“They Are Not That Smart”

The other day, Pearl seemed proud and a bit surprised after he said, “There is no try, Mama…” and I completed the sentence, “…there is only do.” Yes, even moms know about Yoda.

The sun is shining and even though it’s quite cold, the cold isn’t bothering me today. In fact, I just pulled up all of our bedroom shades, something I used to always do first thing in the morning but now we rarely do in our room, since we don’t really spend any time in there during the day, plus there is not a lot of privacy with the shades open from neighbors on both sides of the house. But I love the light and I love that sound of the shade springing up.

On any given day and at any given hour in our household, a load of laundry is going. Today, it’s the dog’s beds and our sheets are up next. I’m excited to make the bed later with clean sheets and blankets. This is one of my very favorite things in life, one of the small things that makes all the difference. Earlier, I swept the kitchen and while the house is far from spotless, that felt good, too. I have plenty of work to do but sometimes a little bit of housework is a good way in, a good way to get the energy moving.

There are just two weeks of this fall’s Jewels on the Path session, which began 14 weeks ago in September. The weeks and months fly by, cliche as it may seem. Life is not infinite. I had one of those moments, call it morbid, in the car earlier. I had just dropped Aviva off at school, and I put on “La Vie Boheme” from the “Rent” soundtrack. What a great fucking song that is. The whole soundtrack is brilliant, actually. (If you don’t know “Musical Apology,” go listen. It will make you laugh.)

Driving on 91 south back towards Amherst from Greenfield, I thought, what if I got into a grizzly accident right now? Would they be able to see what the last song I’d been listening to was?

Why do we have thoughts like this? I think it’s natural to imagine one’s own death. And I wonder if the more interesting question is: Can one imagine one’s own life, while living it? Isn’t that what we are here for? To not only imagine ourselves into being, but to be? How many days, weeks, months, years, and entire lives pass without imagination, without really being here? What does that even mean?

We make the mistake of aligning this — living with imagination — with money. If you have money, in our culture, we are taught that anything is possible. And yet we hear about the poverty of the spirit constantly, how eroded our values are, how damaged our collective sense of connection and compassion, how hollow the communal psyche.

It’s important not to romanticize actual poverty here — money, a degree of economic stability, does make possible at least some opportunity to consider meaning. If we are not sure where our children’s next meal is coming from, or our own, if we are so bone tired from working low-wage jobs with no guarantee that they will still be there if we have to call in sick, if our home has some kind of infestation but the landlord will not take care of it — there are a million scenarios that make things like “imagining our lives” laughable.

But on the other hand, staying connected to one’s own inherent dignity and worth is critical to meeting a world that may tell you you’re dispensable, disposable, unimportant. We equate wealth with importance, education with intelligence, social standing with true contribution. Who gets overlooked? Who remains invisible?

I have a friend who has been in several of my writing groups. Even though we both grew up here, that’s actually how we met, though the Dive Into Poetry groups. She is a wonderful poet, as well as a single mom. Her kids are the same age as my kids. She has her own business cleaning houses. The other day, we went for a walk. She told me she’d recently raised her rate by $15, and one of her long-time clients read her the riot act. I was so glad when my friend told me she stood up to this this entitled woman, but I also felt disgusted by the woman’s need to make sure my friend “knew her place.”

You might not even realize you’re treating someone differently based on your perception of their station in life, but we all do it.

One thing Michelle Obama said in her recent interview with Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie really struck me:

I have been at probably every powerful table that you can think of, I have worked at nonprofits, I have been at foundations, I have worked in corporations, served on corporate boards, I have been at G-summits, I have sat in at the U.N.: They are not that smart.

We do so much othering of ourselves, and often we end up with short end of some imaginary stick. This is not imaginative; this is internalized oppression. Let’s invest more time, money, energy, and risk in stepping forward and claiming ourselves to be smart enough, worthy, and deserving. Having class privilege is not a pass to feel superior to those who are struggling economically; it’s a responsibility that means you can afford to rock the boat without the stakes being as high.

We need to keep stepping up, challenging systems, and speaking as individuals to other individuals about justice and equity and human value.

And with that, I’ll wrap this up and go put those sheets in the washing machine.

* * * 

Are you someone with some economic privilege, who would like to pay it forward?

Consider sponsoring a participant for Truth: A Year-Long Exploration of Personal Values. Just visit this page and scroll down to where it says Be An Angel for details.

