Archive | November, 2014

To be done with racism (all the ‘-isms’).

Prologue:

I am not the smartest cookie commenting on this issue, I know that. Please go find other smart people and read their stuff. What I do know is that I have confronted my own ageism, sexism, and racism and I am becoming less of those things. Classism and New England-ism I am still working on (see below).

There is a way to change our behavior, to end oppression and the ‘-isms’- and like anything else, it will take time and practice. We have to change, though- the alternative is inhumane.

I write this because, as a white woman, I have been both the victim and the aggressor in the ‘-ist’ wars. And I am trying to work on being neither.

I also write this because all the ‘-ists’ hurt me. They hurt my heart. Because the ‘-ists’ are a kind of suffering we do not have to perpetrate on each other. We don’t have to do it. And I hope this tragedy might help some people take one more step forward in ending this suffering.

– – – – – – – – – – – –

Ferguson happened. And now the grand jury on that terrible, sad incident has happened. And it is a big fucking mess.

People from every corner are calling for change.
Rightly so.

There is lots of information out there for people like me to read.
White people who want to help but don’t know what to do.
(Want those resources? Check out Jezebel, Everyday Feminism, and UpWorthy. Subscribe, peeps!)

But here is the deal I know from my own experience.

This is how I have ended (or, at least started to end) all my own ‘-isms.’

 

Step One: Admit You Are an ‘-ist’

Racist.
Sexist.
Homophobic.
Classist.
Ageist.

Pick your poison.
I, myself, am I a New England-ist. I automatically assume New Englanders are small-minded, nepotistic, poor drivers, and not open to new ideas.

I am also a racist. I grew up in a fairly diverse place, but I still have my prejudices in some shadow spots inside myself.

I am much more of a classist. I may have been around ethnic diversity, but we were all pretty much middle-class. Poor people and rich people still freak me out. (You can read about my other ‘-isms’ here.)

To end racism, we must all admit we are – to some extent – racists. 
There is absolutely no way to end this mindset if we don’t admit to having it.

 

Step Two: Feel the (likely, Uncomfortable) Feelings

Here is the big deal point about admitting your shadow:
you will feel something when you admit this.
Shame.
Guilt.
Fear.
Anger.
Freedom.
Sadness.
I’m an asshole.
I’m not a racist/ageist/sexist/homophobe.
Dear god, I am.
How am I ever going to be a better person?!?

Et cetera.

When you feel this, please do as the wicked-smart Bridget Pilloud suggests: feel it.

how to feel your feelings when difficult things happen- wisdom from Bridget Pilloud

This is not just about feelings associated with Ferguson, it is great advice for any difficult or overwhelming feelings.

When you feel your feelings, you set them free.
Your feelings will not be in the way of you getting over racism anymore.
Be honest with yourself. Feel it.

This is part of the healing that is necessary if you want to move on from your own racism/sexism/ageism, etc.

 

Step Three: Recognize Where The ‘-ism’ Comes From

The research is clear, and my own experience validates this: pretty much all oppressive behavior (which is what ‘-isms’ are) comes from fear.

When we are frightened of something, when we don’t understand it, we often give it a label of ‘other’ or ‘not me’ and push it away from ourselves.

This is what fear does.
It wants to get away, as quickly as possible.
It is a normal, human feeling.
But it cannot rule your actions.

Once you know your ‘-isms’ come from fear, it’s your job to educate yourself and get over the fears.

For example:
We are not born racist (research is clear here), but we do understand that some people are ‘different than me’ from a very early age. Whether that understanding is developed into racism or not depends on your culture- parents, community, etc.

But after the age of 24 or so, you choose to continue those fears.
You choose to continue being racist, ageist, sexist, homophobic, etc.

If you want to end these things, you must choose to not be them anymore.
You must choose not to fear anymore.

The great and wonderful Lisa Lister over at Sassyology.com knows that women and men are afraid of women’s power- especially when it comes to hormonal and cyclical mood changes. Instead of being afraid of them, and thereby oppressing women (because, yes, we are fucking powerful!) she helped educate her partner about what her cycle was like so he could understand it and what she needed. And when he understood, he could be supportive (instead of frightened or oppressive. Although, I doubt he was ever oppressive. I am using that word in the metaphor for racism).

Educate yourself on whatever or whoever it is that you are afraid of. 
Go to the library.
Talk to friends.
Seek out wise people who have done this.

If you need help, find a therapist.
They are trained to help you uncover your fears, work through them, and behave differently.

 

Step Four: Empathize.

My excellent friend, Kimberley Jones, says this:

empathy

 

 

Once you know what shadows lurk in you,
and once you can admit them and feel whatever comes up,
you can then educate yourself,
and start to behave differently.

Empathy is the starting point for acting differently. 

Empathy is possible because we can imagine the experience of another person because we have gone through it (or something similar).

You can smile at the person of a different skin color in line at the coffee shop.
(Which might be a huge step for some people.)

You can stop staring at the person who’s body is different than yours.

You can seek out the opinion and ideas of those who don’t normally have power (in your organization, your community, your work, your parking lot).

