The Bad Place

When the world explodes into chaos, my instincts send me inward; so I’ve been quiet here for the last couple of weeks. As self-centered as I am, I don’t believe in the power of a single voice in a din of pain and outrage, so when everyone shouts the obvious thing — that Black people are flesh and blood, heart and soul, worthy of humanity — I fall back and let them.

There isn’t much more to add.


I have a pragmatic voice in my head that demands I see the world as it is and that voice confirmed long ago that the world is a terrible place. There are bright spots, for sure. Kindness and generosity and love and unity and beauty and comfort, but they’re interruptions in an otherwise dark and cruel existence.

It’s why I have the title of the Langston Hughes poem Life is Fine tattooed on my wrist; as a reminder that all over the world, beauty and terror co-exist so life is never all shit or all roses. It just… is.

So the current state of the world doesn’t jar me. I know how that sounds, but I promised I’d stop being ashamed of my truth, so there it is. I am watching it all with detached curiosity.

Yes. History shows that things fall apart. Who are we to believe we’re exempt?

Then, the Weeks Blurred

The weeks following my great-aunt’s passing were startling in their ordinariness.

Or maybe turning back to the ordinary is how I cope. With no service to attend and no further instruction from my family members down south, I wiped my tears and turned my mind toward my controllables.

And life, as it always seems to, went on.

There were new, four-day workweeks; a trend I hope stays in place should I still have a job in the New Normal.

I went on 30-minute, ~two-mile walks every day for seven days straight. Rain or shine.

I experienced an insane ovulation week in my monthly cycle. I received detailed, dirty prose via text and slinked around my apartment like a panting cat in heat, cataloging all the hard surfaces I’ve yet to christen since moving in last year. Dining room table, kitchen counter, a few walls, and doors. That week deserves its own post, but I’m too prudish to dedicate an entire entry to going cross-eyed with desire or the uptick in what’s already a pretty robust solo sex life. I’ll just admit that I consumed a lot of trashy romance audiobooks and will seriously consider inviting a guest into my Party of One when we’re allowed to be around people again.

I joined the rest of the Black Internet in discussing the legacies of Teddy Riley and Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds. And listened to a five-hour Jimmy Jam interview where he told a hilarious story about Prince driving by his house and tossing Janet’s Control CD out of his car window shortly after the album was released.

On the advice of a friend who recommended I reacquaint myself with my mirrors, I came home from work one day and slipped on a little black dress. It was purchased years ago, by a version of myself who could just slip on an LBD, swipe on a red lip, and step out without a second thought. Before anxieties about lines on my face and subtle dimples showing through fabric and lack of desire to “beat my face” bludgeoned my once-towering self-regard into oblivion.

Automatically, there she was. The long, lean frame on the just-short-of-petite body that gives me the benefit of appearing tall and “little and cute” all at once. The slightly-curved hips and long legs that even on my worst days, I’m not shy about. And a pair of shoulders that I never admired before but suddenly stood out for their… pride? Yes, that’s it. Tracing their slope to my neck, I discovered a new favorite body part and the reason I’ll probably be short-haired for life.

Turns out “Say hi to those mirrors; they miss you” was damned good advice.

Outside my apartment, away from my job, more people died. More families lost their loved ones. While dumbasses picketed for the “right” to spread a deadly disease because they want to get haircuts.

Then, people started drinking Lysol because the President implied it “could work” and I had to concede that maybe Darwinism isn’t all wrong.

One of Thirty-Two

As of 6:28 AM, the Alabama Department of Public Health reported 32 coronavirus-related deaths in the state.

One of them is—well, was—my great aunt.

She was my late grandmother’s younger sister. One of four girls in a family of eight. The grandmother of one of my favorite cousins. My heart breaks in anticipation of the call I’ll make later this morning to extend my sympathies.

My family will not do what we did eight years ago for the youngest of my great-aunts: descend on the city of Birmingham with love and food and laughs and drinks to hold hands and shed our tears together. We will mourn quietly; scattered across Alabama, Tennessee, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Minnesota, and Ohio. Over phone calls and text messages and video chats.

My grandmother and her sisters were grand dames; the brightest stars in our family’s far-flung galaxy. Fallen stars deserve to be sent off in chariots. Not silence.

But as I so often remind myself: “deserve’s got nothin’ to do with it.”

R.I.P. Aunt B (middle left)

The Cure for an Identity Crisis

“So how are you, otherwise?” my friend asked as we caught up over the phone last night. “I know you were going through a weird time last time we talked.”

A weird time. The life before our new normal was such a distant concept, I’d almost forgot about the year-plus I spent in a full existential identity crisis. Not knowing who I was, who I wanted to be, if my life was enough, if I had more to offer the world and was simply refusing to show up out of fear.

“That’s been replaced by more pressing worries,” I told her. “Like how long I’ll still have a job and not contracting a super-contagious and potentially deadly virus. It’s funny how a crisis can focus the mind.”

I’ve done better with fewer* choices.

Knowing there’s nothing to do but work, come home, pay bills, and monitor my cash flow in case life takes a turn for the worse makes all my previous concerns feel so frivolous. The money I burned “doing” because not doing made me “boring.” The time I wasted wrestling with my ideas of myself and what my life should look like and all the ways I didn’t measure up.

“It all sounds like a bunch of shit I made up,” I said to my friend.

I stopped writing about my life because I was ashamed of it. All the screaming about freedom and independence in my 20s had amounted to a 36-year-old making laughable money and barely leaving her apartment.

Failing to live up to the magnificent self I crafted, I tore it all down. Removed any evidence of that brash, bold, authentic, cocksure young woman I was. Better to bury her than have her show up, take one look around, and demand an explanation. Had I really wasted her? Her talent? Her joie de vivre? Her willingness to step loudly into the world on her own terms?

I’m not afraid to face her anymore. She can yell all she wants. We still can’t go outside and whether she likes it or not, where we are right now is all there is.


[*] I originally typed “less” choices. Then I heard Stannis Baratheon’s voice remind me that it’s “fewer.” Shouts to Game of Thrones being good for something in the wake of that awful finish.

It Is What It Is

In the last few years of my internet life, I’ve witnessed a collective groan over the phrase “it is what it is.” For people who want to know you’re human, want to see an emotional reaction to uncomfortable situations, and want some proactive measures taken to make them comfortable again, the phrase feels dismissive.

I understand. Even if I don’t always agree.

The thing, though, is we’re in an “it is what it is” situation. There is no amount of emoting, reframing, or pleas to “do something” that will put our lives back in their neat, easy-to-recognize containers. Your social life? Gone. Your self-care routines? If they involve public spaces, throw them out of the window. Your plans and goals? You may as well light them on fire.

We are in unprecedented territory and it seems the people best equipped to deal with it are those of us who never abandoned “it is what it is” as a mantra.

You will be inconvenienced. You will be bored. You will have to figure out how to live with considerably less freedom of movement. And the trajectory of the moment can change on a dime.

The best thing we can do for ourselves, it seems, is accept reality on a day-to-day basis. Last week, it was “wash your fucking hands.” This week, it’s “schools are closed and keep your asses out of bars and restaurants.” We can guess what comes next, but getting attached to any hypothetical scenario is unwise.

Because we just don’t know.

And it is what it is.