Thoughts About Class Privilege (from the McDonald’s Drive Thru)

Puppy preschool class ran late on Tuesday. I was trying to get home in time for the 7:00pm start of the Month six Freedom School call, and I was hungry. Pearl had gone to volunteer at a school event, and Aviva was home.

“Should I just get McDonald’s?” I asked Mani. “Why not?” she answered.

I called V, who picked up after a few rings. “Want McDonald’s?” “Um… sure!”

At the light where Maple Street intersects with Route 9 — a busy four-way intersection — we heard a loud noise. It could’ve been a gun shot or a blown transfomer. The answer came when we looked up and saw that the multiple traffic lights had all gone dark. Suddenly, the importance of paying supreme attention to what all of the other cars were doing became paramount, as it would take a few minutes before the police arrived to direct traffic. We inched our way to a left turn. Were those cars honking at me? I couldn’t tell.

When we drove up to the window at McDonald’s and I started to order, the guy apologized and said there had just been a major power outage. Did we want to wait for five minutes? Mani was hungry, too, ready to get home to make herself dinner, and now I was for sure late for my class. But we were there, so I said yes, I could wait.

I took the time to study the menu board, choosing two Value Meals — a Quarter Pounder with cheese for Aviva and a chicken sandwich with too fancy of a name (was it “Artisan”?) for myself. Both came with medium fries. “What would you like to drink with that?” the disembodied young male-sounding voice asked. “Oh, it comes with a drink?” I asked. Mani looked over at me with affectionate incredulity. How did I not know these things? I ordered one Sprite and one Diet Coke.

Then I did what I thought I should — I pulled up. But it turned out I whipped right past the window where you pay to the one where you get the food.

“Babe!” Mani said. I quickly realized my mistake and looked back over my shoulder to see an arm sticking out from the window behind us, beckoning. I put the car in reverse and backed up slowly. The car behind us had to back up a little, too. I laughed off my embarrassment in a self-deprecating way.

“You should write a book about me,” I joked to Mani. She didn’t miss a beat. “Yeah. I’ll call it ‘Marrying Up’!”

At that point we were both in near hysterics at the absurdity of the whole thing. We’re a team alright.

We really do talk about the possibility of co-writing a book about inter-class marriage; it’s not something there is pre-marital counseling for the way there is, say, for interfaith couples.

It’s something that comes up often, sometimes in hilarity as it did on Tuesday and other times in ways that unsettle our deepest held expectations, assumptions, and ideas about life. The learning curve between us has been steep at times, and the unlearning of certain social “norms,” profound.

Our McDonald’s moment ushered in memories for me that weren’t super fun to have; moments when I unconsciously exercised class privilege to the potential detriment of another human, for example. I told Mani about the time when I was 23 driving cross country, when I asked a vending machine worker for a soda while the machine was open (and thus couldn’t accept any coins). Did I stop to think that this could’ve cost him his job? Did I think I was being charming or cute in the guise of chutzpah?

Chutzpah is one thing. But it’s another altogether to think you are somehow above the rules, that the rules are always pliable, there’s always another way, a workaround, someone you could call, a conversation that could clear things up or open a door.

It’s not pretty to look at the parts of ourselves that exemplify the things we say we’re against — entitlement, white privilege, intellectual snobbery. But to not look at these, to choose to stay cloistered, sheltered, more “successful” in ways society recognizes and values, and what we may have been taught would be “safer,” is inexcusable for anyone who claims to care about justice and humanity.

The playing fields have never, ever been equal. My parents paid for my college tuition. At the age of 21, I had a degree from Barnard and no student loan debt. Mani’s life experiences had led her to a completely different reality. I remember the first time I saw her Facebook profile back around 2009, years before I had any inkling we would come to know each other, much less fall in love. Under education, it said, “Autodidactic School of Hard Knocks.” It stuck with me. Who was this person? I was intrigued.

We find our people. Finding our people across class lines, across race lines, across religions, across the aisle, across the boxes we grew up in, across systems that favor whiteness and wealth and punish poverty, as if poverty isn’t punishing enough — it’s no small miracle. And while the class divides continue to grow with so many people falling into the great chasms of lack and others clinging to bubbles of ease and comfort, class differences have in their way brought me and Mani closer.

