only a handful of the million moments i experienced today, but already, i cannot remember all that took place. i can’t remember what isaiah said to me after i asked him if he wanted strawberry milk. (but i do remember the face he made when he licked the inside of a lemon for the first time last night) i can’t remember what my neighbor shared as we exchanged parenting stories. i don’t even recall what i wore today.
each thing was done with love and gratitude.
//it was a perfect day//
TweetUp at Racialicious, there is a roundtable about interracial dating and I served on the South Asian panel (holla Pinoys! represent!).
I wish I had more time and energy to expand my thoughts and reflections on the topic — it’s always good for me to remember where I’ve been and how I want to raise Isaiah as he goes out into the world someday to find a person to share popcorn with, hold hands with, love and maybe bring home to meet his crazy mama.
I am often reminded that Isaiah will not have the same experiences as I did growing up. Racial conflict and tension was such a HUGE part of my identity formation and for Isaiah who is fair skinned and likely will pass as a mixed kid, will likely NOT have such tumultuous times when he develops feelings for someone. What’s weird is that I’m both glad and upset that he’ll have it easier than I did.
Reasons why I’m glad my kid will not face the same emotional battles when it comes to interracial dating:
Uh, yeah. I don’t want my kid to suffer because of some effed up system that dictates who you can and cannot be attracted to. Dumb. Unnecessary. Did I mention it’s also bullshit?
Reasons why I’m a little upset he will have it easier than me:
Is this wrong? I grew from those experiences. A lot. It talk me to think on my own, to believe in myself, and to identify my true thoughts and values based on my lived experiences, not by what other people told me to believe. Adversity creates strength, or as Frederick Douglas said, “Without struggle, there can be no progress.”
I want Isaiah to understand the complexity of race and interracial relationships. I want him to understand his very flesh and bone is made up of ancestors from two different parts of the world. One is not better than the other, but they are extremely different. Both need to be honored and I guess I’m worried that without anything providing a bump in the road, he will cruise through his life without giving a second thought to the implications of culture, heritage, tradition, and race.
But I guess that’s why I’m the parent, right? To make sure that he does think about it and, someday, comes to appreciate that his mixed blood came from two people who faced a lot of cultural differences and learned how to incorporate those differences into love.
TweetThere’s nothing sexy about pain. There’s nothing even remotely redeeming, glorified, cute, or remarkable about pain.
I came into this realization quite quickly Sunday morning when I was dressing Isaiah for mass. I began lowering him to the floor, felt a horribly familiar pop! in my lower back and I immediately recognized that telling radiating heat that spread throughout my lumbar region as I fell on one knee. Isaiah screamed in my ear as he harmlessly wobbled back from me so he peer into my face to see what was wrong. All he could see was my face going paler by the second and my breath quicken in short spurts and outbursts, trying to control the pain.
No. No. No. No. No. No. No.
Not again. Not again. Not again. NOT AGAIN.
I just got back to the gym this week. I just started getting back on the treadmill, back in the zumba studio, back for my first swim in the pool. I just …
I just got over my back injury from last month.
Remembering my phone was in the inner pocket of my purse, I slowly walked to my purse on the ground and gently leaned forward. I reached and immediately fell and screamed in pain.
I somehow got my phone, I don’t remember how. (A friend told me that when her back went out, she blacked out from the pain.) I remember feeling calmed by the smooth surface of my phone, thanking God it was charged and relieved that Nick was only 5 minutes into his day, ahead of me, and on his way to work. I whispered frantically to Isaiah that everything was fine and threw him a toy as I winced in pain. He hobbled away, whimpering at the site of his mother in such disarray and distraction.
I burst into tears and could barely get the words out to Nick, “My back…w-w-went ou-ou-out a-a-a-gain…”
It was at that moment that I retreated from the world, the pain was overwhelming, almost blinding.
A co-worker told me later she saw Nick walking on the street when he was talking to me, all dressed up for work, briefcase in hand, but in an unusual walking speed, “a near run” she told me. So she stopped and offered him a ride to wherever he was rushing to. “Home,” he said, “Leese threw her back out again.”
It’s hormones, my chiropractor told me yesterday. All the hormones and chemicals that loosen the pelvis and back, readying the body to deliver a baby, are still in your body and, likely, the lumbar region isn’t as tight as it was before and isn’t as strong. Doing household chores and lifting things can sprain, strain, and injure the lower back, says the doc.
All of this from hormones? Still? It’s been 14 months.
