oracl

writer, artist, indigo.

Month: November, 2014

Eggshells: A poem

I was always the one to tread lightly.

I used to deflate around you

Out of habit

I would put on my lampshade

pour the ice water of your opinion on the fire that burned inside me

Lord forgive me but

the world can only ask me

the world can only ask a black woman

For so much

patience.

So now,

I STOMP on your eggshells.

Listen.

In a little classroom,

with 4th grade rainbow children

all about,

he tells me

calmly

that

I am nothing.

This white ‘friend’,

Who ‘meant no harm’,

Tells me

That social inequality

Is just the result

Of a larger,

Unblameable

problem

Called “differences in intelligence”.

There are rainbow babies all around us

We are paid to teach them how to fly.

But apparently

the black wings come

a little bit

smaller.

He tells me that

the intelligent

succeed.

the intelligent succeed.

test scores, he points out.

Statistics.

Culture.

He rides the bell curve up

and

down

my

spine

without ever mentioning it,

prickling the last of my snapping strands,

I bristle.

But we wear the mask.

And I, too sing America.

So I argue back

I’m smarter than he is and I know it. I learned to speak his language

in marble corridors where pedro and juan buffed floors til they shone

to impress CEO daddies

and bleach blonde martini mommies

on parents day at boarding school.

i might be genetically inferior

but i got into wesleyan too

i can do what he does

i can speak his language.

so,

I explain and remain calm

to defang his calm violence

his learned imperialism

his justified silence,

his smiling, friendly murder

of an entire people

with just a few well meaning words

from your average

friendly

always well meaning

always well meaning

always well fucking meaning

white guy.

Lady sings the blues to him.

She explains

all the ways

in which to box up a people

lock them in a prison

lock them in a prism of non-reality

hard work comes before success  in the dictionary,

but so does black

And that’s only writing

So if “We the people” meant anything at all

Then things in writing don’t mean shit

For me.

Lady sings the blues to him.

I say

Lets step away from the material reality of endless

Merciless

ongoing

oppression, to see

That there are invisible prison bars

In the minds

In the souls

In the hearts

Of my people.

Tell me where the success is to be found behind bars?

If you are my friend,

If I am real to you

And not just some outstanding exception to all the other naturally dumb niggers,

Look behind my bars

See that there is pain and blood dripping off my words,

And quiet resignation and acceptance of privilege oozing out of yours.

See that every time you tell me that people of my skin color are less intelligent,

You grind a smiling dagger around in my gaping wound.

I STOMP on your white eggshells.

Listen.

They are as thin as the white lies spread flat over three hundred years of history,

Trying to choke LIFE out of the people who want to live it.

But here I am.

Sitting in the same classrooms as you.

If you think the rest of us are dumber,

You must think me special.

What an accomplishment,

You think,

That I am here with you.

That’s awesome.

Totally great.

Even though she probably got here on the full scholarships they give to black kids

To spice up the website.

With exciting ethnic flavor right?

I know you’ve thought it.

And then he tells me,

My white friend tells me,

That affirmative action

Based on his prior reasoning about our intelligence,

Is wrong.

I stomp your eggshells

until they are dust where

They sat

in quiet solidarity.

Until the big,

Black

Scary

Angry

Complaining

BITCH elephant in the room

Went a little

Insane.

And woozy

With visions

of freedom,

She dreamt of

Having a voice

And then she dreamt

Of learning to use it.

Though they told her

That they will never get it

And they told her

To just survive

And don’t fight.

Just accept

And don’t question

And don’t argue,

Because they have the power.

And they don’t give

A fuck

About us.

I am the mad black animal in the room.

I am the creature that fell off the boat

That traveled slow, slow, slow

On calm seas

To eventual equality.

If you listen close

You can hear the sounds of the waves

going ‘hush, hush’

‘Hush” Over and over again.

I was falling off.

And there I was

A creature

with a white friend.

Watch as my trunk

encircles you,

Wraps around your neck

and forces the hot air out of your blown up head,

and pulls the pacifier out of your skinny pale lips

pacifier pacifist.

And I call you that

not in the sense of war

but in the sense of you

being passive.

Because passive

Is what you are,

among other things,

that I won’t name,

when you think

that affirmative action

Is not necessary. is unfair.

(aw, your poor little meritocracy! delusions abound.)

you are passive because you

sit

In your smart pink body,

blonde hair gracing your Aryan super brain like a crown of glory,

And you watch

as grass grows

In black communities,

slowly

slowly

slowly,

ever

so

slowly.

And in the moments

that you look away,

as is your natural

white

reflex,

you miss the fleshy pink hands

ripping it up

ripping it out

From the roots

and you turn back again

and wonder what happened,

and blame the grass for being of inferior quality.

you blame the ground that you WALK on, every day of your life, by virtue of your birth.