Earlier in the week, Pearl brought home a flyer from school announcing free lunches at several apartment complexes around town over the summer. “Can we go?” he asked, his privilege so transparent. I explained to him that no, we would not be going. Why not? Because we have food in the house. We can afford lunch — and breakfast, dinner, snacks, and dessert. We can stand in front of the fridge deciding what to eat rather than wondering whether we’ll eat. I told him that this is for kids and families who don’t necessarily know when their next meal will be, not kids and families who are ordering a new swim shirt from the Land’s End website.

I told him — and continue to talk to my kids often — about these things not to shame him, and not so that he will feel guilty, and especially not so that he will feel sorry for “those people.” God help me if I ever cop an attitude of “those people.” I am desperate for my kids to grow up aware of their privilege in ways I grappled to find the language for until adulthood and continue to try to look at as directly as possible. For them to know that it’s a matter of responsibility, not charity, to care about justice. And to check their privilege as I continue to check my own, when it comes to shopping at Whole Foods but not knowing how to pay for food at the McDonald’s drive-through.

We have a long way to go. And honestly, having a spouse with such a different set of life experiences, while more challenging perhaps in some ways, opens my eyes to some of the blindspots I didn’t even know I had. (I suppose they wouldn’t be blindspots if I did; they would just be choices).

Doing the work to wake up is constant, ongoing, and more critical than ever.

Outgrowing My Fear of Anger

"No woman’s anger is an island." ~ Leslie Jamison :: read more

I’m thinking about anger, and how I used to be so afraid of it.

Wednesday morning, sitting in the small waiting area while my wife gets her first mammogram. She turned 40 a few months ago. At 44, I am overdue and know I should schedule mine soon, too. I get out my phone and scroll through Facebook for a few minutes. I play with selfie filters on Instagram and post a picture of myself; my head appears to be above a blurry water line.

I think about how often women default to descriptors like “overwhelmed,” “so busy,” “crazy busy,” and “frazzled.”  I notice my own desire to distance myself from these, to claim something more grounded and peaceful.

*  *  *

The red line, 1999. I’m standing on the platform waiting for the T from the Boston Common to Porter Square. From there, I’ll walk a mile to the tiny one-bedroom Somerville apartment I share with my husband. We are newly married. I’m 25 to his 33. It’s 9:15pm; I’m coming from a three-hour graduate poetry workshop. I glance up and down the platform, which is all but empty on a Thursday night. A thought arises, seemingly out of thin air: “I’m not an angry person.”

I get home and tell him about my revelation. I feel triumphant, as if I’ve beat something, as if I’ve narrowly escaped some kind of alternate fate — the fate of anger. I do not mention the closet smoking. Or the years I was bulimic, aware that something big in me needed to be contained, choked back, and purged. I wanted the world, but also to disappear. I wanted to be invisible, anonymous — a living Emily Dickinson poem:

"I’m Nobody! Who are you?
Are you – Nobody – too?
Then there’s a pair of us!
Don’t tell! they’d advertise – you know!"

But angry? No.

*  *  *

Quick flashes: My father’s voice on rare occasions, rising in pitch. Or the smothered “s” sounds coming from behind closed doors down the upstairs hallway. Older sisters. Fights over haircuts, clothes, boys, school, drugs. A fist through a wall. Something to avoid, something to smooth over, something to make sure didn’t happen to me. Anger was my nemesis.

I granted myself permission to brood, to subvert, to sneak, to hide, to flirt, to skirt the rules, to slide under the radar, to play along, to look the part, to not fit in. But anger was one thing I did not allow. If I did, who knew what would happen? It was too risky. Anger might lead to rupture, and my young self found that to be a terrifying prospect.

The flashing thought confirming my “not angry” status is a victory of sorts, not one I sought out but that seemed to find me, confirming what the world saw: Sweet, polite, strong but not threatening. A nice person. A pretty person. Not an angry woman.

Anger was something to get a hold of. Anger was something that meant you were out of control.

Anger wasn’t warranted. What did I have to be angry about, anyway?

Life is going according to plan: Graduate school, marriage, buying a sweet duplex in Burlington, Vermont with help from parents for a down payment. Privilege, privilege — white, heterosexual, educated, employed, able-bodied, married. I want babies and community and meaning. I am hungry: For connection, deep conversations with colleagues about race and religion (I was a Hillel director, with an office in the Center for Cultural Pluralism), happiness. I go running down by Lake Champlain. I write in my journal. Poems live in the margins.

*  *  *

Back in the waiting room, I find myself wondering why I’ve historically been so frightened of anger. I take out my phone and make a list.

Fear of anger = fear of self.

Fear of anger = fear of shaking up or shattering the status quo.

