I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve (or save)
the world and a desire to enjoy (or savor) the world.
This makes it hard to plan the day. –E.B. White
Sweet peas in the morning sun on a farm near Petaluma.
Oh, my loves, it’s all so much, isn’t it?
This bile that’s bubbled up from the storm drain
Offending nostrils and ears
Stealthily seeping into pores
Set it aflame and we burn ourselves
Go to battle and the war begins within
And soon the moon will blot the sun and bathe us all in gray
I was not surprised by the events in Charlottesville.
No sadness. No anger. Just another headline.
I was not surprised by 45’s two-day response delay and the subsequent offense that launched from his sphincter lips.
Last week I led a flash mob on a BART Train.
Heading to San Francisco.
On the long stretch when the train dives under the Bay.
I asked riders and friends to shake their arms and legs.
To take deep breaths followed by long sighs.
To tap dance down the aisle between the seats, and to move their bodies slow and smooth like the seaweed floating on the waves in the Bay above our heads.
This train where we often cram in, press to strangers arms and legs, but carefully avoid each other’s eyes.
Where I plug in, head down, legs crossed, arms folded and pray no one sits next to me.
What would happen by opening up in this way?
I practiced what I might say. There would be no room for timidity. The train is loud. Alone in my living room, I yelled, trying and discarding tones and words like blouses on a dressing room floor. Which would cloak me in confidence?
And I sometimes think that a moment of touching is the difference between complete utter despair and the ability to carry on. ― Eleanor Cameron
After moving to a new town where she had no friends or family, a friend of mine began stalking her yoga teacher.
It started innocently with her attending one or two of his classes a week. That became three or four, and soon she was “doing doubles,” going to two of his classes a day and driving across town to do so. She knew his schedule; knew when he was subbing; knew when he started teaching at a new studio, and she followed.
It wasn’t that he was unusually skilled at guiding students into asanas, or even particularly handsome.
On any day in this progressive town, there were likely 50 or so other yoga classes providing nearly identical versions of what he offered – except for one thing.
“He does the best adjustments,” she told me. “So strong, so firm, just the right amount of pressure.”
But we both knew that being assisted in her practice had little to do with her real motivations for showing up in his classes.
She was lonely. She worked from home. Being friendless and single meant there was no one to hug her, hold her hand or cuddle with at night.
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.
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.
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.
Me and Dad
“But all our phrasing—race relations, racial chasm, racial justice, racial profiling, white privilege, even white supremacy—serves to obscure that racism is a visceral experience, that it dislodges brains, blocks airways, rips muscle, extracts organs, cracks bones, breaks teeth. You must never look away from this. You must always remember that the sociology, the history, the economics, the graphs, the charts, the regressions all land, with great violence, upon the body.” — Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me
Racism is about bodies.
It is a visceral reality that can be tasted, seen and felt.
And yet, as I devoured Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me, where the physicality of discrimination is honestly and vividly conveyed, I felt a curiosity arise in my own body. As a bi-racial girl who grew up in Utah, what was my physical experience of racism? The violence, ineffective schools and codes of the streets Coates describes of the Baltimore neighborhood of his youth, was not my reality. I grew up in an upper-middle-class white neighborhood. I was a cheerleader. Neighbors brought over bunts and peanut brittle during the holidays.
Last week was a week lost. We lost an election; I lost a week in time. I did not work. I did not make progress on any of my projects. I didn’t even cook. All of my energy was consumed with feeling and trying to escape feeling. It was a full-time effort.
I went to the Trolls movie.
I Shimmy Popped, InterPlayed and Twerk Werked
I held the people I love and they held me.
These things worked for a bit, but when the credits rolled, the last booty bounced, and the cuddle puddle evaporated, the anxiety began to flood back in. I did not sleep. The one lonely Valium I’ve saved for the end of the world began to call my name. “Kelsey, this is not living.” “I can make you feel o.k.”