Random babble

Feelings as self care in a hectic world, a peek into my life

I have a confession to make. The month of November kicked my ass. It twisted me in knots and took me to highest points of joy and it also laid me low and, while I was in the street trying to crawl away, the city bus came and rolled over me and then backed up over my broken body. Then like a phoenix, I rose again from the ashes (I sure am mixing metaphors today, right?) and now, like an imperfect human, I am crashing and counting days.

My public and professional personae have been immersed in trying to make sense of the world in the wake of Trump’s win, the rise of the white nationalist movement and the surge in harassment nationwide, which has resulted in an increased amount of work as head of an anti-racism organization. Meanwhile, my private self has grappled with riding a wave of joy that has softened me. To be frank, it has tenderized me. But extreme emotions competing for validation in one body that gets little downtime are hard to reconcile over time.

Which is why today’s post is a bit of a detour from what has become standard in this space. I need to reclaim my own humanity as a woman and not as an anti-racism educator, activist, or nonprofit manager but as a mother, a sibling, a daughter, friend, lover and my newest role, grandmother.

While the world has been spinning off its axis, my son and his wife welcomed their first child into the world, a beautiful baby boy.  My workload has prevented me from flying out to see my first grandchild; however, that problem will be resolved shortly. But already I am smitten. I can stare at pictures of my grandson for hours on end and I am sitting on my hands to prevent myself from becoming the pesky mother-in-law who dispenses advice or suggestions.  My grandson’s arrival has reminded me just how open the heart is to love and how love manifests in many different forms. I haven’t even held my namesake in my arms yet, but I know that I love him as completely as I love his father, his aunt (my  tween) and his mother. They are all three my babies. Even if two of them are adults.

The month of November has also brought a deepening of feelings for a non-related grown-up. A man. A man who has made me realize that vulnerability can be sexy and that I am far more open to new possibilities than I realized.

A lot of importance is put on the role of self-care in our lives, especially in activist spaces, so much so that at times it frankly sounds trite. In the ideal world, when life is stressing us out, we would have the resources and time to take care of ourselves and maybe even unplug from the world. But we don’t live in an ideal world, and sometimes you have to do the job because there is no one else to do the work. You have to show up because if you don’t, no one else will and that small problem really becomes a larger one. Sometimes you can’t have the vacation or the trip to the day spa because doing so will leave you and your kids in the dark with a lonely pot of unseasoned beans to eat all week.

Sometimes self-care is just knowing that you are doing the best that you can while praying/hoping for the strength to keep on keepin’ on, which has been my life for far longer than I like to admit. In those moments, I am learning that the greatest self-care is to immerse myself in the people whom I care deeply about. It is to allow for the transmission of human emotions that strengthen me and somehow give me the strength to keep going one more day.

The next several years are going to be a test for many of us who are based in the United States. Now more than ever, we need all hands on deck as we fight against policies that almost certainly will make life harder for our most vulnerable and marginalized communities. We all have a role to play whether we are longtime activists or new to organizing and educating. Trump may not have a mandate, but for half of the country, we do have a mandate and that is to activate now.

None of us knows what lies ahead as we shift to a Trump presidency but given the president-elect’s hijinks already, it is safe to say there will be no shortage of emotions and outrage and our best defense aside from direct action will be to protect our own emotional, physical and mental well-being. As for me, I am counting down the days until the adult man in my life returns home as well as the days until I fly out to see that newly arrived little guy. I am taking joy in sharing laughs with my daughter and conversation and drinks with friends. On days like this, I take joy in just writing these words and remembering that I wear many hats and while some create headaches, some create joy.
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Musings on change and more change ahead…A personal post

I can never recall who said it, nor exactly how it was said, but to paraphrase: The older I grow, the one constant in my life does seem to be change.

As I get ready for some major life shifts in my personal life, I find myself reflecting on the past year and just what a journey it has been. While I shy away from the personal stuff in this space, today is a little different for me as I realize how much of the personal changes of the past year have affected me.

Thanks to Facebook’s nifty (or sometimes not so nifty) memory reminder feature, a picture from last year popped up in my feed. It was a photo that reminded me that a year ago, I was preparing for the physical separation from my life partner of 20 years, 18 of which were spent as a legally married couple. A partnership that started at 22 and ended at 42 and basically set me off on the journey to find myself at a time in life when, according to popular beliefs, you have already figured out who you are. Increasingly, though, I am starting to believe that we never truly find ourselves, instead we evolve over time and our task is to meet the changes head on. To not allow ourselves to grow stagnant, yet also to retain our central core of self.

Moving out of the family home and into a 400-square-foot apartment (which is shared my daughter) on an island at times has felt like one of the most asinine things that I could do. And at the same time, it was one of the best decisions I have ever made. It has been my healing space and in the past year, I have met many good people along the way who have shown me that despite the daily reports of gloom and doom that are fed to us, good people truly do exist.

While change may be the only constant in life, the reality is that for many of us, and I include myself, change is hard.  The day-to-day of actually doing change sometimes seems to bear an uncanny resemblance to a root canal without the anesthesia. Yet there comes a point when if we keep going, the change starts to sink in and it becomes your “new normal”…it often happens when you aren’t paying attention.

