Convulsions, Premonitions

Sunday, July 10, 2016

I feel like I have had a certain conversation on repeat for the past few weeks, but I can’t stop myself. The words are there right under my skin.

“it is this time
 that matters

 it is this history
 I care about

 the one we make together
 as a lame cat on the loose
 or quick as kids freed by the bell
 or else as strictly
 as only life must mean
 a once upon a time”
        -- June Jordan, “On A New Year’s Eve”

I have sunk deep into this text. There is an awful but necessary type of witnessing that happens there. In June Jordan’s poetry, we hear clearly the continuity of violence and the preciousness of human life. In Melissa Harris Perry’s note, we read raw grief. I’ve curated myself away from Facebook posts, away from mainstream news, and have instead immersed myself in artistic responses and music. I have been reading aloud poetry by friends and strangers to my empty room, finding myself too often in tears. I want to have the energy to organize and make meaning but the part of me on loop keeps circling around and asking the same unanswerable questions. Why? What is the point of continuing forward?

The majority of my work is intangible. It’s about making connections between people and resources, people and ideas, people and other people. Even my writing work, the most concrete and visible part of the process, requires so much connective energy that I often feel overwhelmed by its weight. It’s very easy for me to feel too much – whatever that means – and yet at the same time desire to compress it all into a short period of time and space.

I took great time for myself last year to process burnout. I took great time for myself to travel and make space for my writing practices. I took great time, and now I feel like it has disappeared. Dried up. Just a few weeks ago, visibility took prime focus in my life. Now there is an impulse to fold in on myself and hibernate till the long winter is over. But really, when is it ever over?

Outside there are new plants reaching towards the sun. My immediate safety is not under threat -- a significant privilege. I’ve come off a month of extra shifts and moving at high speeds; what once felt productive now feels unsustainable. So I have been hardcore nesting and making my space as comfortable as possible, being selfish with the ways I use my time outside of work. I am consoled by my own gratitude for this life, for the reminder that we return to Allah’s light at the end of the journey, whenever that may be. It is our time to bear witness to those who have died and not turn away from the reality and the ritual of it. Orlando, Istanbul, Dhaka, Baghdad, Medina, and further. Philando Castile and Alton Sterling and…