Tag Archives: Brene Brown

The Vulnerability of Being Brown – Part 1

I wrote this essay months ago. After the words and thoughts got too loud rolling around in my head.  I think I’ve been waiting to see if things change, if my thoughts shift.  But I’m in a process of working on my novel, Stands Alone. Doing another line by line revision.  (This is to cut 16,000 words to get my debut novel under 100,000, which is another post or more for later).

This morning, though, I’ve decided that there is so much to unpack about vulnerability of being brown, I need to open up this up.  And where else can I do that?  In addition to therapy. Lol.

Maybe it’s the incredible work of current books and TV shows and movies that are prompting me to share my thoughts.  (GO TO NETFLIX AND WATCH WHEN THEY SEE US- NOW!) Maybe this is just time. My time.

I will continue to write more on the subject. But I’m also hoping to hear from others who get this. Who understand what this feels like. Who want to change things for people of color which…get this… is good for all people. See how that works?

Here we go. Part 1:

The Vulnerability of Being Brown – Part 1

I never contemplated vulnerability until Brene Brown’s research and books turned me on to the topic. I remember feeling alive and empowered when I understood more about what it meant to live a whole-hearted life. To be my best authentic self.

Whenever I think about vulnerability I think about resiliency, too. They’re not opposites but I think you may need one to have the other. I learned of resiliency years ago and it shook me wide open. I was in school for my BA in Liberal Studies. My emphasis was on families. I was a child advocate. While studying about how some children ‘make it’ and for others, their struggles overcome them, which I know is a very simple way of breaking this down and in no way is it simple for children born in or living with adversity, the term popped up right off the page. My thoughts didn’t travel to future children’s programs I hoped to create but to myself. My siblings. Our childhood and what we had in our lives that made us resilient. Made us survive.

Coming to an understanding about vulnerability was the same way. I went from reading ‘women’ as a whole to focus on myself. Of course, we all do this. We encounter new concepts that turn on and turn up lights bringing understanding to something about ourselves that we might not even know needed the light. I embraced the term vulnerability just like I did with resiliency. Collected these terms and my understanding of them like weapons and set out on my way.

Lately, though, I can’t get past how difficult it is to be authentic because I am always vulnerable. I don’t get to determine how much. I don’t get a break from it unless I’m home, with the news off and away from social media.

I’m a brown woman living in this country. I’m Mixed. Indigenous and Black. And I can’t hide it. And I don’t want to but yet; I am so damn tired from the weight of the target that being brown carries.

I live in a world where random acts of violence against people of color are no longer so random, where brown men, women and children are targeted, or hunted. However it happens, the man in the white house who bullies, taunts and spews hateful racism, and applauds the minions who carry out his work, sanctions these crimes. He seems so very comfortable in his power to rein havoc, pain and even death on people of color. Sure, he’s at a distance and protected right now but the white person fueled by his words and actions, who is living in fear of losing something, anything, everything to a person of color, will attack. Has attacked.

Being a woman who looks like me is to live in a state of constant vulnerability. I am confused, sad and pissed because I want to be my full ‘give zero F*#ks’ all natural fierce AF badass brown woman. I want to always be okay in my skin with these curls and this body. I want to walk with pride and purpose. And yet, I’m the woman who makes ‘kind eyes’ at people in the stores. I’m the one who makes sure I make no sudden moves around white shoppers and say ‘sorry’ when they bump me. I’m the one who is vigilant about giving space to white people and making sure they’re comfortable with me. I do all that to create armor around my vulnerability. Which also feels futile because I can’t hide my brownness. Or pretend I’m something other than what they see. And that’s what makes me a target.

Too many times, because once was too much, brown women, men, and children are attacked and killed for no other reason than being brown and perceived to be a threat, because of that brownness. And instead of dealing with their misplaced fear, those with power and privilege to harm use it to do so. To kill.

And yes, there are efforts and activists doing incredibly hard work but will that keep me safe today?

