“Braving the Days: The Western Understanding of Karma – A Personal Thought Flow” by Jordannah Elizabeth

Braving the Days

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I saw a post on social media asking “Why do Western people use the word karma so much, but don’t understand what it truly means?”

I think about karma often and try to live by its principals, but I am very honest with myself and clear to others when I speak of it: perhaps I can never understand karma the same way our Eastern neighbors do. Like slave spirituals, gospel music, soul and jazz is embedded in the African American communities, in our hearts, in our generational lineage, so is karma in the East. It’s a cultural implant.

The Buddhist view of karma says: Karma is the law of moral causation. The theory of Karma is a fundamental doctrine in Buddhism. This belief was prevalent in India before the advent of the Buddha. Nevertheless, it was The Buddha who explained and formulated this doctrine in the complete form in which we have it today; we ourselves are responsible for our own happiness and misery. We create our own Heaven. We create our own Hell. We are the architects of our own fate.” *

I also understand, as I am sure many do, that every ideology and religion has some a form of the concept of karma. Before we get to my own thoughts, let’s take a look at some Western belief systems ideas of karma within Christianity, wiccanism, quantum physics and theosophical belief systems.

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In Christianity (which has been adapted by Western Culture), the rule of “an eye for an eye” was part of God’s Law given by Moses to ancient Israel and was quoted by Jesus in his Sermon on the Mount. (Matthew 5:38, King James Version; Exodus 21:24, 25; Deuteronomy 19:21) It meant that when dealing out justice to wrongdoers, the punishment should fit the crime.

The rule applied to deliberate injurious acts against another person. Regarding a willful offender, the Mosaic Law stated: “Fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, the same sort of injury he inflicted should be inflicted on him.”—Leviticus 24:20. *

In Wicca, The Rule of Three expands upon the concept of harm. This rule is also called the Threefold Law or the Law of Return. It says: all good and the harm that a person does to another returns threefold in this life.

Some Wiccans interpret this to mean that the good or harm returns back to a person three times as much. Others say the good or harm has impact in three major realms of life: the physical, emotional and spiritual. Many hold to a combination of these interpretations. *

Quantum Physics: …if we get angry or frustrated for instance, it sends out what is like ripples – as in ripples in a pool.

We are constantly walking around sending out such ripples. The quality of the ripples is up to us – that is our choice. The fact of the ripples cannot be changed. We can only have an effect on the quality of the ripples, we cannot stop sending them out.” *

Theosophy: Any system that tries to explain the existence of consciousness, life as an emergent product of physical matter as seen by quantum physics will fail, and can, from a Theosophical point of view immediately be thrown in the garbage bin. Karma, connecting all layers of the universe, seems to be the only explanation for order and logical causality in the universe, and for the existence of the intuitive fact of justice. *

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I am not perfect in any way, but some may have noticed over the years that I have become calmer, cautious, patient, willing to take responsibility for mistakes and, as an aside, I always try to offer coffee or tea to anyone arrives to visit.

When I was very young and trying to make it as a musician and author, I was homeless on and off for many years. I think I am one of very few people who knows what a hunger pain actually feels like.

One day, while living in a shelter in Los Angeles, I stumbled upon a word: grace.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines grace is “unmerited divine assistance given to humans for their regeneration or sanctification,” or “a virtue coming from God”, or a state of sanctification enjoyed through divine assistance. Others believe it is a “disposition to or an act or instance of kindness, courtesy, or clemency.” * I personally lean more toward the latter definition, but find it to be a combination of the all the definitions shared in the dictionary. If you don’t believe in a God or a higher power, that’s ok. Grace is just a special unexpected gift, like a windfall of money, a new job, a loving partner or other occasion we as human beings deem to be fortunate.

I don’t think you can understand karma before you learn about grace because grace allows you to pay that unmerited forward out of thankfulness for receiving it.

Living by the laws of karma is discipline. You’ve got to make it a top priority because over time it become, you will see yourself naturally becoming a more respectful person – respectful of others space and boundaries, less judgmental, easier to get along with work and with friends, etc.,  So, it’s important to spend time alone and get to know yourself, and also understand you inner goals. What kind of person do you want to be?

