Microgravity: On Dancing Naked, Writing Bravely, and Reading Ntozake Shange

It feels counter intuitive to admit, but sometimes I forget to nurture myself even though I know that doing so will leave me feeling less burdened. So, I’m back at it in full force. Right now I’m trying to manifest some new things in my life and though the process has been going well, it’s been draining at times. My solution so far has been to meditate, alter my eating, and cultivate more practices to help me build on the healing that I’m already engaged in. But all routines need a little disruption, so the latest part of my journey involves dancing naked, saying what I need to say, and incorporating more mindful reading. That last part is arguably the most important, because drawing strength from the words of the many unyielding women who told their stories before has been helping me get closer to a level of self-acceptance that feels weightless, free.

Though the steps I’ve been taking have been decidedly small, that doesn’t mean I don’t feel them working their magic already.

Because I do.

For starters, I’ve been rocking my fro more often. Even the protective styles I choose now are often kinky or curly. But wearing my fro–down and fully free of the workplace-friendly bun I usually wear–is somehow different. I don’t do it every day, but I’ve made it a point to do it more. I appreciate my hair in a strange way when I do, and find lessons in the way that it grows, defiantly, upwards toward the sun all winter.

Big. Nappy. Non-compliant.

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Speaking of hair…

I fluff my hair out or let it down before I dance or touch myself. I do this whether it’s my own hair, a fall, or braids. On all fours, I slow-crawl toward the large mirror that is adorned with fairy lights, propped in the corner of my bedroom. I dance for myself. Because I want to see my body. I’m proud of meeting the weight loss goals that I wrote down for myself ( because I’m so serious about writing shit down on paper), and I’m getting reacquainted with this slimmer me.

I’m taking time to enjoy the way that, on all fours with my back arched, the curves I see are like those that form the mouth of a body of water. And my body of water is fed by an impenetrable ocean, and swells and flows into the narrowing river that is my waist.

It’s a show solely for me, and that’s new. Necessary and new.

The reason that this ritual is good for me is that I sometimes forget that I’m fashioned from clay that was once twinkling dust in the darkness.

So as a rule, I dance nude with my hair unruly to remind myself that I was once star dust. and that I need to relish each moment I’m able to move fluidly in this water-born form as much as I can… because one day I’ll be star dust again.

Another thing I’ve begun is the practice of storing my apologies in a big jar because I plan to burn them or bury the jar somewhere deep.  I’ve written down things I’ve been told I should apologize for and be ashamed of (by myself and others) on slips of paper, folded them, and dropped them in. Because I’m actually not sorry.

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I’m not sorry that I can write and hold a tune and play the flute. I’m not sorry that I am double jointed in every way that one can be double jointed; I am rigid and liquid, feminine and masculine; detached and hyper-emotional. Calculated and irrational.

Dual.
Bi.
Multi, even.

I am actually a ritualistic woman, dabbling in quantum Sufism until I let myself fall all the way in

Anyway.

Third thing? I talk to my daddy more, and I listen to him. I told him that I love him, and that I’m not mad anymore. I think it’s because I’m a parent and and I get that he wasn’t a superhero. He was a young musician with six kids, a few jinns on his back, and a horn at his side that he loved in way that bred genius and madness and absenteeism. I told him that most of the bad things I managed avoid were because of him.

Because I remember when I sat cross legged on the carpet with my sisters and brothers and recited Al Fatiha and the Four Quls with him. Funny, when I was little I though they were the “Four Cools.” Ha.

That bad joke is specifically for black American Muslim girls, and I’m not sorry about that shit either.

Alexa, Play F.U.B.U. by Solange… and increase the volume.

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I’m not sorry for bisexuality. When I suppress who I am, I drink. My hair falls out. I scream and cry. I become a nihilist because I feel broken, defective.

I’m not sorry for imagining many ways to kill rapists, then using those musings as the focal point of my science fiction stories. I am not sorry for thinking that rapists should die violent deaths for the horrors they leave behind in our dreams. Horrors we have no choice but to live with…

Admitting these things to myself has helped me heal.

These days, my hair is fuller and I sleep well. When I need to, I sleep the day away. And for once, it’s simply to replenish myself–and not to escape the world I know I’ll awaken in. Sometimes, I stay in child’s pose for an hour. Other times, I do handstands and shoulder stands and splits in the yoga studio in my complex. Or on the floor of my bedroom. My space is curated to resemble the souks of Marrakesh and I work hard to pay my bills.

