Of Tea, Cabbages, and Happiness

When asked “Are you happy? If so, how do you know?” my only answer for the last few years has been a deep breath. My most normal answer has been, “I’m OK” when asked about nearly anything.

That said, happiness and I aren’t strangers. I know when I see her and she’s always beautiful with a quick smile and comfortable clothes. She’s always in comfortable clothes. She speaks like we haven’t ever broken the conversation and never demands to know why it’s been so long since we’ve texted.

I find most of these moments in the mundane as that is where I have learned to seek them and by “them” I mean “her”.

The list of things that makes me happy is surprisingly long, but I’ll share a few moments where I found it:

  • A week-long cruise in which I had uninterrupted alone time to do nearly anything at my whim. I read this book for that time and wrote in my journal.
  • A week I spent in Italy last year. My fitbit got 20K steps every day. I didn’t think about home. I didn’t think about bills. I didn’t think about budget. I didn’t wonder about where I would go or what I would do. I was full with where I was and who was there whether a family or my own shadow.
  • A walk in the late spring. Days are longer, the sun is warm, the wind caresses my face. I am content.
  • The first two hours when my house is empty.
  • The feeling of warm sheets right after a shower.
  • My grandmother’s laughter.
  • The time I saw a father playing football with his daughter.

Which is to say, it is rarely where I wish it and often where I don’t look for it. It feels like contentment. If you’ll indulge me, I’ll quote the Bible here:

In the morning you shall say, ‘Would that it were evening!’ And at evening you shall say, ‘Would that it were morning!’ because of the dread of your heart which you dread, and for the sight of your eyes which you will see.

Deutoronomy 28:67 (NIV)

This is a curse. Always wishing for a different moment or place or time. Happiness, which is what connects all the moments above, is the opposite of that. I do not wish for more than that moment. I don’t even wish to repeat the moment. I just have that moment and I am content in both its coming and going.

Is that a repeatable thing? Maybe. I know that among those moments, I’m:

  • Thinking of what I want to give or create.
  • Relaxed.
  • Breathing deeply.
  • Walking slowly.
  • Observant of my surroundings.
  • I’m appreciative without even trying.

I have also found that, when I do these things, happiness will sometimes let me know she got that text and stop by and say hello in the form of someone’s very happy dog.

Then again, happiness isn’t one for picking a form I prefer. Just one that I’ll recognize… and I think that’s just fine.

Standing at Intersections

Here’s a definition:

Intersectionality is an analytic framework which attempts to identify how interlocking systems of power impact those who are most marginalized in society.[1] Intersectionality considers that various forms of social stratification, such as class, race, sexual orientation, age, disability and gender, do not exist separately from each other but are interwoven together. While the theory began as an exploration of the oppression of women of color within society, today the analysis is potentially applied to all social categories (including social identities usually seen as dominant when considered independently).

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intersectionality

In other words: empathy.

In other words: I know that uncomfortable body language, that nervous laugh, that immediately code switch when you walk into a room of people who expect your DNA to make room so they don’t feel uncomfortable walking past it or speaking to it.

In other words: it’s seeing this on Youtube and knowing that this woman speaking is a British black woman., and myself at the grocery store where a young black girl someone reminds me that I’m black, and my asian friends, and my latinx friends, and every woman who has been asked if she’s a real gamer.

In other words: it’s the same spiderweb pattern of my own heartbreaks in your anger, your silence, your forced laughter at work functions, and your exhaustion when you try to tell someone, “Yes, I think you have a right to your feelings, but I’m sorry if I can’t hear your complain over my own blood screaming in the road.”

In other words: empathy.

In other words: caring about other people as if they were just as important and worthy of life and the good things it can be as you are.

In other words, it is standing at a place where all the roads lead to regardless of where people started and wondering – as I often do – what took them so long to get here.

