compassion

Rest in the Middle of the Fight for Racial Justice? Yes, Even for You.

Rest in the Middle of the Fight for Racial Justice?  Yes, Even for You.

A couple of months ago one of my African American friends and readers unsubscribed from my list.  I immediately began to worry that it was because of a couple recent posts I’d written.  I worried that it was because in my attempt to challenge liberals (white liberals in particular) to “climb the empathy wall” and seek to understand (though not condone) the perspectives of white conservatives that I unintentionally communicated an acceptance of racism. 

 

I’m trying to learn how to talk/write out loud about race and gender oppression and injustice while holding all of it alongside the goodness of human beings and of this life we’re living here on Earth that is so often woven together with some really horrible evils.

 

Like slavery.

 

Like the school-to-prison pipeline. 

 

Like rape. 

 

Like separating children from their parents at the borders of one of the richest most powerful nations in the world. 

 

Like people getting killed for being gay.

 

And some more subtle, insidious evils. 

 

Like people of color having to deal with yet another white person telling them that they “don’t see color” or responding in a variety of creative, defensive ways when shown their own racial biases, or the racist practices and policies all around us.

 

Like women who are confident and assertive being labeled as “bitches” when men doing the same thing are viewed as great leadership material. 

 

Like the many ways that certain body types are set forth as the standard of beauty and others as unacceptable.

 

Like stereotypical versions of the traditional clothing of indigenous peoples being viewed as appropriate “costumes” for white folx.

 

After years of seeing mostly just the harm caused by white people, and not finding much room in myself to recognize that there could also be goodness (including in myself and my ancestors) I am trying to make space for the complexity of people. 

 

Because being stuck in shame doesn’t actually help to dismantle racist structures or bring about more justice and healing.  In fact, it keeps me focused on myself.  Aloof.  Distanced.

 

 

The reality of human life is that there are good people who participate in horrible things.  I am one of them.  So are you.  And the more privilege we have in our particular culture and context the more damage we’re likely to have participated in harm in one way or another, often without any conscious awareness of it. 

 

I don’t ever want to justify the harm – that’s the tricky part.  If I run over your foot with my car unintentionally, you still have a broken foot.  And I have a responsibility to address that harm. 

 

AND

 

I am increasingly more convinced that compassion for other human beings (and ourselves) and acceptance of the fact that that we will do harm both intentionally and unintentionally, is the only path we can take towards healing our broken world. 

 

Especially for white folx in the U.S. who have grown up learning the many “scripts” of white supremacy — which means all of us, not just those who claim the title of white supremacist with pride.  I don’t want that to be true, but I can’t escape it.

 

I’m especially thankful for some people of color—like Amanda Kemp, Andréa Ranae, Ijumaa Jordan and my friend Nyeema Watson) who have offered me unearned compassion alongside challenges that expose my participation in the very messed up way of being that we’ve all grown up with in the U.S.  Their compassion toward me, along with truth-telling, is helping me to grown in my ability to offer compassion to others.  Including those with whom I strongly disagree. 

 

I’m thankful that among activists in many circles there is a growing movement to do big work in new ways that start with self-compassion and self-care.  Check out The Nap Ministry for a unique example – napping as resistance!  Or the Healing Justice podcast (the name is changing soon because the founders, who are white, were helped to see that they had appropriated a term created by BIPOC queer activists.

 

For people of color it’s very likely that your next step in the work of racial healing is NOT to talk to white people sometimes – or a lot of the time. I know for both my husband and my oldest son, working only with people of color for the past year and not having to deal much with white folx has been a much needed respite…

What You Must Say First to the Child [guest post]

A writer colleague of mine wrote this beautiful piece that I think is SUCH a great reminder for all of us about how important it is that we approach children's creations (and our own) with great respect and notice their beauty, before we start to instruct them (or ourselves) on how to make it better - which may or may not ever be necessary!  I asked if I could share it with you all and she graciously said yes!

From Elizabeth Spelman:

 

What you Must Say First to the Child

One day when I was little, I stood in my grandmother’s kitchen and helped her dry the dishes. I took the dishtowel and pulled it tightly over the top of a glass, like a drum. “Look Nana,” I said, “I’ve made art.”
She took it from me and pushed the towel into the glass. “No,” she said, holding it up, “this is art.”
It was true. The cloth doubled over in curious folds inside the glass and flowered out at the top. If Picasso had come to dinner, he would have agreed with her.
That day, sorrow made me hate my own work, and anger made me hate hers.  
This page is the glass; these words are the towel. Today I will tell myself, “First you must say, ‘It is beautiful.’”

