I have to tell you…

A week ago I found myself beaming. Barack Obama had just been declared, by what looked like to me a landslide vote, the next president of the United States.

As I write this I am doing one of those head shakes, as if to say (with a grin on my face and a powerful glow of energy pushing out of the top of my head), dang… right on… right frickin’ on. I am shouting it from deep inside of me I swear to you I am. There are many reasons I feel happy about this victory. If I were an American I’d be a democrat, McCain kinda scared me (kinda???). And Sara Palin… I can’t even go there. I’m not terribly political and much of what guides me is how a person makes me feel. What type of vibe they give off. Their sensibility. Obama worked for me on those levels. I keep in mind the man is a politician and it’s not always so easy to decipher what is just campaigning or what the truth of a matter might be. Still, overall, his vibe seemed the most genuine and along the lines of how I see things or hope that they will be.

So, I was seriously (seriously) praying Obama would win. The thought of the conservative duo ruling one of the most powerful countries in the world  (so close to my home) frightened me. I’d heard some of what the conservatives were saying (while at the same time trying to decipher what the blast the conservative v.p. was talking around) and I felt sick inside. What if the conservatives won?! Not only did I feel doom and dread over the prospect, I thought, if the majority of Americans voted for a party I so strongly disagree with (a vote in which I had no say) what would that mean? Pretty much all the people I know feel the way I do about Obama. But I’ve been surprised by the outcome of an election before. With the state of the world at this moment, there has never been an election in my lifetime where (for me) the outcome felt more urgent.

That Tuesday night after the final numbers came in I tried to contain myself. And, as a matter, of fact I did I pretty good job. I was overjoyed to be sure and probably did a couple of mini jumps up and down on the spot with my fists clenched and my head swaying from side to side saying, “Yay! Yay! Yay!” But what I really felt like doing was run out on to my front porch and scream from the depth of my belly with nothing particularly coherent coming out of my mouth. I wanted to throw back my head, open my mouth and let this compacted ball of tension, I wasn’t even aware I’ve been holding in my stomach for as long as I can remember, roll out of me with all the strength I had. “AAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” But I didn’t do that. I sat on the couch waiting for the “President Elect” to make his speech. In a way I wish I had been on my own. I’m glad Bill and I watched the news together. We were both thrilled of who had won. But, there was something very personal happening inside of me I hadn’t expected at all. If I had been on my own I think I may have let the tears I felt coming flow more freely instead of allowing only a few to slide down my cheek. I know Bill would not have minded me reacting any way I needed to. But maybe I just prefer to do certain things on my own.

Obama seemed to me the best person for the job. Period. But the fact that he is African American added to his allure. One of the things that frightened me was, if he hadn’t won, would it be due to his skin colour? I felt if the conservative duo won it would be hard for me to believe it was because a majority felt they were better suited for the job. Therefore, if Obama lost the message I’d have gotten from that would have been: the majority of Americans thought it better to have McCain/Palin in office than a man of Obama’s race. As a brown woman the thought of that happening depressed me. But, that as we know, did not happen and I felt like my head would blow off with joy.  Like I said, I wanted him to win and sent the necessary vibes out hoping that the win would happen (as did many) but when it did happen I don’t think I’m being dramatic if I said I was overjoyed.

I sat there watching the television as Barack Obama came out on the stage with his wife and two young daughters and felt a lump (I guess it was the aforementioned “compacted ball of tension”) dislodge. Please, do not get me wrong. I am not going to say that growing up a minority has not had a major influence on my life. No, I will not say that. Or, as I have gotten older, that I have not become aware of that fact. But all along, following this election, I never imagined the deep well of emotion that would spring up from inside of me. Since I wasn’t alone that night, although the “lump” dislodged, it kind of teetered in place rocking from side to side. To hold my tears back from tsunami force was not a conscious reaction it was a natural reaction. And I’m fine with that. We all do things the way we need to. I guess the teetering was alerting me to fact that the mass was there.

Anyway, when the man hit the stage it was a truly exciting moment. But odd… As riveted as I was to him it was his daughters who caught my eye and got me. It was them I was relating to. For a split second (seriously) I felt myself at that age. Can you imagine? Being a black girl of 7 or 10 years old looking so confident and happy, walking out toward a sea of many coloured faces, all beaming as brightly as I was at home, because those girls’ father had just won the opportunity to take on one of the most important jobs in the world? Dang! The first man of colour had just won the US election and not by one or two votes. Here I want to say, the fact that he won and is African American is amazing to me. BUT my happiness comes not only because he is African American. I am thrilled because he seemed to be the best choice for the position. In other words, if McCain was African American and Obama was white I still would have wanted Obama to win. It is ALL the winning elements combined with his skin colour that make it so powerful for me.

