Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Getting off of the Dead Horse by Jeanie Johnson and Jayha Leigh

It’s one-ish in the morning and Jeanie and Jayha are sixteen hours apart, knee deep in edits, and school is back in so forgive the errors.

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Katie Geneva Cannon is one down sister with some badazz prose. One of Jayha's favorite people to read, she once began a class by proclaiming: “I’ve already done in my life everything that I said I wouldn’t do!”(Cannon, Katie’s Canon, 10). That statement gave us pause not because of its candor, but because of its speaker. Dr. Cannon isn’t just someone who throws out words willy-nilly. A minister, an ethicist, she is heavy into womanist and liberation theology. Upon further reflection and deeper discussion, we realized that yes, while Dr. Cannon was all of these things, she is also … human. Sometimes we forget that for all of a person’s deeds, underneath the titles, the reputation, the infamy, notoriety, the rumors, they are first and foremost human.

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We also forget our own humanness. In our rush to do for everyone else, please everyone else, live up to social and familial expectations, we neglect ourselves to the point of forgetting ourselves. That’s a dangerous, dangerous thing. To forget ourselves puts us one step closer to forgetting our humanity. To forget ourselves is to forget that we were made in the image of a Creator who so loved the world…you know the rest.

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Advances in medicine allow us to live better, to feel better quicker, to feel no pain, to feel nothing at all. Advances in technology have allowed us to jam pack our days with more activities. The credit system has allowed us to fill our lives with more stuff. But for all of that, medicine, technology, and credit cannot get us more time. There are only twenty-four hours in a day and too many of us fill every waking moment with things to do, that we feel absolutely, positively just must get done. And we do them not necessarily because we want to but because we feel that if we don’t do them then they won’t get done. The truth is, those things will get done whether we do it or not and if we thought about it, we’d realize that. But we don’t want to think about that (in fact, it seems that we don’t want to think), because if we think about it we have to consider the state of our lives.

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While we can face down monsters, we find it hard to face ourselves. Not the public self that we shrug into before leaving our homes, or even the public self that we wear inside of our homes, but the self that we are left with when all of the public, when all of the make-up, when all of the politeness comes off/is stripped off/wears off. The self that emerges in the dark, in the silence, in the nooks and crannies of our conscience doesn’t care about being polite; that self is busy speaking raw truth uncaring that it is tearing our carefully-constructed self to shreds.

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We don’t like to visit that self just like we don’t like to hear the truth because living in denial, living in indifference and living in our dreams is so much easier then living in the truth. We claw, scratch, and fight to hold onto mediocrity (whether it is a lifestyle, a significant other, or a pre-approved future complete with white picket fence). Why do we fight so hard to hold onto a façade that in reality isn’t all that good? Is it because we’re more comfortable with our disappointments than we are with the possibilities of what we could be, who we could be, and what we could accomplish if we stepped out of our comfort zones, our prejudices, and society’s labels? If we had the courage, how would we answer Mary Oliver’s question from ‘The Summer Day’: “Tell me what do you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” Do we appreciate the wildness of it? Do we appreciate the preciousness of it? Do we recognize the oneness of it?

***
We’ve been busy thinking about life for a few reasons. One, we read our sister-friend’s (Dréa Riley) poem “Closing Doors (Cleaning out My Closet). Actually, we keep copies of it close by. Like the Mona Lisa, there's something about the woman on the accompanying artwork that draws you to it. It’s that look on her face—the look that says she’s traveled down many, many roads. The look that says ‘damn’. The look that says so much yet has no words that can adequately describe it. And then there’s the prose itself. Each time we read it, we discover yet another thing that we need to clean out of our lives. While the states of our actual closets vary (mine is pretty clean; Jeanie’s not so much), we have to wade through our metaphorical closets and weed out the people that don’t uplift us, lifestyles that don’t fulfill us, words that don’t encourage us, love that doesn’t sustain us, practices that don’t liberate us, the gods (small g) that are punitive rather than loving … the gods that aren’t God. We have to clean all of that out of our lives so that we can actually get to our lives.

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Another reason that we’ve busy thinking about life is because not so long ago, we just started new lives. It started with a story. And then there was an email, and then a letter, and then another and another until half a million words and twenty stories later, there was a universe. We don’t need a team of scientists to explain its creation. It was born in destiny, forged in the fires of belief and trust and love from women and men who believed in us, encouraged our dream even when it wasn’t fleshed all the way out. It’s sustained by their faith in the women we are, their enjoyment in the words we write, and their acceptance of our many imperfections. And we love and thank them for it.

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A third reason that we’ve been busy thinking about life is because during a talk with our sister-friend Laura, and during the course of our conversation, I commented upon another event that we should attend. After her agreement, I suggested that we add it to our list. There was a pause in her typing before she remarked on the length of our list (of things to do before we die). In that pause it hit us all, right smack dab in the center of our existence. Yeah, our list was getting long and we’ve hardly crossed anything out as we’re always too busy to get to our dreams.

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There’s twenty-four hours in a day and we don’t have time because there’s always something to do, always something that needs to be done. While that’s true, it’s also true that we are one of those things that should be on our daily to-do list. There are only twenty-four hours in a day, but there are only so many days in a life, and we’ve already used up thirty some years worth.

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That’s humbling, and eye-opening, and heart-breaking. Were tired of having our hearts broken. And upon further reflection, we’re real tired of the woman in the mirror being the one who breaks it. J and J

1 comment:

Dréa riley said...

DARN I COMMENTED ON THE OTHER ONE....I LOVE YOU TWO YOU KNOW THAT RIGHT!!!!! JANDJ ROCK