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!”
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.