 

Yes, yes and yes.  

And to all of us (myself included) who cringe remembering times when we have jumped right to instruction about "how it can be better" - self-compassion, self-forgiveness.  We start where we are and it is good.

To those of us who are remembering being the child with the crushed spirit, may we find healing and reclaim our creations, calling them good.

Here's to thriving,

Deb

Celebrating the Wisdom of Teens—Really!

I’m ridiculously amazed at how much my son has grown in the past few weeks while I’ve been conducting what I think of as my “compassionate observation experiment.” 

My intention during this time was to focus on replacing instruction from me about what he should do and be with compassionate observation of who he is already, where it seems he wants to go, and how it works best for him to get there.

It’s an experiment that builds on the belief that he is already good and wise at the core of his being (even as a teenager!) and therefore, that he knows more about what’s best for him than I do.  (For my college-aged readers, I want you to know especially that I believe this about you too.)

Side note: This is the idea that academic and life coaching is based on too and that’s why I love it so much.  It opens a whole realm of untapped wisdom that we often overlook.  

This belief in the inherent wisdom of individuals contrasts with dominant views about teenagers that emphasize their poor judgement, lack of knowledge and experience, and resulting need for lots of adult instruction and control over their lives.

There’s some truth to this more deficit-based perspective as well, of course.  Teens do, in fact, have undeveloped brains with some significant disconnections between the logical, rational part of the brain and the parts that determine their emotions and actions.  They often do need adults to “connect the dots.” 

Still, teens (mine included) tend to get PLENTY of instruction and control from parents and teachers and counselors etc.  In this experiment, I wanted to tip the scales a bit in the other direction. 

Building a Life You Love, Step 1 (and a tip for 2017 planning)

Happy New Year! 

I feel as if I should be writing about how to set your intentions or goals or something to that effect, as that is what most of the writers I follow are doing, but the problem is that I haven’t set mine, so it would be a bit inauthentic to act as if I’m on top of the whole new year routine.

I did pull out my “Priorities and Goals” folder last weekend (pleased as anything that I knew exactly where it was!), but I still haven’t managed to do more than skim through my 2015 review and 2016 intentions.  So, if you wanted to pause and think about what you want out of 2017 and you haven’t done it yet, I’m right there with you!  And I want to remind you that we haven’t lost our chance just because it’s past January 1. 

I, for one, plan to pause and look back at 2016 and sit with my hopes and intentions for 2017 this coming weekend—and maybe in bits and pieces over the month of January.  Maybe you, like me, don’t feel able to find a big chunk of time to do it, but you could schedule a half hour here or there.  That’s fine.  That’s good.  Just do that. Or do nothing, if that feels more appealing.  You can still build a great life this year, with or without January goals/intentions/resolutions.

For those who do want to set some intentions for the new year over the course of the month of January I’ll share something each week that might help you as you do. 

Today, it’s a great question I was asked by coach Joanna Lindenbaum yesterday, “How do you want to FEEL in 2017?” I love this question.  Still pondering it for myself.

I think “delighted,” might be part of my answer, which is interesting considering that this has been a rough few weeks for me in the “delighted” category and not because of anything “technically” all that difficult.

The thing is I’m pretty good at BIG THINGS.  Major crisis?  I can handle it.  But bad weather in Southern California when my oldest son is here for a short visit – I LOSE MY MIND.   I scream at my husband and at California itself.  “California is sooooo mean!  It’s not fair!” I say!  I pout.  I stomp.  I cry.  I act as if I am about two-and-a-half-years-old. 

The emotional challenge I experience in the face of small everyday disappointments is not new for me (though the frequency has decreased.)   What IS new for me is my reaction to my meltdowns (a.k.a. my complete failure to be who I want to be and who I believe I should be in these moments) and to other kinds of failures: missed deadlines, blown budgets, embarrassing outfits, etc.  

I want to share with you what’s changed for me because I believe it is a foundational piece of the path towards building a life you love—and loving other people too!