I Want to Remember Myself
What are the conditions that I need to create for myself so I can remember myself?
When do I remember myself?
Who am I?
What is the truth that is known without words?
This past weekend, I went on a solo night. I drove to a body of water in southern AZ and I found communion with a tousled hair bobcat, four deer, a silly duck, and a coatimundi the size of the rats from Princess Bride. At night, I sat in my hammock strung up between two trees on the side of a hill. I sat and I sang, I listened to birds and the sounds of nighttime, and I remembered myself. I let fantasy make room for reality.
In the remembering, I felt the tenderness of my loved one’s gaze when he holds my eyes, puts his palm on my chest, tells me he appreciates me even when he rolls his face in the puddle of drool I’ve left on the pillow. But now, I pause, in recounting this: is the remembering of us the remembering of me?
Maybe we look for people to be mirrors for us because we so want to see ourselves.
I want to see myself. I want to know myself. I want to remember myself. Reverend angel Kyodo williams says that there can be no justice if we are not in our bodies. There can be no justice if we are not in our bodies. When we are in our bodies, even if we don’t think we will know what is right or not right, when we are in our bodies we must trust that we will know, that there is a truth there.
Eleven years ago, I wrote on a journal page that five of the pillars on which I stood were: laughter, belief, curiosity, energy and liberation. I remember my mom asking me, “Hmmm. Liberation? What do you mean?” 20-year-old me could only write, “to release from the heart, to float free and unhinged.”
At the time, I hadn’t heard of the term “collective liberation.” I hadn’t learned about abolitionism in modern practice. I hadn’t realized that there were, and are, many who are still not liberated by shackles of different names: prison systems, unequal education, overt and covert racist practices, victims and survivors of human and sex trafficking, the survivors of emotional, physical and sexual abuse.
When I wrote of liberation, I was in my own space, my own mind. But still, the word came like a lightning bolt because I knew I was living within my own shackled performance of an experience. I imagine my internal monologue sounded something like this:
I want to be myself. I want to speak up for the things I believe in, I want to tell people when they’re mean, I want to share poetry that rushes through me, I want to hear my heart wobble outside my skin. I want to release the narratives of constant perfectionism, comparison, and the “biological timelines” of what it means to be woman. I want other. I want different. I want me.
I hold that younger self tenderly, seeing how much she wanted to free herself from how she was always told to be in ways both spoken and inherited. Part of what I am undoing when I come back to myself, when I remember myself, is epigenetically shifting what centuries of my ancestors have practiced, have observed, have witnessed, have known of– the sacrificing of themselves for husband, the turning of an eye and the closing of a heart to injustice.
Reverend angel posed today, ‘How could a white woman, holding her child’s hand, look at the Black woman’s baby being stripped away from her at a slave auction- how could that white mother just stand there and not say anything? She wasn’t in her body.’
I come from a long legacy of white women who haven’t been trained how to be in their bodies.
A woman who fell in love while traveling in South America but knew that her mother wouldn’t approve, and so she stayed silent.
A woman who had a “nervous breakdown” and left for a few days to go somewhere secret. When she came back, one of the dogs was gone, as if that solved the problem.
A woman who was told in high school she could be a writer and after that praise, decided to never share her words; perhaps she felt she had already made it, but really, she was so scared of the attention her words would bring.
A woman who drove her car all over the highways of America, calling herself the “white fox” in her old car, but who struggled to disentangle herself from the alcohol and the tears of 5 o’clock visits with her mother, night after night after night.
A woman who found her husband dead from suicide and had to craft her world during the Great Depression.
A woman who played professional tennis when most women didn’t compete in sports, and who applied that competitive drive as she watched her husband soar the political ladder; some part of her wanted that for herself, I believe.
I come from a long line of women who have supported doctors, lawyers and politicians. I come from a long line of heterosexual mothers. I come from a legacy of giving of ourselves to know that we are worth something. These women have stood in the front lines in the polls, at the front of the offices, in the middle of the kitchens. They’ve worked behind the scenes, sweeping up the messes, to make sure their men could keep going.
It is tiring to give so much of oneself. If you cannot give from your whole self, reverend said today, you are giving from your shape– your training. When I was almost twenty-eight, I left a relationship and a country after voicing aloud, “I didn’t know who I was or what I wanted, and I wasn’t ok with that anymore.”
It’s been over three years since that wake-up. I’m still remembering every day.
I remember myself when I’m alone, when I choose to take a solo night even though part of me wants to hang out with friends that evening. I remember myself when I say no. I remember myself when I say yes to that which brings me joy. I remember myself when I’m sleeping alone outside in the middle of a forest. But most importantly, I realize, is this practice, right now.
Am I doing what I am doing fully?
Am I writing this sentence, or thinking about taking a photo of the crack in the wall and sending it to the real estate manager? Am I writing this word or am I thinking about the flyers I need to make, the phone calls I need to have with students’ parents, the follow up I need to do with my siblings and friends? Am I here with this letter or is some part of me hoping that something I write, someday, will go viral into the world and then I’ll be known (finally!) and seen (finally!). Aw, dear one, I feel. How much do writers write just so that we can feel known to ourselves?
I have spent so much of my life living in a list that I hold in one hand while my eyes are trying to scan the present horizon. I am tired of not knowing my body, right now. My body is tired too. It misses me, my presence, my attention to the squishy, red insides, the pink and pulsing heart throbs, the in and out riptides of breath, breath, breath.
To be in my body not to meditate, not to be another one of those “lavender voiced” meditators who bypass the world, but to be firmly here in middle earth. Yes, Middle Earth. This is where it happens. Not beyond in the spiritual realm of higher beings and ascending; not below in the spiritual realm of shadows and big and little T traumas, but here. I don’t meditate to escape. I meditate to remember. Me. So I can truly be with you. It begins with the self, I am reminded today. It begins with me, and it cannot stay with me.