My friend, Wendi and I were speaking… about Afropunk (if yall don’t know about it, check it out here: http://afropunkfest.com/. You’re welcome). When asked if I planned to go, I admitted to still being unsure. There is a part of me that appreciates the idea of festivals such as these, but, and here’s where we’re going with this today, there is a bigger part of me that absofuckinglutely shudders at the thought of, (1) so many people, (2) so much noise and, the reason that trumps them all, (3) the confluence of thousands of personalities, including my own, in one place! When I think of the inevitable sightings, the conversations… when I think of the intrusion and the call to performance that some believe occasions such as this demand, I am already exhausted!
Now, don’t get it twisted – my fatigue is in no way age-related, but it is decidedly stage-related. At this stage in my life, of my journey, I have come to realize, appreciate and honor both the limited and the limitless nature of the possibilities and experiences open to me. I grant myself the absolute freedom to indulge in or refrain from any person or activity I believe will have tiring or trying long-lasting effects on my peace.
I have been invited to Made in America (sigh… here you are: http://a.madeinamericafest.com/); my feelings are the same. Let’s address this: have you stopped recently and checked-in with yourself to see how you’re doing? No, really. Do you do that? I do, very often. In fact, on a daily basis; and sometimes, a few damned times a day! I need to. I promised myself a few years ago (after I survived a very heart-breaking time), that I would take the time to conduct my own wellness-check-ups. I promised myself I would never let the outside, the appearance of things cloud my vision as to the truth. I vowed to both recognize and acknowledge when being called on to participate in the performance of life, when being drafted as a cast member in someone else’s story.
So I check in. And, here is what I would like to share: so often (and I would be generous and say mostly subconsciously), we drag people into being the character we either perceive them as or need them to be. We impose our realities unto those we do not even know. We take souls hostage and superimpose caricatures. We never bother to read the jackets and constantly judge books by their covers. We demand those around us become supporting cast in the plays we have written for ourselves.
I was sitting with a friend yesterday, doing nothing but speaking together. A woman approached, with both her camera and statement ready, “You guys are such a gorgeous couple!” she exclaimed. “Can I take a picture of you?” Before either of us could even respond – to either address about being a couple or offer permission or refusal with regard to the picture, she snapped away! Sporting a huge smile of accomplishment, she tossed out a, “Thank you!” and walked off; leaving us with nothing to do but laugh at both her audacity and assumption. See my point? This woman looked and then drafted a version of reality that worked for her; that made her life better/more interesting/ sexier. But for the fact that the intrusion was visited on us, it truly had nothing to do with us!
This happens quite a bit; people demanding, by their verbal or non-verbal actions that we play along. It seems all some need as consent is your stepping outside your home. Too often I shake my head wondering, “When exactly did I sign the Universe’s release form to use my physical image or emotional likeness at will?” Who decided that the moment I cross the threshold and lock the door to 443 East ___ Street behind me, I no longer belonged to me? That one of my purposes would be that of a performance actor? I swear, sometimes the encounters are so ludicrous, we can forget the afro part… I must just be getting punk’d!
It’s tiring. And, as such when I give thought to outings that should be about my being a spectator, I automatically then build into that equation the reality of also being a spectacle. I think of whether I am/will be in the mood to have my privacy invaded, for no other reason than I showed up. Think about it – because I know this is not unique to me, it also happens to you – don’t you also get tired of playing the role of an “extra”? Do you ever stop and realize how many times and in how many ways those around us use us to fulfill their fantasies? Their realities? How by tossing out what, on its surface may seem as an offhand comment or gesture they have then imposed and altered the course you had mapped out for yourself, if even for a moment?
Today I’m thinking of the responsibility we owe to those around us to simply let them be. I am thinking of the many ways we invade their spaces, dragging them kicking and screaming into our interpretations of their uses in our lives. I am certainly not advocating for the demise of experiences and encounters – I thrive on those! What I am addressing is the fact that even for a woman like me whose heart pumps the blood just so she can continue to taste these experiences with you, I always need to be cognizant and respectful of the fact that sometimes, possibly even oftentimes, my need to comment or even to compliment can as easily make as it can break the day for others.
I asked if you “checked-in with yourself” because I need to encourage you to do so, often. Never underestimate how much of yourself you leave on the table every day for strangers to consume. As much as can be controlled, ensure you have enough in emotional reserve for the spaces you place yourselves in. Remember that encounters can be but a brief moment in time; but the effects? Well, those can last a lifetime.
Maybe I’ll see you there. Will let you know if I feel like getting it up…