Been gone for awhile. I’ve had some car trouble, internet trouble, life trouble. But I also haven’t been detained in an airport – so perspective. All of this has had me thinking about refuge.
It’s a simple word, a simple concept. It’s about being safe and protected. That doesn’t seem like a lot to ask.
Last weekend I went up to my parents and had some car trouble. Needed to stay an extra day and wait for a part to come in. I didn’t get the repairs paid for. I didn’t have internet access. But I did have refuge. I had a place to stay, safe, while I waited for my car to be fixed. I didn’t even have to think about it, it was there for me.
Most of us think of our homes as a refuge. I’ve had plenty of times in my life when my home was not. But there is a big difference between being so sick that it’s scary to be left alone to fend for yourself and wondering when the men with the guns will break down the door. There’s a big difference between walking on eggshells to keep the screaming and yelling from erupting and walking on eggshells to stay out of the emergency room.
Because I can’t convince the bank to finance my kitchen remodel my home has not been a refuge. I’m not comfortable with boxes piled all over and my kitchen in pieces. Although the cupboards are empty, they are barely hanging on the wall and still may just decide one day to fall down. I’m struggling to make a “home”. I’m struggling to keep things orderly and organized. I’m struggling to find the space to be creative, to write, to come out of my sense of being overwhelmed.
At the same time, it’s nice to curl up under the covers at night. I sleep soundly. I don’t need to keep an ear open for unforeseen threats. I have heat, running water, and most of the time the internet allows me access to all of you. There is “escape” in music, and tv, and internet chats and games. I’m not starving for anything.
When I truly have nothing, when my life is at risk, when I am shaken to my core I find it easy to be grateful for any small refuge. A kind word, a warm blanket, keeping down a bite of food can all seem like the most amazing grace. Refuge doesn’t have to solve a problem. It just allows a little break. Why is that so hard?
Yesterday was one of those days when I needed to give myself points just for getting dressed. I meant to post a blog. I had started one about a weekend worth of celebrations. I had started one about the immigration ban. I had started one about Imbolc and the winter thaw. I just couldn’t manage to bring any of those topics into a coherent, cohesive whole.
I needed an ostrich day. A day to curl up and put my head in the sand. A day to pretend the world didn’t matter. I didn’t talk to friends. I didn’t get to my “to do” list. I stuck my head in a book, turned on Netflix, and played games on the computer.
We all need an occasional day like that. Right now there are many people who are practicing civil disobedience. There are many people who are truly threatened by the political climate. There are many who are suffering cognitive dissonance working to convince themselves that what they see, what they say, means something else. My Facebook feed is full of posts saying “maybe I should take a break from Facebook”
Sometimes we need to just take the time and space to actually feel our feelings. There can be so much going on in our lives that our emotions become a jumble and we don’t know where we stand or what we think. Allowing ourselves a moment to come back to our own center, without being battered about by our circumstances, can recharge us. Taking time can allows us to be more effective in the world.
Unfortunately, sometimes those ostrich days make me feel worse rather than better. It’s too easy to get into the cycle of self blame and guilt. It’s easy to start thinking of all “better” ways to have used the time. We live in a culture that has no patience for this kind of “time out”, and we carry that culture with us into our “time out” space.
It’s my Daily Practice that gets me through. I get dressed. Then, since I’m dressed I might throw in a load of laundry or run out to the mailbox. I make my bed. Then, since I really appreciate having the bed made I might tidy up someplace else in the house. I do my language lesson. Then, since I really do want a vacation, I might balance the checkbook or pack a bag or make a fun meal or even just tend to my seasonal spaces.
Doing the small Daily Practices I know I’m not lost in a hole. I am not entirely overwhelmed. I’m just taking some time out. Doing the Daily Practices I have a springboard to reconnect, to move forward. Doing the Daily Practices I am reminded to have compassion for myself. I am reminded to appreciate what I do, and accept that I can not accomplish everything.
Daily Practice becomes a kindness to myself. Doing Daily Practice is a magical act of transformation. It’s not always apparent that Daily Practice is doing anything. (That’s one of the reason “Daily Practice Sucks”) But ultimately we practice so that when we need something to be easy, when we don’t have the time or energy, when we are looking for a lifeline we have the Daily Practice to lean on.
It’s been a very busy week in the country. Goodbye to our first black first family. Hello to a new president followed by the largest protest ever launched in America. In fact, protesting our new president and his anti-women, anti-civil rights agenda was a world wide event.