Being very honest with yourself, especially if you find yourself attracting people and circumstances that are harmful to you and others, can be a wake up call, and may being about a need for change.

I have to have a conversation with myself almost every evening in meditation, or just quiet my mind to let go of anxiety and fear. Karma is not a punishment, it’s not good or bad, it’s just a reflection of what you’re giving out, and if someone is not treating you and others the way you deserve to be treated after you’ve done everything you could to be kind and supportive, what you’re doing by shielding them from consequences. You’re subconsciously protecting them from karma. I believe karma and life will eventually move you out of the way, so the person you are trying to protect can learn and grow. You will lose a friend…who essentially wasn’t a great friend, so you receive the kind karma and grace of being freed from an unhealthy connection, and they receive the chance to move forward in their lives and make new choices.

There are people in the this world who don’t like me, who mean me harm, some are people I don’t know and can’t see, but I lay in bed at night and send them love. I connect with the energy of love, compassion, grace and mercy, build my relationship myself. I ask forgiveness for anyone I may have hurt (and may not even know I did) anyone, and I also forgive anyone who has hurt me or done me harm to keep my heart clear of resentment.

If you let anger, resentment, jealousy, hatred or any other emotions similar to this build up, you will attract people who will be working through similar karma, or, who want to glean what you learned without truly understanding the sacrifice and work you do to be the person you are.

When someone is acting badly and I have to be close to them, I had to learn, “That’s their personal relationship with their karma and themselves. Do you best to be loving, but step back a little and let them walk it out.”

That’s love, autonomy: “allowing others to have a “ state of being self-governing and self-directing freedom and especially moral independence” *  without judgment…which is sooooo hard.

I am not fool. I’m a 32 year old young Black woman from Baltimore City, so I do my best to make sure my boundaries are in place I am a strong person, but I am also kind, silly, fun-loving and generous. It’s all a balance.

In a Western sense, karma is just getting what you give, so try to give yourself, others and the world sincere kindness, support, love and generosity. It will come back to you and when you see it happen for the first few times, you can learn to keep it going. It’s not luck. It’s a lifelong practice.

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A Discussion with Jordannah Elizabeth

Braving the Days, discussions

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Jordannah Elizabeth is an established writer, activist, and musician from Baltimore and has been a featured columnist with TERSE. since 2016. EIC M. Perle Tahat talked with her about the future of her column and also got a bonus reading list out of it. Check it out for yourself.

M. Perle Tahat: You’re a voracious reader and have blessed us with several reading lists throughout the course of your column. A difficult task, albeit one I will ask you to do–as I’m sure you could sense the lead up, is listing your favorite books from your repertoire. Would you mind telling readers your top 10?

Jordanah Elizabeth: Sure. My own library is pretty diverse. I actually have 15 favorites. My library isn’t that large, maybe about 150-200 books, give or take.  The order is not “favorite to least favorite” or vice versa. Some of these books have already been published in reading lists I’ve already compiled, but they are true loves of my personal library:

  • When and Where I Enter by Pauline Giddens
  • The Rosy Crucifixion by Henry Miller
  • The Secret Teachings of All Ages by Manly P. Hall
  • Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare
  • Once by Alice Walker
  • Anarchy and the Sex Question by Emma Goldman
  • Masculinity Studies & Feminist Theory: New Directions edited by Judith Kegan Gardiner
  • Revolutionary Mothering: Love on the Front Lines edited by Alexis Pauline Gumbs, China Martens and Mai’a Williams
  • This is How We Survive: Revolutionary Mothering, War, and Exiles in the 21st Century by Mai’a Williams (published January 1, 2019)
  • Hunger by Roxane Gay
  • Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human by Harold Bloom
  • Sound Figures by Theodor W. Adorno
  • Death Kit by Susan Sontag
  • The New New Journalism: Conversations with America’s Best Nonfiction Writers on Their Craft by Robert S. Boynton
  • Writing in Society by Raymond Williams

 

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M. Perle Tahat: What a holistic list. Your readings always vary widely and I learn a lot from what you share. On Publik/Private you present writerly encouragement and advice, introspection on topics you are passionate about, and generally allow us access to your intellectual and creative space. One of the reasons I admire you so much is your rounding of so many different spheres of life. You are also a traveling musician and local activist. What drives you to all of these pursuits? When did you start walking this path?

