I don’t want to fight

I don’t want to fight, but you punish my honesty with silence and absence.

I don’t want to fight, but I hear so much in the things you’re not saying.

I don’t want to fight, but you’ve been dropping balls left and right.

I don’t want to fight, but you’re suddenly too busy for everyday things and only give me vague excuses and thinly constructed lines about why.

I don’t want to fight, but I’m drowning in the missed appointments, forgotten errands, and chores that I know are left undone.

I don’t want to fight, but I can’t bring myself to remind you one more time to breathe and smile and show up.

I don’t want to fight, but I feel like your side of the room is suddenly pitch black.

I don’t want to fight, but I can no longer pretend it’s not happening.

I don’t want to fight, but I need this to stop.

I don’t want to fight, but I know I’m going to have to use words that will crack our foundation.

I don’t want to fight, but I don’t think I have any other choice.

My father encouraged me to speak out

“Never let anyone tell you you’re wrong when you’re right, Mija,” my father said to me often when I was growing up. What he meant was that I needed to stand up for myself no matter who it was I was standing against. That I needed to speak out when necessary.

To him, this was more than just words.

My parents stood by me in the third grade when I was sent home for getting into a fight with a boy who escalated from bullying attempts to hitting.
They stood by me in the sixth grade when I was accused of being “disrespectful” to a teacher for calling him out for his language.
They stood by me in high school when I helped organized a two-day walkout to protest a teacher who failed 90% of the class in his final exam.
They stood by me as my career and education goals differed from what they understood or planned.
They stood by me as I became an adult and family members accused me of being too much, too loud, or too different.

My dad was very old school, traditional and often incorrect in his views about women’s roles and, yes, about race. As I became an adult I clashed with him on more than one occasion about what he believed and said. There were words, shouting and hurt feelings … and we didn’t always so much make up as just move on.

And yet, despite the fact that we often disagreed, I did know that he took delight in my strong character. He liked watching me push up against the world, against what others thought I could and couldn’t do and shattering their expectations. I think he liked knowing that he and my mom gave all of their children the tools to go out and do more than what they were able to do themselves.

As I speak out in support of #blacklivesmatter in conversations with friends and family, I know that my father wouldn’t have agreed with what I’m saying but he would have absolutely supported my right to say it.

the girl who cried “rain!”

I lived through Tropical Storms Allison and Harvey, both of which inundated the city with more water than I thought was possible. I lived here for Hurricanes Alicia and Ike. And I’ve seen what just an hour of hard rain can do to otherwise safe streets. I have a healthy respect for rain and have learned to take advisories of inclement weather seriously.

So when my favorite weather site is saying that we’re going to have a bad storm, I pay attention.

On Tuesday I spent the day trying to convince people that they should listen to the inclement weather predictions. “They’re saying it’s going to be bad starting tonight and get worse later in the week,” I said. I encouraged clients to get their crisis plans in order. I successfully advocated to cancel a workshop my business was hosting the next morning. And I made contingency plans.

Of course, I was proven wrong the next day. The rain largely ignored the inner loop of the city. And while the outer regions were deluged with rain, the city itself stayed mostly dry. So on Wednesday it was business as usual.

I felt weirdly disappointed. And very foolish.

While I knew that the storm had hit neighboring cities hard enough that they were evacuating, I mistook the cloudy but rain-free sky this morning as an indication that all was well and I didn’t look at the radar until late in the morning. Then I left for a meeting.

That was a mistake.

I hadn’t realized that the north side of the city had been blasted with intense rain that morning already. I didn’t realize that the rain we were receiving was moving to cover the city. It was the kind that floods a city in record-breaking ways. I didn’t realize that I’d forgotten the “will get worse later in the week” part of my speech on Tuesday. I didn’t realize that I really should have stayed put.

I made it home without incident, after crawling my car through the freeway under a darkened sky with rain the entire way. Others were not so lucky.

  • My business partner was stuck in a grocery store for hours, caught by high water while he tried to pick up his son at school.
  • My siblings were stuck at work until the last kid was picked up (they are teachers).
  • My nephew went home with a friend (while my sister waited for other children to be picked up and my brother-in-law braved very high waters to make it back into town). Their car was stuck in high water and they had to walk the last few blocks to make it to his friend’s house. They made it safe, wet but safe.
  • And so on, and so on.

I spent the day watching news reports of the city’s flooding, of one of the top ten “wettest” storms do its worst. I spent the day checking in with family members as they each made their way to home and safety. I spent the day wishing I had been completely wrong.

How was your day?

Emotional about Harvey

Flooding after Harvey (palomacruz.com)

My attempts at remaining calm are starting to show cracks. I want liquor or a pill or a time machine … I want it all to just be over.

And the truth is that I haven’t suffered the effects of the flood yet. While I’m stuck away from home, I haven’t had to go without shelter or power or food or any of my comforts. While I know that my home is probably going to be under water before we’re done, I’m not going to be there to live through it.

My family is safe. I am safe.

But it’s minute after minute, hour after hour, and day after day of knowing, seeing, feeling that this city I love is being drowned out (literally). I feel like someone is squeezing my heart a little more with every news report.

I just want it to be over.

I still want to believe in the Dream

I still want to believe in the Dream (palomacruz.com)

Have you ever looked at a Magic Eye image? At first all you see is this colorful burst of random dots. But if you stare at it long enough, an image emerges …. hidden in plain sight. One moment it’s dots and the next moment this figure pops out, clear as day.

These days I feel like everyone else is seeing the dots while I see the image.
I can’t stop seeing the image.
And it fills me with dread.

I believe in the United States. And I say that to mean that I believe in the concept of this country, in the fundamentals of freedom and democracy on which it was created. (Yes, I know that it’s a republic … let’s not split hairs here.)

In this country, all men (and women) are created equal. At least that’s what we’re supposed to try to aspire to: a country where no one person is more valuable, more important than others based on gender, income, race, religion, sexual orientation, or anything else.

In this country, we’re not supposed to victimize anyone in the pursuit of the greater good. “Small price to pay” is not a sentence we’re supposed to be using when talking about traumatizing innocent bystanders.

In this country, we’re supposed to hold truth as sacrosanct and expect education to count for something. Truth should not be something that’s fluid and changes based on the person who’s telling it.

In this country, media are supposed to be unbiased and objective. We should be able to trust that what we’re being told is fact and not a carefully crafted piece of fiction. And we should be able to trust that the news isn’t being influenced by the beliefs and priorities of journalists, news directors or media owners.

In this country, we have freedom of speech. And that applies to the people who agree with you as well as those whose beliefs are in opposition to yours. It also applies to those whose beliefs are so fundamentally opposite to yours that … well, you get the idea. But it doesn’t mean that you are allowed to incite violence. It doesn’t mean that you get to use your influence and power to bully those in opposition to you. It doesn’t mean that you get to go in front of a large audience and imply that violence would be a good solution to whatever ails you today.

In this country people are innocent until proven guilty. The assumption of guilt isn’t enough. The assumption that someone will do something at some point isn’t supposed to mean that they get thrown in jail, out of the country … or otherwise removed. There’s supposed to be trials, with due process and laws that are followed, laws that apply to everyone.

I hate that I can’t use the words “Make America Great.” I hate that it’s become this code for racism, xenophobia, and extremism.

I hate that I’m having arguments with people I love. I hate that I can see so clearly why they’re wrong and understand that they don’t get why I can’t or won’t agree with them.

I hate that suddenly political and education decisions are based on religion.

I hate that fear is a constant, growing feeling that’s a daily presence in my life.

Because you’re still seeing the dots, saying “look, how pretty!” and I’m staring in horror at the image they hide.