At times like these it can seem easier to just put your head in the sand. To turn off, tune out and escape the madness that surrounds us. Unfortunately, that kind of escapism historically leads to even worse problems, even more oppression. There’s a reason the poem is popular:
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
Still, even the most dedicated activists need a little break. So we turn on the TV, we read a book, we go to the movies, or the theater Time out can be mindless, but it can also be mind expanding. Star Trek aired the first interracial kiss, Will and Grace increased awareness and acceptance of the gay community. Hamilton not only educates us on our history but examplifies colorblind casting and the actual immigrant experience that has made America what it is today. Many people had never heard of Turing until The Imitation Game. Even fewer were aware of the women – human computers – who helped put our men in space.
I got to see Hidden Figures this weekend. What a remarkable piece of American history – good and bad. This movie demonstrates some of the underlying complaints I hear about everything that happened this weekend. This “separate and not anywhere near equal” is the America our president things was great. This white feminism has no room for black women becomes blatantly apparent in historical context. That “keep your head down and don’t cause trouble” doesn’t create change that needs to happen is obvious in hindsight.
Uppity women, demanding a place at the table, demanding to be heard plays better with a good screen writer. But those women are still out there in our workplaces. Angry black women may not have to find a colored bathroom, but that doesn’t mean they are welcomed when they come in, they’re almost as scary as transgendered women! The education disparity continues to be enormous, resources available to white children are just “not in the budget” for children of color. Is it any wonder resourceful kids will do anything to get ahead of the game?
This year I’m seeing a lot of reading challenges. Lists to encourage people to use their escape time to expand their point of view. So I’m also taking on a challenge. I’m back reviewing books on lisaspiralreads. There are already 50 book reviews there, and I’m challenging myself to review another 50 this year. I’m trying to tag and categorize to fit the reading challenge requirements I’ve been seeing. Check it out!
Hope you use your escape wisely!
Today is a national day of recognition for the civil rights movement. Here are some, perhaps less familiar excerpts from great speakers about civil rights:
But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation.
It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. 1963 is not an end, but a beginning.
There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, “When will you be satisfied?” We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating for whites only. We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream
From: Martin Luther King – I have a dream
In the white community, the path to a more perfect union means acknowledging that what ails the African-American community does not just exist in the minds of black people; that the legacy of discrimination – and current incidents of discrimination, while less overt than in the past – are real and must be addressed. Not just with words, but with deeds – by investing in our schools and our communities; by enforcing our civil rights laws and ensuring fairness in our criminal justice system; by providing this generation with ladders of opportunity that were unavailable for previous generations. It requires all Americans to realize that your dreams do not have to come at the expense of my dreams; that investing in the health, welfare, and education of black and brown and white children will ultimately help all of America prosper.
“Not this time.” This time we want to talk about the crumbling schools that are stealing the future of black children and white children and Asian children and Hispanic children and Native American children. This time we want to reject the cynicism that tells us that these kids can’t learn; that those kids who don’t look like us are somebody else’s problem. The children of America are not those kids, they are our kids, and we will not let them fall behind in a 21st century economy. Not this time.
This time we want to talk about how the lines in the Emergency Room are filled with whites and blacks and Hispanics who do not have health care; who don’t have the power on their own to overcome the special interests in Washington, but who can take them on if we do it together.
This time we want to talk about the shuttered mills that once provided a decent life for men and women of every race, and the homes for sale that once belonged to Americans from every religion, every region, every walk of life. This time we want to talk about the fact that the real problem is not that someone who doesn’t look like you might take your job; it’s that the corporation you work for will ship it overseas for nothing more than a profit.
This time we want to talk about the men and women of every color and creed who serve together, and fight together, and bleed together under the same proud flag. We want to talk about how to bring them home from a war that never should’ve been authorized and never should’ve been waged, and we want to talk about how we’ll show our patriotism by caring for them, and their families, and giving them the benefits they have earned.
From: Barack Obama – A More Perfect Union
My car was due for an oil change. Overdue technically, but not by much. I have always been diligent about the oil change maintenance.
Thing is, technology is changed. When I first bought the car, the first time I took it in for an oil change I was told the rules are different. With new systems and synthetic oils instead of 3 months/3,000 miles it is annually or 10,000 miles. I can’t keep track of that!
But now I’m driving for Uber and Lyft and racking up the miles on my car. It seems like I’m back at about 3 months. Maybe that’s just my perception. Maybe I’m reaching for the familiar. In any case I took the car in for routine maintenance.
Which of course got me thinking about maintenance. In my home there are places that I’m pretty good about doing routine things: laundry, dishes, paying the bills. There are things that are beyond me (My kitchen cupboards are empty, but still almost a year later falling off the walls. Don’t talk to me about banks!) There are a lot of things that fall in between (like cleaning the oven and scrubbing the floors).
