October 28, 2017
About 14 months ago I ended a four year domestic relationship with my best friend.
I have been gay my whole life, but unwilling to accept this truth for fear of letting go of certain dreams that I had, or that I thought I had, having been conditioned by a southern culture of family values. Like many of my childhood friends, I wanted to be married to a man, have some dogs, have some babies, buy a house, the whole shebang. The decision to end the relationship was hard for a variety of reasons, but the ensuing grief of losing this person who had been such a foundation to my sense of belongingness and home, a partner in my musical journey, and an integral part of my sense of a future, two weeks before Trump's election, was devastating. Having family and friends, other primary sources of home and belonging, question the decision I had made, be skeptical of my sexual identity ("But you were with men for so long, are you SURE you're gay?!"), be concerned about my ability to be mentally well, and feel estranged from me given what I was sharing, compounded my sense of fear and isolation. What the hell had I just done?
The world was falling apart, and I was reeling. Yet I had to go to work, to teach, to write papers, to socialize in an academic world where there is often little support for grieving. 'How can I do this?' I asked myself every day. 'What does it even matter?' I woke up fearful that i wouldn't make it through the day, or that my fellow humans wouldn't survive the day, destroyed by new policies meant to destroy them. The grief I felt was not controllable. Despite trying to swallow it down so that I could show up to my students and colleagues, I often wound up weeping on the floor somewhere. This grief would not quit. It was a force bigger than me, and one that I loathed for a time.
"The patterns of grief avoidance conditioned by a society which prioritizes production over the spontaneous needs of human hearts, gives rise to an inability to look at others' grief, both personally and collectively."
This experience was informative for me about how our society treats grief more generally. The patterns of grief avoidance conditioned by a society which prioritizes production over the spontaneous needs of human hearts, gives rise to an inability to look at others' grief, both personally and collectively. If we can't see the reality of what's there, namely, the pain of loss and love that inevitably accompanies our journey of human hood, how can we heal from it? How can we show up to ourselves and to each other? What is the extent of the harm of this kind of reality avoidance? In my opinion, it is the root of alternative facts, or of a culture which refuses to look at the reality of political and social horrors. Conditioned to avoid the pain of what is, we deny it... but we will never be able to save each other and heal from our personal traumas and tragedies, to heal from the horrors of colonialism, slavery and Jim Crow, or from the dire situation of climate change currently threatening our planet, unless we look at straight in the eye, connecting with it, so that we can move forward from that reality.
It is from this place that the music for NOA was written. Sometimes it was written from the floor, sometimes retrospectively. It's purpose is to present a story of grieving in order to put more resources into the world which support, rather than avoid, fearless vulnerability, seeing it as an instrument for personal and political resistance. I offer it from own bleeding heart to yours.