March 24, 2016

Adulthood v. The People

Wassup Mi Gente!
How y’all feeling? How y’all living?

As I sat on the toilet this morning, with a fresh blunt I thought-

“This is how I know at least my body is lining up with adulthood, when you can't leave the house before your morning shit, it's like the whole day is off. Your whole equilibrium, off… Damn, now I know why people sit in here with cigarettes… feels so… adult-like.”

These days, meaning the last 7, I’ve been filled with anxiety about the way I'm living, or where I may be living soon, and rent…

BAM BAM BAM! It was 7:13am, on a Tuesday, in January. I thought someone finally stopped minding their business, and called in about the cyphers. I never answer my door. I have anxiety about it being someone I wasn't expecting. I guess I ain't living right... I did my best silent-bed roll, with all the crap on my bed, not to make a sound, and maybe whoever, obviously not the cops, will chill the fuck out. BAM BAM BAM! I quietly tripped over a pair of shoes that I wore around my house that one night I almost went somewhere. I looked in the peephole, and of course it was some fat white man with a NYCHA jacket on. The one time I see a white man in the projects and this nigha leaving a court notice on my door, ain't this about a bitch. I knew what it was... Every time I came in my building I made a wide right turn in case there was some paper hanging on my door; or a marshal's notice. I prayed my peripheral vision will catch it, so maybe the reaction won't be as, I don't know, direct; in my face. The last few months, I’ve even expected to see furniture resembling mine on the “bed-bugs corner;” the spot in the hood you know you gonna see someone’s old ass couch just chillin', and the trash. I guess I’ve been avoiding walking straight home, literally; what a metaphor...  I haven't been paying the rent, and I’ve been conscious of that, and not so conscious at the same time, believe it or not. The first time I saw a similar letter back in September, or let's be real, the housing court notice, I wasn't expecting it; oddly enough. I was so manic, and feeling so up in the clouds, what fucks did I care? Until I came home after months of not knowing how to. I remember thinking, wow, how long was this on my door? So this is just ok, for people’s information to be plastered on their door like some public announcement? Now my neighbors know this young person out here being irresponsible. Thanks. I mean, someone can say, “Well, pay ya rent.” Valid point, whoever you are... I panicked that Tuesday morning. Not a Girl What Are You Gonna Do? Panic; more like a, Bitch, Why Do You Keep Playing Yourself? Kind of panic. The kind of panic you can't help but start tearing yourself apart with, and can't even stop to think, like girl, what'd you gonna do? Forreal. And I panicked in the way I thought I would. I shut down, and I applied for Food Stamps, and immediately psyched myself into this “you are a responsible, able, “functional”, educated adult,” because I am, aren’t I? How could I not be on my shit? What the hell are you thinking loka? Don’t start using that trauma bullshit again? This is you. All you. And I went down to 111 Centre St. Room 225, and got my January 26, court date. It's been 2 months since these moments in life.

I found myself last Wednesday morning dancing for Eleggua(an orisha; associated with opening the roads, and often depicted as the child/trickster) I put the music on, Juan Luis Guerra, “La Cosquillita.” I played the maraca I bought him in DR last year, and I danced for him. I sang with him. I even followed my intuition this time, took manteca de corojo(red palm oil) and lathered him in it. I’m about to go to the management office for the almost three thousand, if not more dollars in rent I owe, that I’ve been to housing court for in the last year. It's embarrassing to say, because it was the first thing I remember talking about when I got my place, about how paid my rent will ALWAYS be; until you're in the heart of it. Mismanaging funds, time; turn around your mental so shot you end up unemployed, and no real idea of how to navigate the system that's already looking for a reason to deny you something; that has an image of what struggle, poverty, and mental illness looks like; and then you realize you are still embodying your childhood trauma that can make your adulthood feel like a constant state of crisis. It’s scary, and it gives me anxiety. The moments I stood there and looked for my name on a wall, with everyone else, Housing v. Betsy Perez, but it reads more like Adulthood v. Betsy Perez. Adulthood v. The People. I sat there in a courtroom of mostly women of color, and we sat there, listening for our names to be called, by our housing assistant when they show up, or the judge who seems to always show up; it makes my stomach flip even as I write it. And you know? I’ve had this conversation with too many friends in one week about rent, about making adult decisions; what does it mean to be an adult, like what the fuck does that really mean? We think that we know what’s an “adult”, and we also know what an adult is “supposed“ to be, we are reminded everyday, and are expected to make “better” choices but how do we make choices we never made? Never taught? People see me and think I got it together because I speak the way I do, or find myself in spaces doing advocacy or work in the community; that I am able to do for myself. I feel sometimes so embarrassed to sit with the misconception of "being able” to keep a job, "being able" to eat at least 3 meals in the day, and of course "being able" to at least pay da goddamn rent, because don't you care? Don't I care?

