Living in Central America for 8 Weeks: Routines and Other Self-Imposed Creations (Part II)

When I’m at home, I have a routine. I do some type of workout four times a week. Afterwards, I write in my gratitude journal, I light incense and meditate, and every so often, I do a tarot card spread. Then, I start my regular workday.

While I was in Central America, I rarely did an organized workout. In Costa Rica, it took two weeks for me to roll my yoga mat out on the upstairs patio and practice some poses. In terms of moving my body, Dwight and did several walking tours and hikes, lasting at least three hours. In Panamá, we took one to three-mile walks around the neighborhood during the week. And I thought to myself: isn’t this exercise? Not to mention, my diet significantly decreased in calories in Costa Rica. This was mainly because we didn’t have immediate access to a grocery store and sometimes underestimated the amount of food we would need for the week.

Instead of writing down five things I was grateful for each day, I started being grateful in the moment. For example, while I was doing yoga, the mountains surrounded me. That was dope, and I was grateful, right then. Oftentimes, I’d stand in the shower and think about how fortunate I was to be able to travel to another country, while maintaining material things back home (e.g., house, cars, etc.).

I didn’t bring any incense because I wasn’t sure I’d be able to light it, and it took me three weeks to pull a tarot card because I didn’t feel the need. Whatever I wanted to know, I intuited it.

Living this way reinforced something a medium told me last year. According to her, my spirit guides said I’m too regimented. They said I don’t need to sit down and meditate and do everything in such an orderly way. This message wasn’t just for me; she said no person needs to schedule time like this. It’s unnecessary. And now, I see what she meant.

This message was affirmed as I listened to a podcaster. She said, “If I don’t meditate in the morning, my day doesn’t go right.” I wondered if this was true. Does her entire twenty-four hours hinge on meditating for fifteen minutes? That’s a lot of pressure.

No doubt, there are times we need to center ourselves and become clear about our intentions in this world or get in touch with whatever deity we praise. But we’ve also created a system that we rely on a bit too much to live life. Consequently, this can cause us to forget to…live life.

While I was away, this idea was further affirmed through a conversation with my sister, who is Muslim. She decided not to celebrate Ramadan this year. She realized she was only doing it because she was Muslim. I saw our conversation as a clear message. Whether you believe in organized religion or not, you can make anything religious and then lean on that thing, the same way you would the teachings of Jesus or Allah.

Should I move my body every day? Of course. Do I have to spend exactly X number of minutes four times a week ensuring I do? I’m not sure. I’m starting to see this as a Western ideal we’ve created because many of us sit around too much. I’m now leaning more toward the idea of moving in ways I enjoy to remain active and mobile. I like riding my bike. I like practicing yoga. Sometimes I should pick up the pace a bit to work up a sweat. But I shouldn’t get myself into a frenzy if I don’t. It’ll be okay.


Monday Notes: 3 Reasons I Didn’t Watch the Derek Chauvin Trial

As I write this, it is Day 10 of the Derek Chauvin trial, I haven’t watched any of it, and I don’t feel guilty, either. Here’s why.

#1 Racial trauma: “Racial trauma refers to the mental and emotional injury caused by encounters with racial bias and crimes.” It can occur directly, such as when people experience racism and microaggressions at the workplace, or it can occur indirectly, such as watching a white person repeatedly be acquitted for murdering a black person during public trials (e.g., George Zimmerman, Darren Wilson, Timothy Loehmann). Racial trauma is real, and I decided ahead of time I had no intention of putting myself through it again.

#2 Who’s being tried? Every time there’s one of these public court cases, it seems as if the unarmed, deceased person is on trial, not the person who committed the crime. With George Zimmerman, there was a discussion of how menacing Trayvon Martin looked with his hoodie, and even though Zimmerman stalked him, there was confusion about who was standing who’s ground. With Darren Wilson, there was talk of Michael Brown selling illegal drugs. Even though I haven’t watched the Chauvin case unfold, I’ve been in the room when newscasters have recapped the day’s events. Apparently, there was a conversation about the drugs found in George Floyd’s body as a rationale for why he died. I can’t. It seems ridiculous to go through these theatrics when the world literally watched how Floyd died.