I think about these women like me when I venture from my home. My thoughts run a bit wild, wondering who’s scared, who’s running, who’s being attacked right now, and just what am I going to do if it’s me in the next moments. I know, though, that if I let myself stay in those fearful thoughts, I wouldn’t leave my home at all. Ever. So there is a part of me that overcomes this. For bits of time. That’s how I make to Target, the grocery story or the post office. That’s how I get to the movies. Or out for lunch.

But it’s exhausting. To be hyper vigilant. To carry the pain of other brown women, my sisters, my aunties and grandmothers. It’s often crushing to be in this battle. To just exist. And yet, I do.

Stacey Parshall Jensen is a Mandan, Hidatsa and African-American writer, storyteller and filmmaker in Los Angeles by way of Minnesota.

 

Toast! to Art That Heals- Blessed the film

This is my desk on some mornings. Many mornings. Most mornings.

I discovered a long time ago that what I write is good for me, for my heart, for taking on the emotions that sometimes seep into the morning from the nightmare that wrecked havoc with my soul.

I appreciate that about writing. I am so grateful I discovered this for myself. I know that when I create a story about a woman who’s fighting for her family, I’m dealing with what it means to be a mom and what I’d fight for. How I’d fight. I also know that when I create a story about loss and grief, that I’m trying to heal my own wounds.

Right now, I’m in pre-production for a short film called Blessed. It’s a story about a cop who is trying to make herself believe she doesn’t want a baby and what happens when her wall she creates to hide behind comes tumbling down… in the most incredible way. She is forced to deal with her pain, her loss…her understanding of her faith and who she is.

It’s a tall order for a short film. It’s powerful and deeply connected to me.

See- my character, Kiona, has suffered her third miscarriage. She’s asking all those questions about why and what has she done to deserve this. Her mother, however, straight up believes that Kiona will be blessed when she’s ready.

Of the many beautiful characteristics of these women, the main one for me is that they’re Native American. So to have Mary Beth state so matter-of-factly that she believes the Great Spirit will bless Kiona when she deserves only deepens Kiona’s exasperation of dealing with her loss. Why doesn’t she deserve?

Grief is grief- that’s what my shrink said when I told her about making this film and how exposed I am. See- I suffer…struggle with secondary infertility. I just found that term and a bunch of amazing women, mothers, who suffer this, too. It may not be the same miscarriage as others but none of us are the same, except grieving the loss of a child who will never be.

I know the incredible joy of creating a child, and carrying her inside me only to give her life…I know how I felt when it dawned on me that God must see that I’m worthy of something grand in this world to give me a child.

Now- I truly believe that is true for any parent, no matter how that child comes into their life. When you are chosen to be a parent, through whatever means, that’s what God is doing. Blessing you. And I know Peter and I will blessed with more children.

For me, right now, though, the wound lies deep inside me. In that place of creation that is no longer capable of creating any life. I went through an early menopause at 43. And have never felt so alone. Because so many women my age are just cool with not having more children. Or at least that’s what they say. Their lives are filled with college-bound teenagers and elementary school-agers…and they don’t seem to ache as much I do.

I had my daughter, Bird, by myself. I was a single parent from pretty much minutes after conception. Seriously. And it was hard at times…and it was lovely. And warm. And I love her in ways I can’t even find the words for. I love her with all that I am, with all my essence. Becoming her mom gave me purpose. Gave me direction. Bird saved my life. She did. (that’s another film – to tell the story of the life I was living before her)

But now, I have a husband who is the most incredible dad. His love for Bird is unmeasurable and I wanted to create a baby with him. When we first met and became friends, he told me that what struck him the most was the kind of mom I am. On one of our first dates a couple years later, he told me this and that he wanted me to be the mother of his children. But I can’t have babies. His babies. I can’t.

The pain is so deep. I’ve lost friends who couldn’t stick around to help me. I’ve lost friends who weren’t capable of showing up. I’ve suffered through newborn happenings and baby showers and birth stories and struggled with balancing my pure love and joy for all these incredible mamas in my life while tending to my wounds. My grief. It was private and personal. Intimate aches.

