I had a dream this morning of a performance, a play, a musical, and I was helping, but thinking that I could take voice classes, I wanted to be in the play. At one point I stopped and looked out the window at a double rainbow, at first I thought it was a triple, like, there were two rainbows in usual double rainbow form and then a third, sharper angle and twisted, like someone had taken the third rainbow at the midpoint and pulled and twisted and puffed and then I realized it was an airplane trail right there in the midst of the rainbows. The song had been Hey Big Spender, and then someone was doing a singy monologue in the middle of it, a man, the big spender, he was down in the audience, right close to everyone, and projecting like he was still on stage. People didn’t want to look at the rainbows because of the performance.
I woke up feeling ok and feeling sad. And I woke up still thinking about what I wrote last night and this weekend, about ceremonies, about that enormous tragedy of loss, about how most of us have no ceremonies to bring us back into our larger families or communities after we are raped or after our mothers or fathers abuse us or after we come out as queer (or…): instead, we are the ones outcast. The ceremony is our silence. The ceremony is our dismissal, our excommunication from community of blood and earth. We are the sacrificed, the center of their ceremonies to continue to pretend at normalcy. Was it always this way? Has it really always and everywhere been this way?
I’m attached to the books Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko and The Salt Eaters by Toni Cade Bambara (I’m using Amazon links today in case you want to read a little bit, but please buy the book locally!), because they’re stories about ceremonies of retrieval, of recognizing the layers and depths of an individual’s wounding and illness and pain, and recognizing, too, the ways that each of those layers is connected to other people, that each individual’s illness/wounding/pain is a community’s illness/wounding/pain. These books read like fairy tales to me, because there’s nothing like this anywhere in my lived experience, anywhere in my communities.
These stories, I think, are why I’m so compelled right now at the idea of restorative justice work: the work where a community comes together around someone who has committed a crime or a harm against a person and the person who had the crime committed against them, and everyone tells their stories about how they were affected by this crime. Restorative justice work looks like old ceremony, looks like: it matters how we treat each other because we are all of us affected by any one person’s actions or experience–the ‘victim’ and the ‘offender,’ of course, and the witnesses, too.
It’s profoundly lonely not being a part of a family when in a society that puts so much emphasis on the importance of family, the value of family, that talks such good and consistent talk about care for the children and oh the children are everything (when, in fact, we know the truth: we see that mask revealed for what it is over and over and over again, children slaughtered (it’s a terrible word but the first word to come to mind and I’m not talking about only in other countries — I’m talking about right here)).
It’s too early for me to try and write about something so important. The loneliness is about having to walk away from a family in order to save one’s own life. It’s about understanding, in a moment, that you’re unlacing yourself from mother and sister because you are walking away from the man who has trapped and abducted you all. It’s about understanding that no one is going to make it easy for you to go, and no one bit of your blood is going to meet you on the other side of that letting go. You will be alone there. You will have friends, the people who have chosen you and who you choose, and they will be everything, and they will not be the same, and you will scar where your mother’s hand should have been, where you should have been caught when you were falling away from the american dream. And that scar will remain, throb, every time she touches you, ever. The loneliness is in understanding that scar is a profound loss for both of you.
How do we come back from this loss? What other possibilities, ceremonies, could reconnect us? What about restorative justice for us? We don’t include the rapist (who was my mother’s second husband) in this case, but what about the family that got decimated in his aftermath? The family that was supposed to be — could we come together: mother and father and sisters, extended family, aunts and uncles and cousins from both sides, could we all tell our stories, like it mattered? Like it mattered to all of us?
I want to talk more about Ceremony and The Salt Eaters (and, too, it looks like someone already has and I’m looking forward to reading Gay Wilentz’s Healing Narratives: Women Writers Curing Cultural Dis-ease) but it’s quarter to 7 in the morning and soon I have to get up and away from the computer and I have shower I have to to put on my clothes I have to walk to the bus I have to go to work where I don’t write about books and stories; instead I listen to the stories of numbers, the stories of small pieces of information and how they come together in new formations. Everything we do is a story. There is no work without story, because there is no us without story.
Thank you for you, for your words and healing, for your resiliences.