I sat down, eager to write. My first thoughts were: should I use this time to clean the house? Or should I call my father instead? (For context, my father is in his mid-seventies, lives in Brazil, and I haven't seen him in almost three years. I rarely find the time to call him nowadays, and we love to talk with each other). I decided that writing was more important now so I could show up to clean the house and talk with my father with a clear mind. Once I open my computer, it rings with new messages from my sister asking me to call her whenever I have time. I tried to call her this morning as soon as I woke up because today was an important, life-changing day for her. But we couldn't talk in depth because my children couldn't wait to speak with her; they love and miss her. Okay, I call my sister, and we talk in-depth, moving away the most harrowing emotions.
After we hung up, I checked my phone for the time, wondering if I could still make time to write - writing takes so long, and I still want to paint this morning; I saw notifications on my recent post on IG. I reassessed the need for writing, as it came about strongly this morning after I had the urge to share some thoughts in my stories.
This was all a prelude to the actual text, which I wrote down and included here to say that the context for writing isn't favorable. Yet, we are all writing all the time, and writing continues to be a highly confusing way of recording our intellectual perspectives, building up our experiences, and organizing our knowledge. Let's first stop taking writing for granted. Every single word that we use has an impact. We all know that we use writing to legitimize, sanction, and say: "this is the truth." It is the first and most important tool for colonization.
And yet, this is the tool that I'm turning to precisely to deal with the confusion of our arguments about colonization. I see it everywhere, and most importantly, I saw it today in myself. I wrote a short rant on my IG stories, which sometimes I can't stop myself from doing. Then, I was mortified for some time, as many friends would condemn me for it. People that I don't want to alienate. I don't know who I should or shouldn't alienate, but I also need to learn how to move around the world while expressing what I think is right or wrong. No one is always right; "right" and "wrong" became philosophical classifications, and then sociological ones that need the proper context for us to discuss. We can never "judge" people; I agree with all these thoughts. Then there is social media, where we judge and assume galore. I talked with a dear friend this week, one who has known me since I was a child, and she reminded me of the importance of letting everyone talk. So I'm here, taking my part in it. Letting myself "talk." Only that I'm writing, which makes it so much more problematic.
Someone could tell me in the future: "But Debora, you created a link between people who sleep-train their children and people who can't feel the pain of children killed in Gaza." That was indeed a farfetched comparison. Except it wasn't a comparison but an intellectual confusion created by deep knowledge. And deep knowledge is what is arising now in these times of collective questioning of the undercurrents of colonization in our lives. I've been on this path for a long time, and my social life has been closing on me for years as I observed and chose to step out of the social demands that requested colonial performance.
One example: I was raised with someone working in our house, changing the sheets and towels weekly. They didn't only wash but ironed them. Something close to the feeling we have when we go to hotels here in the US, which became the ultimate colonial destination. Yes, my friends, if we want to dismantle colonialism from within, we also need to dismantle our perspectives of what comfort and luxury look like. Then, of course, I took it upon myself to do that with my sheets and towels once I moved to the US. It was a matter of dignity, of keeping the image of my class status to myself. Faking being a sinhá.
Until I married Marcin, and he decided to wash the sheets one day. As he was hanging the sheets, I corrected him: there is a specific technique to hang them so you have an easier time when ironing. No one ever taught me that; I learned it by observing the woman who worked in my house, whom I loved so much because she cared for me while my mother worked. So my tone and way of "teaching" Marcin had that indignation in my voice of "how don't you know this? I've known how to do this my whole life." He answered me: "And who is going to iron these sheets? As far as I know, we don't have a slave in the house." There it was, the "slave" was me. What an awful thing to say, a horrible thing to even feel, and a totally wrong assessment of reality and intellectual construction. Slavery can't be reduced like this, as the whole suffering, displacement, and utter absurd can't be and won't be reduced by my daily conclusions in life. At most, I'm a contemporary white passing sinhá, learning everything through misunderstandings and firmly holding the hands of my two black grandmothers as I read Audre Lorde repeatedly to help me walk out of this conundrum that is my own displaced life. Yet, yes, my experience with ironed sheets was all built from the colonial perspective. But not the side of care, not the side of the bodily pleasure that is transformed into a feeling of being worthy created by lying down on a clean, ironed bed.
I lay down with my children at night, and I wonder how and when I will have the time to change these sheets. My goal has been to change them every Full Moon, so roughly once a month, but I have yet to succeed in keeping that schedule. I go back to my experience of sleeping with my children, which I feel has taught me so much more than I can ever express in words. I wonder if I should stop painting and start writing books. To fully and completely and in detail describe the link that I created between suffering for children in Gaza and suffering for the children in our lives. The ones that we are raising right here and right now. And why not add suffering for the children that we once were and the children that we still carry within?
I'll end with this: I was doing a guided meditation these days, and in the meditation, the person instructed us to see our souls in each part of our bodies and then expanding over the room, the house, the city, the country, ultimately the whole world, reaching out over and as part of the universe. As I did the meditation, I also thought, "What an incredible feature of the human being: we can think and feel of ourselves in the minutia of our material bodies as much as we can experience ourselves in the expansiveness of the universe." So here is how I tie it all together: if you sleep-train, use words like "tantrum," "meltdown," etc, I don't mean to judge and alienate you personally. But I reserve the right to make intellectual (perhaps farfetched) assumptions on the link between this language and methods and the confusion of emotions expressed by people who are not calling for a ceasefire. Because I am a human being, and as such, I can make all-encompassing, expanding-over-the-whole-universe reasonings.