18 December 2020

0 [insert laughter]


ten months of teaching without laughter. 

i laugh at myself. they can see and hear me laughing at myself. sometimes i see them laugh. but they are always on mute. 

no one is going to unmute themselves to audibly laugh. 

i know that. i think i may have already written about that here. that would be really fucking weird, let's be real. 

but i honestly didn't realize how much i miss that-- a classroom full of laughter-- until the other day. 

it has been so quiet, this semester just past. 

we have adapted. we have forged on. learning has occurred. teaching is happening. 

but it is so fucking quiet. 

i dress loud. i emote. i put on a damn good show. and they show up (well, some of them). 

teaching is happening. some learning has occurred. 

they are writing. 

i feel like by the sheer force of my personality, hauling us all into this moment, they are still writing. 

by my personality-- sweet jesus, my personality is so fucking tired and bereft-- i have brought us here. by the force of it. 

because this is all, on some level i can't quite access because i am numb, forced. it is performance. it comes at a cost. (it comes at the cost of all of the phone calls i have not returned.) 

but they are still writing. when i left them, they were writing. when i left them, so many of them expressed gratitude to have had the opportunity to keep writing. 

i tell myself that is all that matters. i teach writing and they are writing and i am reading what they write so they are experiencing what it feels like to have your writing taken seriously. they are experiencing what it feels like to have someone take you seriously as a writer. for the 13 weeks of these short, sad semesters, they can-- at the very least-- feel they have been read. 

ultimately, that's probably all i've ever felt i've given them, even in years past. (is it passed or past? i teach writing and i fucking do not know.)

i give them the gift of being read. 

which is not inconsequential. i would argue, it's quite a fucking lot. because why write if not with the awareness of-- if not always the expectation (though i confess, for me at least, the expectation has always, even since i was a very young girl, been there)-- of being read. 

i have never dreaded a semester so much as i currently dread spring 2021. 

maybe because spring 2020 was so appalling, so painful. 

maybe because the break between winter and spring is never ever enough, even in the good times. 

and, as i've reminded my students often these past few months, we are not living in good times. 

three weeks is not enough to sit with the grief, to process. to hold, to rest and recover. 

three weeks is not enough to reconstitute myself as a human being, much less as a writer and a thinker. 

three weeks is not enough to prep two sets of classes and prepare six course websites. 

three weeks is not enough. 

i need a month, AT LEAST. alone (with claude), reading and thinking and writing by the light of my christmas trees and walking in the early morning in my city, awaking. 

i need a month, AT LEAST, of not having to perform care work and trauma-informed pedagogy. 

as we say in my family, these are our various breads and butters. trauma and care. this is a framework that everything that has come before has prepared me to work within.

i'm aware this is maybe also the core, the meaning, of my whole life-- these kids. and their voices, meeting trauma with care. 

whenever i would try to talk about my feelings in the mid-2010s, garebear would deflect and say it's not all about you. and i knew it wasn't. and i see now how that was a defensive rhetorical move, a move intended to protect himself, because he was not able to go to there. and, surely, yes, there are times i have made it all about me. 

but i just-- and maybe this is pure flattery, maybe i'm a horrible human being who tilts narratives to gratify my own pride and make everything about myself whilst pretending it is about others--. i just, in so many of the things i have done (the jackie book, teaching, i don't know what else but surely a list of two things is long enough for you right now...) feel like i'm preparing the way. 

is a john the baptist complex a thing? 

i freely admit, i probably have that. 

I AM NOT THE ONE!!!!!!! 

i know that. i have known that for quite some time. 

but the one, the ten/the twenty/fifty/ninety/417/1202029/2238493. they are coming. they are rising up. i have seen them. 

it has been my very great privilege to see them, to read them. 

three weeks is not enough. to repair, to restore oneself for the gravity, the difficulty of the work we have to do. it is not. 

we had a union social meeting tonight for the holiday break. celebrating the end of the semester. six people showed up. 

after my teeny tiny class at nyu-dc this semester, i am convinced that six people is the perfect class size. 

we've had so many meetings this term, because we're preparing a labor action, but this is the first one where our mics were on. 

the meetings usually last an hour. this one lasted two and a half. 

and there was laughter. there was so much laughter. 

earlier today, i wrote the student who stays in touch with me from AU. she is not singing; i am not writing. and then i wrote one of the two professors from undergrad whom i stay in touch with. and i told her about the laughing. i told her how i feel like things are going pretty well but i've realized i so desperately miss the laughter. 

i can do zoom. i am maybe even thriving. when i returned to the US from london, burvil told me i should consider a job in local tv. well, baby, i've gone international. 

come spring 2021, i'll be playing twelve shows a week, all around the world. 

what i remember about the screening of a silent film-- the title of which i cannot remember-- that we had to watch in MAPH is that it was completely, utterly exhausting. in my whole young life at that point in 2003, i had never been so tired as i was after that. 

my defense mechanism is humor. my primary pedagogical tool is humor. i am, they all agree on ratemyprofessor.com, exceedingly nice. my niceness, it derives from being a generally humane person but also from my ability to handle all of this bullshit with a delicate and light and comedic touch. 