 

Jordannah Elizabeth: I’ve slowed down on touring and playing music for the last couple of years. It put a real toll on my body and I’ve taken time off to focus on my health and writing. But without the experience of being a long time, touring musician, I wouldn’t been a well rounded music writer. I can connect with musicians as a writer because I’ve lived the life and went through their daily struggles for a decade before I started writing full time.

I studied music history and classical vocals from age 16-21 and was always in choirs and chorus from grade school to high school. I don’t think I’ve ever shared this publicly but I played violin in school from age 5 or 6 to age 11.

As a singer/songwriter, I got my first guitar at 13 and played my first show around 17 or 18. I just took all I learned from school and from the music my family loved and made a name for myself as a musician just by sheer drive… of wanting to eat and have a roof over my head.  I also learned about promotions, booking and public relations, so I was able to promote myself pretty well. With all this said, writing and history have always been my main passion.

M. Perle Tahat: The bibliography of your writing career is a long one. If you had to direct readers to the favorite articles you’ve written so far: what would they be?

Jordannah Elizabeth

The Intersectionality of Believability

Sevens: Alice Coltrane – Transfiguration (Live, 1976)

Michelle Coltrane Is Glad Her Mother Alice’s Devotional Music Is Finally Getting Its Due

Dear Men of the Music Industry: You Can Do Better

The slow ascent of hip-hop and Black designers in the world of high fashion

 

M. Perle Tahat: In the past you’ve given us writings on esoteric topics, invaluable reading lists, and observations on social theory. What can readers expect from your column on TERSE. in the future?

Jordannah Elizabeth: My column, “Braving the Days at TERSE. allowed me some freedom to write about anything that was swirling in my subconscious in connection to my interaction with the outside world. I just plan to continue to do that. Sometimes, when you’re really thoughtful (meaning you think and observe a lot), it’s best not to overwhelm people close to you with your thoughts by always verbalizing them. Many times, people want to help or resolve a problem or give advice, which is a kind and natural thing to want to do for people you care about. But having a place express myself freely without fear of criticism, being misunderstood or worrying others is nice. I’m learning as I get older, saying less is more. Writing more…well, for now, it’s something that gives me some solace.

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A photo of Jordannah Elizabeth

Winter Reading List by Jordannah Elizabeth

Braving the Days

Well, here we are at the beginning of 2018.

Instead of creating a “Best of” list, I thought I would just complete everything I had intended to do this year. I don’t see much of a point of looking at what was “best,” but in my mind, I believe it may be important, particularly this year to look at and ponder what is necessary in order to survive 2018 with vigor and achievement.

My reading lists are born out of what I find going on my way through life. This Winter Reading List is full of books about Black women intellectuals, Black women’s oppression, existential thought through academic findings.

This year has been an interesting one for Black American women. It’s been a year where we’re beginning to find our voices and our places in intellectual, political and activist realms of American culture. I’m frankly fascinated by it because I’ve been a Black girl and woman all of my life. It is interesting for the world to have an opinion, and even more so, think that it’s their choice to open doors for us, or give us “places in society.” As if it is someone else’s “choice” to pay us fairly or to talk about how we win or lose or behave in the media. I’ve decided observe this winter.

I’ve decided to step back and read.

