Saturday, October 24, 2009

Built to Survive, Day 83

I had been looking forward to last night for a week. I was filled with anticipation, excitement, and enthusiasm that just washed over me. The instant I saw the space, I fell in love and I just knew that poetry night was going to be a powerful experience for me. I became consumed by it. I mass emailed a bunch of people who I wanted to see there. I was disappointed to receive a bunch of I can't make it emails, and I was particularly disappointed by two friends, but mostly one friend who wasn't able to make it. If there was one thing I was certain about I thought he'd be there.

It didn't help that I had premonitions about that night. I saw a couple of visions wherein one of my friend wasn't there but another friend was in all of those premonitions, so I was certain he was going to be there. I'm not really sure why I felt he had to be there. I awkwardly showed up with rice paper for spring rolls thinking that he would be there only to constantly lose it leaving the trail of an odd Asian girl in what I can only describe as black society.

Virtually everyone who knows me knows that I'm not racist. I roll with everyone. I grew up in San Francisco. I have traditional Japanese parents. I lived in a Russian neighborhood. I know more about Russian culture and spoke Russian more than I did my own native tongue. Hell, my Russian friends' parents spoke to me in Russian subconsciously but spoke English to their own blood. A dialog would go one for about ten minutes before any of us realized what was happening. My first foster home was a black family. I lived with my Mexican friend's family for a while. I lived with my then boyfriend's Nicaraguan family. I found a home with Auntie Glo and Uncle Charlie (Filipinos). I'm friends with everyone - whites, blacks, Asians, Latinos, Middle Easterners. I know that co-existing among other races doesn't make me a part of it. But I've been exposed to everyone for so long and felt at home with all of them that I was surprised and ashamed of myself for feeling out of place there.

I quickly became disappointed by the absence of my friends. But not shortly after I realized how influential they were for me. I've always thought of myself as independent, able to stand on my own. I didn't think my overall mood could diminish because I'm alone. I go into environments all the time whereI don't have the presence of my friends, and I leave after developing new friendships. But here, I quickly felt out of place as if I was invading a territory I didn't belong in and I felt uncomfortable. That was the worst feeling for me.

I was in a roomful of black people, and I felt uncomfortable. The perception of feeling uncomfortable, which I associate with fear, was occurring around black people who are perceived as being dangerous, a threat. It made me feel guilty, ashamed, confused, and disappointed in myself. Did I really fall into social bigotry? I thought I was above all of that. The emotional overload was becoming too much. As I was preparing to leave, the woman hosting the show asked if I was leaving. She could sense my discomfort and tried to alleviate it. She asked kindly if I felt out of place. I openly admitted that I did. I felt guilty admitting that because I was essentially revealing that I felt uncomfortable in a roomful of black people, but she was really understanding and sweet.

I ultimately decided to stay. I'm conflicted about my experience there. Overall, the energy and vibe was amazing! The poetry was really a work of art, musical, and most of all powerful. There was one woman who was introducing each poet, and she just had a magnificent presence about her. She was like refreshing sunshine and it brought light and security. It really put me at ease.

The poets expressed some meaningful, symbolic, and powerful messages. It was truly touching. I didn't agree with every belief system, but overall there was a sense of passion that I can respect. One woman, one proud Black woman, wrote poetry about herself as a proud black woman. She took the time to share that she saw people of all races there and that it represents any and all proud women. I really respected her inclusiveness. Poems are meant to be personal. You should feel connected to it, and of course you're going to draw on your own experiences. She is a proud black woman, so her poem projected that. It was beautiful.

That's the kind of presence and energy I want to be exposed to. But I suppose bad seeds exist in all places. There was this one black guy that really dampened the evening for me. His poems were passionate, well-written, and undeniably the work of an artist, but he was a racist fucking asshole! The evening gets kicked off with everyone grabbing a word from a bag. We're given the choice to go up on stage and express what that word means to us. I can't remember his word, but he began talking about how blacks have to stick together and not in a culturally-strengthening sense but from an exclusivist's point of view.