#3 The outcome: Again, I’m writing this on April 9th, and I don’t know what the outcome is going to be. This makes me afraid and distraught. I fear what will happen should the American court system follow its own historical precedence, which is to acquit the perpetrator (i.e., Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam). Will there be riots if Chauvin is acquitted? Will it be American “business as usual?” Have vaccinated people gone on about their lives with no care for justice and its repercussions? I’m distraught that I even have these thoughts. The fact that I cannot trust the U.S. justice system to be just is disturbing. What does it mean for all of us, who collectively witnessed a murder, where the murderer may not be penalized? I promise you this is a thought that some Black people have had. We are all holding our collective breaths, because we understand what could happen. Conversely, if Chauvin is convicted, what does it mean that the world had to witness one man’s murder just for there to be justice?

All this upsets me, and I can’t expend my emotions in a daily frenzy, worrying about what it all means.


Tomorrow, May 25th is the one-year anniversary of George Floyd’s murder. I’m glad to see that Derek Chauvin was convicted on all three counts: second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. I hope this means we’re turning over a new leaf in the United States, and even though this is an inspirational blog, I’m sad to say I’m not hopeful.


Monday Notes: Being a Woman: Facts and Receipts

Being a woman feels like being everything and nothing all at once.

            It feels like being the gender who bears children, but not being the gender who is protected while bearing children. Because any country that allows Black, American Indian, and Alaska Native women to be two to three times more likely to die during childbirth demonstrates a woman’s value with each subsequent death.

            It feels like choosing a lauded profession, like teaching, which in the United States is seventy-six percent woman dominated but not being heard, paid, or respected, while educating the nation’s children. Mississippi teachers, for example, are expected to live off of $45,574 per year. It’s no wonder eighteen percent of U.S. teachers work another job.

            It feels like wanting to subscribe to a power higher than yourself, while signing up for your own oppression if you choose to worship with one of the top two religions. Eve is praised for being the mother of civilization, while being condemned for initiating the fall of man. A study showed that while there are ninety-three women in the Christian Bible, they speak a little over one percent of the time. This isn’t surprising as there are still seven religious groups that don’t allow women to be ordained; Islam is one of them. These may not seem like big deals, but implicit subjugation can be just as harmful because it is an indoctrination of subliminal messaging by which one may shape a future life.

            It feels like living in India where the very idea of having a girl child is repulsive and unwelcomed, where throwing acid on women’s faces is such a common practice there’s a name for it. It’s called an acid attack. India leads the world in these intentional crimes against women. Likewise, women are more likely to suffer domestic abuse and rape, while the justice system oftentimes acquits their husbands.

            It feels like the government regulating your reproductive rights for population control as they did with women in China from 1979 through 2015; it was called the one-child policy. And even though the Chinese government now encourages women to have up to two children, having a girl child oftentimes leads to infanticide and abandonment because boy children are preferred. Consequently, China’s demographics are now off balance; there are thirty million more men than women.

            It feels like fearing one’s life in South Africa, where femicide, the intentional murder of women, is five times more than the global rate; in 2017, every eight hours a woman was killed…by her intimate partner. If a South African woman does live, then she is likely to be raped, as this country was once considered the rape capital of the world.

            Yes, I’m convinced. Being a woman is like being everything and nothing all at once, like being the seed of civilization and the unintentional cause of your own damnation. At this point, I just have one request: Prove me wrong.


Happy International Women’s Day. We have work to do.