When you truly empathize, you begin to understand: I am likely oppressed, too.

My favorite group to hate on is middle class white dudes.
They have got it fucking made.
From the outside.

But middle class white dudes, even with all their power and privilege, are stuck, too.
They are stuck to old stories about emotional behavior (don’t be emotional, man!).
They are stuck to oppressive ideas about working themselves to the bone.
They are forced to digest stories about their inability to love and nurture children, that they can’t be sweet, that they can’t be fully sexual and have it be healthy.

We are all oppressed.

And when you can empathize with another’s oppression, you are sowing the seeds of understanding, kindness, and the desire for ending oppression.

 

Step Five: Stop Being a Cliche, Start Being Better.

If you want to end racism, sexism, or any other ‘-ism’ within yourself or your culture, you must move beyond being a cliche.

You want to ‘be the change?’
Then be the fucking change.
Don’t just use it as a quote in your email signature.

You want to ‘find the solution at a different level than the problem?’
Then get to another level.
Start acting differently.
Be the self who is not afraid anymore.
Be the one who starts ending oppression, in small daily ways.

Is this hard?
Yes, my friends, changing your identity is always hard.

But it can be done.
Small steps, baby.
Lots of support.
Therapeutic help if needed.

Because none of this oppression will end until we identify with our shadows, accept and heal them,  and then rectify them by our behavior.

Racism can end.
All the ‘-isms’ can end.
It starts with each of us.
Today. Now.

 

 

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Don’t hold it down anymore.

 

sunlit field with the text "it takes more energy to squelch your true desires than it does to live them."

 

There is, apparently, a new anxiety gripping Millenials. They believe they are supposed to have amazing lives.

After figuring out who they are, Millenials apparently feel they must then Live An EPIC Life.
That they should be having capital-a Adventures (!!!).
And Doing Many Great Things (!!!).
And other Off The Charts Shit (!!!).

Well, I would be anxious, too.

Who the fuck can do that?
I mean, really.

That is another painful, ridiculous, anxiety-inducing cultural story that is total shit.

Please, do not go live an EPIC life.
(Fuck that.)

Here’s what we should be worrying about doing with our lives: living that one (or maybe two) things we really, really cared about.

The thing we really feel drawn to.

Maybe it’s a fantasy.
Or a dream.
Or it just seems Way Too Far Away (and Silly) To Do.

But that idea/story/cultural binding is bollocks as well.

You were put here to do a thing.
To be a thing.
To live and impact others (quite often, quietly).

And it is probably the very thing you deny yourself the most.
You hold it down, back, away.
You give yourself every excuse in the book about why it CAN’T happen.

Don’t deny yourself anymore. 

Denying yourself is tougher than actually letting that part of you – from your deepest self – out.

Is ‘setting yourself free’ tough? Yes, it is.
But it can be done.

And if you just take a tiny step away from ‘holding down’ inside yourself all that you dream of, you will feel better.

Just a small step will begin your path to living well.
And your heart will no longer rebel.
And your soul will smile.

And you will gain energy and clarity to take another step towards this call, because you will have begun to have faith.

Do not be epic.
Be faithful.

Believe that you did come here to do something.
And that you already know what that something is.
Then, give yourself some permission to start doing it.

 

 

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Just for today…

Just for today, because I feel so full and whole and good

I would take you in my arms

You, with all your gorgeous problems
and pains
and frustrations
and tiredness of life

and I would hold you.

 

This is the face of the feminine I most love and least visit.

But today, today she is within me.
So clear
and whole
and full

That I could sit
legs open
letting your back rest on my torso
my arms around your shoulders
my palms on your chest

and let you rest.

 

You. All of you.

Just for today…

 

 

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Looking out the window…

Last week on Facebook, a friend posted a picture with some text about how looking out the window was an essential task for writers.

I had to agree.

I took this photo last week, while laying on the floor of my office and listening to “Homeward” by The Sundays. (Great song for a Fall day.)

 

looking out the window in my office on a Fall day

 

It was calming and peaceful and lovely, especially because I enjoy the Fall.

Yesterday was a rousing, rainy, gray day. (Which I love.) Full of wind and bluster.
I wanted to lay on the floor of my waiting room, where there are wide windows on two walls.
I wanted to see it all. To join it.

As it was, I laid on the floor of my home office.
I listened to “Rooster” by Alice in Chains.
And “Warm Whispers” by Missy Higgins.
And “I Can’t Make You Love Me” by the amazing Bonnie Raitt.
And “Keeping the Dream Alive” by Freiheit.

Sometimes the iTunes ‘shuffle’ function knows just what you need. (It really is magic.)

 

Looking out the window is so important.
Not just for writers.
For humans.
(There are no pithy Facebook pictures for that, though.)

Looking out the window gives us space.
We can gaze with unfocused eyes and let our brains relax.
We can take in the beauty of our frame (there is always something beautiful…keep looking).
We breathe more deeply and our muscles relax when we look out the window.

Looking out the window expands us beyond the stress and difficulties that become so clearly focused when we stare at a computer screen or client face.