Toward an Intellectual History of Black Women

Edited By: Mia E. Bay, Farah J. Griffin, Martha S. Jones, Barbara D. Savage

On Intellectual Activism

By: Patricia Hill Collins

Black Sexual Politics

By: Patricia Hill Collins

Women’s Oppression Today: The Marxist/Feminist Encounter

By: Michèle Barrett

This Bridge Called My Back, Fourth Edition Writings by Radical Women of Color

By: Cherríe Moraga

The Cushion in the Road: Meditation and Wandering as the Whole World Awakens to Being in Harm’s Way

By: Alice Walker

In an Abusive State: How Neoliberalism Appropriated the Feminist Movement Against Sexual Violence

By: Kristin Bumiller

Seizing the Means of Reproduction: Entanglements of Feminism, Health, and Technoscience

By: Michelle Murphy

At the Dark End of the Street: Black Women, Rape, and Resistance- a New History of the Civil Rights Movement from Rosa Parks to the Rise of Black Power

By: Danielle L. McGuire

Sojourning for Freedom: Black Women, American Communism, and the Making of Black Left Feminism

By: Erik S. McDuffie

Longing to Tell: Black Women Talk About Sexuality And Intimacy

By: Tricia Rose

Braving the Days: To the Minute by Jordannah Elizabeth

Braving the Days

Photo By: T.J. Beach

The very first installment of “Braving the Days” was published on December 2, 2016. I must admit that I am none the wiser, but that doesn’t take me out of the running to have become a better woman. I believe I have become a better human being in many ways. I also believe that I am learning: in life, less can be more. I didn’t tour all over the world this year, but I’ve been to the local zoo. I didn’t play a big concert, but I played a house concert in front of 10 friends. I’ve held a three day old child in my arms, I’ve read a lot of books, I considered having surgery then decided to learn more about holistic health.

I didn’t end up in a profile in The New Yorker but I saw Ravi Coltrane play his mother’s music in New York City.  I love a man who introduced me to a little Prince who adorns half his DNA. I didn’t do anything fancy, but I’ve eaten a bunch of ice cream, pushed swings at playgrounds, and had girls nights at jazz shows and museums.

It’s been a good year. Last year around this time, I had just turned 3o and I was confused and depressed, desperate to make a change, to slow down. So, I did.

My first post of the column was called:

Braving the days using a few words devoid of superfluity.

And I asked the questions:

“How would one do that or how would that sentence be acted out in real life? Yes, this is how my brain works. Between my thought journeys I write notes. I scribble thoughts and ideas and sew them together hoping to God they make sense. Who in God’s name would give me the opportunity to write free form? Should a messy thinker like me be permitted to write without direction from an editor or without a tightly fleshed out theme?”

I think I’ve gotten myself together since last year. I don’t think I’m a messy thinker or a writer without direction anymore. Since that post, I’ve written vigorously, taught many classes and workshops and read at least 51 books.  I’ve calmed down, stopped being so down on myself and focused on my health and my family – and now here we are.

To the minute.

I’m alive and well. I still hope to use a few words devoid of superfluity. I don’t want to be superfluous, but it’s okay to be simple. It’s okay to grow and actually come out doing better than you were before. Being a good writer doesn’t mean you have to live a tragedy.

Being an honest writer doesn’t mean you have to ooze emotions every moment of the day and have climactic events more times than you have a good night sleep.

I guess it happened for Bukowski, but obviously I am not him. This is not to say that next year won’t be full of turmoil, but I doubt it.

Life is what you make it and being an adult can be about making a place for yourself that can last. I don’t own any running shoes…Happy New Year.

You’ve gotten to read me here for a year. Thank you. And thank you TERSE. For a providing a place for my journey.

 

2017 Fall Reading List by Jordannah Elizabeth

Braving the Days

I’m literally sitting writing this reading list in a Hugo Boss jacket that’s a bit too large for my small feminine frame. I found it barely worn in freshly dry cleaned in a “giveaway” box in my neighborhood. Everyone in the neighborhood leaves books, clothes and appliances out to share and trade. Some neighbors are a bit more well off than others. It’s not uncommon to find a wealthy student’s small collection of hand-me-downs that are clean, expensive and barely a year old. I almost like men’s jackets more than I like books, but as the season begins to change, and Fall makes chills the air crisp and chill, I can enjoy both at the same time. No need to choose.

These books are a combination of favorites, like my friend China Martens epic zine anthology, Future Generation and the enthralling Womanist literary effort, Hope is in the Holler: A Womanist Theory and a collection of books I’ve compiled while preparing for my feminist lectures and writing workshops like “Masculinity Studies & Feminist Theory: New Directions.” I rummage through libraries and independent books stores like Red Emma’s Books to find just what I need for my never ending literary pursuits.

