Wednesday, October 31, 2012

James Baldwin on sin and salvation can glide through the Bible and settle for the prohibitions that suit you best.
The prohibitions that suit the fundamentalists best all involve the flesh.
And here I must, frankly, declare myself handicapped, even, or perhaps especially, as a former minister of the Gospel.
Salvation is not precipitated by the terror of being consumed in hell: this terror itself places one in hell. Salvation is preceded by the recognition of sin, by conviction, by repentance. Sin is not limited to carnal activity, nor are the sins of the flesh the most crucial or reverberating of our sins.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

we do what we have to do so we can do what we want to do

A few weeks ago, a co-worker asked me, "Tierra, what do you love to do?"

I thought for a long moment, and answered, "I love to write." "Are you writing, Tierra?" he pressed.

"I used to keep a blog. I actually wrote every day. But then I tried to change the format to something more adult, with less profanity, and then I got this teaching job, and I just haven't been very happy all around, so I quit. Well, I stopped."

It's odd, how when we become unhappy, we believe that we no longer have time for the things that make us happy. I'm not writing or reading or cooking, not making new clothes or quilts, not even watching my favorite television shows. I complain about not seeing my old friends, but when I see them, I drink too much and yell at them for forgetting about me, or for not knowing who I am any more.

Clearly, I've been miserable. Not because I'm home. Because moving back to a place that you've placed on a pedestal will never live up to all your hopes for it.

Don't get me wrong: a lot of my problems in New Orleans have been resolved by moving home. All of my friends here are real, whether they invite me up to watch football with them in Federal Hill or not. Not only are they not alcoholics, drug addicts or ne'er-do-wells, they're the kind of friends that put the baby to bed early and stay up late to die-cut a thousand paper heart notes for your students before the first day of school, or who can't make your grandmother's funeral, so donate money to the Humane Society in her name instead. My family - who is half-deaf, shout-y and judgmental, and has no idea what it means to be a teacher or a grad student - is here and loves me dearly for no reason at all other than that I am theirs; they even let me move back into their house because being alone at my grandmother's started crushing my soul. And here, I've found a job that, while unfulfilling, is allowing me to buy a house, a home of my very own, in the same ZIP code where I grew up.

These are good things.

But being home doesn't change the fact that I'm still uncomfortably, newly wed. In fact, being a thousand miles from my husband exacerbates it, and has me grappling all over again with the questions of what it means to be a partner, a wife, literally and figuratively married to another person who is so incredibly different than me. It doesn't change the fact that I'm not actually sure of what I want for a career, or that my current two tracks - middle school teacher and academic historian - surely ain't it. And worse than doing nothing, being home takes the ugly truth that my grandmother is dead and rubs my face in it a few times a day. Thursday is her birthday. Saturday is the first anniversary of her death. I can't live in her house because it doesn't look or smell like hers - ours - any more, and I miss her so badly that sometimes when my students ask me about her I just stand there in silence and let tears stream down my face (thank God I teach twelve year old girls, said only me, only this one time).

These are the things that have stayed the same, and will stay the same no matter where I live or run away to, to be solved only by time or some kind of magic silver bullet.

And so, like I asked my students in New Orleans and ask my students now: what do we do here?

We do what we have to do so we can do what we want to do.

I want to be happy. Which means that today, I have to read this book about SNCC and student sit-ins and write an H-Net review for it. This week, I have to go to the fabric store and buy enough material to make baby quilts for my co-worker, my college peer mentor, and my principal. Next week when he finally moves here, I have to cook dinner with my husband again. When my furniture gets here from New Orleans, I have to re-upholster the love seat my Nana gave me before she died. In December, I have to go to the archives and use what I find to finally write a chapter of my dissertation. Every day, I have to - need to - remember that I learned how to do all of these things that make me happy from my Grandma.

And every day, I have to write. Because we do what we have to do so we can do what we want to do.