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
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.
Like how I keep waking up in the night to pee. (You didn’t see that coming did you?)
Pretty much anything that messes with my ability to sleep appears to me as if it were the cruelest of tormentors (and might I add that this is not a good association when the sleep hindrance is your child, which is often the case for parents.) But recently my frustration at the cruelty of being awakened was compounded by the fact that it was in some way caused by my hard work and good intentions.
Do you ever have that experience – when doing good or doing what you’re “supposed” to do seems to backfire? I bet you do. Our culture even has a common phrase for it, “no good deed goes unpunished.”
Intellectually, I find that phrase offensive. It’s such a slap in the face to the beauty, goodness and love that I truly believe and often experience as the foundation of this “big and wide and wild and wonderful and wicked” world (in the words of Padraig O’Tuama’s fabulous poetic essay “Oremus” – see the link at the end of this post to hear it.) I truly believe with him that “our lives are murky, magnificent, malleable, and full of meaning.” And yet…
When I wake up tired because I worked so hard to drink enough water to nourish my constantly dry eyes and support the health of my body so I can do important work in the world and my eyes are still dry and now I’m grumpy and how am I supposed to care for the people who are counting on me in this state and DAMN IT I DID EVERYTHING I WAS SUPPOSED TO DO. I WAS GOOD. And it didn’t work.
You know this already, don’t you? You know that sometimes “being good” doesn’t work - at least night as we expected or hoped it would. Not with the big stuff and not with the little stuff.
I don’t know about you, but I’m starting to think that maybe it’s because “being good” isn’t the point of much of anything.
Still, so many of us live with this question in the back of our minds, constantly judging ourselves and others: Am I being good? Are they being good? Are “my people” good? Are “my people” bad?
I’m starting to think these are not the right questions to ask if we want to live with joy and delight. I’m also pretty sure these aren’t the right questions to ask if we want to bring more equity and justice into the world.
Which we do, right? We want both – big fun and big work. Big joy and momentous movement towards race and gender justice. The ability to delight in this amazing place called earth, to relish moments with friends and family AND to keep fighting some fights that might not end in our lifetimes. To keep returning to hope.
So much equity and justice work ends up getting tangled up in some form of this question of goodness, of rightness, whether it’s directed at ourselves or at others.
I have a suggestion.
In the coming weeks, let’s experiment with the possibility that none of this is about being good. Or being bad. Or even about who’s being good and who’s being bad.
I’m not saying there’s no bad stuff happening in the world. We will call it out when we see it, and we will work to make our communities kinder, safer, more dignifying of the human beings in them.
I’m also not suggesting that we never DO bad things that we need to acknowledge and for which we need to make amends and/or ask for forgiveness.
But I am suggesting that it might be helpful to our joy AND our effectiveness in our work if we find some new core questions to ask. Some new core motivations that will keep us showing up with big, amazing, captivating energy and love.
As we journey together in this forum, let’s keep exploring what it looks like to be together in this work for equity and justice. Women of color and white women. Men, women and people who don’t identify as either gender. It won’t always be comfortable. We will not all be at the same place at the same time. I will make mistakes and so will you. But we will keep figuring it out.
I believe that together we’ll find a way to weave delight in with the grief, the anger, the sorrow and the conviction. I believe we’ll find ways to walk with compassion, courage, gratitude and grace.
But I don’t think that will make us good. Because I no longer think that’s the goal.
What do you think? Please shoot me an email and let me know. Also, tell me more about why you signed up again? What are you looking for here? What are the challenges you’re working with now? What issues do you want to see me explore? How can I be of support to you in your journeys?
And teachers, keep an eye out – I’ve got something new in the works for you…
In the meantime, for some inspiration on this journey from two people who embody “thriving for equity,” check out this interview with poet-activists Marilyn Nelson and Padraig O’Tuama. If you only have a few minutes, skip to the last 7 minutes and you’ll hear beautiful poems from each of them – but really listen to the whole thing. It’s a gift!
(If you’d rather listen on your phone, like I usually do, you can find it in the “On Being” Podcast in I-tunes.)
Until next time, here’s to thriving.