Fear of anger = fear of loss (of privilege, power, identity, control, connection, perceived safety).

Fear of anger = fear of truth.

Fear of anger = fear of emotional or physical violence (your own or someone else’s).

Fear of anger = fear of confrontation.

Fear of anger = fear of uprising.

Fear of anger = fear of unknown.

Looking over these suppositions, I find myself feeling curious about the interchangeability of many of the words here. Some say all fear is at its essence fear of loss. And that anger is always a secondary emotion, masking sadness or grief or trauma.

Do I believe this? Do you? Does anger always need to be justified? Managed?

*  *  *

A friend has written about going to a “rage room.” It’s a venue designed for safely lashing out. Imagine society if everyone had access to a space like this, where anger was not only permitted, but essential. Where rather than swallowing it or causing irrevocable damage, we could turn rage outward until we were spent and ready to return to a world that is by all counts maddening with its messaging of what we are supposed to be and do?

We are supposed to be patient, compassionate, understanding, empathetic, open-minded, responsive, available, kind, and nice. We are supposed to be responsible, steady, grateful, and quiet. We are supposed to say please and thank you. We are supposed to take what we can get. We are supposed to go along to get along. We are supposed to channel our anger in productive ways.

*  *  *

I am 36. I receive a massage from a woman named Noni. My supervisor at work recommended her. “She’s amazing,” she assured me.

I arrive at Noni’s suburban condo. She comes to the door. We chat in her kitchen for a few minutes and I tell her I don’t have a particular need or complaint; I am here for general stress relief. I have a full-time job at the university, my children are seven and three, and my husband is self-employed. I am trying to write a book. I am trying to learn how to take care of myself along with everyone else.

The massage table is upstairs in a large room with curtained windows. She works on me for three hours. Three hours!

I leave feeling heightened, charged. I go sit at the counter in the window of a favorite café, writing in my journal. I write and write and write. The writing pours out of me as water over a weakened dam. Something has unlocked itself; I feel it surging. Suddenly, the amount of space I take up inside of myself has shifted, expanded. I feel powerful. And I feel… anger.

I go home and tell my husband about the massage, the writing. “I think I am angry,” I tell him. “Punch me,” he says, egging me on by poking at his chest. “Go ahead. Do it.”

I do it. I hit his chest. It feels strange, exhilarating, and terrifying. I don’t know how I will get to the bottom of this. How far does it go? How big is it? What will happen, if I follow the deluge?

*  *  *

A few months later, I come out of the closet. Everything shatters. My body refuses him. Refuses to play along, refuses to be good or nice or right. Refuses the role of wife. Refuses to “make it work.” I try, but there’s no going back. After a few months of hellish wrestling with the truth, we call it. Our marriage is over. We tell the kids. He glares at me.

There was a reason, it turns out, to fear my anger: My anger was myself.

And myself wasn’t compatible with the life I’d built, the one that followed the rules, met the expectations, looked and felt good but was always missing something, an essential component: Me. All of me.

*  *  *

One day not long ago, my fifteen-year old came home in a fit. She stormed up the stairs to our second-floor apartment, into the kitchen and through the living room to her bedroom. I could feel the anger wafting off her, like fog from a body of water. She paced circles around her room, still wearing her boots.

I knocked on the door to ask what was wrong. Had something happened or triggered her? “No,” she had said. “I’m just so fucking angry. At everything.”

And why shouldn’t she be? She’s living in a country where physical and sexual violence against women and trans people – especially those of color – are so normalized, perpetrators are able not only to run for public office but to attain the highest levels of power. Her generation has mothers who are tired and resentful, having grown up with the message that we could “have it all” and “do it all” and “be it all.”

I want her to get to be angry – especially if it means not settling, trusting her own body, using her voice, and listening hard to women from different backgrounds – especially those from oppressed groups – when they share their lived experience.

*  *  *

I’m no longer the woman in her 20s on the train platform, disavowing her anger. I’m also no longer the woman in her 30s, discovering and claiming her sexuality and agency. I’m a women in my mid-40s, divorced and remarried, self-employed, 10 pounds heavier, and more content and at peace with myself than I’ve ever been in the past.

My wife emerges from the mammogram. It was faster than I expected. I put on my hat and gloves and we head out to the snowy parking lot, talking about what it was like. And as I start the car, I realize something: I may be angry now, but I’m not angry at my life. This feels like a new revelation, one I never could’ve had 20 years ago.

