Oh my but some days it’s just hard to get up in the morning.
Sometimes you feel the age in your body, the disease or dis-ease (or both), and it just feels like too much. Sometimes you wake up, you’re still queer, fat, trans, Black, still a person the world says isn’t worth anything.
Some nights I dream that I’m not fat, that it’s all been a bad dream, all the bullying, all the jobs I didn’t get, all the people who looked at me and saw only an affront to their ideals of health and beauty. Of all the people with more power than I who kept me from living in the fullness of my dignity and joy and liberation. I think none of that has ever happened.
And then I wake up.
I wake up and it’s the nightmare all over again. It’s being the brunt of knowing that, especially at my weight, my insistence on Health at Every Size, and even no one owing their health to anyone else is seen as “glorifying obesity,” or “ignoring my health.”
Sometimes I dream that gender is understood to be a construct, something to play with. I dream of femme disconnected from womanhood—the two coming together, or not—and not just for some compulsory response to a male gaze, but for self-expression. For delight. For joy. I dream of having been a boy, as Dar Williams sings in her brilliant song, “When I Was A Boy.” I remember—and this part did happen—riding my bicycle, age 11, with my shirt off.
And then I wake up.
I wake up and remember how a neighbor mom that very day told me to put a shirt on, what was I thinking?! The adult to the child who was free and happy and living in joy.
Sometimes I dream of lush forests that go on for miles and miles and miles, having never been disturbed by loggers. That the ridges where I grew up were never clear-cut and a primordial, full of old-growth oaks and maples, sycamores and birches. When Penn-sylvania (Penn’s Woods, for those who aren’t from that part of the world) was first seen by William Penn, when that Quaker man first was introduced to that lush land where people had lived for generations, it was just an unbroken sea of forest on the ridges and the Laurel Highlands, the Appalachian Plateau. And then I wake up and I remember that those ridges, lovely as they are, just aren’t what they were in the centuries before I was born. Even the old trees aren’t that old, all things considered.
Now I dream waking. And my dreams are wishes. And we all know that if wishes were horses, everyone could have one and afford to take care of them and be able to spend time with a beautiful, loving, warm, giant friend.
I watch Madam Secretary on Netflix and feel how eerily prescient it was. How she talks about what it’s like to live under tyranny, and what it could mean for refugees and those seeking asylum in the United States, and I dream of a way to stop what is happening in my country, in the UK, all of the over. I dream of not abandoning thousands of Kurdish people to murder, rape, and really, genocide. I dream of not having concentration camps, private “detention centers”—bah, call them what they are, and that’s concentration camps—in which people are dying in squalor every day.
I dream of a time—am I sounding like I’m trying to be the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., because I’m not, I assure you—when we love one another’s traditions, do not steal them, but share their beauty in love and care.
I am dreaming today.
Last night, I dreamt of being on the street, talking to myself, having no permanent home.
Why did I dream that one?
Friends, I dreamt it because it happened to me. It happened to me in my hometown, where my parents lived. It didn’t happen for long, though.
Because my family did live there. Because I did have friends to help me. And because I had fucking health insurance.
What if I didn’t have those things? What if I have been left to the ravages of bipolar disorder and the voices that came along for the ride, telling me every day that if I didn’t kill myself, it was only because I was a selfish coward. That I should “start over,” begin again, or at least make space for someone else to. That I deserved to die. Every day without fail. Every day those voices.
And I think, in daylight, of how I wasn’t diagnosed until I was 30 years old because medical professionals wouldn’t listen to me. They wouldn’t listen because they had the power and I was fat. And because I was fat, my problems weren’t that I was crazy as a shit-house rat, which I was (and yes, I think I can say that, sorry). Rather, they decided I should live on 1000 calories a day—I am not making that up—and get diagnosed with PTSD from abuse that I couldn’t remember. Abuse I couldn’t remember because it never fucking happened.
Power, people. Power does terrible things sometimes. And remember what Frederick Douglass said, that power concedes nothing without a fight. Without words or arms, he said. And while I am genuinely in favor of the words method, I do fret. And my dreams are, in fact, disturbed.
What do you dream in joy? Do you dream of flight, as I did as a child?
Do you dream of love?
Do you dream of freedom, of true liberation?
Write to me. Tell me what you dream, what you hope, what you wish, and what has been lost. Write to me, and if you like, I’ll share it with our comrades at The Way of the River. Or just write to me.
Put it out into the aether, and let it breathe.
Just as we all need to breathe, friends, as we all need to breathe, and live to fight another day.
Blessings on our sleeping and our waking –
PS – One of the things that happens is that we often dream in the dark times, and our dreams are disturbed. But there is beauty in the dark, as well, and my upcoming online retreat, Going into the Dark, is just over a month away! Come into the close and holy darkness in a safe, tender space of care, and see what is there for you, what light, what knowledge, what peace. I look forward to seeing you!