Hormones and chemicals can linger in your body, doc says.
A number of friends – all who have given birth in the past two years – have confided of their recent and surprising chronic lower back pain, some so severe that it prevents mobility. Few have found comfort. All have tried natural healing, gym trainers, chiropractors, physical therapists. This strange community of back pain mothers comforts me.
I toss two pills of Alleve in my mouth and tried to smile at Isaiah in the kitchen. He put his chubby arms up for me to carry him and starts grabbing my clothes for leverage, like trying to climb a tree. Nick immediately scooped him up and tries to cheer him up with a jolly, overly boisterous voice. The shriek out of Isaiah’s mouth was one I could interpret instantly, “What’s the matter with you? Why won’t you pick me up?” He’s taken away from me and, out of nowhere, I have an image of him being taken away from me the moment he was born when all I wanted to do was hold him. I shake my head, and gently stir the boiling orzo.
Is this what birthing mothers deal with, I asked my head as I stare at the back of Nick’s body. His is so strong, so solid. Simply clad in jeans and a white tshirt, Nick’s body looked beautiful to me; his wide and capable back seemed fearless. His stride was fluid, like a complicated piece of piano music keyed effortlessly. I look down at my body. A staccato mess of surgeries, stretch marks, and my skin’s opinion of the pregnancy weight gain and loss. I see my scarred belly from three surgeries with another scheduled in the summer to fix an umbilical hernia. My inner eye sees an exhausted and red lumbar region, a weakened lower back throbbing with stubborn stiffness. It strikes me, with almost a pin needle acuteness, that Nick’s body hadn’t changed at all since we had Isaiah. Nick’s body remained intact, with no incisions, no stretches, no torn anything.
I pause in that realization.
His tongue had never mistaken water for metallic liquid. His nose never became so sensitive as to be able to detect the cleaning fluid on the floor of a grocer. His heart ventricles never widened to allow more blood flow. His calves and feet never swelled with unbearable water retention. His chest never billowed with heart burn. His mind never clouded with postpartum depression. His nipples never cracked with pain so deep that his shoulders shuddered. His skin never broke out in rashes. He never vomited from anesthesia or used his foreman to protect a 6 inch abdominal incision against a winter chill. He never had a catheter put in at the same time as a suppository while compressors pumped blood away from his legs. He never had an abrasion in the back of his eye because the surgeons forgot to completely close and protect his eyes before surgery. He never had to take pills to stop, prompt, or control a menstrual cycle. He never felt a flutter of life in his belly or feel the hiccup of a new being inside his womb.
Because he doesn’t have a womb.
Nick did and does everything a parent could possibly do. He transformed his emotions, his life, his commitments, and reformed his schedule to accommodate me and every little thing I needed throughout my pregnancy and birthing experience. He respects anything I tell him or request. Nick continuously and gladly lays in a metaphorical railroad track for me and our son. If that’s what needs to happen, that’s what I will do, he says.
But in the confines of my bed, nursing this near paralysis, when I hear Isaiah’s laughter and Nick’s efforts to keep him occupied, I realize, with ringing clarity something that I could not have known or respected prior to going through it myself: our bodies are entirely different and our needs are entirely different. My body endured all of this and my body cried differently than his. I knew this beforehand, but I never really Knew It beforehand. Maybe my body never really cried until I became a mother.
So this difference between Nick and I exists. It exists as sharp as a paring knife, as real as our love. That difference – that my body changed while his did not – initially sprouted a rocketing resentment against anything him, society, and anyone else that didn’t Get It. It = women’s bodies are a terrain that only we ourselves can travel. It is not for anyone to lay laws upon. It is not to be conquered, violated, disposed, or mishandled. Along with the resentment, I also noticed a widening reverence for my body. From which new life travels, the woman’s body is the canal to existence. It is from our very bones, the calcium of our teeth, the marrow of our own breath that the woman’s body offers and sustains a new being. The woman’s body is the epitome of automated self-sacrifice. It is the ground zero of renewal — if the environment agrees that her life is valuable and the time to recover is respected. We women, we give birth. And we are also born into a new identity and a new body.
Are there two more powerful and daunting words in the English language?
But we women are also prone to set back and injury because of what our spines uphold. Our bellies swell with life and our spines pull back to hold us up and in shape. Sometimes, though, the spine gives way and loses its strength.