Real talk, I never knew how unprepared I was for adulthood. And crazy part is, nighas had the money for the rent no lie. Or at least have come up with cash to put towards a roof over our heads. Yet there we were having this conversation, about welfare, our welfare, and how discouraging the process of getting a One Shot Deal can be(a loan, or grant from the city to help pay an outstanding rent balance or, a motherfuckin' loophole depending on who you asking). There was a huge disconnect between visualizing myself making the payments and me actually doing so; it's become some fucked up theme, the disconnect. I just couldn't even conceive that here I was again...

So here I am, back to this… freaking out, yet oddly enough this time around, I feel supported in a weird way, as if I never had this support in the first place but I know that I always did, and maybe I’m just acknowledging it now. I don’t know. And um, it got fucked me up because I’m like damn, I could’ve not been in this situation but I didn’t know how not to be in this situation, buuut I did know, aaand I didn't in the same breath. And I still don’t… My mom and dad would be like-

"Pero Massiel, e que tu ta loqua muchacha del carrizo... Tu no tiene familia? Pa ta qui muriendose, viviendo como lo animales. Llamano mi’ja, tu sabe que cualquier cosa....nosotro somo tus padres. We are jore parents.... Ju call us. (My dad claps his hands. Adjust his waistline. Smiles.) So vamo a ve. Animo. Animo… Eh, tu… comissste hoy?"

Loose Translation-”But Betsy, are you are outta your right mind? Don't you have family? So you can be out here living to die, living like the animals… you can always call us… we are your parents… So come on. Energy. Energy. Eh, you… aTe(emphasis on the “t”) today?”

Ma and pa don't understand. Or shit, maybe I’m the only who doesn't. I think that they can't conceive that their daughter is struggling in this way, and is expressing herself about it. It's all taboo. My whole childhood is taboo for Dominican culture, or Afro- Caribbean culture in general, at least that's how I feel. And I get that my parents son de otra generacion, from another generation, so our values don't always align; and that they themselves may be internalizing some of my human experience too. My idea of "family" and "support" is warped. I'm realizing that I'm realizing, that I couldn't have gotten, and still, dot dot dot, can't get the support from my parents that I want, because what I want, is for them to acknowledge that maybe I'm not just being fucking dramatic, and yes you are part of this static. And what we really gets me is that, I just wanna hug, and embrace them but don't know how to do that so, yes they are family but it don't automatically mean support...

I danced for my Eleggua... just danced. I could see myself, you know? I danced for him. And as soon as the song stopped; I felt this wave of… tears come and I let them. I couldn’t hold myself up. Like my beautiful sistah artist, Zakiya wrote, “more heavy than an overfilled levee,” and shiloh(peace) felt like she was coming through, and I um, just felt this, I don’t know, this overwhelming pain, this this anger, this anguish, this confusion, and I slid down my frontdoor, back against it. I sat next to Eleggua who was covered in manteca de corojo and honey, sitting on toys and toasted corn, I held him with my left hand, and the maraca on my right… and I cried.

“Eleggua...Eleggua Papa. Please, I just want my mind back...How..."

I just cried and I cried… and I cried.

