Yesterday was so much fun! My sister and nephew drove over and we went to the campus of St. Mary of the Woods to walk. All that we saw there would be a blog post of its own! I’ll have to admit that it was actually our second choice. We’d considered a trail between here and Indy but, what about bathrooms? Indeed, COVID still impacts our lives.
I began working from home on 19 Mar 2020. Just weeks before, I sold my condo in Indy and saw a performance of “The Watsons Go to Birmingham” at the Indiana Repertory Theatre. I had lunch with my friend, Maria! I remember growing concern in the library about what the university was going to do yet, it seems like the decision to stay home was rather sudden. My youngest son was living with me then and his companionship was a life saver. As much as I enjoy being on my own, the isolation brought on by a pandemic has been something that will make you or break you. I don’t think anyone can come out unchanged. I say that thinking of people who faced it on their own as well as families and friends who were isolated together. The deep challenges we all faced in very unique ways has an impact.
I think of the lives lost, the long term physical, emotional and financial complications related to COVID. The jobs lost. The global Black Lives Matter Movement and the assault on our nation’s capital.
How will all this change the ways we enact justice and equality? educate? vote? do business? eradicate racism? incorporate technology into our lives? interact with those we love? protect our planet?
How has it changed me?
Do you remember those early days when all we knew was that there was a virus out there that could end our lives sooner than we’d ever imagined? My fear outdistanced my understanding. I was learning Zoom and glued to the evening news and social media way more than I needed to be. I rediscovered “The Dick Van Dyke Show” and somewhere found “New Girl” and this show continues to be part of my nightly ritual. (I’m on my fourth viewing of the series now.) “Gentrified” was probably the first series I ever sat still and binged. And, there was “Bridgerton”.
After my 45th high school reunion was cancelled, I began calling the girls together once/month on Zoom to chat. Image a dozen girls in who in high school, in a small class of 123 students no less, never really cared to know each other now becoming lifelines to each other. How do you tell students that they really don’t know each other as well as they think they do? And that the beauty of their relationships with these people is yet to be realized.
My iPhone decided the garden was my new work site and in some ways it was. Traveling there every few days to work my little plot of land, see fellow gardeners and gathering my crops really spoke to what this time has been for me: physical, emotional and spiritual renewal.
In many ways, being alone for most of the time was emotionally demanding, but perhaps it got
me to resolution much quicker. I, like many independent people am incapable of asking for assistance. I don’t even like when people hold the door for me! To be able to say to my family that I needed to hear from them more often, that darkness was taking over probably healed me quickere because I was able to say what I needed aloud; it was probably better than any respite I found in the responses I received.
PAUSE: While we rightfully encourage people who feel too alone, fearful or threatened to get help we also need to encourage the people they reach out to to be there for them and teach them what ‘being there’ means.
I don’t think I’d realized how much I had going on in my life that existed as distraction. Oh, much
of it is still here! After all, I too have been trained to be a consumer. And, isn’t life about having fun? In manuevering that fun and doing what I enjoy, I’m leaning into intentionality. I’ve had to make myself draw a line between ‘my time’ and ‘work time’ and that’s really hard when I have books piled all over my home and I want to read them.My daily practices and routines are changing, deepening even. I’ve finished my grandgirls quilt and thanks to Karen Lemmons, have realized I do not have the time to try and hand quilt that thing. I’ve learned how to care for my hair when it’s long and natural. I think I’ve given up most makeup. I still wear nail polish and lip gloss but I find myself donning those accessories simply because I like it; I do I for me! I’ve gone back to sending notes to my friends, especially the ones who live alone in an effort to brighten their day.
My librarianship has grown over the past year. I’ve embraced the information process revealed through COVID research as a real learning opportunity. And, the work of so many educators have really taught me a lot about incorporating social justice into teaching and librarian practices. I’ve created information seeking workshops for grad students, talked about social justice in the information literacy, joined with Graduate and Professional Studies to work more as a community librarian connecting students with everyday information while building community and I’ve been part of a wonderful group of colleagues who are actively engaged in anti-racist practices for our library. I brought an author on campus for our virtual African American Read In and I’ve created several Libguides as well as a few more instructional videos.
Between deepening intentionality and an overall disgust in the continued presence of anti-Blackness, racism, bigotry, bias, misogyny or plain hatred, I’ve gotten even better at the ‘no’. Old age makes you realize how precious your energy is and that there’s no point wasting it where you’re not intended to be. I’ve talked about how I want to change some of this blog but it seems what I really need to do is just keep showing up in this space, doing what I do. I’ve had a wonderful interview with David Bowles recently and have a list of people in my head I’d love to interview. Last year, I had several fabulous series. In February it was “I Read Black Books”, March was “Imaging: Black Girls, Black Women” and April was “I Read Asian and Pacific Islander American Books”. I’ve plugged into Instagram, but it’s such a different space for sharing content! I Honestly, I really think I’ll be pulling back more for all the social media platforms so I can work more intentionally on things that matter to me. Social media seems to pull me too thin.
I could use the time for some of the other projects I have going on! There’s that long overdue monkey book that still eludes me as well as research on representation in children’s books. I’m presenting at Kweli and Highlights this year, another grad workshop for my students, articles in progress and too many committees and boards. I’ve talked for years about a Black children’s literature class on campus and it may be time to do the work to make that happen.
Early in 2020, I’d discovered that my father’s mother actually was one of the British Home Children. These children were sent to Canada and Australia over a period of decades as indentured servants to help settle the new land. She would have been a very fair skinned 14 year old Black girl and given that my dad who presented as white claimed his Blackness, I’ll assume she did, too. That makes me wonder what the servitude was like for her and why she left Toronto for Toledo, Ohio. I’d reached out to an organization in London at the end of February who hold the key to any information about her. They are still on lockdown but, this is research I really want to pursue. I’m waiting; answers will come.
I’ve not been able to research my dad’s dad and I suppose that’s the gene line to trace. However, I’ve traced his mother’s maternal line to white landowners in Baltimore and her paternal line to slave owners in Barbados. I’ve traced my maternal grandmother’s line to slave owners in the Carolinas, and their lineage on to England and my maternal grandfather’s lineage to slaveholders in Mississippi who came from landowners in Scotland. These pedigreed men fought in the American Revolution and held positions in the US government. Yet, their Black descendants were disenfranchised. Can we talk reparations? My family lines that don’t have pedigreed white men who impregnated enslaved women gained none of the family’s wealth are impossible for me to trace. Please, can we talk about the numerous ways reparations can occur?
COVID hasn’t given me more time to do anything in particular, but it has helped me define my purpose. Maybe I’m the ‘new girl’.
I’ll tell you that I’ve had one of two injections (Pfizer) and even after the second, I will not feel completely safe. I suppose having the vaccine is better than not. As it gives us some protection to move on, how will we use what we’ve learned to be better people? How will we pick up the pieces?
“And when we pick up the anxiety again, let us aim for flexibility. Movement space for breath to get in and out of your rib cage, gentleness for the things we can’t do, and Integrity giving us the strength and resolve to turn our sometimes-excruciating caring into solidarity, mutual aid, and direct action.”
Be well and do good