Are you good? And does that matter?

Hello Thriving community! 

 

I’m so glad you stuck around despite my LONG hiatus from posting regularly.  We’re smaller now, but I kinda love that, because we’ve all truly chosen to be here.  We are each other’s “tribe” in a new way.

 

I’m going to start out posting bi-weekly rather than weekly, because I want to be sure I can keep my commitment to you all.  But I am to committing to you all again – because this work really matters. 

 

The thriving piece

 

AND

 

the equity piece.

 

I’m still figuring out both.  Guessing you are too.  That’s why we’re still here together, right?

 

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to pick one or the other – joy OR justice.   Big work OR big delight. But it’s not always easy to be big enough to hold all of it. 

 

Some days it’s really truly big stuff that feels too heavy to hold.  Kids on suicide watch.  The New Jim Crow of Black incarceration.  The prevalence of sexual abuse.  The separation of children from their parents at the borders of the richest nation in the world.

 

For me, in the midst of all that, though, often it’s the little stuff that gets me.  The seeming Catch-22-ness of life.

Be the Storm. You Are.

Do you remember what the earth feels like after a storm?  

 

A storm bursting with power,

sound,

light,

electricity,

and swirling winds that knock you off your feet and call you to dance and whirl and run all at the same time.   

 

A force so powerful that it could destroy you,

could destroy me,

could destroy others

(and some storms do)

but SO ALIVE that it calls to the wildest parts of your soul.

 

Do you remember? 

 

 

Do you remember the smell of the earth after a storm?  

 

The sight of sidewalks strewn with twigs, broken branches, and earthworms who have come up for air.

 

The sound of children splashing in puddles and mommas telling them to stop to spare their shoes, but only half-heartedly, because even though shoes are hard to come by, so is joy. 

 

The mommas and these little ones, they can feel it…

the power and the pure gift of it all.

 

Of the newness,

 

Of the possibilities uncovered by this terrible and glorious cleansing.

 

 

Do you remember, Dear One? 

 

 

You, who believe that you are defined by the collection of failures that you store hidden behind the guest towels in the hall closet.

 

 

You, who are allowing yourself to be confined by smallness.

 

Do you remember?

 

 

Do you remember how you watched from the window and felt a longing almost as powerful as your fear as you imagined what it would be like to BE the lightening that strikes from sky to earth making beauty and light out of pure energy,

 

Out of the power of the very breath of BEING.

 

I…                  AM.                              

 

 

Do you remember?

 

 

Do you remember how you could almost see yourself there?

 

 

Standing with arms wide open and held high, laughing as the wind whipped your hair, and the rain pelted your body, and the lightening ran through your fingertips and down, down, down to the earth and out, out, out to the world. 

 

 

For that brief moment you were the tempest,

the creator,

the leader,

the wild woman,

the wise old crone who radiates mastery from within. 

 

 

And.    You.     Are. 

 

 

REMEMBER.

 

 

 

The storm is not safe.  You are right about that, Dear One.  It is not tame. 

 

And at times it is terrifying. 

 

But it is also exquisitely beautiful. 

 

 

You, my Beauty, are The Storm.  Be.

Life is in the Leap – Even When It Gives You a Serious Headache

A couple of weeks ago I took my first trapeze lesson.

 

My friend Saralyn gave it to me as a 50th birthday present and while I loved the idea in one way—because I have learned that facing my fears and trying new things is a pretty good way to amazing new breakthroughs—I also began dreading it pretty much immediately.

 

You see, I am NOT—and never have been—one who enjoys physical risks.

 

In life-coachy/self-help circles when someone is trying to help you find your joy/bliss/right life they will often say something like, “Remember how when you were a child you just dove right into things without hesitation, without fear?”

 

NOPE.  I do not remember that.  Not EVER. 

 

I was the child who was afraid.

 

I was the child with her nose in a book, happily living someone else’s adventures.

 

I was the child who dreaded every P.E. class (except square dancing – a fact which my son finds endlessly amusing!) and who, when I was introduced to skiing as a teenager found cross-country (a.k.a. glorified walking) to be ever-so-much more enjoyable than the kind that requires speeding down the side of a mountain.

 

But in the past five years I have learned that I am WAY more courageous and capable than my 8-year-old, or 18-year-old, or even my 38-year-old self knew I was. 

 

So, on a sunny November Sunday I dutifully trekked down to the Santa Monica Pier to climb up a tall ladder to a platform high above the earth I love so dearly, to swing through the air on flying trapeze.

Happy 50th [again] - On Disappointment as a Path to Joy

Back in August, I sent this message out to my list, but didn't post it on my blog.  I'm posting it now, because I refer to it in a new post I'm writing.  And maybe, with the holidays happening for many of you it might just be well-timed.  

Celebrating with you! 

Today is my 50th birthday.  I had big plans for how I wanted to celebrate this milestone, but they aren't happening.  

I'm just going to work.  In fact, it's likely to be a pretty hard day at work at this amazing big, hard, crazy, excellent job I started back in May - right about the time you stopped hearing from me every week - even though that was not my plan.  

Writing to you was one of the things I didn't want to lose when I started my new work.  