Monday Notes: 3 Reasons I Left Facebook

I remember it like it was yesterday. It was around eight in the morning. My groggy eyes were glued to my cell phone. I was watching the weight-loss journey of a tan golden retriever. The background music was sad. Although I knew the ending, I had to see how he did it. How did this fat golden retriever lose weight? Turns out it was through diet and exercise. Hmmmph. It was a heartwarming story, but I couldn’t get those five minutes back. I knew then I needed to leave Facebook for good, but here are a few other reasons why:

It seems like a never-ending reunion. Have you ever been to a family reunion? You show up. You introduce your family to long, lost cousins and great aunts. You find your favorite family member and hang out with them the whole day, vow to keep in touch, and go about your business. From what I understand, class reunions seem to be similar. You catch up, share about your mate, kids, and occupation. Facebook seems to be that but on steroids. It’s cool to catch up, but I’m pretty sure you are not supposed to be connected to all of these people for a lifetime. But because they are now your “forever friends,” you find out a lot more about them than you may have bargained for, like who your boss voted for, if your brother believes COVID is a hoax or not, and if your best friend thinks all lives matter or Black lives matter. It can be #teamtoomuch We were never meant to know all of the things about everyone we’ve ever encountered.

It’s an unnatural interaction. I’m the type of person who’s okay with having a party with all the people I know. As my goddaughter says she never knows who will show up to my events. It could be someone’s 85-year-old grandmother or someone’s 6-year-old son, because that’s the kind of life I live. I’m free and open to all relationships. But Facebook puts all of these people in the same place at the same time…all the time. Like other FB users, my friends’ list included a hodgepodge of people: a former and current director, my current provost, a former program coordinator, a couple principals, friends from undergrad, all types of family members, former high school students, people I went to elementary, high school, and grad school with, and on and on and on. Because we’ve been taught to interact a certain way with each of these people, Facebook creates a weird, alternate reality. Although I’m always me, I found myself functioning as a middle-of-the-road me, because what I might say to my sister may not be the same as what I’d say to the provost of a college. In short, it was too much self-censorship for me.

Everyone’s social media is curated. My FB was comprised of people I actually knew in some way. So, when I saw someone’s close-up shot, I knew she was actually hiding a hoarding problem because I was just over her house. I knew when my friend posted some wonderful quote about relationships that he was on the struggle bus with his own marriage because we’d just hung up the phone. I knew that someone’s perfect selfie was shrouded in depression and anxiety because we’d talked that morning about how it may be a good idea for her to take a shower that day. And this bothered me. FB, in particular seems to be like the Disneyland of socials. Everyone’s happy. Everyone’s excited. Everyone’s passionate. Even when they’re not. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve pushed weeks of mail out of view for my perfectly angled hot cocoa shot. I took a family photo at breakfast the morning after Dwight and I had discussed getting a divorce. But I’ve also posted about not wanting to return to work after the holidays, feeling angry when I realized my bike’s brakes didn’t work, and being disappointed after getting a PhD. I don’t think this is odd. It’s called balance and authenticity. Scrolling through curation after curation is exhausting. I mean even a museum shows the true human condition, which includes pain and sadness sometimes.

Although these are the main reasons I permanently deactivated, I have to mention a few more reasons: I hate that people think they really know you because they read the highlights of your life. I dislike the pettiness and self-centered nature of the platform. The fact that people don’t read the whole article that they post or reply to is quite annoying. Thirst trapping for likes and its evil twin, lurking with no interaction feel a bit creepy. And this idea we’ve created that we can’t live without FB is a bit strange.

If you’re still on FB, I hope you don’t take this as a personal dig. It’s not. I just woke up one day knowing that Facebook is not aligned with how I want to interact with people.

Monday Notes: Democracy and Voter Suppression

pollsA democracy is “a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections.”

Sounds simple, right? The people have the power and we vote in elections so that other people can put in place the things we care about and want.

Well, just a second. I learned years ago that the United States of America is actually more akin to a republic, which specifically has an elected president, not a king or heir, and is “a government in which supreme power resides in a body of citizens entitled to vote and is exercised by elected officers and representatives responsible to them and governing according to law.”

Tomato…tomato, eh? I don’t know and I won’t bore you with more definitions. I’m just confused about what we’re doing here in America, which is supposed to be a democratic republic.

As I’m writing this, Kentucky successfully removed 3,530 polling locations. Closing polls made little sense to me. Even if this were a COVID-safety move and the government was concerned about social distancing, I don’t understand why the state would have fewer polls, instead of more. Wouldn’t more polls facilitate an easier process?