Even in the midst of all that my mind is thinking I may want a blunt after all this crying and then I thought-

“Girl you ain't got no money for no weed, what you thinkin’. Betta go put somethin’ on this rent.”

I asked Olofi not too long ago to please help me be more strategic about my weed smoking, to show me, tell me how to be a more productive pot-head, because real shit, it soothes me. Not to say I'm not also aware that I have to find other ways of soothing myself, of taking care of me when I’m overwhelmed by thoughts or emotions, preferably at little to no cost. I started realizing that buying weed was my way of paying rent for my sanity; so instead of keeping a roof over my head, only “roof” I was thinkin ‘bout was my mind, and how that shit’s bout to get evicted any thought now, and with mind about to get put out I needed to quickly pay some rent on that bitch. I wasn't worried about these four walls, I wasn’t worried about nothing. I was worried about keeping me together so there can be somebody to live in these concrete walls. In "reality". I mean, I was saving my life. I was... saving my life. I was paying rent somewhere you know? Not in the “real world” I guess. Not in the “world” of how adulthood is “suppose” to look. All of us are fucking sinking, and my friends are sinking, and we are sinking. Im sinking. Paying rent to the wrong owner, wrong world; paying rent to our sanity, we are paying rent to keep our minds, we are paying rent to keep our bodies, you know? To feel something, to I don’t know anymore, maybe I'm just projecting, and I'm the only one. Can’t sugarcoat it and…

And as I sat there I thought to myself, if I write about this moment, someone, maybe some cousin of mine, my mom, or a random individual will think-

“Yes! That is Jesus! Loosening the devil’s grip on your mind.”

Then I laughed, while I was crying… I was laughing, but I was crying, somewhere in between the breaths, but I definitely was doing both and didn’t really know when which started or ended; I wasn’t really sure if I was still doing either or, and I thought it was the most hilarious thing! I was contemplating smoking a blunt before paying my rent, once again. Like really? Then I thought, HOLY SHIT! You’re having a Jane Fonda moment! Now let's be clear, I know nothing about this woman except Lil’ Kim’s fitness reference in, Mary J.’s “I Can Love You.” So last month, I saw Miss Jane Fonda at Caroline’s Comedy Club and she talked about healing and the moment she “fell” into her body, which happened while she cried and laughed. And I was like dang, you hear about laughter and healing, and I understand it in theory, you know? “Laughter is the number one medicine”, just not for me I guess. Or maybe I wasn’t exactly honoring laughter as “medicinal” in the way I relate to the idea of meds. I have to maybe expand my view on “medicine.” Hmmm, that was a real time epiphany... I sat there, listening to Ms. Fonda and as she spoke, I thought,-

“Wow... that’s some kind of real-life moment... How does that happen? How can you laugh and cry and “fall” into your body?”

I mean it made perfect sense but I just couldn't envision such a transformative experience for myself... And then there I was sittin on the floor, my left hand covered in honey and manteca de corojo, and I think it was one of the only moments in life, to date, that I can say, I felt healing taking place.

I cried and laughed, then I cried and I laughed. I had cried and laughed so much that I physically needed to throw up. I crawled to the right where my bathroom was barely able to hold my body up, I was so exhausted, and held my head over this chair, with hole. I felt IT coming up, whatever IT was, and I felt crazy. I even thought,

“What will you throw up, you barely eat enough to have a decent pool of vomit.”

I picked myself up and I stood there, and cried again. I saw myself. Dancing… and smiling, and singing, while I was… I was genuinely letting go; I saw myself with Eleggua and the maraca. It was out of body experience. Singing “A que le yo-yo!”- Juan Luis Guerra in the background- you know? And he, Eleggua, he held me. I felt. I was free. I can't picture the last time I ever saw myself that way, or if I have ever seen myself. I cried. I cried because I’m thought,

“That’s you mamas… that’s you Bee.”

