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Fortunate

I graduated from law school in 2004. I had no interest in practicing law, so I moved to Japan and taught English there instead. Though I was supposedly the teacher, I learned a lot and had a blast.

I moved back to my hometown for family reasons and took a job temping in a small HR office. Job opportunities did not abound, so I was simply glad I could pay my bills. I felt the same when I took on a temporary administrative role at a larger company before long. I sucked at it, but did my best to find silver linings, of which there were many.

As my temporary admin gig neared its conclusion, a woman I’d met exactly once offered to take me onto her team as an admin. I sent her a copy of my resume; once she saw I’d gone to law school, she became determined to get me negotiating software contracts on her team. I rejected at first, saying I’d have taken the Bar if I wanted to do anything law-related.

She persisted, thank God. I soon began negotiating contracts, and felt (happily) challenged for the first time in years. I loved learning about hardware and software, which I had to do to be effective at negotiating. I enjoyed negotiating and was grateful to have an encouraging, supportive manager nudging me outside my comfort zone.

I worked on software contracts for a decade. Then, two years ago tomorrow, I began working as a software licensing contractor. My commute to a full-time job with great benefits was just too long. I accepted job uncertainty as a small cost compared to the benefit of not spending four hours in my car daily.

My first few months as a contractor were deeply uncomfortable. There was a lot of ambiguity, which frustrated me until I took it upon myself to lessen the ambiguity. If anyone didn’t like how I was doing that, I figured, they’d be sure to tell me. 

Taking risks, I found myself growing. I found joy in that growing, though I’d started out discombobulated.

As that contract wound down, an opening came up for a software asset management position. I seized the opportunity. Sure, I’d never done it before and didn’t know a thing about helping ensure neither too many nor too few licenses were procured, but I knew I’d grow. I knew that any frustration I felt at being a noob the first few months would be counterbalanced by the ultimate joy of learning.

I “knew,” but I didn’t really know. ‘Cause, see, I had no idea how much I’d learn, nor how much I’d be encouraged to learn. I couldn’t have fathomed how much support I’d have, nor how mistakes would be treated as just a part of the journey of learning. I had no idea what it’d be like to feel genuine psychological safety for the first time in my life, among a team that makes me laugh while pushing me to do better every day.

I took a risk two years ago tomorrow, and another one fifteen months ago. Because of those risks, my whole life feels so much richer than it did two years ago. For how rough my life began, it’s pretty rad now.

This is all a necessary background for another story to come. For now, though, I want to say that I am more fortunate than I sometimes remember.

I’m thankful to be challenged to remember this.

Shaping the future, together

My husband, Anthony, and I began 2016 with the movie Seeking A Friend for the End of the World.

It was so uplifting that I turned it on again after a few hours of sleep. When my then six-year-old joined me on the couch, we had a short exchange about it.

“Are you crying?” Li’l D asked when he joined me. “Yes,” I told him. I quickly explained the movie’s premise.

“So you’re crying because the world is ending?” he inquired, flopping onto the sofa.

“No.” I smiled, nodding toward the characters on the screen. “It’s because of what they’re making of what they have.”

Last night, as my husband wondered aloud how to ring in the new year. I suggested we watch Seeking A Friend again.

“That’s too depressing,” he replied. “Not that.”

“What? Are you kidding?!” I asked. “Now more than ever, it’s the most inspiring thing there is: a reminder of where and how to find hope in scary times.”

“Sure,” he said without a scrap of conviction.

All the same, we rang in the new year watching Seeking A Friend. We both cried, of course, as we agreed that something potentially heartbreaking was actually pretty darn uplifting.

Thus it was that a fairly random movie selection to begin one year shaped how I began the next.

As 2017 loomed, I’ve felt growing trepidation. Donald Trump will be U.S. president in a few short weeks, bringing in a cabinet that’s rejected any pretense of representing the American people. While elected officials have whittled away Americans’ rights in grievous ways over the last several decades, primarily representing corporations and very wealthy people instead, they’ve at least tried to maintain an illusion of representation.

The good thing about that illusion is many Americans less affluent still retained some important rights; the bad thing, that we retained enough of them that we weren’t really fighting to keep them or gain back those we’d lost.

When I said that the good in a Trump victory was that it would at least inspire people to mobilize and fight for our collective rights, I spoke based on the assumption we’d mobilize, and quickly.

Almost two months post-election, I’m seeing more grumbling and finger-pointing than mobilizing. This has concerned me, because the more time we spend squabbling over the particulars of a single election already passed, the less time we have to figure out how we’re going to work to protect each other now.

Watching Seeking a Friend in the early minutes of 2017, my heart eased. I remembered that there are lots of different ways we can help save each other by our individual acts. It’s not about the outcome. It’s about the processes involved in being for and with each other, and how we build our collective knowledge and capacity as we go.

What can I do as one little person against a machine so vast and devastating? I can act in accord with what I believe, not simply believe it passively. I can learn a little every day, and apply what I’m learning. I can share what I’m learning, and listen to what other people are learning to improve my own effectiveness.

I’ll re-register as a Democrat to vote for progressive Democrat delegates next weekend. I’ll continue to become more engaged with the Democratic Socialists of America and its efforts to bring unqualified equality to all Americans. I will, like at my first DSA-LA meeting, savor the opportunity to be surrounded by people inspired to act by a passion for equality, including experienced activists who can pass on their wisdom to those–like me–new to activism.

I’ll become involved in local politics. I’ve made my initial plans, though I haven’t shown up bodily for anything yet!

Most of all, I’ll continuously seek ways to connect people motivated by different but related causes. Fragmented into individual causes, we’ll have a hard time expanding the floor of the cage. Together, we’ve got a real shot.