AmericaBut you know what people in Louisville and Lexington did with one polling place? They stood in line for hours. The Kentucky primaries have ended. Joe Biden won. Charles Booker, a Black representative from Louisville, who ran to be the democrat on the ticket for Senate, lost. Was closing the majority of polling places purposeful?  Will Kentuckians demand their polling places re-open, or will this be the norm for not only that state, but also others?

Furthermore, whether we live in a democracy or a republic, I’m concerned that voter suppression, a common occurrence in our country, continues to be a thing even though supreme power is supposed to lie with the people, not its leaders. Is supreme power of the people an illusion? Did we ever really have this power?

Maybe we’ve acquiesced our power for something more entertaining. For example, what else happened when Kentuckians found out there would be one polling place? Did people complain a little bit and go back to binge watching their favorite online show? Listen, I don’t want to bash the good people of Kentucky. And I’m not a sky is falling kind of person, but we are living in critical times. Life is exhausting. We are experiencing all of the things all of the time, but we still have to use our collective voice to attain fair and equal treatment within our republic. Don’t we?

Poll closing is a form of voter suppression and can occur anywhere, in any state. So, I have a few questions: What would you do if your state closed 95% of the polling places? Would you stand in line for six hours and hope they didn’t close more in November, or would you demand that your democratic right to elect officials be easier?

***

Think this can’t happen in your state? Here is more information about voter suppression and how it effects specific socioeconomic classes, races, and ethnicities.

Corona Chronicles: Capitalism

When you live in a capitalistic society, then everything is commodified. Everything is for sale. Everything hinges on selling or not selling something. This hasn’t seemed truer than the last few months.

May 2020: Reopen everything!

In May, Florida began Phase I and Phase II reopening. There is no doubt in my mind (and I’m guessing anyone else’s) that this had little to do with people and more to do with stimulating the economy. Businesses that hadn’t already closed permanently were excited to get back to “regular” operations. I sent my husband to grab some guacamole, but he came back empty handed. According to his observation, our local Chili’s, as well as other restaurants that sold Mexican food, was well over 50% capacity on Cinco de Mayo. I’m guessing it was because these places wanted to make as much money as possible post-lockdown.

Profits over people? Right?

img_4161June 2020: Buy Black!

After George Floyd’s death, there was a huge push from the Black community to start “buying Black” because if one is buying Black, then that means that one is not putting money into mainstream American products. The idea is to remove money from one system and put it into another, thus negatively impacting the typical distribution of money and its operations in the country, because when you live in a capitalistic society, where everything is commodified, then removing dollars is an effective plan if everyone participates and if there are enough places to replace current operations.

Don’t stop spending money. Stop spending money in non-black spaces. That was the message. Right?

June 2020: Boycott!

In addition to buying Black, a list circulated that outlined which businesses have supported Donald Trump’s campaign. Off the top of my head, this list includes Walmart, Wendy’s, and Marvel. I remember these because my family and friends love to shop at Walmart. My oldest daughter supports herself by working at Wendy’s. Aaaand, my husband and youngest daughter have enjoyed most Marvel movies. I wondered how any of them (or other citizens) were going to boycott the things they admired so much. For Americans, these staples have made society wonderful. You know how much restraint you need to boycott businesses the American people have deemed essential?

The list includes Planet Fitness, where we have a gym membership, New Balance, my athletic shoe choice, and Shell Oil, the place where we sometimes pump gas.

What in the entire f…?

I apologize. I’m losing focus. The point is if we collectively boycott, then we can affect current circumstances by not supporting these businesses, which implicitly support a bad president.

Implicit financial support = complicit support of a politician. Right?

money_coronaJune 2020: MASKS!

I have nine masks. I bought two by the end of March that display one of my alma maters. I have another that I purchased at the UPS store in April; they have typewriters on them and include my favorite color: red. I’ve ordered another that has banned books on them because that seems kind of cool. Dwight bought us a couple that are African themed and four others, which are black. A friend I went to school with has a bedazzled one. It’s fabulous. She also has one that says, “This sucks,” because yeah, even though it saves live, wearing a mask does suck and nothing says it better than a statement mask. I’ve seen others that have matching head wraps. You know, like a scarf and matching mask? Who doesn’t wanna be Corona chic?