So last year when I pushed to finish a draft of Blessed I didn’t recognize what I was doing, actually. I didn’t see the healing I was committing. I found a brilliant director who not only dug the story of Kiona, she also appreciates the beauty of Kiona being a cop who believes in laws, justice and strength. My director also is committed to the action and suspense in this story, which apparently doesn’t happen that often – female leads in action films about a more feminine theme. She’s bringing me extremely talented people who are joining us to make this film and they get it, too. And I’m so grateful.

I’m meeting actors who take my breath away. Fierce and strong, and yet so wounded, they are giving this story life so that I can heal. I get to keep healing.

Along with my therapy, my daily writings, my Brene Brown work, my watercolors, my collages, tea, toast and dark chocolate, Blessed, the film, is healing me.

So today’s Toast! is to Art That Heals.

And here’s wishing you all some healing love and magic today.

PEACE

Toast! to not knowing what to Toast so toasting…this moment…

Wow.  I’m sounding sorta vague. “sorta vague”  Redundant, I know.  That’s where I’ve been lately, I think.  In this hazy vagueness…Due to having alot on my plate, many balls in the air, juggling with both hands and feet, running in circles, breathing too fast and too shallow, feeling angst that’s keeping me stuck and wow…how many other ways can I describe what’s up with me? 

See- we have been blessed with good fortune. Good health. Many friends. Family support. Love. Laughter. Confidence in our work. Peace. 

And yet, my mind battles the fear that’s it’s all some cruelass joke, it will crumble and I’ll get hurt. YET….here it comes…YET there is nothing to indicate any of my fears are true. Or will BE true.  Reality is good.  My inability to accept that–is the mind game that is keeping me awake at night.  And it’s exhausting worrying all the time. 

I’m a dramatist. Notice I didn’t write ‘drama queen’??  A dramatist. I create story. A storyteller. And I LOVE A GOOD STORY! But for it to be good the stakes have to be high, like…make your heart hurt, skin ripped at the knuckles from crawling to save your soul kinda stakes. However they’re defined, they have to run deep. They have to be big. They’re the shit good movies are made of.  It’s my job to be able to create these stakes, so in my life, at times like this, my urge is to find these stakes. Not create them. I don’t crazymake any more. I can proudly say that destruction doesn’t happen in my life any more.  I tend to ‘search’ for the stakes now. When I sit, that’s what my  mind is doing. When I’m in spin class, that’s what my mind is doing. When my husband laughs and hugs me, that’s what my mind is doing. I’m searching for what’s going to go wrong if and when something does.  

And now I’m tired of it.

I have multiple story and film projects with a host of characters that are in various states of angst that I can give this energy to. I have the support to create the time to let the characters do this, for them to work out their own shit on their own journeys. I have amazing friends that let me ramble to work things out. I have the gym. If I wasn’t so scared of deep breathing, I’d have yoga (that’s coming…I know…) I have my husband. My family. My shrink. Brene Brown. Elephant Journal. Rebelle Society. Funny girlfriends. Loving girlfriends. Deep philosophical girlfriends. Music. Hummingbirds outside my freakin window! and…AND The Great Spirit.  

Any of these things I can focus on and say “here’s my Toast! to….”  But my feeling. Feelings… My emotions are sorta kinda spread out…not firing off in any one direction. I’ve got some hurt going on because ‘searching’ for stakes mean I peruse my memories for what’s hurt me in the past and COULD blow up now, but isn’t….like…friends who ditched me. Betrayed me. Old grief.  I have no desire to engage them, to pick at those wounds….because… in the midst of all this, I have learned to find my feet. To ground. To come back to here. To now. 

This moment. 

So…as I take up this blog again, pushing to expel what’s holding onto me, creating obstacles to my joy, to making me question my worth and what I deserve… I guess I start here. Now.  

This morning’s Toast! is to Toasting this moment. 

 

Peace.