My friends, yesterday I posted my first FaceBook Live video. The topic was joy. Above is a truncated version where I summarize three steps I use to touch into my own internal joy, which I believe is inexhaustible, unconditioned and a resource for dealing with the many challenges we face in our world and personal lives.
It’s a topic near and dear to my heart — a message I share with delight and conviction with all those who know me, and yet, this morning, I’m filled with the voice of my inner critic.
Why were you so serious?
You should have danced!
You should have worn glitter!
It was way too long!
Nobody experienced any joy watching THAT!
You get the idea. It’s been brutal.
Illustration by Alicia Brown
Expanding racial awareness is uncomfortable.
It requires looking at ourselves, examining potential blindspots and recognizing interactions shaded by ignorance, fear and shame. It requires deep listening, a humbling of ourselves and the confidence to risk saying the wrong thing in the name of trying to understand.
I did not ask to do this work.
You did not ask to do this work.
But, it’s been handed to us by the transgressions of our past and the aching denials of the present.
Racial injustice is a putrid tar that’s been mixed in with the mortar holding the bricks of our fragile society together. We can choose to ignore it, pretend it doesn’t stink, imagine that every powerful organization was not built by this noxious substance, but we do feel it.
These days “power” seems synonymous with money, violence and fear.
It conjures images of Wall Street greed, banker bailouts, Kim Jong-un, Putin and #45.
Rather than strategizing or bargaining for power (which is how I’ve believed it is obtained), I’ve actively done the opposite – admonishing and pushing it away.
Power? No, thank you.
I am compassionate.
I am a champion of the powerless!
I believe in humanity.
Actively seeking power has seemed in direct opposition to these ideas. Seeking power meant slithering into back rooms, turning a blind eye, conjuring dirty deals and peddling cheap goods. It meant selling out. If I am granted power it will come when I’m busy doing other things – things that have merited its arrival. Otherwise, I’m content to humbly toil.
You develop an instant global consciousness, a people orientation, an intense dissatisfaction with the state of the world, and a compulsion to do something about it. From our there on the moon, international politics looks so petty. You want to grab a politician by the scruff of the neck and drag him a quarter of a million miles out and say, ‘Look at that, you son of a bitch. – Edgar Mitchell, Apollo 14 Astronaut.
The earth is warming at an unprecedented pace. This is inarguable.
Sea levels are rising leading to an increase in coastal flooding.
Climate models project increased drought in the American Southwest
Weather is becoming more extreme.
The seasons are shifting.
Air pollution is increasing.
Animals are dying and some will go extinct.
We are on a path where these things will continue and intensify.
And while many mobilize to halt these realities – to develop machines that will suck CO2 from the air, save the polar bears, protect the Great Barrier Reef –I believe these efforts are only a part of the real task before us.
We do not need to save the planet.
Enjoy your lunch outside with this view any day if you work at LinkedIn
Wednesday I found myself at the LinkedIn offices for an event promoting diversity and inclusion in the workplace. It was titled, “We’ve Learned What Works!”
My first thought was, “really?!”
It’s been a challenging week.
My work of facilitating conversation and deep feeling around systemic racism continues in profound and heartbreaking ways.
I see how when discomfort arises we can fall back on familiar patterns of being, rooted in a hierarchical system.
I notice a tendency when things get tough for the most empowered in the group to insist that things are done another way, their way, the “right” way.
And no one wants to hurt anyone’s feelings or say, “the wrong thing.”
This includes me.
I want it and I’m gonna have it!
A friend of mine proclaimed this casually in conversation a few months ago, and it’s stuck with me ever since.
I remember a feeling of awe.
She was so confident
With her statement, it felt like she was reaching up for the shiny red apple in the tree and plucking it without apology.
What would it feel like to be so bold?
It wasn’t that she was asking for anything particularly outlandish (in this case, a quiet space away from her husband so she could focus on her book) but that, in all my hoping and plotting for my own kinds of freedom, I’d never strung those words together – not even in the privacy of my own diary.
Rather than reaching for my own apples, somehow I’d learned to acquiesce into hoping someone else might pluck them for me. When I’d shown my worth, this person would hand one over to me approvingly and I would bask in a glow of acceptance and appreciation.
My body and I have not always been on the best of terms. For most of my life, ignoring the anxiety, fear and self-doubt that I faced in my day-to-day was a second full-time job. I constantly looked to my colleagues to determine which face to put forward in different settings. Work meeting? That’s confident, decisive Kelsey. Party? That’s friendly, open Kelsey. I became so adept at being the person I thought I was supposed to be, that I forgot who I really was. The anxiety, doubt and insecurity continued but I Hulu’d and Facebook’d these feelings away. I thought I was the problem. Everyone else seemed successful, confident and happy. If I tried harder, did the things they did, wore the right clothes, said the “cleverest” things, I would be happy too. Right? Wrong.
Head-to-head with my constant companion
Grace lead me to a meditation practice. The first time I landed on the cushion, I encountered so much anxiety that I could not sit in the open, hands-on-thighs posture that was prescribed. Instead, what felt “safe” was to fold my arms across my chest and sit in a kind of hunched, protected fashion. There was much awareness that I was doing it “wrong” and, for a girl who’d spent much time imitating others, standing out in this way was painful, but I couldn’t help myself. After 5 minutes, I jumped up ready to do anything else. That was enough of that.
I have this dream of fully unraveling before my partner. In my mind, this man is unwavering and sturdy. When he says he’ll do something, it’s done. There’s a natural confidence about him that draws others in, and when you’re with him, the world becomes simple and magical. Together we explore and delight in the evening’s golden light, a perfect tomato and the warmth of each other’s presence as we walk side-by-side. We communicate deeply without the need for fickle words. Ours is a relationship built on trust and intuited feeling. This blend is the mortar that allows us to build a strong and light-filled home in which we can each place the things that scare us, make us feel ashamed, alone, unlovable and unforgiveable.
What does it mean to belong?
As a bi-racial woman, is it possible for all my many layers to truly feel welcomed in a white setting?
Who bestows this privilege and who takes it away?
This weekend I was reminded of my Blackness.
I traveled to the city for a workshop titled, “Opening the Heart & Mind of the World: Opportunities for Writers of Color,” hosted by The San Francisco Writers Conference. It was one of the few free events.
The conference took place at this hotel in Nob Hill – an area of the city that has long been the domain of the haves. During my climb up Powell Street, I was made immediately aware that each step brought me closer to the realm of wealth. The cars were European, peeks inside lit homes revealed sleek modern furniture, and on this Saturday night, well-heeled whites traveled in boisterous groups towards some area of fun that I could not fathom.
Upon entering the hotel, aside from the bellman and cleaning staff, most of the faces were white. As it had been some time since my last hobnob in the kind of place where doors are held open for you and a bounty of pens and notepaper are freely available for the taking, I was quite enjoying myself.