Pain, whether it’s the lower back or elbow, or migraine, or menstrual, is a debilitating state of existence. Not because of the physical pain itself. It’s debilitating because chronic or severe pain draws our minds inward, incapable of fully giving of ourselves to anything or anyone else. In pain, I become unlike myself. I don’t unravel. I do the opposite, I am mummified. Most people, but especially me, are social beings. I feel endorphins from conversation, laughter, and intellectual exchange. However, in the confines of a bed and four walls, my spirit goes down. My intellect goes dim and my emotions begin to go dark. Swathed and cast in my own stillness and short breaths, pain dictates my freedom. I no longer care about anything. All that matters is finding a pain-free, mobile existence. Which is why when I check all my social media outlets – email, Facebook, Twitter, newsfeeds, and listserves – I shake my head that the world is celebrating Mardi Gras and International Women’s Day. I wish I had the energy to care. I find all kinds of interesting stuff to read, but before my mind digests in the information, my back spasms again and I nearly drop my laptop in shock.
Pain draws us inward.
So for me, today, the one day (unfortunately) that calls women from all over the world to stand together, I lie in bed, with my eyes closed, waiting for relief. Luckily, for me, I am certain of two things:
patience and writing can be worked on in bed
I do and can stand up for women’s rights and gender justice on a daily basis. But right now, regaining my spiritual and psychological composure after a back injury and remembering the awesome capacity of a woman’s body seems like my fight for today.
Tomorrow it may be something else.
TweetTales from the bedroom are considered sacred, but tales from the corners of marriage are even more forbidden. Why is that?
As I sit on a tender marriage of almost four years, a love ignited for ten years, I often wonder how isolated and crippling that silence can be. Why are married people so quiet? What’s with the secretive nature of disclosing details about the primary relationship of one’s life? Is it, hold your armrests, it might come to pass that marriage goes through volatile stages of frustration, silence, asexual eras, and betrayal?
Well, we certainly don’t want to let THAT cat out of the bag.
Psst…sometimes marriage tastes champagne and sometimes it tastes like rotten arugula.
Well, now that we have shrugged of those nuclei of fear, we can proceed forward.
One of the biggest misconceptions about marriage is one of the biggest misconceptions about primary and committed relationships: it consistently and unfailingly feeds and meets our personal needs of fulfillment.
We all realize that one person cannot meet our every desire, conscious and subconscious, and yet, when we marry, we often fall into a capricious state of allowing community to slip away once we have transitioned into a partnered identity. As children and young single adults, we flourish in groups and find a sense of belonging and purpose. While we grow and develop our sense of self and our yearning for intimacy and partnership root themselves, the communities we once were once active become things of the past, dust on our floors.
Read: Common Mistake #1
As feminists, it is common that we seek out fellow activists, artists, and writers who possess a cosmic understanding of our drive for justice, our commitment to vision. And yet, when it comes to our personal relationships, they often falter because we assume that a 1:1 relationship, especially marriage, is and should fruitfully build on its own accord, heal on its own gifts, and reap harvest from its own soil. That is, you know, how you define a healthy marriage. You don’t need ANYONE else.
As a married feminist, I find it ironic that I can clearly understand my need for community when it comes to my career. Writers must write alone in their room, but that room must be heated by the same pipe that warms the entire house, other rooms occupied by thinkers and philosophers. However, when it comes to a growth bump in my marriage, I decide to ride the bridle alone, convinced my balance will come with experience, temporary panic attacks, and large amounts of wine.
Before the village helps raise the child, the village needs to rebuild itself to recognize the needs of radical marriage. One that is built safely on the precipice of equality. Marriage will guarantee times of roaring fire and dying amber. You need to know how to tend and control both. The point is not to avoid getting burned, the point is to learn how to build the fire.
And the fire does not represent the love, the fire represents the soul.
In this harsh winter and cold recession, intimacy between partners can be strained for a whole slew of reasons. But a radical manifesta is not a guide for putting together a broken marriage, a radical manifesta is for piecing together a radical love of self and the other that feeds the often neglected part of our deepest hunger: authentic identity. Something that is often lost in the compromising of life partnerships.
And to build that authenticity in the space of marriage, to create a sustainable and passionate bridge, let’s first begin by agreeing to dish the silence. That’s not a call to irreverence or ranting about domestic burdens. It’s a call to speak into the quiet loneliness of a working companionship that the marrieds often fight alone. The manifesta stands to speak into the radical joys and struggles of authentic identity, evolving love, and awareness that grow in marriage.