Step off me

and listen.

This white friend of mine,

he will always

look away.

because he can.

He will look away right when he needs to

because it isn’t his fault

It isn’t his fault

It isn’t his fault

It isn’t his fault

I stomp and crush your eggshells

I sweep up the dust

And throw it in the eyes of any onlookers

Black or white

Who dare to

Even conjure up the thought

Of silencing me.

Listen.

I stomp on your pale, white eggshells

I grind them into nothing.

the little black girl I tutor was listening

the entire fucking time

she is an introvert

like me.

she works quickly. she is observant.

she is nine years old and she bubbles with special

with knowing.

with potential

as much potential as anyone else.

(I bristle I seethe I ache)

I will talk to her when he walks away.

 

But as for you

When it is all over you will know. And you will try

to cry with me.

and I will toss you away from me.

fuck off, Nazi.

and when you get mad,

i’ll put on my best puppy dog eyes

and ask

Why are you so angry?

Mental Illness Series Pt 4: Giftedness

OK, next post in the series. Lets warm up with a few quotes.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
Marianne Williamson

“Special needs garner sympathy and regional support but gifted gets neglected and will always elicit envy amongst those that don’t live with it daily. The label is there like any other descriptive label, it is just that this label seems to offend the “normal” population. Gifted is a loaded term because it connotes a gift, a privilege, a blessing, something fortunate and through the lens of the envious, but uninformed, it means better than and elitist. These are the myths. The myth that gifted is all a positive benefit with no challenge.”

-i dont know where this is from

“In this culture, there appears to be a great pressure for people to be ‘normal’ with a considerable stigma associated with giftedness or talent.”

-some smart guy

“Most of the women I work with who are gifted deny that they are, or are totally embarrassed to admit it. It seems I am always asking them to look at themselves: ‘Even if you don’t want to admit this out loud because you think it’s immodest or because you’re embarrassed, at least in your own heart of hearts admit what you’re dealing with. Most women who are gifted, as you well know, think they’re freaks, and feel horribly different — isolated, alienated, ostracized, ‘What’s wrong with me’?”

“Therapeutic assessment of gifted persons with asynchronous development, heightened levels of awareness, energy and emotional response, and an intense level of inner turmoil often results in their developmental transition being mislabeled as a personality, mood or attentional disorder. When misdiagnosed clients are wrongly prescribed medication to suppress the “symptoms of giftedness” there is the danger that the wonderful inner fury of the gifted process will be neutralized, thus minimalizing the potential for a life of accomplishment and fulfillment. Unique interpersonal challenges that gifted individuals encounter include learning to interact in the mainstream world; manage expectations and pressures to fit the norm; defuse unconscious hostility, resentment, antagonism and sabotage directed at them because they are perceived as advantaged; set appropriate boundaries for the utilization of their abilities; collaborate with others, and manage the daily dilemmas of giftedness involving relatives, bosses, coworkers, neighbors, counselors, teachers and other members of the community.”

-some blog

“It is painful when others criticize them for being too idealistic, too serious, too sensitive, too intense, too impatient, or as having too weird a sense of humor. Gifted children, particularly as they enter adolescence, may feel very alone in an absurd, arbitrary, and meaningless world, which they feel powerless to change. They may feel that adults in charge are not worthy of the authority they hold. The children soon discover that most other people do not share their concerns but instead are focused on more concrete issues and on fitting in with others’ expectations. The result for these gifted youngsters is conflict, either within themselves or with those around them.”

                                                                                 -some other blog

Lets dive in. According to all the standard criteria, I’m “gifted”. I’ve met the standards since the 2nd grade, when they tried to skip me for the first time. Mom said no. She said no again the next year. I’m glad she did.

 Last week, I ‘admitted’ that I identify as gifted to a close friend. I sometimes try too hard to explain myself to people I care about and in general, because of an enormous desire to be understood. I have felt misunderstood…no…I have been misunderstood for as long as I can remember. That’s not some misguided relic of effete adolescent projection, either. It’s true. It’s also one of the statistically proven results of being this way. I almost NEVER use the word gifted, I almost never discuss my struggle to deal with being overwhelmed by my potential, my limitations, my isolation, my differences from the statistical norm and the enormous effects they have on my life. I keep it guarded inside. It kind of sucks, because it’s such a big part of me, yet I know I am usually not safe to discuss it. In our society it is not truly safe. It is taboo. No one wants people to think they see themselves as a ‘special snowflake’ or better than others. My friend, sitting next to me on the subway, immediately responded with something along the lines of, “When you put it like that it can make others feel bad, as if you think you are better than the rest of us…I understand what you’re saying but it just sounds bad.”

Something like that.

 She might as well have stood up, positioned her self directly in front of me, gripped my face with both hands, slowly raised her left arm, and brought it down on my right cheek with one swift, highly effective motion. POP!