I thought about the blog I wrote last week, and reconnecting with friends. Relationships require a certain amount of maintenance as well. I’m not great about keeping in touch. I’m less likely to make a call just to say hi. On the other hand I’m likely to show up in an emergency or send a hand written note in a get well card. Different skills sets I suppose.
Then I thought about general health maintenance. The annual physicals got crammed in between Thanksgiving and New Years. The letters keep coming from the insurance companies about which of my prescriptions they’ve decided not to cover. I’m still doing allergy shots. I do have some long term maintenance things here. Mammograms and colonoscopies are not even annual events any more. The rules change.
I come back to daily practice. When I’m doing daily practice maintenance seems to get done, both on the long and short term. When I let daily practice slide, everything seems to go downhill along with it. When the rules change sometimes the daily practice needs to change, but that’s different from letting it go altogether.
Life happens. Entropy happens. Maintenance is necessary and unavoidable. So I work on keeping up the calendar and consulting it daily. I work on tucking in a small home maintenance job daily. I juggle my appointments and phone calls and try to be available for my friends.
I also remember that the alternative to maintenance is crisis. I don’t need that. Maintaining to avoid it is worth a little gratitude. Maybe a daily practice worth.
I don’t make New Year’s resolutions for a lot of reasons. The biggest is that I don’t keep them, so why make them. Not that I object to having goals and dreams, but that success builds on success.
I’m much happier with big dreams and small achievable goals than with the notion of creating a resolution for change at a time of year when I’m already reeling. I find it difficult to start something new at the same time that I’m trying to re-coop – (physically and financially) from the holiday hoopla.
This particular year, this particular “cultural transition” from 2016 to 2017 has been filled with a lot of public angst. The notion that 2016 was “so bad” that 2017 “has to be better”. I’ve always been reluctant to tempt fate that way.
There’s a lot of fear going into 2017. I’ve written about a shift in tone in human interactions. I’ve talked about the disenfranchised who feel particularly targeted and threatened by the new political climate. I’ve got personal fears as well, with aging parents and tightening purse strings. My “safety nets” are not what they used to be.
Sometimes I think I talk because I need to hear what I am saying. I talk (and write) a lot about practicing gratitude to fight depression. Fortunately I got to spend New Years Eve with some lovely people who chose to apply that practice.
It was an event designed to set the tone for 2017. The dinner guests were chosen specifically to suit our host’s preferences. No one was there “just because”. The decor was elegant, the food abundant, exotic, and heart warmingly delicious, and the atmosphere both festive and a little nostalgic. There was warmth and laughter and acceptance and I was grateful to be included.
When the champagne was poured we went around the table and each had to talk about something wonderful that happened for them in 2016. There were several people who had milestone moments that they could point to. A few of the guests spoke of unexpected opportunities that had become available to them. Clearly, Facebook memes aside, not everyone had a horrible year.
I didn’t have a “horrible” year either, but I did have a really difficult time finding something to be grateful for. Then I stopped going over the events of the year that I recalled (most of which were attached in some way to a funeral) and looked at the room.
I got to have a night out. I got to have a few days without Orion in tow. I got to have a beautiful fancy dinner that I didn’t have to pay for. I got to have an opportunity to dig up the dress-up clothes. I got to reconnect with a friend (our host) and acknowledge that connection with hope to deepen our relationship in the future. I got to have fun. I got to be in the room.
Then I looked back at the year at all the other friends I’ve connected with. I looked at the new friendships I’ve worked at strengthening. I looked at all the “rooms” where I’ve had the privilege of being included. There have been a lot. Even those funerals provided opportunities for me to reconnect.
This is what I’m grateful for and what I hope to find more of in 2017. Connection.
Happy New Year!
It’s cold and it’s dark. Thanksgiving was late, so it feels like the other holidays are coming early. I’m having a hard time getting into the holiday spirit – for any of the holidays. Yule is fast approaching. The winter solstice, the longest night of the year, is this week. All I want to do is crawl under the covers.
Maybe it’s the politics. Maybe it’s the news stories. Maybe it’s just a general sense that certain people feel like they now have permission to be rude, racist, misogynistic and all together nasty. It definitely feels like the longest night.
The thing is, most of the winter holidays are celebrations of hope. They are a coming together of families, of communities. Many of them are directly linked to survival, either as an acknowledgement of the ancestors surviving or as a sacred working towards surviving the rest of the winter.
