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.
The end of a glorious day at Hapuna Beach in Hawaii.
The art is not one of forgetting but letting go. And when everything else is gone, you can be rich in loss. –Rebecca Solnit
“Letting go is easy,” one of my meditation teachers once said.
He sat in front of a group of us who had gathered for the weekly dharma night teaching and pulled his keys out of his pocket. He held them for a brief second and then dropped them to the floor. “See,” he said. “It’s just like that.”
Just like what? It’s not that easy, I thought.
He did this over and over again – reaching, holding, dropping, reaching, holding, dropping …
It clearly took some effort for this elderly man to continually reach to the ground. His movements were awkward and uncomfortable.
Well, this is embarrassing, I remember thinking.
What is he doing?
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.
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.
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.
I wasn’t exactly terrified in this moment, but how perfect for illustration purposes?
Anyone else been feeling it lately?
I’ve been waking up in the night wrestling with fear – my least favorite feel. It’s the usual suspects: money, livelihood, housing, Trump. Nothing seems settled. Nothing seems sure. In these moments it’s like I’m on a flimsy inflatable pool raft (bought on sale at the local CVS), floating in the middle of a dark, formidable and very deep ocean. There is no one around. It’s nighttime. How will small frantic me ever get back to the sunny, inhabited shore? There’s not even a paddle.
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.
This month I had an intuitive reading.
These happen with regularity in my world. I consider them like bumpers on a bowling lane warning of possible pitfalls along my path. Often after a reading I’m encouraged, inspired, and I feel more grounded. “Yes,” I believe “All of this is leading somewhere. I’m not spinning in vain.”
You see, on many days, because I’m outside the regularity of a 9-to5 gig, I feel like the bowling ball – rolling round and round seemingly going nowhere but sparkling all the way. These readings remind me there’s a much bigger lane beneath me and, low and behold, I’m hurdling down it. Whoa! Even better, the alley is full, and if I listen I can hear pins knocking and balls skidding all around. I’m truly not alone in this crazy game.