And that's the me, I’m hurting for. That person is inside of me, it's just about doing things to help her come out, and to live a little, and maybe to live, period, cus I’ve never lived. I don't think that little girl, that part of me ever lived. In many ways I feel the trauma I experienced as a child, stunted my development in ways that are manifesting in my adulthood, or whatever adulthood is. I was making decisions beyond my capacity as a child, and in many ways still feel as if I making decisions beyond my capacity, as a child, very similarly. It rarely ever makes much sense to me, or at least I have a hard time accepting why I am a child of Eleggua. Accepting that fact, is coming more to terms with my childhood. He allowed me, to give me some permission to have this moment, a moment to fall into my body, and heal the little girl inside me a bit. And all the while I thought I was asking him to keep a real roof over my head, I was without realizing asking him to keep my mind, to give me back my mind, to keep that roof over my head, so that I can worry about the actual four walls outside of me.

Thank you for letting me vent on ya screen, and being a part of my healing.

Stay building.
Stay dope.

February 25, 2016

Disclose & Disappear

Wassup Mi Gente?
How you feelin? How you livin?

The beautiful thing is, or at least I try to tell myself, trauma isn't linear i.e. this blog. You have sat with me in my past, my present, my real time, somewhere in between giving up and trying again. Trauma pulls you in every direction; it’s messy, complicated, and excruciatingly painful. And independently, it's hard to find beauty, light, solace, hope, when looking at trauma head-on like I've been examining every minute it seems like for the last two to three years. But stepping back, and looking at my trauma last night, reading about it from my point of view, reading how the act of healing pulls you, me, in every direction just as much, just as messy, complicated if not more than the trauma, and excruciatingly painful as well; and when I looked at the two together last night, as I sat and read this blog, my corner of space in the world, my world, my thoughts, my feelings, I didn't think I would crack a smile, let alone burst into laughter cus its so painful yet fucking hilarious, and I’ve never laughed about it. I sat alone in my homeboy's house babysitting his cat, or whatever babysitting a cat looks like, and I sat with myself. I sat with me. I sat with the same words you did, for the first time, because later today I'll be sitting with a group of other adults who were sexually abused within their families. The Hidden Waters Healing Circles are 12 weeks, and I knew I needed to know where I started on this healing journey. Below I share with you my email to Elizabeth:

“Good afternoon Elizabeth,

I hope this finds you in amazing spirits.

My name is Betsy, and I was forwarded some information about your upcoming healing circles, with individuals who have experienced or been impacted by, intra-familial child sexual abuse.

For the last two years, I have found myself unraveling in the crippling affects of being abused within my family growing up. I started sharing some of my story in creative ways, and have 3 therapy stints under my belt. The most recent therapist I saw for a month before I mentioned the sexual abuse, and even then, I couldn't bring myself to say it, and had to write it down. I saw her one more time, and never returned; not even her messages; it was a pattern I'd adopted, "disclose & disappear"... This year has began in a great way, and wanna say, I have come, some way, from where I was, not so long ago, yet... there's always this blankness I feel, I'm there, and here, and tuned out.

I always know deep down what the root of many things for me is that trauma. Even if I wanna think, I'm an adult now; that the past, is the past; and you gotta " change the way you think," a personal favorite to hear, and preach; its not that simple. So, I'm currently in a place where although I want to heal, I just don't know how to, from this, this pain, and I don't know if the people in my life can understand that this, has reframed my world in ways I don't think they'll ever get, and that I may not either, which I guess, is possible, right? I am unable to truly, and fully embrace my family, my self, or... my life; physically, spiritually, or emotionally, if I'm completely honest; always in my head for reasons I can't explain, and ones I'm too ashamed to admit. I don't even know if that's realistic for me, to fully embrace all these parts of my life, and self… but it has to be, right?

I'm scared to heal. I don't know if healing really means letting go because, if I let go, what would be left of the time in my life I call "my childhood"? I've always said, “I never had one,” and now, I'm realizing its cus it wasn't the kind any person should have, but the "logical" side of me, which I guess is kinda, my shame and some denial, wants to say, "it wasn't all bad... And you liked it."