Both Hanukkah and Kwanzaa celebrate the faith, perseverance and fortitude of ancestors in the face of insurmountable odds. Even the Christmas story has Mary and Joseph finding shelter where there was none to be had. If our ancestors beat the odds, so can we. We have their support, their example, and when our own faith wains we can lean on theirs.
The Islamic calendar is lunar, without some of the “corrections” in the Jewish calendar that keep festivals seasonal. Currently Muslims are also celebrating the birth of the prophet, not Jesus but Mohammad. Along with the longest night comes the birth of the sun. In Christianity the savior is born. There is hope in the metaphor of birth. There is potential for something better to come along. There is a new way of approaching the world being born.
During the longest night people came together to share stories. Like Hans Christian Anderson’s the Little Match Girl they create visions of the futures they wanted to see. Dreams of sugarplums dance in their heads. They’re visited by ghosts, ancestors, departed friends, spirits with teaching visions. Hearth fires are tended, and gifts are exchanged.
In O. Henry’s The Gift of the Magi it is the wise (or foolish) sacrifice that is a gift of love. Yet some of the pressure of our season is that consumer culture that measures how much or how many above how thoughtful, how generous. Finding the “right” gifts, or making them, is often how I come to the spirit of this season. And again, this year that has been more difficult.
I’m finding more seasonal joy in sharing a protein bar with a homeless man on the street corner than in exchanging packages. I’m finding more seasonal joy in being able to encourage a teen I’m driving to school than in writing a holiday letter. I had more fun shopping for my women’s group ritual (where the presents represented themes rather than being for specific people) than I had baking for the family.
I’m hoping for the hope. I’m leaning heavily on tradition to see me through. I’m going through the motions, believing that movement brings movement. I am reminded of being 9 months pregnant, miserable, impatient and not really knowing what the future would bring.
Let the bells ring out. May joy and peace be shared with all. May love and kindness fill the world and vanquish cruelty and hatred. May you all have a blessed holiday season.
Previous blogs about Yuletide:
This has been a season of celebrations. Mine kicked off back in October with my sister’s wedding. I feel like I’ve been running to catch up ever since.
For many people the holiday season starts with Thanksgiving. What made ours special this year was that my daughter officially took over the cooking. I haven’t made a Thanksgiving meal at Thanksgiving for years. I learned back in my 20’s that it didn’t matter what I did, my mother was going to do it too, “just in case I didn’t make enough” or because she wasn’t sure I would make “hers”. So over the years I’ve made “harvest meals”, usually in September and October, that look a lot like Thanksgiving.
Karina put her foot down. If Grandma wasn’t going to cook then Grandma wasn’t allowed to cook. Now that she’s in her 80’s that was a little easier for my Mom to agree. Karina also recognized my Mom’s need to make a contribution so she raided Mom’s pantry for ingredients and asked them to bring a couple of loaves of Dad’s bread. The meal was a hit. Everyone took home lots of leftovers. Everyone also agreed that the portions my Mom used were probably triple what the current crowd needs. Maybe next year we can cut back on how much food. (To put this into perspective Karina already cut the appetizers and deserts down to about 1/3 of what they used to be. But then several people brought deserts they’d been gifted so the quantity of sweets available was not actually diminished.)
I’ve started filling my calendar with dates for holiday parties. I’ve sent Orion off on his Weekend Venture with Reach for Resources. (He had to come home early and there was a late night in the ER. He’s fine, but my “weekend off” did not feel like a break.) There are dinner and lunch dates to catch up with friends. There’s a lot of hustle bustle that goes with the season.
Even the “Celebration of Life” event that I attended had a holiday atmosphere. One of my childhood friend’s mother died at 90. A good, full life and a testament to family ties goes a long way towards making a somber occasion a bit more festive. As is often the case, weddings and funerals become a setting to “catch up” with people you wouldn’t otherwise see. There were plenty of stories about “back in the day”.
The best celebration (at least so far) was curling up on my daughter’s couch for the Gilmore Girls marathon. We couldn’t watch on the day Netflix released the new episodes, so we planned a date. The series was an important touchstone for us during her teen years.
It gave us common ground. It opened the door for conversations about difficult topics. There was a lot of “if you ever do that” or “please react like this and not like that”. Karina made dinner. We opened a bottle of wine. There were brownies. It was a long evening, but very lovely and special.
What kinds of celebrations do you hold dear in this season?
Gratitude is difficult when the world seems to be falling down around our heads. It is difficult to find gratitude in crisis. It is difficult to find gratitude when we feel threatened. It is difficult to find gratitude under stress. But it is especially during these challenges when we need gratitude the most.