He began expressing rage and anger towards white America and how they were trying to take him down after talking about the destruction and damage that racism perpetuates, he goes and ignites a fire of his own. He also spews his disapproval of interracial relationships even to the hinted degree that interactions among other races is damaging to any culture. I was overwhelmed by how conflicted I felt about his position. I felt saddened by this narrow-minded mentality and what he's missing out on, while I simultaneously disapproved of his unacceptable racism. It wasn't just my imagination, either, because the same woman who was trying to comfort me looked over at me as this guy was poisoning the energy around me to make sure I was okay.

I didn't notice it at the time, but when I began feeling uncomfortable and I felt a sense of violation, I was actually in close proximity to him. I was picking up on his emotions. I was even warned that I have to be careful about my empathetic abilities because I may begin to feel and experience things I don't understand. I have to learn to be more aware of where it comes from, so I'm not burdened by it. This experience demonstrated the realness of that.

I even texted my only two friends who were planning to arrive that they not show for the very reason that they're white. They're grown adults, and I don't want to make the decision for them to not appear. They would've disagreed with his position but have the ability to maintain their composure. However, the guy talking shit is easily the type of person who would approach them to trigger confrontation. That would've resulted in an unpleasant experience for everyone. So I asked them to not come. It made me feel awful to be in a position that even requires me to make such considerations and evaluation.

A passionate, beautiful, sexy, confident woman and artist recited a poem about her ascendance from being an abused victim to confronting it. I felt her essence, and it was the most powerful experience. It's been a long time since I've thought about my experiences with abusive boyfriends. I've always heard people say that once you experience something like that it stays with you and it never goes away. I feel like that's the natural way, but I left that or I thought I did when it was over. Her poem reminded me of my own experiences and surfaced a lot of emotional blockage I didn't even know I had. I started boiling of rage, fear, inadequacy, resentment, strength, confusion, superiority, inferiority, past errors, pain, desire, relief, and so much more.

I believe I was meant to be there to experience exactly what I experienced, the dark fear that haunts me and my past experiences that keep it alive. I would've never been able to do that if my friends were there because I would've distracted myself the way I always do. I socialize because I'm afraid to be alone with my own thoughts. I feel a sense of false security, distraction, and support when I'm surrounded by my friends. My energy is stabilized by them. I wouldn't have been able to immerse myself with the contrasting energies that invaded me and release the toxic negativity I've held onto for so long.

I didn't perform. I'm still not confident as a writer which is so different from a poet. You don't have to be an artist to be a writer. Poets are artists, always. I'm not human enough to consider myself a poet. And I'm not going to lie. The lyrical, rhythmic black poets intimidated me. My underdeveloped progress as a writer exploring the realm of poets with no rhythm filled me with a sense of inadequacy and fear.

But I realized something there. I may never be confident as an artist, but what's important is to not allow my fears to control me. I want to become the type of person who will go up there and recite a poem to liberate myself from the clutches of fear. I don't embarrass easily. I'm just afraid to get started. Deep down, I don't think people will turn their nose at my poem. It's just an irrational fear that prevents me from departing with the negativity that's practically been worn as second skin.

I was mesmerized by the poets. I found comfort in what one poetist said. Poets are tortured souls. That really resonated in me and made me feel more at home with something I love. I've always felt like writing is a world that belongs to the introverts. I'm an extrovert. I co-exist in a world outside of my reality surrounded by people completely separate from myself. I love it, but I've always felt out of place because I don't possess the very qualities that define and produce an artist. But I am a tortured soul. I've gone through so much crap, and I'll continue to because I have a heavy burden of toxic karma I carry with me. All of the awful things I've done in a past life is coming back to haunt me. Those are the very experiences that create writers. So as it turns out, I do belong in this world. I was born through my pain, and I'm built to survive.

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