The fall season is perfect for learning new things and growing our minds and perspectives, especially since school is now in session.

Future Generation: The Zine-Book for Subculture Parents, Kids, Friends & Others
By China Martens

One Dimensional Woman
By Nina Power

Role Models
By John Waters

Listen Up: Voices From the Next Generation
By: Barbara Findlen

The Concept and Measurement of Violence Against Women and Men
By: Sylvia Walby, Jude Towers, Susan Balderston, Brian Francis

Eros and Ethics: Reading Jacques Lacan’s Seminar VII
By: Marc De Kesel

A Brighter Coming Day: A Frances Ellen Watkins Reader
Edited By: Frances Smith Foster

Listen Little Man
By: Wilhelm Reich

New Black Man
By: Mark Anthony Neal

Masculinity Studies & Feminist Theory: New Directions
By: Judith Kegan Gardiner

Sex, Drag, and Male Roles: Investigating Gender as Performance
By: Diane Torr and Stephen J. Bottoms

Hope in the Holler: A Womanist Theology
By: A. Elaine Brown Crawford

The Violence of Care: Rape Victims, Forensic Nurses, and Sexual Assault Intervention
By: Sameena Mulla

Sister Outsider
By: Audre Lorde

On the Pill: A Social History of Oral Contraceptives, 1950-1970
By Elizabeth Siegel Watkins

High Lonesome: New & Selected Stories, 1966–2006
By Joyce Carol Oates

Shotgun Seamstress Zine Collection: Six Zine by and for Black Punks
By: Osa Atoe

Freedom Challenge: African American Homeschoolers
By: Grace Llewellyn

Braving the Days: The Seasons Are Changing by Jordannah Elizabeth

Braving the Days

 

It’s only early August and there’s a briskness to the air on the East Coast. Last year, there was blistering heat, and I craved the cool, foggy days of San Francisco, but this season has changed, and so have I. I mean, on a fundamental level I have not. I was talking to my mother about love, and I told her ever since I was a little girl, I never felt the need to prioritize love. I didn’t have the capacity to put friends before a pet, or lovers before colleagues or acquaintances before old friends.

It took me 30 years to learn the term “non hierarchical” in terms of relationships until I was 30 years old, but I immediately connected to the idea, because I’d been living it my entire life. I have always loved people, I’ve always loved life and books, writing and traveling but have never been able to say that I loved something more than the other. I understand that there are times in my life when I may be more comfortable writing a book than a music album, or when I’d rather teach than perform. There are times when I’d like to be alone, and other times when I’d like to be very social, but the emphasis of my feelings towards the phases of my life was never anything that caused me anxiety. Outside of earning a living, and work to keep social and relational conflict to a minimal, I never felt like there was something I needed to be doing that I was not doing because something came first.

A large reason for this is because I have chosen to not have children yet. I think a child is the only human being that I absolutely know would not fit into a non hierarchical structure. With this said, in my teaching career, I believe I have been successful because I treat adults and children as if they are equal beings. No, I don’t use inappropriate language, but I do not value children’s thoughts, presence and even advice over adults. I think kids give the best life advice. I think they are observant, and wise and enjoy spending time with them.

The seasons are changing and maybe I am on some levels, or maybe I am just refining what I’ve always known about myself. The weather and the Earth don’t function by the construct of hierarchy. All things are equal. I believe life and love should be fluid.

Braving the Days: Stand Back by Jordannah Elizabeth

Braving the Days

The question is: is there a separation between life and the liver? Lately, life has been happening to me. Every day has brought an acute opportunity for me to take a path of action or caution. Caution would allow me to withdraw from opportunities to interact with invitations, opportunities to travel and moments to bond and break bread. I have the choice to write or to sleep. I have the choice to touch or to sit alone, I have the choice to relate with my family or to never call.

Specifically, in the arts there are two phases of one’s career:

The season where you pursue and the season where you are pursued.