BMNR

I figured it was time to write this article when a casual comment on religious people rendered me unable to speak for two hours. While I recovered, I took the time to think about a few things that have caused me major friction in the communities I navigate as a black, religious man.

BLACK

I shouldn’t have to explain this very real problem. In fact, I’m not.

MALE

“Men ain’t shit” as the statement goes and let me just say that I get it 500%. Let me also say that it leaves caught in some awkward crosshairs between the women who have every right to say that with full conviction and the men who I feel compelled to defend them from. Not because the women need defending, but because decency demands that I not let things go unchecked when people are being disrespected for no reason.

So I’m in this place where things are rather difficult because of my position here. I navigate it OK most days, but I’m painfully aware of the tension I live in and the apprehension that comes from members on one side, or the preemptive vitriol on the other, both of which come from a poisonous culture that I hope to be one drop of antidote for.

RELIGIOUS

Again, I feel this so hard on so many levels. Scandals in the news, mismanaged money, abuse of power and influence. It’s angering in every facet of every detail I’ve ever heard about it.

However, I am still very much a religious man. I am always that man.

These things are true for me at all times and shapes every part of my personality and worldview whether in part or in whole. What? You don’t think I think about this in my D&D characters? My video game decisions? How I feel about LGBT+ people? How I feel about racism and sexism?

News flash: it does.

Are there people who claim to be religious who are doing terrible things? Yes. So are atheists. So are polytheistic people. So are music artists, game developers, and people who are close family friends. None of it is excusable. At all. When I am not ill with grief, I am furious at how these things distort people’s views of God and those who believe in him.

WITHOUT CONNECTIONS

I want you to imagine people walking up to you and talking to you and telling you how much they love you and how inspired they are by you and all of these other positive things about you, only to see their social media or conversations with them filled with hatred for things that make up who you are.

I don’t do religious things. I don’t do male things. I don’t do black things. I am all of those things and right now I feel alone being those things because I have to wonder: if we didn’t have games as a buffer, what would be left for us to connect with? Because on days like today? I’m not sure there would be anything at all.


Echo Chamber

I’ve reached a point recently where every area of my life mirrors another in some way. While the routine is nice, it leaves me little means of escaping things for a time if only to get space and perspective unless I do something extreme.

Whether at work, at home, or during my D&D campaigns (all 4 of them currently) and other games, I experience a similar echo in terms of experience and even the circumstances that lead to those.

Everything has sharp edges and for the first time in many months, I slept because I was “tired”.

While I wish to be through and over this, moreso than anything, I stopped myself here to ask questions like “where” and “why” rather than “what” or “how”.

In sum, I’m looking at these things without trying to pass them on before they should move and attempting to understand the nature of what all of this echo is pointing to. It’s easier to run, it’s harder to talk to my DM, to my superiors, or to myself even if the reasons vary.

Do the hard thing. Understanding before running, then when you’ve understood, fly.

Here, Then Gone OR Making A New Friend

It was hour number five and there was no end in sight. The rain fell outside of the bar and we talked about elections and emotions and experience. Jason had only known me for moments while Jami had known me for years.

The conversation flowed as naturally as if we’d known each other for decades.

You see, I’ve been in a more social mode lately; the warm weather and all of nature showing the best of itself, I desire more time outdoors, so I reached out to a few friends to catch up and hang out. This particular Tuesday evening was a time to catch up and talk about any and everything.

As the minutes turned into hours and day turned into night, Jason and I asked the same question: where have you been and why didn’t you introduce us sooner, Jami? You’re a jerkface. XD

We exchanged Facebook information to keep in touch; he would move to Japan in two days and there would be no more of this magic for a time. However, for that night, we made the most of every moment.

I wonder if this was just one of those moments that God chooses to remind me of how beautiful life can be when you open yourself to it; egardless of the new and plentiful options for awful things happening that we can tune into, there is yet beauty in the world.

Thank you, Jason, for that reminder. I hope your travels treat you well.