I’ve never not wanted to be in my skin. I love my skin. I love who I am (not always maybe but now there is no doubt). Yet at times it has been confusing. I guess you could say I grew up pretty much “colour blind”. I grew up in a predominantly white neighborhood, among a handful of minority children in my area and school. The people close to me have always been loving and supportive. Still, as I young person stepping out into the world, I felt an uneasiness inside of me. I often felt on guard or uncomfortable in a way I didn’t understand. It’s not as if I walked into room for the first time, seeing many faces that did not look like mine and know exactly what it was that made me feel the way I did. When my stomach got tight at that young age I didn’t analyze the feeling. The feeling would just happen and happen again until the next thing I knew (or didn’t know as the case was at the time) it became a part of who I was. When I heard something inappropriate I clenched. When life required me to stand out I wanted to step back. If at school they spoke about the Negroes in Africa I slumped in my chair. I felt like all eyes were on me. It wasn’t that I felt ashamed of my colour. NO! I just felt my difference and being the person I was… I felt uncomfortable and a part of me wanted to hide.

There are definitely other aspects of reality that have contributed to the person I’ve become. Being a minority is just one of those things and I don’t want to imply (and I truly hope I haven’t here or anywhere, ever) that being a minority has been a negative experience for me. It hasn’t. But there have been difficult times in trying to understand who I am because of it. That is a part of growing up I don’t think any of us can avoid although the “challenges” can vary. I am only speaking of how things were for me. As I said, this is only one aspect of that experience.

For me, because the impact was often very subtle it was almost as if I never knew it had an effect on me. So the source of the feeling was hard to recognize. Or, maybe a part of me didn’t want to see. There is much to be said about “seeing” the world being colour blind. Seeing each of us for who we are as an individual based on character alone. I think that’s what being colour blind means to me in this context. But one of the things my blindness closed my eyes to was the fact I AM different (or grew up in an atmosphere where that was my reality) and trying to avoid seeing the obvious (or more importantly maybe… not wanting others to see) created a knot in my gut. I felt the tightness, but as a young person (heck, until fairly recently), I didn’t know the source.

That night I went to bed feeling incredibly satisfied and the next morning after I got up I sat on the floor of my room for a few rounds of complete breathes and mild meditation. I do this from time to time and on this morning I allowed my mind to wander back to the night before. I smiled. Again, those two little girls popped into my head and I felt that familiar sting and tenderness in my throat. This time I leaned into it instead of away. I let the tears flow. Wide, warm, sweet, little girl tears sliding without restraint, from my 42 year old eyes. I let the tears flow from the base of me. I let the tears flow out. I let them flow feeling, after what I had witnessed the night before, anything was possible. Maybe not without a struggle, maybe not always in a small amount of time, but possible. I cried for the two little girls and for all children who received the most positive message I can imagine one could ever receive. I cried for all of us because we all received that message. Not only in the United States and Canada but all over the world.

Mostly though, those tears were for me and for that little girl who still lives inside of me. Those were her tears. For every clenched muscle in her tummy and every time she stepped back instead of forward. Those tears helped cleanse every inappropriate jolt of energy received that she didn’t deserve/ was too small to understand/ too confused to question/ too worried to let anyone know she was afraid of. Not that she couldn’t have let anyone know because she/I have ALWAYS BEEN SURROUNDED BY LOVE but at the time she/I didn’t understand the feeling, or what to explain, or how to describe it.

Hey, we’re all doing the best we can.

Oh, and those tears… they were not tears of sorrow (even though a few may have slid in). These tears tasted of joy. These were tears of celebration.

I’m older now so I know. I know that I belong everywhere and I know I do not have to hide within myself. I know MY/OUR (all of our) possibilities are endless and that whatever I want in this world (to a very large degree) I can strive for. I know now that I don’t have to feel bad about what someone might assume about me without every actually speaking to me. And I know that if someone DOES have an issue with me simply by looking at me it is THEIR PROBLEM not mine. I know I can love who I want to love, be attracted to whom ever I desire. I can befriend whom I want. I can go there or not or stay here if I don’t want to. NO ONE CAN STOP ME BUT ME when striving for the things I want in my life. I know this now. But I didn’t always.

Yeah, the older I get the more I get it.

In 1965, when Barack Obama was 4 years old, black folks in Alabama were hosed off the sidewalks and tears gassed for the audacity to believe they had a right to vote. 43 years later an African American has been voted the next president of the United States (there goes my grinning head shake again.) This is not only a massive achievement for that man but also for the entire country and all those who support him. This is not only a personal achievement but a shared victory and I believe this is what make it so powerful to me.

At the base of what is most important is that each of us knows for ourselves that we belong inside and outside of our skin. In other words we must believe in ourselves, whatever our skin tone may be. No one can touch that. (The simplest truths are not always so obvious.) But when you ALSO feel embraced by the atmosphere around you… Wow… that is a comfortable feeling.

I guess you can say I too had a dream and I dreamt it without being entirely aware I was doing so. And recently I saw a part of that dream come true.

It was time to let that out.

Peace and Happiness always.

I’m still beaming.

November 11, 2008


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