Feminist Gutter Punk Freedom by Xochitl Alvizo


My brother is, in this own words, an “old school street, squatter, gutter punk.” Indeed, he lives outside the system. He is an anarchist atheist and has lived many nights of his life on the streets – by choice. He has a quick and easy smile and makes friends effortlessly. Recently, while stuck in Seattle during an extended layover on his way back to Europe, where he’s been living the last few years, he passed the time making new friends and exploring the immediate area –

– he even found a sign greeting him by name (he goes by Lou).

He has traveled the world and lives more free than anyone I know. And he and I have always have been close. From the moment he was born, I claimed him as my own – he was my brother. And as different as he and I are turned out in life, we still speak the same language (and I don’t mean English or Spanish). This past week, speaking the most simple words to me, my brother helped me out of the marginal consciousness state I was in…he helped to snap me out of my stupor.

I’ve struggled with my life lately. For the past two plus years that I have been back in Los Angeles, I have felt like I’ve been in a perpetual state of forced productivity; where the work never ends and the demands just keep coming. It has not made for good living. I have often said that I live an impossible life – meaning, that it is literally not possible to live the life I’ve chosen for myself. There is not enough time, space, or energy to fulfill the tasks at hand. I have felt like I was ever and only responding to things that came at me from outside – all external demands – and nothing that was born from within.

It is a funny thing, but I am the classic portrait of a Capricorn and an oldest sibling. I am hard working, agreeable, practical, and serious. I have a ridiculously imposing super ego and get things done when I see that they need doing – even when they are not the things I want to be doing. I have often thought that if I wasn’t a feminist, these characteristics would be even more heightened for the worse. I have to keep my defaults in check in order to not get sucked into the system. But I got sucked in, and, to be very honest, I was hating life.

My brother heard it in my voice. It was toward the end of the day when I left him a voicemail in reply to an earlier message he left me. Because it was the end of the day, I was already running on empty and was at my moment of least well-being. He could tell and immediately called me to check-in, inviting me to vent – “talk to me,” he said, and “get it off your chest.” I didn’t think I really had much to say. I was in my usual state of (non)being, it was nothing new, and I didn’t feel that I needed to vent. But he is my brother and the words just came. I told him how I always have more work than I could complete; that I get mad at the work because it keeps me from the other thing I really want to be doing – my research. I told him I don’t have enough time to read, think, and write and I feel like my brain is shriveling; that I have a hard time saying no because of fear of disappointing people – and that I can’t even believe that that is still a struggle for me!

His response and the rest of the conversation is almost comical in its simplicity – but it woke me out of my stupor. I felt literally awakened. I saw that I had really lost my sense of self and was just letting life pull me along instead of actively choosing my participation within it. The conversation with my brother helped me to come back to myself. I will explain it more fully in another post later this week – but for now I’ll say that it was like someone spoke to me in my language again,  and things all of a sudden made sense. I felt my power returned to me through my gutter punk bro.

I’ll pause this post for now with the words from my friend Edyka Chilomé: “For now I want to say that I love you and I am with you as we go through the labor pains of birthing a new world. Remember we are born for this. We are here because our ancestors refused to give up and we have the resilience and fight in our blood. Let’s keep going, glowing, building, and re-imagining!”

For the second part, see “Birthing a New World” and where I continue with my brother’s wisdom, see “Listening Deeply to Yourself.” 

 

Xochitl Alvizo, loves all things feminist, womanist, and mujerista. She often finds herself on the boundary of different social and cultural contexts, and works hard to develop her voice and to hear and encourage the voice of others. Her work is inspired by the conviction that all people are inextricably connected and what we do, down to the smallest thing, matters; it makes a difference for good or for ill. She teaches in the area of Women and Religion, and the Philosophy of Sex, Gender, and Sexuality, at California State University, Northridge.

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Categories: Atheism, General, Relationality, survival, Women's Power, Women's Voices

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24 replies

  1. Xochitl – I often feel similarly. I’m glad your brother could help. I’m looking forward to hearing more about what he said. And, Edyka’s words at the end, so inspiring and so true! (By the way, if your brother ever finds himself in Prague, I’d love to meet him!)

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  2. When Junot Diaz was on our campus recently, he noted during his talk and reading that students are so stretched these days (debt, jobs, family) they are unable to “linger inside their education.” I think the same goes for professors who teach students. Professors are unable to linger inside their educational institutions–processing and creating new knowledge through research. They are stretched unmercifully. Junot added, “The system is organized to make you (speaking specifically of students but I think it carries over to professors who teach those students) go out of your f******* mind.” He also said something very similar to Edyka’s words: “We are here because our ancestors refused to give up and we have the resilience and fight in our blood.”

    Happy that you found some comfort and sustenance from your brother, Xochitl. May you continue to find peace.