It stung.

I mean, it wasn’t thaaaaat bad. But I was incredibly frustrated. That’s not a normal response to what was a very unsurprising reaction to a harmless conversation, I know. But intensity and hypersensitivity are two of our hallmark traits, can’t really help that. Why, you are probably wondering, would she be bothered by what her friend said?

It’s because for many of us, a lifelong sense of inferiority and alienation is often the biggest curse of giftedness. Never in my life have any of my qualities or characteristics made me feel better than anyone else. In fact, we are far more likely to feel worse: misunderstood, different in a bad way, too intense, too much, too fast, too weird, too complicated, too sensitive, too ahead of the curve, too random, too unrealistic, too difficult. We overanalyze and beat our selves up and are far more self critical than people imagine. At 22 years old, in a room full of people I know, I often feel alone. I figured out a long time ago that I wouldn’t really fit in if I were to be my unfiltered self, so I learned to edit that self to survive because I was too sensitive to not give a fuck and needed social validation and acceptance to feel good about myself. We’re all only human, yo. Even when we have high enough emotional and social intelligence to be pretty well liked in our environments, there is a disconnect. A lag. A wide, invisible gulf. To this day, even though I have slowly been finding like minds, there is a very real and very persistent sense of abject isolation and loneliness that comes with this deeply misperceived way of being. I wasn’t and am not upset with my beloved and wonderful friend. Her answer was textbook, a very clear reflection of how our society mistakes the mere articulation of giftedness as some kind of threat.

 “Most people don’t know that what is considered normal for the gifted is most often labeled as neurosis in the general population and as a result, they are personally and emotionally vulnerable to a variety of unique relationship difficulties at home, work, school and in the community.” BINGO. (blog)

 Plainly acknowledging the existence of certain inner qualities that result in statistically rare levels of ability is completely different from setting up a hierarchy in which the more ‘gifted’ you are the better you are and the more value you have as a human being. I don’t believe in that at all. Not one little bit. That’s another hallmark actually, heighted moral sensitivity from a young age, caring about equality and fairness. Being told you seem like you think you’re better than others for acknowledging the reality of who you are, or that the way you perceive yourself is haughty and elitist, does indeed feel like a slap in the face, for all the reasons I just explained. Not to mention the good ole early existential depression that is almost always part of this ‘elite’ package. A few months ago I found an old journal and stared for a long time at one entry in particular. From August 2006, a pretty calm uneventful drama free summer. It was very brief. I wrote ‘I feel depressed but I don’t know why.” I was barely 14.

Slap. My cheek hurts. I honestly WISH I could taste what it’s like to feel superior because of who I am. My ‘giftedness’ has been one of the biggest sources of pain and anguish in my life hands down, and that’s why her words stung. Now that I am finally embracing the term, and learning to love instead of dislike myself for being this way, a reaction like that is bothersome, even though it is to be expected.

I didn’t expect her to understand why I was frustrated. I usually know pretty quickly if someone is going to understand what I’m talking about or not, and either promptly give up or press on accordingly. Extreme perceptivity is yet another trait on the list. It’s annoying at times…and probably the main reason for my social anxiety, being able to see layers of people, having to respond to their surface masks while looking three levels underneath and perceiving the discrepancies acutely. Which to respond to? Fuck I’m digressing.

A lot of you are students at elite universities… so many of you will already know a lot of what I’m talking about. (Although, oddly enough, giftedness often correlates with underachievement within traditional models of ‘success’, weird huh?) Still, let me list some criteria and common characteristics of giftedness, it’s way more complex than just IQ, which is severely limited and somewhat misguided in its attempt to quantify something as abstract and multifaceted as ‘intelligence’. Here is a basic list:

Higher and faster than average intellectual/cognitive ability

Makes intuitive leaps in thinking

Originality

Natural multi-tasker

Varied interests and endless curiosity

High level of language development and verbal ability

Has extensive vocabulary; early or avid reader

Self taught, non-sequential learners

Driven to comprehend, complexity of understanding

Unusual capacity for processing information

Highly observant

Highly creative; offers unusual, unique, or clever answers

Originality in written, oral, or artistic expression

Independent thinker

Able to comprehend subject matter at advanced levels

Perfectionist

Sensitive/Highly emotional

Overexcitable/Unusually intense

Abstract thought

Powerful, vivid imagination

Risk taker

Sensitive to beauty, justice

Engages in metacognition

Highly self critical

Advanced cognitive and affective capacity for conceptualizing societal problems

Tends to question authority

Advanced sense of morality and justice

Idealistic from a young age

Compassionate….

The list could go on for a while, and all of this shit has been proven many times over. It’s real y’all, and it’s way more than IQ. It is an entire complex set of characteristics that one can start to notice in early childhood. Sometimes, it really, really fucking sucks.