The ability to be more discerning in my anger, to use it to fuel my writing, to raise my kids, to teach them to be awake to their privileges and also advocate for their own needs, to hold space where women can show up and tell the truth – breaking the world wide open, to paraphrase Muriel Rukeyser – these feel like discerning uses of my midlife anger.

* * *

A Writing Prompt

Leslie Jamison writes: “In what I had always understood as self-awareness — I don’t get angry. I get sad — I came to see my own complicity in the same logic that has trained women to bury their anger or perform its absence.”

Take some time soon to write about anger. Set a timer for 10 minutes and make a fast and furious list (see what I did there?) of associations you have with anger. You could simply start with “anger = …” and go from there, returning to this equation if you get stuck.

If you’re on a roll, ditch the timer. Don’t stop to edit yourself, worry about how it sounds, or where it’s going. Are you afraid of anger? If so, are you afraid of your own anger, someone else’s anger, or both? When have you “performed” the absence of anger? At what cost?

The Privileges and Perils of Snowdays

Pearl wanted to spend the snow day playing over at his dad’s community, and since it was early in the storm, I agreed to bring him over there this morning (knowing that he may end up staying the night). We drove through campus at about 10 miles per hour — counting cars along the way (fewer than a dozen over three miles).

We talked about who gets the day off and who doesn’t, what work places are closed and which aren’t, whether businesses and companies necessarily put their employees’ safety first, and the fact that for people who are paid by the hour — as opposed to receiving a salary — a day like this can mean simply no money coming in.

The weather itself takes me back to my early childhood in Buffalo, New York; this is how I remember winter: swirling, grey, gusty, white, deep, powder, trudge, snowpants, sledding, fun. And I’m happy for all the happy kiddos who get to enjoy that today.

I’m also aware that for many folks, with or without children, extreme weather can be hugely stressful and sometimes dangerous.

I just read a Facebook status that someone’s husband had no choice but to drive to work — from a rural area, no less — lest he lose his temp job.

Another local friend shared a photo in which he seemed to be wearing every item of clothing he owned, as his building was without heat.

Frozen pipes, power outages, elderly folks who live alone, homeless shelters at capacity… I sit here in my apartment watching the chaotic conditions outside the windows, at once thankful for warmth, physical safety, and sustenance and also acutely aware that the growing intensity of storms in every season means loss, instability, and dangerous conditions locally and globally alike.

Sometimes I do wonder what the point is of reflecting on this stuff if I’m not actively offering solutions. It’s one reason I’ve stopped sharing as many news stories; you all know where and how to find them, and my clicking “share” willy-nilly isn’t going to change a thing when it comes to the latest tweet or injustice.

But who am I if I don’t reflect, if I don’t try to make sure my own kids are aware of the greater impact and implications of something as seemingly simple and even fun as a snow day?

And so it comes down to what I perceive as a moral responsibility for anyone living in relative comfort, with the privilege of employment that can withstand the weather and a warm place in which to ride out the storm: To stay awake to the inequities among us, to stay compassionate towards those more vulnerable to the elements, and to identify even small measures we can and must take to support and see each other through.

Strangled Roots and More Than One Kind of Silence

Photo: Kyle Ellefson

So often I begin with morning light. Today, I began with Facebook video calling me — after I had snoozed the alarm. A 14-hour time difference makes scheduling calls with a writer in Australia an interesting challenge; my client was in her bed, sleepy after an evening meditation, just as I was leaping out of mine to throw on a robe and pour some coffee.

One of the things that struck me most in our conversation was this: Too many of us wait. We wait until we feel more confident, more qualified, more ready. We wait because we’re afraid that not everyone will like what we have to say or write (they won’t). We wait because there are other people saying and writing these things better than we ever will. We wait, and in the waiting, our insights, our observations, our wisdom, our lived experience, our questions, and our ideas all stay in our heads.

I picture roots in a too-small pot, growing around themselves. While some plants prefer to be pot-bound (my mom told me this recently, when she stopped by and saw the succulents she’d transplanted years ago, thriving in their original pots on my windowsill), others will eventually suffer from confinement, strangling themselves rather than having room to grow. I imagine the same may be true for what is inside of us. At what point do thoughts need to be transcribed, translated, shared, and explored outside the container of inner exploration?

Never, perhaps. There’s no rule here, no should.