If necessity is the mother of invention, I can say that the past year has forced me to seriously assess my own skills and talents as I was faced with the uncomfortable truth that while running a grassroots organization is the ultimate in doing good, rarely is it financially rewarding. Given that I don’t wish to spend my golden years eating kitty chow and living under a bridge…yet I love the work that I do…I have increased my own side work and it is slowly starting to bear fruit. Starting a side business while running an almost 50-year old grassroots organization is challenging but so far, I am keeping all the balls in the air.

This past year, I have even seen a long-held dream come true. For years I joked about wanting to give a TED Talk and on November 5, at the State Theater in Portland, Maine, I will be a speaker at TEDxDirigo (Maine’s little slice of the TEDx world).  While it is an honor to be among an amazing group of speakers, it is one of the hardest and scariest things I have ever done. The preparation for a TED/TEDx talk can only be likened to preparing for a marathon. A mental and emotional marathon, but a marathon nonetheless.

Yet the greatest changes in my life have been on a personal front, in large part as we prepare for a new addition to our family. My son and his wife are expecting their first child, who will be earthside soon. After 25 years of motherhood, I am preparing to enter grandma-hood and with each passing day, I find myself getting more and more excited. With new change comes new realities and entering the next phase of adulthood has rendered so much of what seemed important as really unimportant. This became clear to me this spring as I stood with both of my previous husbands and watched our son get married, a day that will live in my memory as long as I am in sound mind. But that day is a close second to feeling my daughter in law’s belly move as my unborn grandchild kicked.

I have had two babies; I remember their  in-utero kicks and movements but to see your own grandchild kick, to realize that your baby is an adult who is about to have his own baby, is one of the greatest joys in life. My children and soon my grandchild will be the three constants in my life, no matter what changes come my way.

Life is like a roller coaster and I am holding on tight as I ride the wave of mamahood, work, starting over, what is shaping up to be a new relationship and watching the next generation of my family take hold. What a journey it has been! 
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Collective humanity or collective fear?

Racism, homophobia, Islamophobia, xenophobia, misogyny, downward class mobility and wage stagnation. The global community is in a state of crisis as we all find ourselves operating in an ever changing world where too many of us fear that we are losing our grasp on our carefully constructed reality.

Last week’s stunning vote in the United Kingdom has shaken many of us to the core and, for those of us in the United States, the rise of Trump at times feels like a collective nightmare that we just can’t wake up from. Though for others, it feels like an opportunity to stick it the system that fucked them out of the American dream and instead left them with the American shreds.

The world has never been soft; it has never been fair. Those of us with non-white skin learn that lesson early on in life. But the game has changed and now everyone but the richest of rich understand that the game we are playing called life is rigged and it’s often not in our favor. Turns out that working hard doesn’t necessarily get you far anymore. Though for some of us it never did.  As a writer whose name escapes me at the moment once said, even whiteness isn’t paying out the dividends that it once did.

People are frustrated and fed up and frankly I am right there with them. I grew up working class in a good year and poor in a bad year…so poor some of those years that far too many of my childhood memories revolve around lack and scarcity. I remember dreaming about growing up and doing better. Having now arrived at the magical stop of “better,” it seems that doing better is awfully damned subjective. Better than what? The better that I have created relies on what increasingly requires nonstop work. In order to make ends meet and deal with the neverending responsibilities of adulthood, it means a day job and side jobs. I currently don’t know the world (and haven’t for more than two decades now) of scraping pennies to put food on the table or a visit to the food bank, which were part of my childhood, but I also know that at any moment if the side projects dry up or the day job fails, I will be back in the world that I grew up in. That reality keeps me awake at night.

While my current reality isn’t what I want nor what I envisioned, I also know that it can be worse and that for far too many other people, it is worse. People working physical jobs while enduring physical pain because the copays are too damn high and they can’t get the time off anyway without affecting their weekly pay. Families that have to piecemeal childcare together just to get to work.

We are living in a time, though, where for too many of us our private struggles are just that. Private. After all, no one wants to share the hard moments in a Facebook and Instagram world. Too often we assume that we are alone in our struggles until we see someone give voice to our private frustrations and fears. Donald Trump is many things, many which are questionable, but the one thing that he has tapped into is the collective rage of an underclass that has felt ignored. However, he has also opened up a box of ugly that most likely won’t be repacked and put back on a shelf anytime soon. While it is easy for many to dismiss Trump, as we are seeing in the UK, once someone opens up the box of frustration and mixes it with hate, what we are all faced with is something that threatens us all.

Despite the ugliness that is brewing across the world, there is a common thread linking it all together and that is fear. Fear of change, fear of the unknown, fear of loss. And on top of those fears, the loss of what we believe to be true as we move toward the unknown…and, by the way, as our perceptions of reality crumble, whether they were even close to actual reality or not, that fuels those fears I mentioned earlier and creates new ones. Fear drives us in many ways. For me, fear drives me to push myself beyond what is healthy at times. For others, fear drives them to hate what they don’t know and what they don’t understand.

Fear can also be a catalyst for collective good, though, if we can surrender our own feelings long enough to see that beneath the surface the vast majority of us seek the same thing. To be whole and secure in our personhood. To have food, shelter, healthy bodies and humans who care about us. To know that we matter and that these lives we lead have meaning. These basic needs cross all lines whether we are Black, White, Latinix, whether we live in the States, the UK or Indonesia.

Will we find our collective humanity or will we collectively destroy each other and this world?
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