 

For one two-hour work of fiction, I’m even more grateful this January 1st than I was the last. In that movie, the future was determined. The present moments leading to it were not.

In this reality, the future is not set. We can change what’s ahead.

Despite a few inevitable stumbles along the way, I believe we will.

The truth of what others feel

I have so much to say, I know I can’t possibly say it tonight. Below is the shortest form.

My seven-year-old, Li’l D, shone during his first quarter as a second grader. My husband and I were concerned about the school’s super-strict second grade teacher, only to discover she was exactly what our little boy needed to thrive. (Like his mom and her siblings’ teachers before, Li’l D’s teacher exclaimed about the kindness of his heart.)

Instead of telling me I was a jerk for taking so long to figure things out, my husband thanked me for trying to figure them out. I was delighted when I found Michael Graham, a guy of Anthony-like-but-more-progressive mind on Twitter. Instead of bashing me for taking decades to decipher readily available fact, Michael welcomed me for joining where and when I was.

Thanks to Michael, I published my first article on Progressive Army today:

progarm

Many years ago, I dreamed that my just-younger sister had only three days to live. I stood in a church and screamed, and screamed, and screamed until my throat was raw from it. I had the same feeling when I read an article today, but was heartened by the expressed love of another bystander. Together, we will change the world.

It is lovely to feel happy. I know this, because I’m basking in happiness’ glow right now.

But it’s also lovely to see the truth of what others feel and join them there.

So I sit with dissonance tonight: the joy of being here,
and the sadness of knowing this glad “here”
cannot (for now) be shared by all.

Let it shine

Yesterday morning, my seven-year-old son heard my husband, Anthony, and I talking about election results.

“What happened?” asked Li’l D.

“Trump won the presidency,” we explained to him.

He looked stricken.

“Oh, sweetie,” I said. “I know you’ve heard a lot of terrible things at school. But, you know what? Lots of people you love voted for Trump.”

Anthony and I listed these people, and emphasized how much they love him and are committed to protecting him and keeping him safe.

image

See? Punisher! Wait, no ...

Many people are afraid right now.

Some of that fear is very reasonable, particularly for minorities. Some Trump supporters hold bigoted beliefs, and some portion of those feel enabled by Trump’s victory.

But some of that fear was carefully cultivated by the DNC, which very intentionally elevated Trump’s candidacy–and fear about his supporters–starting early 2015 to improve Clinton’s chances of victory.

On both sides, fear has been used to divide and conquer us.

I wrote this morning about why I would have voted for Trump were there only two choices. I hope you’ll read the post and consider the possibility that some of what you’ve learned has been wrong.

(I’ve spent the last six months doing this, and it’s been painful to understand how my ignorance has helped hurt people. You’ve seen some of that in anger that’s sometimes bled through here, less at anyone else and more at myself that it took me so very, very long to see.)

Please don’t categorize people as “self” and “other” right now. Resist the urge, as I must personally be vigilant about doing right now.

Please, please listen to each other, hear each other, stand up for each other–even if your voice or knees shake–and fight against the fear machine.

You are loved, you are loved, you are loved.

Take that love and let it shine, because that love translated to action is quite literally what it’ll take to save this world for our children.

Peace derived from truth

As I type this, militarized police are assaulting Native American water protectors. The protectors’ offense? Standing against oil interests while fighting for water, for earth, and for their peoples’ land.

If you still confuse Washington Post, New York Times, CNN, MSNBC, Huffington Post and their kin for news providers, this is quite probably news to you. If you have seen anything about this, it’s likely been vague allusions to hostile protestors–or, in short, a skewed representation of reality which helps you avoid seeing the many ways the U.S. government favors corporations over breathing citizens.

This isn’t anomalous. It’s part of the same system that criminalizes acts that don’t even warrant charges in other countries, the better to have cheap prison labor available for U.S. corporations, and the same that conceals from you massive prison strikes protesting such labor system.

It’s part of the same system that tells its people, “We want a no-fly zone over Syria for humanitarian reasons,” all while failing to explain that creating a no-fly zone is an act of war–one, in this case, that could bring the U.S. and prominent Syrian ally Russia to nuclear conflict. While conveniently failing to mention that its hostilities toward Syria began when Syria rejected a U.S.-beneficial oil pipeline that would have run right through the middle of Syria, or its non-humanitarian destruction of Yemen, where it helps starve those not killed by its bombs. While definitely not mentioning its decades-long history of forcing brutal regime change, or the fact it’s effectively committing genocide by bombing seven Muslim countries. Read more…

Our old tree

One of my landlords came by
Thursday evening to explain
they need to remove the tree
in front of our garage;
the tree’s roots
are beginning
to impact
the garage’s
foundation

Walking with
my six-year-old son later,
I explained what would
be happening

He got really quiet
and clouds gathered
on his face

Read more…

acknowledgment, an act of love

Yesterday, black Republican United States Senator Tim Scott took to the Senate floor to describe being pulled over seven times in one year as an elected U.S. official. In some cases, he was pulled over for speeding; in others, “driving a new car in the wrong neighborhood or some reason just as trivial.” He explained how this is common among the black men in his life, regardless of their position, income, or disposition:

His brother, a command sergeant major in the U.S. Army, was once pulled over for driving a Volvo. The officer thought it might be stolen.

One of his staffers was pulled over so many times for driving a nice car, he traded down for a less-nice model.

“Thank God I have never been bodily harmed,” Scott said, adding that he is nevertheless keenly aware of the currently slanted scales of justice.

Today, he will follow up with proposed solutions.

I hope you’ll listen to yesterday’s speech, and sit with some of Scott’s parting words: “just because you do not feel the pain … does not mean it does not exist.”

To acknowledge this
is an act of love;
the beginning
of change

 

 

 

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