Another late night, in front of my bright laptop screen. Type it, delete. Type it, delete. That line wasn’t bad; delete. It’s that time of the night when my brain can no longer lesson-plan, make Powerpoint slides, or send emails. I am laying on my old blue IKEA couch in my old Oakland apartment, trying to write. White undecorated walls surround me. I take that back; on the wall lives a little bit of light and life—that being a few amateur abstract paintings I completed with my former girlfriend; thank God for her and her brilliance. God’s Grace.
Highlighter green hoodies and San Francisco hipster-cuffed jeans are strewn all over my dusty blue chaise couch while rectangular books of poetry, filled with my illustrations of life and love, pile up on my little IKEA nightstand next to my couch. My front door eerily creaks open, and I, unafraid, just welcome the wind, the spirit, the energy.
I haven’t even lit my incense to get me in the mood to write. I always try to engage my other senses when I am feeling creative or rather enlightened. Kanye is usually playing, sage is usually burning, and my feet are usually dancing across my wooden floor; however, at this very moment, I sit alone, just with my thoughts, visions, and worries. Nothing new here; I am that middle child who likes to stay under the radar, stay to himself, and play the background when I am not “Mr. White,” my teaching persona. Anyone who knows me wouldn't call me a recluse or weirdo, just a friendly ghost, one who comes and goes and sometimes disappears to only reappear to (hopefully) brighten days. However, I do not recall my former girlfriends being fans of Casper. I am an ambivert spectre on a spectrum of predispositions. I can get so trapped in my head that I need to turn off all of the lights to find myself. My thoughts can become both the clues and the obstacles in the escape room that is my mind. I can sink so far into the quicksand of my anxieties that I must close my eyes and pray for a lighthouse.
During this time alone, I try to reflect on ways that I can better myself and ways that I can stop harming myself and others, intentionally and unintentionally. For me, my resistance, my liberation, my protest begins at home, with just me, myself, and I. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate those who put their bodies on the line for a better tomorrow—nurses, security guards, farmers, service workers, mothers, fathers. I just know that I am no good to myself and others when I am disjointed, disorderly, or discordant. If I can’t hear myself, I can’t hear anyone else. If I am not caring for myself, then I cannot care for others. If I cannot be myself, then I will not be with others. If I cannot show up for myself in these private, silent moments of solitude, then I will not show up in public, in service of others. I am again entering the darkness.
Quite frankly, it is sometimes scary, uncomfortable, and disheartening to sit in that silence, in the dark. There are some dark parts of me that I must acknowledge and try to understand. I can’t say that I want to reconcile, rehabilitate, or remove all aspects of my darkness. I just want to understand its relationship with the lighter parts of me that emerge when I leave my mirror, my apartment, my classroom. I am working on not being so afraid of the dark, my dark. When I was younger, I used to run from my room through the pitch black hallways of my grandmother’s house to nestle in the arms of my hero. Besides having arms that carried cotton in Texas, my grandmother packed firearms in the house. She was not afraid to light it up if she had to in order to protect her family. Eventually, she stopped coddling and started commanding that I go back to face it, to learn to rest easy in it.
Now I lay in the darkness, studying the darkness, willingly dipping into the darkness. I wouldn’t know light without the dark. I wouldn’t know sunshine if I didn’t know my shadow. Dealing with occasional bouts of lunambulism, I sleepwalk in the moonlight and moonwalk in the sunlight. I mean I did grow up listening to the luminary, himself, the great Michael Jackson.
For a man that has always been nothing but skin and bones, I have many bones to pick as I go through the skeletons in my closet like the clearance racks at Ross or TJ Maxx. What have I found, you ask? I recognize that I am navigating two worlds: a) a material world that commands, more so demands consumption, conquest, and colonization; b) a spiritual world where lucid daydreaming makes me want to know heaven more and more in order to escape hell on earth. Hyperbolic? Melodramatic? Ludicrous, you say?
As of August 18, 2021, hundreds of Haitians are buried under earthquake rubble, forest fires are blazing through Northern California, Afghans are innocent victims of translucent foreign affairs, perfidious politicians pontificate while populations perish from the pandemic. And the billionaires, they just said fuck it, I am going to the moon to get away from this mess. Is this not dark enough for you? What lunacy, right? And this is just the darkness that has come to light outside; imagine the darkness within me, within you, especially in light of these events.
And lastly, I cannot always just take a walk on the bright side; I got too comfortable running and jumping into my grandmother’s bed. Not to mention, this dark brown skin with these dark brown eyes have been made to fear by those with the “fair” skin; ironically, they “apaga la luz” on the darkness casted on me and my ancestors. I have had to and will continue to face it—the darkness; I have to take accountability. I have to act with agency. And I have to serve with integrity. Hopefully in my darkness, I aspire and inspire. Once I exit the darkness, I wonder: What can I now become? What new understandings and powers have I illuminated? Where can I now shine my light?
Now, sometimes very open and sometimes very reluctant to digging into my darkness, I come with some dear friends of mine: my curiosity, my faith, and my imagination. They make up my team of archaeologists and advisors. If I find myself in an echo chamber at work or on the Internet, I just close my eyes and listen to some of the inner voices that I have ignored or dismissed throughout the day. Quite the dialogue when I turn inward and listen to understand, not to respond. As I move away from deficit-thinking to constructively reframe these internal conversations, I now see such a wonderful opportunity to develop my self-belief and to honor my imagination. The idea of this very blog came at night, in the dark as I was watching a documentary on the life and work of James Baldwin.
Furthermore, in my darkness, I have dapped up, dialogued, and debated with fear, doubt, and disbelief. They are not necessarily my friends or my enemies; we are still learning how to co-exist and co-operate in a healthy manner. Luckily, we do share two common goals: 1) to keep me honest 2) to maintain harmony within me. If I were ruled by fear, doubt, and disbelief, I would never enter the dark side; or worst, I would deteriorate and unfortunately die in my darkness. Avoidance is a liability, the real risk. Fear, doubt, and disbelief can be assets; it's like having Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant as those demanding teammates, the ones calling you out every practice, every play, picking you apart day in and day out, almost pushing you to the brink of violence. I just need to keep adapting, re-inventing myself, and putting myself in positions so they can get the best out of me.
When I move away from the prisons, I mean prisms, of man-made blue light, I embrace my day and night duality, my different hues and blues, my fellow light figures, and my connection to a greater light source. The plug, if you will. Checking into the darkness does not have to be an experience of clear suffering. It can and will be painful, but not all pain is injurious. R.I.P. DMX. You taught me that I need that pain, that darkness to show me the light, to heal me, to evolve me. What’s a beam of light without a body of darkness?
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