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Revisiting the Old Normal

Houston's Poet Laureate dreams of a technicolor tomorrow

In the last few months, like many of you, I have walked the fine line of sanity quarantined in my home. There is good news and bad news to this. Good news: I am sleeping more. Bad news: I am often plagued with nightmares. - Deborah D.E.E.P. Mouton

I'm pleased to introduce Deborah D.E.E.P. Mouton as this week's guest blogger for Beyond Introversion. Deborah is Houston's first African-American Poet Laureate. I met Deborah in 2019 when she spoke during a Writer's Conference. She is more than a writer or speaker. She is a performer. And her performance that day shook me to my core. Her words sparked reflection amongst myself and the entire crowd who was moved to a standing ovation. There is a lot going on in our lives and the world these days, presenting an especially opportune time for introverts to reflect and consider... I'm proud to have Deborah share her perspective of fear, hope, and dreams with the Beyond Introversion audience.

What originally was waking in the middle of the night to take my young son to the restroom or console my daughter's growing pains, has turned into listless wrestling of my own body. They started as hauntings surrounded by losing my job, then they centered around monsters eating my home. The latter was probably some manifestation of my children and the need for a growing grocery budget. But after Breonna Taylor's death, the need for more food or steady money has taken a backseat to the ultimate need: to live.

Now, as this country awakens to its own tarnished practices, I dream of no-knock raids and not seeing my children again; I dream a broken dream that doesn't end but revives with each time I close my eyes. And when I am awake, the exponential fear is still present. To be a Black woman in America is still the most silent danger. You may be killed just as brutally, but no one pays attention. I learned this weekend that Breonna Taylor's name is no longer trending. Her killers sat under fireworks, holding their children this weekend, just like I did. If only they had turned her execution into a viral video instead of an empty police report. And she was not the first.

My whole life, I have felt like I was running out of time. I have heard a clock ticking. I have created faster and harder; I have burned myself out only to paint with the ashes. And the broken sleep only amplifies that. And I am not the only one. So how do the barely sane of us stay alive?

I have long been a proponent of self-care. Not just the kind that gets mani pedi's on the weekends, but the kind that has learned the word "No". Uses it frequently. There is a capacity for every body. Do not be ashamed to say you are too full to carry another burden. Let these times teach us our own limits.

In a society that overworks and brags about saved vacation days, let us realize that the toll of all this fear will be a great one. And everyone won't just return to normal. Besides, our normal was grieved and yoked. So as you glorify what we used to be, as you pine after its return, understand that some of us might not want to go back. We may be tired of watching bodies fall, tired of laboring for companies that don't give us equal pay, tired of promising our children we will see them in the morning when we don't know if we will make it through the night. We don't want to go backward.

Instead, let us say No to who we used to be. As a country, let's evolve, with clear boundaries and the same awareness that painted the streets with Black Lives Matter. Let's not let go of this fight for justice. Let us realize that the only true self-care comes in being cared for by others. And instead of trying to hold on to our past, our normal, let us dream of a technicolor tomorrow, where sleep is the last thing we fear.


Deborah D.E.E.P. Mouton is an internationally known writer, educator, activist, and Poet Laureate Emeritus of Houston, Texas. Formerly ranked the #2 Best Female Poet in the World, she was the founder of the longest-running poetry slam venue in Houston, Texas (Houston VIP Slam). Her work has appeared in Houston Noir by Akashic Press (2019), by Haymarket Books (2019), Fjords Journal, Crab Orchard Review, and on such platforms as NPR, BBC, ABC, Apple News, Blavity, Upworthy, and across the TedX circuit. She serves as a contributing writer to Texas Monthly. Her most recent poetry collection, Newsworthy, won honorable mention for the Summerlee Book Prize. A German translation, under the title SayTheirNames, is set to be released in Fall 2021 by Erlif Verlag.


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