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grace

Someone
I’d trust
with my life
told me about
a time he’d been
unexpectedly
granted
grace

Years later,
his memory of that
grace-granting
inspires him
to show
grace
often

After we talked,
I thought hard about
what he’d said

Until then,
somewhere far
deeper than words,
I’d thought about grace
in terms of deserving:
“Has she earned this grace?”
Or,
“Is he worthy?”

Thanks to my friend,
I saw I’d been asking
the wrong questions

Who the hell
am I
to decide
whether anyone
(self included)
deserves
grace?

Maybe
what makes
it “grace”
is that
it’s not
too concerned
with what is
or is not
deserved

Categories: Friends, Reflections Tags:

life-full

I went to brunch on Sunday. I always enjoy brunch, and appreciate–so much–that I have people to brunch with.

There was something special about this brunch: talking with Bill Friday. Specifically, we talked about happiness.

Anthony’s always asking if I’m happy!” I said. “And I’m like, no! And who cares? What if happiness isn’t a useful measure for my life? What if there’s something more and deeper that’s lost by looking so hard at happiness?!”

(This was not a gripe about my husband, by the way; it was about the limitations of language and cultural perceptions!)

Today I talked to my sister Rache. As we spoke, I saw she would have so enjoyed chatting with Bill and me:

Though the histories we discussed were grim and heartbreaking, our conversation was so damn hopeful. “Happiness,” we agreed, was not the yardstick by which we want to measure our lives. We want comprehension, connection, fullness, and fulfillment, not entertainment (alone).

Rache will be visiting soon enough. Maybe we’ll get a chance to sit and talk (things more important-to-us than) happiness with Bill.

But if not? I will hold the joy of those separate, related conversations within me,

for, unlike happiness,

joy is the complex totality that recognizes how all the feelings of life are part of a full one.

Photo courtesy Ra

books & (bigger) dreams

Almost a year ago, I realized I was virtually alone.

I’d surrounded myself with people who understood I’d endured just about every kind of violence possible, and that I’d witnessed it even when I hadn’t experienced it directly. They celebrated the fact I’d “won” while calling the rest history. They apparently failed to understand what devastating long-term consequences are wrought even when one “wins.”

They had no concept how many tens of millions of people suffer my “history” now, nor–it seemed–any interest in exploring how their comfort helps keep other people subjugated. I was a meanie, for acting horrified; they, meaning well, were mere victims of a mean person who didn’t understand how much well-meaning means.

(Not a damn thing, I understand even better now. Not one damn thing.)

Surrounded by “friends” who didn’t really understand me, or care much how the limited suffering they’d endure under Trump is but a fraction of what others have endured daily for decades, I found real friends: books.

In Glenn Greenwald, I saw recognition of the U.S.’s two-tier justice system (one for the super-rich, and one for the rest) that ensured my family and I would never achieve recourse as poor people in America. The system wasn’t built that way.

With Peter Schweitzer I discovered that elected Democrats and Republicans long ago ditched pretenses of acting on the peoples’ behalf. They said they did, and that was enough to content most people who voted.

Naomi Klein, even more importantly, demonstrated the incredibly stark divide between what America preaches and what it practices. For many decades, the U.S.’s elected officials have claimed one thing to its people while doing quite another abroad. Klein’s The Shock Doctrine was the decoder ring that unveiled the purpose behind the pretense.

I read Chomsky and Postman and hooks. Each taught me a little more about the world that actually is, enabling me to see past my reality-illusions into what actually is.

Chalmers Johnson remains one of my favorites. Months ago, I picked up his Dismantling the Empire on a quickie trip to a bookstore. In a few short pages, he revealed almost as much as Klein did in many more pages.

I read so, so much Neil Postman. He died years before I began reading him, but wrote in such a way that reading him feels like a present-day conversation. He, more than anyone, eased the loneliness of (somehow) being stranded among billions.

Matt Taibbi really brought me despair. Before I read his books, I had the illusion the financial crisis of ’07/’08 was maybe just a really unfortunate accident. He showed that simply wasn’t so, which brought me closer to the truth … even if I kinda disliked him for it. A lot.

Bryan Stevenson showed me the joy of working for little changes–and celebrating them–even when enormous changes are needed. Arundhati Roy taught me the value of a newly hard-boiled egg (priceless), even as George Monbiot showed me how to discard “inevitable” in favor of imagining what’s actually just.

Sheldon S. Wolin showed me how deeply democracy was being subverted a decade ago, back when I cared only about my next paycheck. Renegade economist Kate Raworth pointed to a better world, inviting everyone to envision–and create–a global economy based on what we know of economics today, not what a handful of closet bigots decided to pass as indisputable truth close to a century ago.

A year ago, I realized most of my … friends … couldn’t help get me where I needed to go. They could only barely see the world that is, favoring instead the world they wish was.

But my books? They have broadened the world for me, page by page, showing that I need not be constrained by the limited imaginations of those around me physically … when bigger dreams are being dreamed around the world, for me, for you, and for all our children.

(NO)tifications

When I set up
each of my very few
phone apps, I set
notifications
to “off.”

I did this
intentionally;
I want to see the
sky, the leaves, the
wrinkles at the corners
of peoples’ eyes,

and hear
the birds chirping
with the rustling of leaves
behind them, and
chatter off in the
the distance.

I don’t need
notifications
of a virtual world
to interrupt
my experience
of the physical one.

And yet,
the companies
who release these apps
reject my rejecting their
notifications.

“Are you sure you
don’t want notifications?
You’re missing out on
so much good stuff!”

Every.
single.
day,
the
same
notices
I should
reconsider
notifications
and so keep up!!!.

