Archive | Spirit Matters

Children of the Universe

Water is thicker than blood. It’s a saying my friend M and I often say to each other, and it’s been a guiding philosophy in my adult life.

I do not believe that biological bonds automatically make family. Family must be earned through respect, accountability, and nurturing, which occurs far less frequently in bloodlines that we care to admit. In a way, I consider the people with whom I am closest to be “family.” But they are chosen family–god family, really, for nothing is holier than love freely given and love freely received.

You may have noticed I rarely discuss my biological family in the present though I am the queen of memory lane. That is because I stay away from them for reasons that are too complex and too raw to air here. Suffice it to say I learned the hard way that my emotional and physical health required distance that was more than geographic. I adore my little sister but we have had a hard time in the wake of our different responses to the same battlefield. My parents and I experience an even wider abyss.

But this summer I’ve been writing about my biological family for the book to which I have been referring, and so I visit them all the time, at least in my imagination and memory. This is wonderful and this is harrowing. Mostly, it is harrowing. I’m spending a lot of time as a four-year-old at the mercy of charismatically flawed humans who probably should not have had kids. It is so harrowing that I postponed writing this book for years though it has tugged at me daily. Its lack of completion makes me feel incomplete in turn.

In the midst of this, my first cousin’s youngest son came to stay with me this week. His name is Jean-Paul and he is a beautiful person–tender-hearted and hard-working and pure of intent. He also is at a very precarious age, though what age is not when your clan is something to survive? The next few years will determine whether he’ll succumb to our family malaise (violence, poverty, abuse, malignant narcissism, teen pregnancy, and addiction is the general name of the game), and I pray for him daily. Since he was a small child he has shone a bright light that I’ve wished I could protect while rescuing myself.

His spirit is indomitable, and he shares one of our few family gifts. He has second sight and six senses and any other term you can apply to what I call Ruby Intuition. He knows when to reach out to me, and his sweet persistence worms past my defenses. So when he recently saved up enough to visit NYC, I agreed to host him though it scared me to open the door to anyone on my mother’s side. (I would worry about them reading this but doubt they read my blog, and no longer can afford to accommodate my mother’s feelings about my work.) Continue Reading →

A Huge and Savage Conscience

For three weeks, I’ve been reading Octavia Butler nonstop. I download her books from the Brooklyn library website—my favorite use of the iPhone technology finally introduced to my life—and I devour them while waiting in screening rooms, sitting on the subway, as soon as I finish work. I read them on park benches and I read them while eating bowls of spicy beans and grains and vegetables and fruits–meals I’ve unconsciously prepared according to her descriptions. I read these books until I fall asleep.

Butlers’ novels are not warm. They are stark and brave and painfully prescient. But like my understanding of God, they are all-encompassing and savage in a way I did not know I needed. She writes of the limitations of our species, of our un-useful constructs of gender and race and sexuality, of our bloodlust and unnecessary hierarchies. She offers a range of solutions in her many series, which, I am beginning to realize, weave into each other though those connections are not entirely spelled out. She may have meant to spell them out eventually: She died at 58 though she predicted that she would live until her 80s.Her abrupt demise–this unintentional discontinuity–feels like a challenge right now: Pick up your tools. Listen to the ancestors but do not heed them above your own instincts. Love what you can. Change what you cannot. Above all, never abandon your desire and will. 

I struggle with writing my books. Who cares if I finish them? What if they never find homes? Then I flash on Butler writing every night after spending every day cleaning other people’s houses; workin so beautifully with what our culture deemed bad odds but she deemed worthy challenges (lesbian, black, poor, dyslexic); making use of every scrap of science and spirit. I shake off my anxiety and loneliness. They are ill-afforded luxuries. I must try.

Sunshine Grit

Yellow, yellow, not so mellow. A friend snapped this picture of me yesterday as I was striding to meet her for brunch. I love it. It seems the quintessential image of Summer 2015, which is turning out to be chockablock with the kind of challenges that will define the rest of my decade for better and worse. Yellow is the color of the third chakra, which is all about gut instincts, personal transformation, will power, and grownup-lady warrior energy. Yes, yes, yes, yes.

"All, everything I understand, I understand only because I love."
― Leo Tolstoy