All of Me: An Integrated Belonging
Often, I feel like I don’t belong.
Too blackish for the white folks. Not black enough for the black folks. Too political for my party friends. Not radical enough for my activist friends. Too hetero to call myself queer. Too queer to care about most hetero–nonsense. Too woo woo for the skeptics. Not spiritual enough for the renunciates. Too Americanized to get my roots. Too immigrant to get American idioms. Too feminist for heels. Too femme not to do my brows. Too intellectual for the intuitives. Not sufficiently–read for the academy. I have too much money. Not enough.
I am a 44 year old black woman who says dude. A lot.
I move through many communities and circles, even on my morning commute. I leave the apartment I share with my Danish–Italian husband in (gentrifying) Crown Heights where a local community center posts the number of days since the last shooting and where Haitians, Hasids and hipsters wait side–by–side on the subway platform. I arrive to work in NoMad (seriously) — what used to be the wholesale area full of immigrant sellers calling out to passerbys is now yet another tech alley teaming with (very) young professionals downing bulletproof coffees and recoiling from eye contact.
I code–switch and shape–shift to adapt to my external environment and access my many selves. When I was younger, this was an exercise in confusion and shame, otherwise known as constriction. I thought it necessary to hide or warp aspects of myself that I sensed were unwanted recalling the “you sound white” comments from my childhood or the many times I’ve been called nigger throughout my life.
I revealed only what I thought would gain me acceptance. Alternately, I dismissed or judged people and places that challenged my interests and views. These constrictions closed off the possibility to belong to others or they to me (the heart is either open or closed, we don’t get to choose its direction of traffic).
Anyone who doesn’t fit into or identify with dominant culture (more and more that’s most of us) will need to negotiate their belonging. But for those of us who continually transit through such disparate terrains, the translation is constant. My multitiudes only truly come together under ceratin conditions with people who can get my references to Fanon, Foucault, and The Pharcyde, Baldwin, Ball Culture, and Buddhadharma.
Luckily I live in the multicultural bubble called Brooklyn surrounded by a diverse community of friends, many of whom also traverse multiple boundaries within their own being. But even more luckily, my spiritual practice has allowed me to understand the inherent interconnection of all (even within little fragmented me).
On a psychological level it means embracing all these parts in an integrated belonging that honors each momentary context but aspires to a way of being that is open, relaxed, fluid, and authentic. I don’t need to make someone else wrong to be me. And I can be righteous and loving at the same time. This integration did not happen by merely thinking about it. It developed through many years of practice and many hours on the cushion knowing, allowing, and releasing all the ways in which I was rejecting what felt hurt, abandoned, judged, or just plain wrong. Contradictions need not be constrictions. I allowed myself to first belong to me.
On a cosmic level it means knowing this so-called reality is not the whole story. All these identities and ideologies are just teeny–tiny moments in an endless song that’s every song. That everything belongs to something that is no–thing. That consciousness is more than what my little brain can know (and next month I’ll explore Consciousness First: Reactive to Creative).
Joy Harjo says this in her poem “A Map to the Next World”
Remember the hole of shame marking the act of abandoning our tribal grounds.We were never perfect.
Yet, the journey we make together is perfect on this earth who was once a star and made the same mistakes as humans.
We might make them again, she said.
Crucial to finding the way is this: there is no beginning or end.
You must make your own map.
Make your map.