nine months, no laughs. 

three weeks is not enough to recover from the deprivation. 

three weeks is not enough before we all have to take the stage again. 

three weeks is not enough, i am not ready, i cannot pave the way if i am a depleted husk of a human being. 

it is a sin that teachers are not seen as essential workers. 

it is a sin that we are in the situation we are in right now. 

i crave joy. 

i hunger for laughs. 

i teach a whole class on helping students find their voices and what they are learning is that, when they are not speaking-- when they are not actively contributing to the discussion-- they must mute themselves. 

unbridled laughter. that is all i want for christmas. and more than three weeks to reconcile myself to the fact that that is not a gift i'm going to get. 

04 December 2020

0 i am failing

flailing? it's quite unclear. 

nanette sent me an ornament and some body/facial glitter. i opened them we skyped with her kid on thanksgiving day. 

i spent five thanksgivings away from my parents, like three of them with nanette, so this is totally not a big deal. 

i show her kid my christmas trees. i put on a sparkly duster solely for this occasion. 

he looks at me like i am magic. in this moment, i feel like magic. 

i feel like all my people's children see me. i feel like my students see me. when i am not on camera now, i feel like a dark hole. 

i wrote a thing. it's 600+ words over the limit. but, really, is this a time for limits? i feel capacious. i feel simultaneously dead inside and capacious. i would like to use all of the words at my disposal. 

the other day, i had a therapy session with a therapist whom, as it turns out i cannot afford. openly, i wept. this felt like progress. 

today, i reached the end of writing the thing. and i sobbed. 


for multiple minutes. 

and this too felt like progress. 

this is really hard. all of it. 

claude looks at me like he wants something. he asks to be loved and then he runs away. 

nanette sent body glitter, specifically for application to my eyelids. 

i put on a sequin catsuit and a significant portion of my rings and take a selfie in the bathroom and i just look like someone who has put on a catsuit and a lot of rings and posed under an unforgiving light for no reason. 

the glitter, it is not visible at this time. 

i feel like i'm failing so many people. i am not watching marco polos. i am not returning calls. 

i am not my best self. 

and then i have a zoom with a student whose grandfather died, and she shows up thirty minutes late, and i am there, and she gives me all manner of explanations and i shush her and tell her how i think i've already told her about how ruth died in 1999, and how i got a D in chemistry and my whole world was rocked in ways that have only been brought into the light during the pandemic. and i can tell she is grateful that we are occupying a space in which she is believed and explanations are not needed and her best is not expected.

i am failing all over the place but i can show up here. i can show up for the people who show me their writing. 

i tell students at one institution that a student at another institution has covid, and i see the only person who is on camera visibly flinch. 

we are all of us connected. the tissues of experience and germs bind us in ways of which we have, previously, had the luxury of remaining aware. 

there are so many emails that have slipped through the cracks. and that is just among my students. never mind my friends. 

in the union, we're planning a party for december 18th. i sent a link to a bustle article about work zooms and remarked about the sucessfulness of breakouts in my classes, so now i'm to be made a co-host. 

it puts into perspective how much i long for the house-warming party that was meant to happen last march. the birthday spectacle that was meant to occur in may. it puts into perspective all that has been lost. 

i am aware of what has been lost. i sit with what has been lost. 

all semester, my students have been submitting weekly rants. i see the panorama. people, it is awful. 

and yet we go on. and yet, i am the cohost of a work zoom on december 18th because i enjoy rearranging zoom breakouts at random. something i'm quite sure my students detest. 

the discombobulation, it is total. so maybe, just maybe, we've come to expect it. 

the thing i didn't tell the therapist i cannot afford was that i am bracing, always. i have been bracing since 2016. not because of trump but because of immigration. 

the date passed without comment. folded into thanksgiving. 

november 29th. 

the day i left the uk. the day i repatriated. the day i became someone else, forcibly, via the state. 

the thing i wrote about, the thing i finished today which went way over its word count, was about force, federal force. and trauma, and memorialization. 

i finished it. by which i do not mean that i wrote the last sentence and installed a period but rather than i filled in the details, drew in the lines around which i'd been drawing, and tied it up in the middle so it could lead into an end. 

and i sobbed. weeping was not enough. i've wept on the streets, walking up 16th, home from the BLM memorial. this was sobs. for i'm not entirely sure what. 

for the loss of life. for mj. for burvil. for the shitshow in which we currently find ourselves mired. my loneliness. for the reality that, in living, we will all die. for the other reality that, in living, we find ourselves stuck in a situation characterized by appalling iniquities. 

nannette sent an ornament and body glitter. i put on rings and a black sequin catsuit that has yet to leave the house and took pictures of myself in the bathroom mirror in an attempt to capture an image that accurately conveyed the awesomeness of the glitter with which she gifted me. 

none of them did. 

everything is inadequate. 

nothing is enough.

i am failing. 

things fall apart. 

there are not words.

and yet............