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.
Sacred Waipio Valley. We hiked down to swim in the water and warm ourselves on the black sand.
I did not know when I booked a trip to Hawaii in December that it would fall in the middle of so many important projects – each like a precious jewel requiring constant attention and regular polishing.
How could I put one down for a frivolous vacation? Yet, I’m not one to go back on my word or undo plans already set into motion, and a part of me knew I was being called to the island for some reason.
I thought this trip was about reclaiming my power.
I thought it was about learning to live with a broken heart.
But things are never what you think they will be.
This morning I woke to the gentle drum of rain kissing giant palm fronds.
I have come to the Big Island – to the mother, to whisper to her the secrets of my silent sorrows and be held in her generous bosom.
My host, a dear friend who like me cannot believe it has been three years, is now sautéing sausages, onions and peppers for the first of many morning meals.
Later, maybe we will hike down to Waipi’o Valley to be with the velvety lusciousness of this place. Or, perhaps we will hear the power of Akaka falls and imagine swimming at its feet.
When the clouds part, a soft shore may emerge and invite us to recharge by the warmth of the sun.
I am here to connect, to be with the heart, with possibility and with reality. I am here to remember that things are not always as I’ve made them in my feeble mind.
When the time is right; when all has been said and I’m left only with what is felt, I will cast dreams into the ocean and watch them drift out, tiny and bobbing into the vastness.
I am so grateful.