These seasons after the first inception become interchangeable. Many times a new or emerging artists much must pursue opportunities to create their art before they are offered opportunities to create, simply because the initial pursuit affords an artist the ability to be seen, thus attracting the result unsolicited offers.

Maybe I am in a phase where I have chosen a formidable aloofness out of a fierce attempt to maintain privacy in a culture and governmental structure that find public behavior and interaction to be a new, usable and profitable way of interacting.

This is all okay. I don’t mind receiving opportunities. In fact, I quite appreciate them, but there is this light amount of flailing I experience. A quiet flailing. A flailing I find to be natural as a human being who took much of her life to pursue and now finds it appropriate to stand back.

If I do not stand back, and take stock of my position in the balance of the experience of “pursuing or being pursued,” I can never truly understand who I am as an artist. One who drives forward without reflection will not likely find themselves in a position to be pursued.

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It’s been 12 days and I am returning to this piece to complete it.
I feel the same way I did two weeks ago.

There have been times when I’d take a break and return to my writing for the column and I’d feel differently. Today, I just feel like moving steadily and privately, and maybe I’ll live my life that way, forever.

 

 

2017 Summer Reading List by Jordannah Elizabeth

Braving the Days

Summer of 2017 seems like a surreal season of confusion and great opportunities for new beginnings. It’s been a rough few years. America has morphed into a country that cannot decide whether it wants to evolve or stay the same. For me, books have been a comfort. Books have been a staple for my stability and understanding. This reading list consists of books that can help you focus on your own consciousness, one’s relationship with racism, morality, feminism and utopian concepts. I think it is most important to understand that his list is completely organic. This list was compiled since the Spring as I’ve cruised materials for classes I am teaching for my own practical intellectual expansion.

I am sharing this list for no other reason but to give access to a collection of books that are intriguing, and maybe, hopefully the combination of these pages will incite growth in you. I can say that they have served me well.

Negative Dialectics
By: Theodore W. Adamo
The Use of Pleasure: Volume 2 of the History of Sexuality
By: Michel Foucault
As Consciousness Is Harnessed to Flesh: Journals and Notebooks, 1964-1980
By Susan Sontag, Edited By David Rieff
Modernity and Self-Identity: Self and Society in the Modern Era By: Anthony Giddens
Vulnerability in Resistance
Edited by Judith Butler, Zaynap Gambatti, Leticia Sabsay
Aesthetic Justice: Interesting Artistic and Moral Perspectives
Edited By: Pascal Gielen, Niels Van Tomme
Towards Collective Liberation: Anti-Racist Organizing, Feminist Praxis, and Movement Building Strategy
By Chris Crass
The Heidegger Controversy
By: Richard Wolin
Race Woman: The Lives of Shirley Graham Du Bois
By: Gerald Horne
The Art of Cruelty: A Reckoning
By: Maggie Nelson
New Heaven, New Earth
By: Joyce Carol Oates
The Prophet
By: Kahlil Gibran
Black Reconstruction in America 1860-1880
By: W. E. B. Du Bois
The Human Condition
By: Hannah Arendt
Beyond Respectability: The Intellectual Thought of Race Women
By: Brittney C. Cooper
Against Purity: Living Ethically in Compromised Times
By: Alexis Shotwell
The expanding circle
By: Peter Singer
Practical Utopia: Strategies for a Desirable Society
By: Michael Albert
Wit and Its Relation to the Unconscious
By: Sigmund Freud

 

 

 

Braving the Days: Political Ethics and the Desire to Heal by Jordannah Elizabeth

Braving the Days

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Photo credit: Matej Michalik

“Our culture can starve and condemn one another in relationships.”

(Feminism and Intimacy)

How far do I go with judgement? How far do I go to use my best judgement? What does a “best judgement” look and feel like? How does it translate in relationships and my interaction with my external circumstances?