So I keep broke n*ggas away from me because they’re exhausting.

DISCLAIMER: Not the ones who’re strapped for cash as they pursue their dreams–they’re cool. Brave, actually. I’m speaking of the ones who bring little more than mediocre dick and mommy issues to the table, but insist that I be a bread-winning, black version of Jessica Rabbit who cooks like their obese mother and cums all over myself when they offer up minimal effort on anything. Ones who blame their failures on everything but their complacency, then trash me as a black women when I let them hold that “L” alone. Later for them, specifically.

I don’t feel guilty when I dismiss them.

I’m not sorry for that shit.

The last thing I’ve been doing is reading as much as possibly can, and curating my reading list to include more poetry. I’ve been drawing strength from women who went through what I went through, and survived.  I fill the tub and try not to get the tiny bubbles on the pages of Angelou’s poetry. As I read articles about Audre Lorde, I stare at her no-nonsense glare in her bio pics and see myself staring back at me as words like “black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet” jump off the page and into my heart. I read Ntozake Shange’s poem, With No Immediate Cause from beginning to end.

It’s a piece that used to trigger my sadness, but now makes me angry in a good way. I accept that as progress, and progress is always good.

The words of these women mean a lot to me. The way they lived means a lot to me. Because they were brave because they had to be, felt compelled to be. As for me? I have only been brave when I’ve chosen to be.

Many times, I’ve chosen to wear the ball and chain of conformity and complicity because everyone else did and still does. And I get that. Ball-and-chain style complicity is fashionable. A dewy cheeked model with massive curls would wear it as some gaudy accessory, with the chain slung over the shoulder of her structured trench coat on the cover of Vogue. Because we value complicity even when we say we don’t, even though it is spiritually expensive and everyone can wear it in some form or another because it comes in many colors, and is always in.

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Being weighed down is, strangely enough, always in.

And because getting/being/staying free is hard. Launching yourself toward something better? Even harder.

And what’s crazy is I want even more than that. I want more than the launch; I want what’s beyond the launch:

Microgravity.

Zero gravity.

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Look. The stories I’ve read and the conditions I’ve seen have shown me that a lot hasn’t changed since some of  my favorite, boldest, black women first railed against injustice with their dance, presence, and words. So I know that this is the time in my life to be brave because I have to be. I’ve had enough practice. Enough time. And I’ve certainly had enough examples of the right way to wage war with my art.

So that’s how I’m gone write my shit. 

I give myself permission.

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As I do, I’ll just keep my friends close, check on my mama, and get to this money. I’ll also try to pray when I feel invited. Better yet, I’ll try my best to remember that when it comes to prayer (read as: salat), I’m the one who scares myself off from it–I’ve already been told that I’m always invited.

Remaining in this state takes practice for me. Training, even. Some days I want to push my writing aside. I want to call off my calling and lay the fuck down. But that’s not allowed in my fucking space program. Ne’er a weak bitch got launched into space who didn’t earn it.

As a quick aside, I’d also like you to know that I’d originally called this blog “Zero Gravity” because I thought that sounded way cooler than anything else. But it “sounded way cooler” in the way those ’70s hippies raising two fingers toward the sky while calling for “world peace” did.

Or, the way a world without colonialism and patriarchy does. All of that shit sounds cool.

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But those things haven’t been achieved yet.

Much in the way that our current understanding of physics negate the possibility of the existence of zero gravity, our limited yet cyclical views–dictated by our temporal lives–prevent us from being capable of fathoming a world without systems that uplift some and subjugate the rest. We just aren’t there yet.

So, even astronauts floating weightlessly in their suits aren’t experiencing complete absence of gravity. But they’re damn close. Like, really close. And that’s significant too, because it reminds us that that some things will never be perfectly whole in this world; perfectly just, or good. But working toward the near-perfect is still a worthwhile goal, and will always be.

So I’m just doing the work. I’m conditioning myself to go up and stay up as long as I can. For Jemison. For Shange.

For my mama ‘n’ em, and myself.

I’m conditioning myself for microgravity.

Hell, zero gravity too.

 

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