Today, I
looked at those
reminders and thought,
“You know, I know
what I want to keep up with,
and it’s
not
this.

“The fact my
saying ‘no’ once isn’t enough
means maybe I shouldn’t
be checking these apps
at all. Okay, then,
once a day
from home
suits me
just
fine.”

Since
curtailing
online time,
my offline time
is so much more
vibrant;
merry;
full.

If I don’t see
any update
from any friend,
that’s fine;

I hold our
histories
in
my heart,

and I know
we will pick up
right where
we left off
the last
time.

Histories
in my heart
can be eroded
by too many notifications
about too many little things,
so:

even if I don’t
heart your picture
or thumbs-up your status,
please know it’s because
I want to remember
the you I know,
not
what
you
posted
yesterday.

shaved ice

… and fortitude

Last night, I went to bed crying. I felt like every bit of hope I’ve had these last few months was delusional.

I still feel that, but I did find a little spark in something that happened yesterday.

Midway through the afternoon yesterday, an old work friend texted me. “Are you at LAX right now?”

He was there with his wife. When we met up, he said they’d invited all their friends. None had shown up. They’d been there for hours when he went, “Wait! There’s no way Deb’s not here!”

Thinking of that today made me smile. I might not have hope right now, but you know what? 

Agree, disagree, hope, don’t hope, like me, don’t like me, I’ll show up for you.

I might not have hope right now, but I have love … and fortitude.

LAX 7 p.m. Saturday v. LAX 3 p.m. Sunday

Hey, friend.

Hey, friend,

I see you. I see some of the hundred difficult situations you’re juggling. I see how you berate yourself when you drop any one ball for even a second.

In case it helps lighten your load, I want to share a little of what I see.

Faced with some challenging parental situations, you are facing them right back. You’re not minimizing or deflecting them, but doing everything you can, despite exhaustion, to usher your kids into a future that will be good to them. 

You work hard, smart, and kind. You understand when you need to adapt and you do the work, undaunted by complexity or hurdles.

Your enormous heart finds ways to give and share every day. I mean this: every day. You are always looking out for the people around you, sometimes to your own detriment. You deserve your own compassion at least as much as the people around you do.

You make people laugh. You have great insights and perspectives, which brighten conversations and, heck, entire days.

You’re candid. You show what’s good and what’s bad, making it less lonely to be human in a world so full of illusions of perfection.

This isn’t an exhaustive list. Think of it as a (lunch break) start!

Please step out into the sunshine, lift your face to the sun, and take a second to marvel at everything beautiful you do and are. It’s a lot.

I see you, and you are magnificent. 

I hope you see it, too.

Love,

Deb

P.S. Think of the ponies!

Categories: Friends Tags: ,

The Privilege of Surprise

Jane and I are old friends. When we talked on the phone yesterday, she described a post she was writing for Facebook. I loved what she was saying, and asked if she’d like to share the post here. I’m grateful she said “yes.”

The Privilege of Surprise

I paint my toenails every week. It’s a routine I got into when I was burning out of a classroom teaching job and I needed some ritual, some regular application of gentleness to myself, to keep me from collapse. The crisis is over, but the ritual has stuck.

I use cheap drugstore polish. It doesn’t have to last long. I have neons and deeps and darks and brights and glitters and pastels. Most weeks I just pick a color I’m feeling. In the last few months, though, I’ve increasingly been choosing colors that mean something. There is a pale blue that makes me feel the ocean. I wear that one when I need comfort. There is a bright orange-y pink that reminds me of my sister.

On Election Night, I wore red, white, and blue. I called them hopeful toes.

After Election Night, I wore black.

I have not felt like wearing bright since Donald Trump was elected. It’s been two months now, and I am just starting to realize that I lost big, deep things on that day and I may not get them back. I lost faith in my government. I lost trust that the police will keep me safe. I lost my sense that we are fundamentally okay here, that nothing that bad will happen.

I am a straight white cis woman who has never been poor. What I lost? Many people in this country have never had those things. I am only now starting to realize what a privilege it was ever to have them, and how little sense of what the world is really like for people of color, trans people, Muslims, immigrants, I have ever had.

I should have known this all along. Black people have been telling me. Queer people have been telling me. The people around me have been telling me, this is not okay, we are not safe, this country is killing us, and I have given it lip service, but I have had the luxury my entire life of looking the other way.

And I still can, if I choose to. Many of my fellow privileged Dems are ready to throw identity politics out with the bathwater. It doesn’t work, we’re saying. It’s too divisive. We can’t win elections and talk about bathrooms at the same time.

Y’all, listen. Bathrooms are not a fringe issue. Black Lives Matter is not a fringe issue. Fringes are on the outside of things, and so are margins; if the issues that most directly affect groups of people are relegated to the fringes, then we have marginalized those groups ourselves. We are reproducing the power structures that are killing our brothers and sisters and siblings right here in our own party.

Identity politics are politics. They are my politics. I care about the Affordable Healthcare Act and I care about public education and I care about the mass incarceration of Black Americans, and these are all connected. They all belong in the center.

As I noticed my surprise that I haven’t regained the things I lost—I still feel, two months later, like I was punched in the stomach by the Electoral College—I realized that even being surprised is a privilege. I have never before experienced disillusionment that doesn’t go away.

I’m ashamed to admit what a revelation this has been.

Today I painted my toenails bright. I don’t feel like bright yet. I don’t know when I will feel like bright again. But I no longer believe we have time to wait until we feel like it before we make the phone calls, paint the signs, and have the terrible conversations with the people we love who are saying broken things.

We do not have time to wait until we feel like it. We have to act.

jane toes.png

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