So I guess I don't know a lot about where I'm standing, except... that I wanna live, and wanna feel good about living, without feeling embarrassed for it or like, I'm not suppose to. I'm aware all of this won't happen in 12 weeks, and though that would be nice, I just wanna give myself another chance to heal with intention, and meet others who are healing too.

Thank you for sitting with my words.

I hope to be in contact soon.

Much, much love,

Betsy "Bizzy" Perez
Art. Activism. Healing.
"Sometimes the king is a woman."- De La Vega”

By stepping into this circle, I know why I’m there, why I’m choosing to take part, and as I write this even to you, I feel the heat fill me, the electricity at my tips, the anxiety, the pain, the heartbreaking fact that I know exactly why I am there for being violated as a child, for understating, believing, for wanting to think that its all good, when it wasn’t, and still isn’t. Therapy in the past has been anxiety provoking, and like I mentioned in the email, I usually “Disclose & Disappear,” difference this time is, there is no need of disclosure, and I’m trusting, I’m hoping, that I wont disappear.

Thank you for letting me vent on ya screen, and being a part of my healing.

Stay building.
Stay dope.

September 16, 2015

The Silver Lining

Wassup Mi Gente!
Happy Hispanic Heritage Month!

How are y'all feeling today?!

I cannot recall a moment in life that I've ever used the term "silver lining" to describe the bright side of things, I never really got it, even after the movie, Silver Linings Playbook, which I never finished seeing but I want to.  I probably never even written the two words together yet yesterday after I slept, slept, and slept; I woke up to a silver lining... on the label of some tub of cream that has nothing left to give. It cut through the horizon of unfolded clothes, a beach chair drowning in you guessed it, more unfolded clothes, and the rent free insanity of bags spilling outta bags, jewelry boxes with mail and jewelry, a laptop trapped in the 90's with my 653 songs on constant shuffle but only plays a select few, and then some, all occupying my not so big studio. I'm pretty sure the mess is absorbing my energy at night cuz it gets harder to get up, even harder to fall asleep, yet so easy to sit in all of it. And its the easiness of it that can sometimes bring us down, or at least me. Its familiar. Takes no effort. Then I start to think, there's gotta be more, right? Where's the silver lining?! Well maybe, we're the silver lining....

The upside down deep moisturizing cream with a lime pleated design and silver lining, with a half smoked blunt on top of it from 3 something that morning, and I were at eye level. It was 3:34pm and I, was the bed exhaustion was laying on. My body felt like bricks; and I couldn't for the life of me remember the last time I'd felt so heavy, so unmotivated yet yearning to get out of bed. I had attempted to get up at 11am, That didn't happen. Then again at 1pm. Slept pass it. So I laid there. The leak in my bathroom plays the same song, all day, even when there's no one to listen.

My face on my hand on my pillow, staring at the silver lining. Then of course I needed to pee, something I decided would be best done outta bed, and I got up. Barely. The hunger was unbearable but I had little to no intention to eat, even that felt like, something else?

I stood up, hunched. I looked down at myself wondering how much weight have I lost since coming back from DR, I was doing so great, I thought. I have no full length mirror in my apartment so I never look at myself completely, at least in my own space. The hunger, and the exhaustion were turning me out but not more than my awareness. Just two weeks ago, I was doing so much, I felt extremely up, and alert, working on things I'd let fall by the wayside the last time I was manic. Bi Polar Disorder, fuck you, like forreal. I got angry with myself and it seemed the angrier, the hungrier. I ate an apple. Yes, an apple. I sat on my bed and devoured it. Only 34 minutes had went by and it felt like 2hrs. I thought,

Is this life?

I rolled up, and laid back down. I felt like I was having a staring contest with the silver lining on the upside down deep moisturizer whose half a blunt I smoked after killing the apple. I contemplated, will I get up today? will I let the exhaustion be? I wanna get up. You have to get up. You have to write. Consistency consistency consistency is key. Who the fuck came up with that shit. Its so patronizing.... iMessage...