Looking out the window, even for a few minutes, is a rebellious act that removes us from our homogenized daily shuffle.

Looking out the window, we might dream. 

 

Take a moment today- look out your window.
Seek one out if you aren’t near one.
Set your phone timer for 5 whole minutes and see where you go, what you see,
what you dream.

 

 

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How A Full Journal Can Change Your Life

I keep a journal, as many people do. I write in it as the spirit moves me. Sometimes it’s a few times a week, sometimes I don’t sit to write for a month. But journalling is a helpful tool on the spiritual path.

Usually, my journal looks like this:

 

journal open to a full page laying on a blanket

Nothing special. My own musings and brain drain.

 

You know something is starting to boil when my journal looks like this:

journal full of other papers, full of ideas and confusion

 

When I start shoving papers, printouts, and other stuff into my journal (here, I have actually stapled shit in) then you know I’m going through something.

I’m confused. And you can see the confusion in my journal.

Bits and pieces of the map shoved in amongst directions and wisdom and guidance from other people.
And wisdom and guidance from my own heart and soul.

This is always what my journal (and inside my head, pretty much) looks like when I’m figuring something out or on the verge of a breakthrough.

I write it all out so I can follow myself. I leave these letters as breadcrumbs on the trail through my journey. Sometimes I have to find my way back, so I can find my way out, like a maze doubling back on itself.

 

Then, on rare occasions, my journal looks like this:

journal filled with other papers and texts, amongst notes on large pieces of paper

 

So fucking full it spills out onto other sheets of paper.

Large sheets of paper.

The ideas are so big to me, the energy of them – of what’s in my head trying to find its way out – is so big that they have to be scrawled out into a bigger space.

Tiny pages with small pens just won’t do.

 

The last time I wrote things on big pieces of paper like this, I ended up in the ICU for 10 days.
I had pneumonia that didn’t want to be cured.

I had been to a retreat and drawn an outline of my body on a piece of paper. Large paper.
And I had filled it in with the colors and textures and images that made me feel most myself.

I ended up sleeping under the Paper Me for 10 days or so, when I had a cold.
Only the cold turned into untreatable pneumonia.

My doctors weren’t exactly sure what to do with me. Weren’t exactly sure how to fix it.
Which was pretty fucking scary.

The pneumonia didn’t want to be cured, but it did want healing.
Healing is different than curing, you know.
My pneumonia healed me by showing me that I could no longer go on with my life the way it was.

The career I was about to enter was going to kill me.
And my soul knew it. And my body showed it.

That small hospital room became a sweat lodge- pulling out all the toxicities in my life.
I made a choice, in that hospital bed, to take the better path.

When they finally figured out what was wrong (and I started coughing up the infectious goop),
I knew what was going to be right.

 

Big pieces of paper. They have changed my life.

Perhaps I should be scared of these pieces and what is written on them.
But I think not.

I think they are directions to a new life.

– – – – – – – – – – – –

I was going to stop the post there. Leaving it with some Pollyanna-feeling, intellectual and emotional half-truth.

But you know what? Changing your life is fucking scary.

Changing it on purpose, or even supposing that it might take a new turn all on its own…that shit freaks me out.

If all the ideas on those journal and other pages begin to come alive, my life will change.
Hopefully it will be for the better, but….who…fucking…knows?!

 

I think a lot about what change will mean.
How will these changes affect my children?
My marriage?
My personal persona?
My professional persona?

If I build the things on those pieces of paper, yes- they will be a map to a new life.
But what that new life might contain has yet to be seen. 
And that’s scary.

I’m risk averse.
I like to know the outcome before I start.
Which is ridiculous, right? But, still…

It’s in these moments of fear and ignorance that I wish I had my own cheering section.
Giving me a thumbs up and some clapping and happy faces.
“Go! This will be awesome!” they would say. (And I would believe them.)

So, I feel vulnerable and scared.
(Could someone just hold my hand?)

But, when I step back and take a look at it from a bit higher up, I realize:

  1. There is a lot of cave-lady brain in there. Risk aversion- that’s her territory (she seeks safety). She can be soothed and calmed (with an orgasm or three- yes!). Calming and reassuring her in my own mind, and in the arms of my lover, will help open her energy and direct it towards my changes.
  2. It’s probably the most embodied, sensual, feminine thing I can do to be vulnerable. To open myself and be real. To feel it. Later, I can move to (or get help for) the more masculine “doing” part of the project. But, right now, feeling what’s going on is important. (And, strangely, let’s me rest. What is, is. And I can fight it or go with it, even if ‘it’ is fear and vulnerability.)

So, big pieces of paper and what’s written on them can change your life.
But you can’t really know what that change will look like.

I can only accept that change is happening (a.k.a. freak the fuck out)
and stay with myself as I take each step.
Knowing that what will be, will be.
And that the only thing I can do is bring my best at any given moment,
even if my best is worry or fear.

Maybe this is another emotional half-truth, I don’t know.
I do know that it allows me to both be and do.
And that is helpful.

 

 

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