The way they see the world and the shit they think about all day are not things they can usually discuss with most people in a way that is fulfilling and it can be extremely frustrating. (If you google this topic you will see that this is very common and I’m not actually being an elitist dick, just keeping it real.) They can be constantly ravenous for satisfying connection and stimulating conversation and understanding. I can’t guess how many blank stares I’ve gotten, how many times I’ve been implicitly rejected, left out, or straight up ridiculed for saying, doing or being something out of the box. People usually don’t realize they are doing it. That has a lot to do with the fact that we are all programmed for conformity in American society, set up to monitor ourselves and monitor others….and then set up to exteriorize that monitoring as monolithic, external ‘social norms’ that must be yielded to. Not everyone realizes what has occurred or how ideology is operating through them when they do it. Sometimes people do it on purpose and get joy from it because it makes them feel less weird and shitty inside.

We all know the ‘smart kids’ are more likely to get bullied in school. I was no exception. The first time another girl started a fight with me, I was about eleven. She hit me and a crowd gathered, ready to partake in this normal, violent ritual inherent to adolescence in the hood. I remember, crystal clearly, standing there, scared, wondering why she did it, what made her want to do that. It didn’t occur to me to simply react and hit her back. I didn’t want to hurt her back. I wanted to understand her. So there I was, having a fucking moral conundrum when I should have beat that ass and proved to the other girls I was no pussy, (jk). I was physically bullied all through seventh grade for being smart and weird and different and passive. Middle school especially can be really rough for introverted little smart asses, and we sometimes carry the traumas with us into adulthood. Some of y’all will know exactly what I’m talking about.

Speaking of which, I’m supposed to connect this back to mental illness, forgot. Ok…so the sensitivity part….is touuuuugh. Even the sensory sensitivity is a lot to deal with. My close friends know all too well that I will jump and ‘overreact’ when I step on a crunchy leaf or if a bee buzzes by my ear and that the screen on their laptop is probably too bright for me to not squint and turn it down. “Does anyone else think it’s too bright?” “No, Coral….”. (I can barely look at TV screens and very sunny days can literally hurt. I’m a producer yet loud speakers sometimes cause this ‘interference’ crunching static thing in my ears which hurts and sucks.)

The emotional and moral sensitivity, however, are the reasons for the famous fabled connection between madness and giftedness. It’s pretty common knowledge that most of history’s famous gifted people were deeply troubled or ‘abnormal’ in one way or another and would have had psychiatric labels had they lived today. Their quirks drove them toward doing dope shit though.

On the one hand, being able to easily perceive, comprehend and analyze all the ratchet bullshit around you in this crazy modern world WHILE ALSO being excruciatingly sensitive to said bullshit makes us highly vulnerable to breaking the fuck down. Depression, anxiety, the works. I believe those are more sane reactions than (woah just jumped because a hair touched my leg see what I mean? Like who does that) getting along just fine as if shit is OK. Shit is NOT ok and we see that, early, and deeply, and feel it very intensely and cannot shut that shit off or stop dreaming about something better. It can drive one crazy…and often does….but it can also drive innovation, self actualization, and artistic, technological and social advancement.

On the other hand:

“Many common mis-diagnoses stem from an ignorance among professionals about specific social and emotional characteristics of gifted people which are then mistakenly assumed by these professionals to be signs of pathology.”

*snaps*

To finish up: I don’t think I will bring it up with that friend again. Instead I choose to stop acting like I don’t know what I am and embrace that shit regardless of whether it sounds ‘bad’ or not. Without my extreme depth of emotion, I wouldn’t make the music I do or write the way I do or see into people the way I do. Without the excruciating sensitivity, I would be able to numb myself to the accelerating horror I see around me, never reaching for more. Without the knack for speedy analysis…you get the point. My friend was only trying to show me how my self concept might alienate people, and I get that…but….I’m gonna just keep talking about this because it’s true and it matters and I shouldn’t have to hide it or feel bad about it. The only way to fight stigma is to talk about things that are misunderstood and bring them to light.

I finally accept myself as gifted, but even beyond that label, I finally accept myself, without any qualifiers. If you fall into this category too, you’re clearly not alone and it’s OK to feel proud of that aspect of yourself. Especially if you are a woman or person of color. Find like minds, find your fulfillment, talk about giftedness as if it weren’t something to be ashamed of, cuz its not. You aren’t putting anyone else down by being real with yourself and believing in your abilities. Perhaps you doing so will inspire others to tap into their own innate brilliance, which I believe resides in every person on this earth. Go out and do something awesome for the world and for yourself. Or five things at once. While you weep to classical music while solving world hunger, drinking profusely, composing a Pullitzer prize winning haiku, boring the ears off your friends while ranting about the God particle and forgetting to feed yourself. I’ll end how I started:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
Marianne Williamson

love,

c