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    • I find that to be true as well – that time and mental space to linger is crucial and feels so scarce these days. I heard Junot Diaz speak a few years back and was fascinated by his talk. He speaks in an unfiltered truth-telling way – he’s charismatic and bold, but also paces himself. I noticed often how he paused and allowed people the actual time to laugh or sit in silence. He is good – I appreciate his analysis on our world for sure. Thank you, Esther, for sharing this.

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  3. What a beautiful post! Your brother seems to really get it.You have a brother who has a beautiful heart! Edyka’s words really spoke to me “labor pains birthing a new world”I really needed that. I have been feeling almost as if nothing we do matters ,but I know everything we do matters. Thanks for this inspiring post.

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    • Thank you, Teresa. And I hear you – life feels overwhelming indeed, which is why we have to stay connected, grounded in our life force. I loved that line from Edyka – yes to birthing a new world!

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  4. Hooray for your brother! I’m glad you two speak the same language and that he is so….well, medicinal for you. Few of us are lucky to have such cool relatives.

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  5. I look forward to reading more about your brother, and your struggle with this overbearing system, Xochitl. Keep up the “good fight”.
    “For now I want to say that I love you and I am with you as we go through the labor pains of birthing a new world.”

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  6. I lived outside the system for years (although never on the streets) and then I began teaching. Mercy. Finally, a later-in-life husband said, ‘Stay home and write. That’s what you’ve always wanted to do.” So I did. I was an adjunct, which is even worse than full time except adjuncts don’t go to meetings.

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    • I love the simplicity of what your later-in-life husband said – and your response. You will see in my next post how similar my exchange with my brother was. I think sometimes we just need someone to speak to our core to be able to make the turn…to revolve/to revolution. Thank you.

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  7. What a touching post! Much love to you and your brother!

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  8. Thank you for this honest and touching post. I think so many people feel this way but are reluctant to say so. At a time in my life when I was carrying too much, I was told by Diana Laskin Siegal, who co-edited Ourselves, Growing Older, that women “can have it all, just not all at the same time.” She told me to find ways to do what I felt I needed and was called to do while pacing myself so that I could do it without sacrificing myself. You have a brilliance for inspiring people with your thoughts and words and making all of us at FAR be better people than we knew we could be, individually and as a community. There are so many options out there for you to fulfill what you are meant to do – may you find a way that nurtures you as you nurture so many others. And don’t forget that we are all here for you.

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    • Yes, I love your friend Diana’s wisdom. It is similar to what my brother said to me – “without sacrificing myself” – it’s one of the most basic of all feminist wisdom for me, and yet it slips away sometimes! Thank you for such kinds words. I am grateful. Can’t wait to have a post from you here again soon :)

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  9. Mahalo my friend. Though we have never met it person, you feel like an old friend. Your confession of feeling stretched beyond endurance, torn between wanting to please so many people, all of whom you care about, reinforced the sense I had when we first connected that I had found a kindred spirit. Hawaii is hurting in so many ways–but you will find great healing here, if you are ever headed back this way.. You will always find a welcome here. And I am so glad you had your brother to lean on. As you say to me so often in a sign off that I love: Rage on!! But pause, pause, pause, to breathe. I keep reminding myself that my compulsion to get things done is often just my compulsion. More often than not, that to-do list can wait. The nightmare presidency we are living through weighs heavily on all of us. The senseless slaughter in Vegas does not help. The impotence of “thoughts and prayers” and “this is not the right time” to talk about gun control –or climate change, the flagrant dishonesty in high places–these are good reasons to feel weighed down. But FAR lifts my spirits, every time I visit. I am sure this community sustains you too.

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    • Yes – we are like old friends! Thank you for such a generous comment and invitation. And your words completely resonate with what my brother said to me – pause and breath. I think I will have to include a quote from you in post tomorrow when I share the final part of this piece. So yes, Rage on! – because indeed there is so much to rage about – but at a sustainable pace :) Thank you, friend.

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  10. This was a wonderful post. I am so glad you came back to yourself.

    I am also the oldest and have struggled with some of the same challenges. I have been making changes lately, and finding life much more joyous.

    You are blessed with your brother. I had a brother who was in some ways like that for me, who died recently. I miss him like crazy, and it makes me happy that your brother is in the world for you.

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  11. Igetu, igetu, igetu. Trust me. I go insane many times a week with all I am supposed to do and how to do it. There is a lot of love and joy, but it is in imbalance. And I need time as well to do research and things I crave like sunshine and yoga and eating well. I sometimes just want to give up, but I just take it another day, and we keep going until we can change, and maybe the whole system will before that (but hopefully not, because then that sounds like a long time and change needs to happen next academic year). Peace and bliss and semi-sanity, dear.

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    • Yes, indeed – change needs to happen! I am with you in the struggle, LaChelle. I wish us both continued movement toward balance and space to do our good work. :)

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  12. Mijita very touching, here I am SO proud of my kids feeling full of love to tears.
    Always asking the universe for your happiness anywhere each of you are.
    Love you guys ❤️😘😘😘

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