But this morning, I’m considering the very real possibility that the gnarled internalization of self-doubt is a form of collective gaslighting, particularly among groups who’ve experienced outer oppression. If you’re told enough times that what you have to say isn’t true, what you’ve experienced isn’t real, and that when it comes to what you see happening all around you, you’re overreacting, little by little, you’re bound to start questioning your own voice. What could you possibly have to contribute?

* * * * *

As the masks come off, as the veneers chip away, as the statues come down, and as the ugliness around us is more and more exposed, it’s inevitable and necessary to face the ways in which we’ve unknowingly swallowed the poison and internalized beliefs that hurt us and each other.

As a white woman, this means looking at my own racism — the thoughts, beliefs, and actions that may be so unconscious and so subtle that I would have denied them altogether in the past.

It means looking at the fears I’ve had of speaking up, the way my own nervous system goes into high alert in the fact of perceived conflict. It means acknowledging that I have experience I can trust, and also there is much I don’t know. Both are true.

It means acknowledging and writing from the truths of my own intersectionality. I identify as queer, and I see and feel on a daily basis the ways this sets me apart from heteronormative expectations and status quo. I am self-employed. I have no boss. I answer to myself. It was during a brief stint in the private sector that I was more aware of my gender that in any other job; women in positions of leadership were undermined in ways both nuanced and overt but difficult to call out. (It’s also the one time I’ve been laid off).

I’m acutely aware of the ways in which my people have internalized trauma and also have assimilated and benefited from being white immigrants, thus perpetuating a racial divide even while seeking to heal it.

I grew up with economic and educational privilege, and there are ripple effects to not embodying previous generations’ norms. That said, my lineage is both a gift and a burden, one I’m continuously examining and delving into more deeply. What wisdom do my ancestors have for me, and where must I peel away? When is a diversion actually a form of continuity?

Jewish tradition, in particular and in my estimation, embraces the relevance of context — culturally, politically, sociologically. We look to tradition as the basis for change, rather than as a too-small pot in which our roots slowly suffocate.

* * * * *

Privilege is being able to opt out: It doesn’t affect me. It’s not my problem. That’s awful for them — whoever “they” may be. Sometimes not saying anything is easier, sometimes safer.

There are plenty of situations where silence is self-preservation, and I feel compelled to say as much. But that’s exactly why people who benefit from systems of oppression need not only to listen to those who’ve been silenced, but also to speak up.

I’ve read a few articles lately about “call-out culture.” Last night, I found myself reacting to a post by a coach — not someone I know personally. The implication was along the lines of “we create our own reality” and that pain can be the basis for healing. My immediate reaction was, THIS IS EVERYTHING THAT’S WRONG WITH WHITE FEMINIST SELF-HELP CULTURE.

I read it to Mani. I’ll admit that it felt good for a moment, the self-righteousness. But rather than leaving it at that, I decided to learn a little more. Something happened as I read more of her copy: I saw myself. I saw the ways in which I, too, am working with women to dismantle the ways we’ve internalized the patriarchy.

And I had no choice but to ask myself: Where are my blind spots?

Calling each other out — or in, if you prefer — is critical. And we also have to keep asking ourselves hard questions. The former is just a performance without the latter.

* * * * *

There are 10,000 threads here. This stops me from starting at all. It’s too big, I tell myself. I’m all over the place. How is this helpful? I’m just another white woman taking up too much room.

But therein lies a place where the roots need to grow. On the one hand, the myth of too-much has been used to silence women. On the other hand, as a white woman, I DO need to be quiet — not because my voice doesn’t matter, but because the voices of women of color matter, too, and have been strangled, smothered, suffocated, and suppressed in ways that mine hasn’t.

This is intersectionality. This is complexity. This is not a binary of privilege and oppression nor is it a hierarchy of suffering. It’s a willingness to outgrow small spaces, to risk writing and inviting conversation even if not everything I’m saying is fully formed and perfectly expressed. It’s saying: This is a matter of life and death. This is a matter of the reality we are ALL creating — and perhaps more importantly, undoing.

* * * * *

Am I choking on my roots or are they propelling me to grow and thrive? Who is watering the plants?

* * * * *

I have no neat and conclusive way of ending this post, except to say that I’m hearing more than one kind of silence. The fearful kind, that tells me to be careful — there could be repercussions. The complicit kind, that doesn’t want to rock the boat, get it wrong, or look at the ways in which I’m responsible for this mess we’re in. And the listening kind, where I acknowledge how much I have to learn and unlearn.

Which one do you relate to most — and if you take the time to listen, what do you hear?