The person who sold me eyeglasses described another mask she saw someone wearing that looked like his dog’s mouth. Every time he spoke, it looked like a dog was speaking. She snort-laughed at the thought.

Not only can I get masks online, but also at *Old Navy. Let that sink in. The store where I used to get my most comfortable jeans just six months ago figured out a way to sell us fashionable cloth masks. Isn’t that nice of them?

Usually, I have something witty to say at the end of a blog post, but not today. Today, I just want to reiterate what I said before: When you live in a capitalistic society, then everything is commodified. Everything is for sale. Everything hinges on selling or not selling something.

*Honorable mention to Banana Republic’s new line of loungewear because who doesn’t need a pair of $80 joggers in which to do their Zoom meeting?

7/5/20

kg

Corona Chronicles: Shelter in Place

I’m sitting on my patio, watching a little brown boy in a white shirt and gray shorts. He’s riding a hoverboard on his knees. First, he goes straight all the way to the cul-de-sac, where he whirls around and comes back towards me again. Then, he twirls in circles, one, two, three times, until he’s facing straight again. Music is playing but not loud enough for me to hear the melody or words, just enough for me to know he’s listening to something while he spins in circles, passing the time.

brown squirrel eating

To his right are two squirrels. I’ve been watching them for twenty minutes. One sits close to a tree, eating something between his paws, probably a nut. I’ve always known squirrels were skittish, but I never noticed how much. It seems he can hardly enjoy whatever he’s nibbling in between sporadic looks toward distracted noises. He scurries up the tree and sits on a branch and I briefly think about making a squirrel house, with nuts and such. Who am I kidding? I don’t even want to help my husband build things for our own house, much less build a whole home for a hungry squirrel, who seems to be doing life just fine without my interference.

Now, my across-the-way neighbor has come out. He and his wife are in the at-risk age group for coronavirus; his white hair tells me so. Friday, he washed his patio screen with a hard-bristle brush while the trees on his Christmas pajamas danced. I drowned out the repetitive grating during online yoga. Saturday, I saw him drive a two-seater sports car for the first time. His wife slowly backed their white SUV out of the driveway, making space for him to zip into the one-car garage. Today, he’s semi-dressed for an outing: light-blue, short-sleeved, buttoned-down shirt, navy casual shorts, barefoot. We have an automated sprinkler system and rain has begun to drizzle, but for some reason he’s decided to water the bushes.

boy s blue crew neck shirt
Photo by Jessica Lewis on Pexels.com

Two hours have passed. There’s a father-son duo riding their bikes up and down and up and down the street to the same dead-end hoverboard-boy glided towards. This is the fourth time I’ve seen them. I wonder if the father is wearing a helmet to model good cycling practices for his son, who looks to be no more than five years old, or if he wears it because he really believes it will protect him, should he fall on this short jaunt. I also wonder where the mother is. I always question mothers’ whereabouts when I see fathers and their children. It’s probably a result of my own social conditioning. Here they come again, a fifth revolution.

I’ve sat here long enough. I know because hoverboard boy is back at it, this time a bit more dare devilish with his twirls. I glance up to see him belly down on the concrete. He’s limping back to his garage. He returns with his bike.

I wonder if anyone heard me cackling with my sister for hours the other day or if neighbors watched my husband and I eat waffles, sausage, and eggs in our PJs this morning. Is someone sitting in their home office, peering out their window at the brown woman, wearing glasses, trying to preserve her final month of contacts, while tip-tapping away on her orange laptop? Are they guessing what I’m writing, creating a narrative about why I’ve been sitting here for three days? Or, have they assumed as I have that we’re all creatively sheltering in place?

P.S. I wrote something similar three years ago from Starbucks. It’s funny what can change in a short amount of time. While I realize I cannot go to Starbucks and people-watch, I can make my own coffee, sit on my screened-in patio and create a similar experience. Adjustments. We all have to make them and function according to our current circumstances.

4/5/20

~kg