Practicing gratitude is uplifting. Even seeing people who seem to have less than we do being grateful can be inspiring. Knowing what we have to be grateful for is like finding a lifeline in a troubled sea. When we most need something to hang on to, an active practice of gratitude gives us just that.
Thanksgiving is a highly charged holiday. There are the family dynamics. Mixed families, blended families, new relationships create conflict over who gets to be with who when. There is finding table talk that doesn’t push buttons, make judgements, and generate huge arguments. There is the food both, expectations and execution, and issues of tradition versus lifestyle.
Thanksgiving is also highly charged politically. Not just with the family table, but the actual nature of the holiday itself. What we celebrate is the coming together of the European settlers and the Native Americans. The reality of that relationship is not nearly as peaceful or generous. Even now at Standing Rock Native Americans on their land with their supporters are being treated in ways that have the United Nations, the ACLU, and Amnesty International making statements against our government’s actions.
I am reminded again about the power of gratitude, and so I write reminding you. Let’s all take a moment, many moments, this week and dig deep into the things we do have to be grateful for.
I am grateful for all the people who work peacefully and diligently to preserve my civil rights, my breathable air, and my drinkable water.
I am grateful for all the people who work to ensure I have good, healthy food available to me especially all winter long.
I am grateful for all the people who are actively kind to others, who help those in need, who work with populations (in prisons, the mentally ill, impoverished families etc.) that I am not equipped to help.
I am grateful for the small opportunities I have to do my part to bring kindness, and caring, and loving support into the world.
I am grateful for the support I receive (from family, friends and strangers) just to be able to function in this world.
I am grateful to have a platform and readers who support my work. – Thank you!
What are you grateful for?
There is a movement suggesting that people who are willing to be supportive of blacks, hispanics, LGBTQ, women and other communities being targeted by Trump inspired racists wear a safety pin to indicate that they hold a safe space.
There is a backlash from those communities. There is anger that privileged whites think that just wearing the safety pin IS supportive. It’s too little, too late. Wearing a safety pin indicates intention, which frankly doesn’t count. There are plenty of “well-intentioned” people who are happy to “mansplain” away the concerns of these threatened populations. There are plenty of “well-intentioned” people who are sure they have the “solution”. There are plenty of “well-intentioned” people who wonder why we can’t all just get along.
There is also a backlash from the racists (who resent being called racists because they feel that they are entitled to define what that term means – and it can’t be them because they are “good people”). There is an “If you’re not with me you are against me” mentality. There is harassment, from a meme being generated that that safety pin is a diaper pin and we’re all crying babies to actual physical confrontations.
I know people in all of these communities and I hear them. Because I hear them I recognize that I can’t just “join the bandwagon” I need to make an active choice. If I choose to wear the pin what does that mean? If I choose not to wear the pin what does that mean?
I choose to wear the pin. Here’s what it comes down to for me:
- Wearing the pin is a visible identification of some kind of support. For a community that often feels very isolated just seeing someone making that small an effort can make a difference.
- Wearing the pin does not entitle me to anything. It doesn’t entitle me to respect from these communities. It doesn’t instantly bestow understanding. It doesn’t in itself create the “safe space” it’s meant to indicate.
- Wearing the pin means I have an obligation to open my eyes and increase both my awareness and willingness to intervene. That means more than filming an arrest or calling someone out on foul language. That means being aware of the clerk keeping an eagle eye on the black woman in the store with me. That means being aware of the cashier happy to chat with me after demanding identification from the hispanic man in front of me. That means being aware of the stink eye look being given to the gay couple in the restaurant. That means being willing to share a seat on the bus with a homeless man. That means knowing when to shut my mouth and when to open it.
- Wearing the pin means I am willing to be a target. It means I am willing to be a target from the communities that I want to support. A safe space means a safe space for them to vent their anger, frustration and fear. A safe space means I may be “harassed” for being a white woman who thinks wearing a pin is enough. A safe space for the people being targeted means that I may be exposed to feelings that are unpleasant, uncomfortable and I may not feel safe. Too bad for me.
- Wearing the pin means I am willing to be a target for the racist backlash. I will be perceived as being part of the communities they threaten: the disabled, those with racial differences, those with non binary gender identities etc. I will be putting myself in the position of being willing to accept some of the harassment those groups experience every day.
- Wearing the pin means wearing the pin. It is privilege to chose to wear the pin or not. The people in these groups do not have that choice. They can’t take off their race, their self identity, their handicaps. They can’t not be targets. Ultimately that is why I must be a target as well. I must wear the pin.