Racism: Like breathing air

Racism is like trying to see air. That’s what is so frightening about this illness of heart and mind. It exists, just like air, and we breathe it but we can’t see it. Sometimes we can hear it like a rattling against the windows or we can see its effects as it disturbs leaves or rips apart homes, but we can’t apprehend racism directly. We experience it and if you are on the “white” side of it, it is harder to acknowledge the inequity of it because it doesn’t reduce your comfort. The tornado or hurricane, as it were, has touched down in someone else’s neighborhood.

I have experienced sexism and understand the obstacles to understanding on both sides of a polarizing issue. I have experienced racism once and my heart goes out to anyone who has been subject to the following description:

As Black Irish, I have been told I look Puerto Rican. When I was in San Antonio, it was if I did not exist. Caucasians looked past me because I wasn’t blond and blue-eyed. Latinos looked past me because I had white skin. I had never felt anything so disturbing in my life. It shook me to my very center. My physical attributes, unchangeable genetic coding, were the basis of their judgment. My character, my heart, my mind, and my actions played no part in the opinion they formed of me. What frightened me more was how UNCONSCIOUS their behavior was.

Racism is too complex, with its centuries of inculcation, to dismantle in a few short decades. MLK and Rosa Parks, symbols for the struggles of many unsung activists, started the process but it’s not over. This recovery idea has applicable wisdom: It takes half the time of the duration of a relationship to truly get over the breakup, sort of like the half-life of plutonium or uranium to give you a more scientific parallel. So we have a ways to go in fixing this and it’s one plodding step at a time, one day at a time, and you have to stay on top of the issue.

Bottom line: Racism exists and as long as it does, NO ONE is free.

Regret & Recovery

Io,

…Now if I could just get over some of the deeper regrets…. Do you have regrets? How deeply do they cut your soul? Does something within you shudder if you even approach the memories sideways? Post your response. I think it might be helpful for others. Peace.

—’Cu’

This question forced me to wrestle with angels all week.  When I was a girl, I had the bedroom that shared a wall with the bathroom. My mother takes baths and I don’t remember a time when she ever took a shower, so on many an occasion, I was in my room when she took her baths.

Baths are relaxing, womb-like experiences for those of you who have forgotten this simple pleasure. For my mother, it was as if the restraint she kept on her thoughts and feelings dissolved in the water of the bath. She would talk aloud as her thoughts drifted into her past; for some reason, she never spoke of happy things. She didn’t reminisce about the most joyful moments of her life.

“I hate you,” she would say or “you bastard.” These outbursts— always spoken in the musing voice of one who is very relaxed—would put me on edge. “What kind of experience,” I would ask myself, “Could make my mother, a paragon of self-control, say such awful things?” I couldn’t get my head around it; even when I was in my twenties and early thirties, I just had no context in which to place her remembrances.

Then one of the most frightening and awful experiences of my life occurred; something perhaps that I could have avoided if I had understood the signs along the road. During a ritual in which I held a significant role, I had let down my guard to such a degree that I had a psychotic break. It was something akin to possession. I was trapped within a body that was not under my control. I witnessed the reactions of the others around me: fear, revulsion, anger.  It was one of the most crushing experiences of my life and until this day, I felt responsible for the unknown, untold damage I may have caused others within my sphere of influence. I regretted—with a passion that I had once reserved for the joys of my life.

There is no way I can ask for forgiveness from the people who were traumatized by my temporary psychosis. I don’t even know if anyone there remembers or even cares about what happened. For me, that moment in time has irrevocably changed me. It was not my intention to allow my inner demons free reign, but some part of me knows that I was working up to that singular event.

I consoled myself with efforts to repair the damage and prevent a repeat. I sought therapy. I removed myself from the pagan community for five years as atonement since I could not make amends. I ritually scarified my body after extensive research and soul-searching. I even studied exorcism.

After considering this question about regret to a depth and degree I had not previously granted, I realized that forgiveness only truly comes from within. It was when I chose to stop beating myself up over what could not be revoked or changed that I realized that I was transformed. I am no longer the woman who stood in that ritual helplessly ridden by an aspect of the Morrigan. That woman is a part of me, but she no longer defines or rules me. I am stronger, more soulful, and more compassionate than that woman knew how to be. She was the seed of who I am now.

Today, I choose to move forward and recognize that if I worked to recover and learn from such a ground-zero experience, then those who witnessed that event are responsible for how they have recovered and learned. They did not help me in my climb back to the light, and they did not require my help to bring them to where they are now. I wish them Bright Blessings.

As for my regrets, they have gone in peace. Merry part.