But just like my birthday plans.  I couldn't quite manage to do what I had envisioned.  I have to figure out new ways to thrive - and to write - in this new phase of my life.  

It's disappointing to me that I haven't kept my commitment to write to you.  So today, though I can't do a whole blog post I'm celebrating by making sure that I at least say hello.  

You do matter to me.  I'm thankful for you.  

As for my birthday celebration, another life-coachy friend of mine helped me to realize a few days ago that I needed to face the disappointment I was feeling about this big birthday non-celebration.  (My plan was to pretend it wasn't happening.  She said that never works - and though I wanted to yell many curse words at her, I knew she was right.)

Money Choices and the Rightness of Grapes

I have a confession to make.

 

I pay someone to clean my house.

 

And that’s not all.

 

I am white. And the woman I pay to clean my house is brown-skinned and speaks so little English (and I so little Spanish) that we communicate mostly by gestures, or through phone calls to her daughter who translates for us.

 

And that’s not all.

 

I paid this woman to clean my house for 10 months when my income was under zero.  That is, during a time when I was spending more on my new business than what I was bringing in. 

 

Elitist?  Racist?  Irresponsible?  Maybe.

 

In any case, I’ve found that in most social justice and religious circles moral judgement intersects with financial decision-making all the time.

 

And in my experience the right/wrong judgments we make about how we, and others, use money often cause more harm than good. In fact, I’ve found that often what looks “right” might actually be closer to “wrong,” or at least not helpful to ourselves or the world.

 

One story from my past stands out as a turning point for me in relation to my thinking on this topic.

 

In 1989, I was a new teacher at a school I often describe as being “founded by flower children.”  It was a small private school in Chicago that served mainly low-income families and we, the teachers, subsidized the cost of tuition with our extremely low salaries.  Working at this school was my introduction to the world of liberal social-justice-oriented Christianity, which was a far cry from the socially, politically and fiscally conservative Christianity I’d grown up with. 

 

Anyway, all the teachers and administrators at the school worked extremely hard for very little money because we believed that all children should have access to an amazing education.  We wanted to change the world, to make it better.  But many of us were also quickly burning out.

 

I remember one day I was having a conversation with another teacher from my school.  In addition to working at our school, she was living in an intentional community, sharing a house, money and other resources with other adults who were doing various types of social justice work around the city.

 

I don’t remember exactly what we were talking about, but I do remember this.  She had decided that it was okay for her to buy grapes.

 

The grape boycotts of the late ‘80s and early ‘90s were started in support of California’s grape pickers, who were working under terrible conditions.  So, good social-justice types were not supposed to buy grapes.  Her statement, in this context, was surprising, even shocking. I’ve never forgotten it.  Not because I was horrified at the thought of her grape-buying.  At the time, I was new enough to the social justice community that I don’t think I even knew about the grape boycotts.  What was shocking to me was that she’d opened the possibility that a “wrong” decision could be “right.”

 

The values behind the boycott were values that my friend believed in—fair pay and humane conditions for immigrant farm workers—but what she had discerned was that in that particular moment, it wasn’t her battle to fight.  At least not in that way.  And she risked the judgement of her peers when she followed her heart, rather than the “moral right checklist.”  But she also protected her heart, her ability to love, by accepting her limitations.

 

Here’s the thing.  We humans, we’re amazing, AND we are limited.  We live in bodies that need rest and play and nourishment.  We live with hearts and souls that also need rest and play and nourishment.  My friend had realized that she was wearing herself out analyzing every small decision she made.  She needed to pause and hear from her heart about what it was that was hers to do in the world.  And to do that.  Just that.

 

At that moment in her life, she sensed that the grape boycott was taking energy away from her ability to do the work she felt clearly called to do, her work with children and her work for peace.

 

She had to let it go. 

 

She hadn’t stopped caring about the needs of those workers.  She was just admitting her limitations at that moment. 

 

When we first hired a house cleaner last summer, freeing up 16 hours a month was way of honoring my work as I step out into leadership in new ways.

 

It was a tangible way that my husband demonstrated that he believed in me, an investment in my work to support teachers, moms and minority college students, my work for social justice and to nurture love and healing in the world.  

 

He could have argued that since I was working from home anyway, and wasn’t making much money, I should do the cleaning too.  Logical in one sense, by the rules of frugality, but not in another.

 

Please don’t misunderstand me.  I don’t think my work is “more important” than cleaning.  It’s just that doing the work I’m called to do is more important than doing work that I (or someone else) thinks I’m “supposed” to do. 

 

Like my friend, who began buying grapes so many years ago, I remain committed to fighting the unjust systems that make it easier for me, a middle-class white woman, to be in the position to pay for a house cleaner and more likely that the people I hire will be women of color. 

 

I also want to be fiscally responsible. 

 

And though internally I am at peace with my choice to hire someone to clean my house, I still feel uncomfortable saying the words “house cleaner” out loud. 

 

Someone could make a convincing argument that my choice to hire a house cleaner has been unethical, irresponsible, and/or racist and elitist.  They’d probably be right.  And also, wrong. 

 

I’d love to hear what you think.

 

Here’s to thriving.

 

Deb