30 December 2008

I want to be on that guest list!

If God Invited you to a party
And said, "Everyone
In the ballroom tonight

Will be my special Guest,"
How would you treat them

When you

Indeed, indeed!
And Hafiz knows
There is no one in this world

Is not upon
His Jeweled Dance

We started zikr with this poem last night. This past year has been the year of suck for in the realm of social circles, and I'm trying hard to see the silver lining, the light at the end of the tunnel, and all the other happy and optimistic cliches I am oh so well at espousing.

First there's the ongoing oddness of generally being the only person of color in any given room at any given moment 'round here. Sometimes I can feel being the other more than other times. Like at GenCon 2007, I felt like I had a sign on my back that said, "Negress Writes RPG's to Scare You." Ouch. You have it all wrong folks! This year the sign read, "Tentacle Sex", and I didn't feel as othered. Go figure. Even still, I took a break from game design and the online social network. I'm getting back on the horse now, and am happy and excited to do so. No real story there, except maybe the one about the vicious name calling from a misogynistic twit that I apparently pissed off for having and offering an opinion. That and he was made of crazy. Actually there were a few attacks from said twit, which ultimately clouded the rest of my gaming on-line social circle in suck.

It was that Othering feeling that broke the deal with church and me. That and not feeling the churchy Jesus Christ Superstar vibe any more. It's meant that where I found a new spiritual community, it will be some time before I've cultivated it enough to bring my kids in. My heart still aches every time I pass the building, though.

Meanwhile, there was the ongiong drama in my real life gaming (and otherwise) social circle. In some ways, I think it relates to being Othered. In some ways the drama makes me feel Othered. At a party last week, I wasn't the only person of color, but I was the only person that one other person has spent the entire past year compartmentalizing me into a box of deliberate misunderstanding. Things were less awkward and ugly than they've been in months, but after a year of feeling excluded from the much of Club Fun of Once a Friend, the smoldering non-engagement still burned. Ouch! You have it all wrong!

That's about 1/4 of the story, only half of my point of view, and all I have to offer. Can I even say that? Well, I did, and I'm not taking it back. Someone's treating me like shit and has built up a good year's worth of justification, and it sucks. On my end. I don't presume to know what the other side feels like, and it's been made clear to me that I'm not allowed to know. Okay.....

I used to think I was pretty good at standing up for myself and cutting losses quickly and efficiently, but I've spent too much time this past year declaring that I was being treated unfairly, and when nothing changed, I held out hope that people would figure it out and play nice, and I stuck around or came back. In the big and less personal circle of game designers it's easier to brush myself off and move on. We can't like everyone we meet at GenCon. I have more stories to tell, and I think somone will enjoy them. In the small and intimate circle of local friends, I don't have anywhere else to go. Can I realistically break ties with people I love and care about because of one person? No. That's like gouging out one's eye to remove a fleck of dust.

On the upside (here's my perennial optimist shining through! Welcome back, dear!), I've had a year of affirming and strengthening the relationship with my bestest friend, Mr. Ellingsgard, who has listened to me whine from start to finish about how things have sucked this past year. He is my strongest and favorite circle.

Hafiz's poem resonates with me because I am a perennial optimist who really believes that we, me included, are all one of God's special invited guests on the Jeweled Dance Floor. Perhaps it's what put me in this predicament in the first place. I love a good party, and if God's in charge of the guest list, I want to be there, and I want everyone to feel welcome and invited (yeah, even the misogynisitc twit and Club Fun of Once a Friend). Including the folks who don't share this view of humanity on a macro or micro level. And perhaps I am the Other for only as long as I see myself as the Other. Yeah, that's a good one. I hope I start believing it this coming year.

Picture of Rabi'a al-Adawiyya, my Sufi namesake. ("Your what?" For another time.)

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