To be honest, I am learning judgment doesn’t have a place in my feminism or reality.  In my quest to heal emotional wounds I’ve obtained from past relationships with cis men, yet continuing to agree to interact with them in friendships and intimate partnerships, I found myself faced with an existential dilemma: making a choice between my ability to maintain relationship with imperfect people which of whom I care for, and maintaining my diligence as a feminist. I hadn’t had to make these choices until recently because I am not sure if my awareness and education was where it is today, but even more so, I believe I have protected myself from relationships that challenged me and my political comfortability.

Abstinence is a way to protect the comfortability of feminism, particularly reproductive health in one’s personal life. As soon as intimacy is brought into the mix, a female identified being with a womb has many more choices to make. This can also be said for  non-sexual close relationships with cis Western men. To look into a man’s thoughts and life, to be brought in, there is also a responsible to protect them and ensure safety. This is outside of the guise of patriarchy, a woman taking responsibility to acknowledge the trauma of men while balancing a radical feminist outlook.

To be impatient with a man’s unpacking and deconstructing of their own sexist behaviors and colonizing after agreeing to enter a  relationship is unproductive and can quickly become wounding, not to their ego, but to their hearts.

I’m learning.

I’m learning that I should not agree to a social contract with men if I am not willing to balance my feminist ethics with the compassion of a human being I chose to bond with.  Me, choosing grew into my work towards balancing my feminist politics and beliefs with my relationships with cis men.

I was asked to do a workshop some months ago about forgiveness after surviving sexual assault, and I deeply feared backlash from other feminists, feeling that I have become overly sympathetic to patriarchal patterns in intimate and close relationships. But I have to learn that I cannot live completely guarded behind my strict beliefs. It’s okay to open to people who I care for, even if they are imperfect, even if they are men, even if they make mistakes. I don’t believe this makes me a bad feminist, I believe it makes me a human being who is attempting to be well-rounded, compassionate, flexible and able to bring healing to relationships.

How can I ask a man to be my ally when I condemn him? He would certainly be justified in finding cracks in the feminist system of thought if I did not afford an ally the ability to learn and grow.

 

Braving the Days: What a Culture. What a Conundrum. by Jordannah Elizabeth

Braving the Days

Photo Credit: Breck Brunson

I don’t want to do anything right now. I was born into a culture of the work-a-holic, the indentured servant, the slave with no wages, the wage slave and more currently, the hustler. You want to eat in America?  You want to go to the beach, and eat avocados and play sold out shows, you have to push your body to the brink. It’s not like that everywhere. Mexico invented the pastime of the siesta and Jews don’t work on the Sabbath. People need to rest.

And I don’t have to buy in to any pressure, now that I’ve worked almost half my life. I can take half days on Fridays and pull all-nighters to pick up with my deadlines if I want to sleep in, but I paid a price: my teens and 20s. While kids were partying, I was listening to Malcolm Gladwell books on tapes, reading, studying, traveling and developing.

I couldn’t get by like other kids who went to art school and worked 10 hours a week. I wasn’t privileged and worked to compensate.

A Grade A hustler, I am.

But you know, after 13 years, I’ve learned that it all means nothing unless you have a relationship with the world as an environment, as an independent entity. I take long walks and look up at the moon, and lately, I’ve been taking afternoons off the hike and go the beach (it takes effort to do this on the East Coast) – but not in a privileged way, on the contrary, it is all still for survival.

Not only does America push you to the brink at work, but at the same time it forces you to be “nice”, easy to get along with and compromising, while you win, succeed and standout. If you’re not likable, doors close. If you’re too confident, you’re a threat, if you aren’t attractive, you’ll “never get far.”

What a culture. What a conundrum.

I won’t buy in…because I’ve already paid. My mother asked me after I was published in the Village Voice what will I do if I hit my bucket list goals early in life. I told her, I’d go swimming for a few years……

Stage fright

Depression

Exhaustion

Lost Years

Lost Time

Learning How to Love

Eating What Sustains

Vitamins for Health

Garlic for the Heart

Moisturizers to Stay Young

Pedicures to Heal the Effects of Miles

Flat Shoes for the Knees

Reading Glasses for the Aging Vision

Light Makeup to Cover Dark Little Circles

Dinner Parties to Figure Things Out

Responses to Questions Because It’s What I Do

I still have a long way to go.