Break the silence. You can be in love and outraged at the same time.
And to practice what I preach, this is a poem I wrote yesterday about marriage. A day scattered with temper, short answers, and angry blanket hogging.
I love you
as surely as I swiftly walk in the winter
and toss my shirts into a bloated floor heap
I love you
as neatly as the cable wires behind my tellie
as conveniently as city parking
and as comforting as a broken compass
I’m yours so long as you continue to lay there
snoring your peace into my side
and my knee kept warm by your palm
without my porch knowing death’s arrival date
or the bloom of children
Our chances increase every night
We’ll make it
says the meatloaf
and even pillowcases that need changing
We’ll make it
thinks the leaning garage and scrappy drive
I hope so
prays our mantel
You are mine like the songs said you’d be
and you fit right beside my cheek
Like how the dandelions flutter
and the dog pulls right of the leash
With the yellow sun filling the sky
on an art paper saved by my mom
All things are as they should be.
I love you.
TweetI’ve spent almost three years of my online life searching for my feminism. I spent the first year trying to understand blogging and feminist online activism/communication/communities. I spent the second year throwing myself into media. And this third year, I am sick of “working on” anything and just want to be me, a voice of a Womyn who is unafraid to say that I don’t and can’t know everything about politics, repro rights, or global current events. I am not the greatest or most updated blog when it comes to transgender violence. Or eating disorders or conference news. My worst posts have been where I try to understand and write about an issue for which I cannot fully comprehend.
I’m finished with blogging about things for which I cannot do justice. Others, with their specialization and expertise, will always be highlighted here, but I am finished in trying to “cover” issues which I cannot fully give myself toward. I’d like to think that is the most generous thing I can do at this point: develop the voice I do have in the areas for which I am passionate and knowledgeable and ally with those around me. Mostly, I think I now understand the difference between naively trying to take on the pain and oppression of others (and how utterly futile that is) and how to be an ally in my own skin, bringing fire to both my voice and for those with whom I am in community.
Which leaves me with the question: what do I do with My Ecdysis?
(How many times have I asked myself that?)
Last Thursday, Adonis and I agreed to do a presentation on marriage together.
We’ve been married for about three years and, although great partners in many areas of life, have never presented together on anything.
The preparation for Thursday was intense. It brought all the different ways we work together to the front.
I was nervous. After all, how does a feminist get married?
It was something I had been struggling to articulate for the past four years, since I became engaged and an area in which I had decidedly been quiet. Marriage, a decision and choice I made in love and awareness, is not a one or even two sided road.
Marriage is one of those six stop intersections with traffic lights in all directions; pedestrians walking during the “Do Not Walk,” light and left turn signals that don’t work. You wait seemingly forever to get to the center only to find people breaking the rules and confused as to which direction to move. People honk for you to go through it and urge you to figure it out later if you mess up while those in the car with you advise you to slow down and take your time. There are a million signs giving you directions and mirrors that reflect your genuine sense of disorientation.
It’s messy and there multiple ways to arrive. There are plenty of accidents, a great spot for rage and carelessness, and it’s often avoided by those who do not believe in getting caught in the fray. (Those people are so smart.) With all the metaphors out there, this is the best one for me: marriage is one big traffic intersection.
With all that’s going on, it’s so easy to forget the most important fact, the one thing that truly matters: you’re the one, the only one, in the driver’s seat.
It’s completely your call.
Today, the politics and art of marriage are hardly a quiet topic. From GLBTQ issues, to global and cultural practices, to gender and feminist issues, marriage is one of the most, if not the most, contentious and exhausting topics to tackle as a feminist and as a writer.
So, why am I writing a manifesta on marriage?
Because there needs to be a beam of light on the goods of marriage right now. There needs to be another side of the story told beyond the politics of coupledom, Rick Warren’s beliefs, or the extreme lefts and rights of D.C. I wanted to begin writing a story, a glimpse into the real life of a feminist who chose to get married, that is flawed, painful, but real. Mine is the only story I know.
January is a month of delusions. Most people, myself included, delude themselves into thoughts of who and what they “can be” versus who they truly are. There’s always room for self-improvement, but I took the first 18 days of January to contemplate where I am taking this blog, where I am taking my writing.
This blog has been my baby and work of art. And it is what I have always truly wanted it to be: a feminist memoir. As I write How a Feminist Got Married: A Radical Manifesta, I hope you engage with me in this timeless topic of kyriarchy, equality, and love.