Yesterday, I went to a one-year wedding anniversary celebration at Roberts Regional Park here in Oakland. Mazel tov to the couple!
Mr. Cap the Ashtray was at the celebration. I hadn’t seen him in a while. He asked a lot of great questions about what was going on with my husband’s immigration situation. And he really listened.
Mr. Cap the Ashtray has done a lot of work around his own areas of privilege, and where he needs allies. I feel that one of the results of that work is that he’s able to provide a powerful listening that’s doesn’t come from a need to fix things or guilt, but from a desire to hear people’s stories. He understands that people telling their stories is a key element in social justice work.
At one point, Mr. Cap the Ashtray asked me if there were any pluses around living in a separate country from my husband.
No one had ever asked me that before.
And yes, while there are some pluses, I’d cash them all in to be able to live full-time with my husband.
During that pluses moment, I told Mr. Cap the Ashtray that while I was new to the scene in East Oakland, I felt a fierce pride about living there.
Mr. Cap the Ashtray asked me that if Picasso could come in, would we stay in East Oakland? And I said yes, I hoped so.
I told Mr. Cap the Ashtray that living in East Oakland was comforting to me in many ways. And one of those ways, while extremely disturbing, was the fact that the recent uptick of violence in East Oakland was reminiscent to our life in Mexico. The unpredictability of the violence was strangely familiar, and almost oddly soothing.
And Mr. Cap the Ashtray said very solemnly, “That makes sense to me. You wouldn’t be able to let yourself live in a safe and comfortable situation here in the States. Not while your husband is living in a difficult situation of his own in Mexico.”
I was in a daze for a few seconds. Spot-on truths can do that to me. And what he said was absolutely spot-on true.
That conversation got me thinking this morning about how something as simple as the haircut and color that I got last week wracked me with guilt. I didn’t tell my husband about my hair for a day or two, because it was a total indulgence. And Picasso was completely cool about it once I told him. He’s a total Libra, in all the senses of that astrological sign.
Sure, I had a show coming up, and wanted to look stage-ready. But I know that the guilt is about taking care of myself for myself, independent of my husband.
Hair care and violence in a community are two dramatically different circumstances. I understand the difference on a visceral level, because I have lived through both.
And I’m proud to live in East Oakland for many healthy reasons, including the fact that East Oakland is a great teacher for me about facing my own particular set of prejudices and areas of privilege.
But those two circumstances are connected in my mind, because what I’m talking about here is that self-care is truly only for the self, and truly can only be done by the self. It can have a positive effect on relationships and communities, but it has to be motivated and come from ourselves, and be for ourselves only.
And I know that there are many ways that I leave my self-care by the wayside, because subconsciously I see it as some type of penance-if I sacrifice enough, the gods will favor my husband and I in the future, however that will look like.
I know that there are many of us who live in the United States, separated from our loved ones, because of US immigration laws in the country.
Today, I’m asking all of us who are in that situation, to take time out of our days in this country to love ourselves, to practice self-care, however that looks like in our individual situations, and within the ranges of what’s possible for us.
We will be a stronger as a movement because of it. Of this, I am sure.