-"Hey you..."
-"Lol. Hey you"

I didn't "lol" but I did roll my eyes and smile. I guess its the same thing.

-"You still going to that thing tonight?"

That thing? What thing? THAT THING! That thing like all the other things I either signed up for, said I was going to and totally forgot about. How supportive of me. Jesus Betsy...

-"....gunna leave soon then"
-"Dope....see you soon then!"

Self loathing? So much for that.

My metro card had expired... yesterday, and i wasn't really planning on getting outta bed. I had decided if I was gonna feel like shit about life, Imma do it aaaallll the way. I really need some therapy. Social accountability is a tricky thing, I use it so I can show up for myself but not showing up becomes about other people. Complicated. And all I kept thinking, and thanking god for was the location of the event which was right across the park at El Barrio Firehouse Community Media Center.

"From El Barrio to Ayotzinapa" a screening of two beautiful and empowering short films: Women Fighting for El Barrio, the Community, and Another World, a film about a group of trailblazing Latina immigrant women of Movement for Justice in El Barrio, a grassroots community mobilizing collective that fight for housing justice for all marginalized communities; and Video-message from the Mothers of the 43 Disappeared Students of Ayotzinapa, words from some of the mothers heading "the worldwide struggle" of the 43 students that disappeared one year ago next week. This video-message for the women of Movement for Justice in El Barrio, was a display of how these women are breaking borders and creating global communities.

I was moved by the films and seeing these "ordinary" women do EXTRAORDINARY things. It made me feel first of all, PROUD to be an immigrant Latina and, really good that I showed up.

El Barrio Firehouse is home to the Manhattan Neighborhood Network(MNN), "Manhattan's free, public access cable network;" they also provide free basic, intermediate, and advance level courses in film making, editing, and broadcasting for both youth and adult Manhattan residents, me, now being one of them.

When I got uptown, thanks to the 2.75 I found inside of the lining of one my bags, I sat on my friends couch and began surfing through MNN's website to see if there's some tired ass service fee that was failed to be mentioned earlier; I know, how untrusting and kinda cynical. I guess I wanted it to be everything they said, so bad, that I doubted them. Expectations, what a set up? But there weren't any tired service fees, and courses for basic field production, and this dope one on, "Journalism in the Social Media Age" are just about to start. Talk about a silver lining? It was all the silver I needed. Registering for those courses filled me up with excitement, and I wont lie, anxiety...

-"Carlos, I'm in a relationship. Like I just committed to something..."
-"Girl, what are you talking about?"
-"I just signed up for these courses at Manhattan Neighborhood Neighborhood, two loka. TWO! I feel amazing but I feel like, oh my god, I'm so crazy I just committed to something and I just had a melt down about being unreliable and the final project is a group thing, and groups? GROUPS? DIOS MIO! why do I do it to myself. But I'm happy cuz I'll have a routine and they say people who are bipolar need routine. Girl Imma be busy; like legit I have somewhere to be... busy.
-"Well... that's ya name right?

I wanted to slap the PlayStation controller outta his hand I love him so much, but his oh so matter fact response to my rant was perfect.

There are days that I just cant understand what the hell is going on with me, and why am I experiencing the world in these various ways and why and why and why. Then I realize like I do, everyday, that I have to push through. Maybe if I didn't push through my depression this morning to write about the the deep cream's silver lining, how would I have know that the image might just have been a symbol for my day yesterday, or life? I know it sounds corny but I believe in no coincidences. I know this mini journey will be full of inner light and progress, cuz that how I see these courses, as experiences that are going to elevate and help me grow into the human being, the woman, the artist, the activist, that I see. I feel there's purpose in the dark, I found some of my greatest lessons in it but it was actually giving myself some light, or being open to it, that allowed me to really see them. I hope today You find the silver lining, and if you don't it's ok, doesn't mean it isn't there shining.

Thank you so much for letting me vent on ya screen, and being a part of my healing.

Stay building.
Stay dope.