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(how to save) a life

A few weeks ago, one of my sisters sent me a string of loving texts. We share such strings often just because, but these particular texts were inspired by a Facebook memory. 

Facebook had just reminded her of a post she wrote for my blog four years ago. In one post, “The Gift of Fear,” I wrote about how the book The Gift of Fear might have saved her life. A few weeks later, in “Her Escape, Her Words,” she wrote about the journey as she’d taken it.

I reread both posts after she texted. Her post filled me with joy; she not only escaped, but has come to flourish here in SoCal. I am so freakin’ proud of her and how she makes choices to protect herself and enable herself to thrive.

My own post, though, left a pit in my stomach. When I’d written it, I’d almost completely failed to grasp how deeply systemic features–which I’d call “flaws,” were they not parts of systems designed to protect some few at the expense of many others–conspire against abused partners. I’d said, “You deserve better!” as a strictly individual initiative, without understanding just how much U.S. systems neither broadly support nor encourage that. To escape successfully requires not only defiance but faith (which can’t come easy when you live your life in fear, an island surrounded by thousands of people who don’t appear to notice your suffering) and–here’s where it really falls apart–resources, be they time, money, or social.

When she came over and sat on the stinky old couch that had served for six weeks as her bed, I explained my remorse. I told her I was so damn glad she’d escaped, but that I also feel such deep remorse how few women have resources to successfully make the escape. How miserable it is that life-or-death matters should come down to who you know, and who you know will have your back no matter what.

A system that “works” like that is a terrible, no-good system.

And yet, I explained, it doesn’t mean I’m not enduringly grateful for The Gift of Fear. Far from it! The fact there’s a book that can help guide some women to escape, and to understand it’s even possible, is a book well worth keeping spare copies to hand out (as I do). Better still, the fact that the same book helps inform other women–and men–how to avoid creeps who only seem charming makes it priceless. 

With all this joy and outrage still churning in my heart over the weekend, I searched for podcasts including Gift‘s author, Gavin de Becker. I was delighted to find a two-parter.

If you’d like to get better at trusting your instincts and making them trustworthy, these are for you. Thanks to this podcast, you needn’t read the book to learn some of its most important lessons. 

You can find part one here. Part two is here.

Such lessons might have saved my sister’s life. Sure, they might not be enough to save everyone, everywhere, given American systemic biases for the strong and against the struggling … but I’m here to tell you how beautiful it is, from the outside, to watch that one life grow.

The New Jim Crow & the Nightmare River

When I started reading The New Jim Crow a couple of years ago, I felt my world rippling. I don’t mean this allegorically. I felt the smoothness disturbed by something else clawing to be let in.

Before I picked up the book, I’d been floating along on the smooth, clear water of U.S. life. I assumed all was (mostly) good and well straight down to the river’s bottom.

Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow‘s author, invited me to stop floating and actually dip a finger into the water. Beneath the thin veneer of calm, her recounting of recent American history informed me, I’d find turbulence and boiling water that was scalding people alive.

I dipped in one finger and discovered she was right. Horrified, I returned my hands to the surface. I set Alexander’s book aside and enjoyed my onward drift.

Over the summer, little burning bubbles began emerging from the water around me. They were uncommon and only a little painful, so I ignored them at first. Why would I go seek out more pain?

But then I saw bigger bubbles roiling below the surface and understood: the U.S. is a world in which only a few are allowed to float at the surface. Others are forced down, trapped in the murky, hot water beneath and struggling to reach the surface for even a moment’s gasping breath.

I understood: they suffer so that I might stay comfortably afloat. “Oh, shit!” I started shouting to those floating near enough to hear me. “People are drowning below us! We have to see the whole river beneath us, not just the sparkles up top, or they’re going to keep on drowning!”

Alone, I saw, I could pull very, very few people up to the surface. If I could enlist other surface-floaters to reach down, though, I knew we could together evacuate this nightmare river and seek out one with cleaner, genuinely smooth waters where all were equally able to experience the river in its fullness.

“Shhh, you’re disturbing our ride,” fellow floaters admonished in return.  Read more…

Protest expanded executive power, not Trump

November 15, 2016 Comments off

I recently called President Obama a magician. He’s quite a skilled one, too; he consistently has you believing he’s doing one thing while doing quite another. I’ve listed several specific examples today.

President Obama has dramatically, scarily expanded executive power just in time to hand the U.S. presidency to Donald Trump.

Rather than protesting Trump individually, we ought instead protest this expansion, and unify to demand return to a truly representative government with appropriate checks and balances reinstated.

We must not cede to any individual president any power that might terrify us in another person’s hands.

Politics, stories, and lies

I wore this yay-Obama shirt for almost every 2009 pregnancy picture. BARF.

I wore this yay-Obama shirt for almost every 2009 pregnancy picture. BARF.

In November 2008, I leaped from my seat in my third-floor one-room bedroom apartment in Long Beach, California when Barack Obama was named the next president of the United States.

I whooped and hollered out my window, pausing only briefly to wonder why people of color–the majority, by far, in my neighborhood–were silent. Why was I, the lone white woman in my building, shouting exuberantly about the election of a person of color to the highest office in the United States when everyone else in my neighborhood was silent?

The United States was poised for change. I wasn’t sure exactly what change, but I knew it was gonna be great. I mean, just listen to the man talk!

And if not great? Obama couldn’t be worse than George W. Bush.

It’d take the opposite of a miracle to be worse than Dubya.

In November 2012, I was a rare Democrat amongst Republicans at my office.

While the Republicans around me assured each other it was a good day to be a Republican, I marveled how disconnected they appeared to be from polls not aired on Fox News.

I wasn’t thrilled to be voting for Obama, whose presidency hadn’t brought any change so notable I celebrated it on election day, but I knew Democrats were The Good Guys. Obama was a Democrat. I was voting for Obama. Therefore, I was a Good Guy. Maybe the good guys weren’t great that year, but hey. It was better than being a Republican Bad Guy. Read more…

Dinosaurs, bomb bracelets, and safety pins

Categories: Friends, Love, Safety Tags: , , ,

Is this who I want to be?

July 30, 2016 Comments off

My siblings and I endured insult, assault, and predation throughout our impoverished childhood. While many around us judged our mom vocally, barely any offered any support.

We each took enormous loans while working our way through college and grad school. The loans were heinous, to be sure, but not nearly as heinous as poverty that steals all pretense of power.

Now, between my younger sister, my brother, and the brother-in-law who’s endured so much with us that I sometimes forget he didn’t begin with us, we have four advanced degrees and a fifth on the way.

When you call Sanders supporters “ignorant,” “uninformed,” or “privileged,” that’s what you’re calling us.

You sound like our dad.

Don’t take my word for it, though. Read my sister’s aching post on the matter.

And then, the next time you’re poised to type such a slight as if it’s objective truth, please pause and ask yourself:

Is this who I want to be?

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