Monthly Archive for November, 2017

boom we gotta podcast (we meaning all of us)

dear reader,

last week my sister autumn and i launched the pilot season of our podcast How to Survive the End of the World.

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you can subscribe wherever you listen to podcasts.

and we’re on facebook, instagram and twitter.

for this pilot season we’re in a lot of questions. there’s so much we want to tackle, but first we want to just let y’all get a sense of who we are, what we do, how we think. we have one interview this season, and are starting to organize future interviews that are organic and of interest to us to intersperse with our conversations.

in our sister life we talk a lot about beginnings and endings, about survival and science fiction, love, grief, transformation, movement facilitation, passion, writing – everything. the podcast is mostly to open these conversations up to others who we think are interested in this same content.

for this first set of episodes, we are just learning everything – how to record without picking up all the sounds in the universe, pace, how our voices sound alike and different, our verbal tics, our rhythm with each other, and how our ranging conversations can make sense and be of use to listeners.

we welcome/desire feedback – please let us know what moves you, if we lose you, and what you would like more or less of. please don’t pitch us your work! we’re proud of you, but that’s not how we’re going to generate content. we want listeners, and we want to be shaped by and for and with our listeners…we have a ton of content already lined up.

so grateful to Mahfam Malek for the awesome name, Tunde Olaniran on musical offerings, and very very especially Zak Rosen as our beloved producer. thanks for believing in us and making a podcast even though you were already making a baby this season!

i think that’s all for now, xoxo.

ps. shout out to our sister April! she is excited about this podcast too.

outgrowing patriarchy (tarot spread)

some of you know about #resistancetarot, #movementtarot – each day since the 2016 election i have consulted the tarot to ask the universe for guidance for our movements for justice for people and the planet. i post these on instagram. on saturdays i do a past/present/future spread on the week we just survived and the one to come. on sundays i do a relationship spread to explore our interactions with various experiences or systems – trauma, funding, etc.

this came through yesterday and i want to lift it up.

soundtrack, Roxette’s classic Listen to Your Heart, and Björk’s stunning new album Utopia (she read Octavia as research for it!! #swoon)

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#sundayspread on the relationship between movements and (outgrowing) patriarchy. patriarchy is dying as a system, fighting for air where no more can be offered. so what do movements that include men, masculine of center people, and others shaped in reaction to/defense from patriarchy do/be now?

we bring the energy of the queen of swords: “reinvention. here we are being asked to renounce old roles. we can get stuck in certain modes of performance, thinking that this is the only way we can exist, be loved, nurtured or accepted. we are being asked to grow out of these roles and find the truth of who we really are.”

ooh.

the work of outgrowing patriarchy (nothing just disappears, it must transform) is queen of cups work: “openness, transparent emotions, authenticity. in a hard world it can be more than difficult to remain tender. go the distance in your emotional being and pull out the gems through your own tenderness. remain open to others, in spite of any trauma.”

oof.

the composite energy is the star. “divine clarity. it takes time for ideas and wisdom to crystallize within us, but when they do, the clarity shines down like a northern star, guiding us and inspiring us.”

true.

the next step is in the realm of the lovers. “communication, awakening through bond. two wolves howl at the sky. they bring each other to higher levels of consciousness. but in order to find union, they first must be confident on their own. this card asks us to find our own voice, love ourselves. mantra: I work on myself in love.”

well damn. unexpected deep read. from serpentfire tarot deck.

first the unbearable (learning of Egypt)

i hear the condolences first
read the written word, the name, the place
someone is sending love, with rage,
with shock, with tears, with analysis
with their people
with all people
and i go looking for the fresh wound

i want to not know
to not step from here, without this pain
to the next moment, marked by blood
looking past the flayed horizon
whispering no. no not this many no.

the numbers grow on my tongue
i say them to no one
i read the news to whomever is near
even if they have read
or are reading it
i want to lend my voice
to the spell of awakening
to make every head turn
look, look what we’ve done
look what we have not undone
what we have allowed and encouraged
what we have invested in
what we forget, what we remember
look who we are now
look who we still are

i want to change the story being written
the history still warm and wet on our fingers
i want to focus on the intimate heartbreak of violation
what stole my smile, my childish peace
boorish men, the mountain of offense
we have all burrowed through
the memories we walk with, and the terrors
navigating legacies of genocide and erasure

i know all of the harm intertwines at the root
i know the medicine has to go deeper down
to the core of existence
to the cord between us and god
to the faultlines between us
that make us think: i can be without you

but first, the unspeakable
the unimaginable, the unbearable
we have created hell with our boredom
we birthed hierarchy, greed, and the foolish need for victory, for righteousness
it is killing us
it is killing everything
eating us up from within
the detonation of cancer in a living body
the cancer of violence in a living world

some days i am nothing more than a prayer
a vessel of tears being emptied
stunned by my own insignificance,
our inability to stand in the way of our demons
the brightest truth about us

some days i have to focus on one story
out of the hundreds of deaths,
one person telling god everything
feeling the sacred flood all of their senses
planning the next meal’s portions
and what to say to their sweet and distant lover
one person remembering they are enough
one person smiling as they gather themselves
for the world outside
enjoying the mundane pleasure of bodies
all around
in and of faith, wearing faith, speaking faith

the doors will open
the violence will burst in
so sure of itself, so wrong
i will learn your name in your absence
perhaps i cannot fathom
the entirety of gore
the scale of destruction we have committed to
but you, stranger of faith
comrade in the act of prayer
beloved to your God, your mother, your son
you i will grieve for
you i will grieve
for all the time and sea between us
i feel the shock of losing you
it is a devastation
i would have loved you
but my species
we are terrified of love.

holiday how to

be kind. speak from the heart.
be principled.
look back through time to the wound, and forward to the medicine.
ask curious questions when you feel an assumption coming.
listen to the answers with a soft face.
only interrupt ignorance.
stay connected, stay wide.
look for the best, and invite it to be brighter.
be an irresistible invitation to the future.

choose your own adventure: an affirmation

i learn experientially.

i often feel slow, behind the clarity, behind the certainty that others have. my questions focus on things i feel, things happening under the surface. sometimes that’s all i can feel, and the more overt reality has to be pointed out to me.

i also often feel clear, out ahead in a mysterious fog or body of water, afloat, gently feeling my way forward and then calling back, ‘this way, this way is new’…not safe, but not what we’ve already done.

sometimes i feel immense belonging, an interconnectedness so profound that i know everything, i just know.

other times i feel overwhelmingly alone – lonely, or, more and more often, at peace in the solitude and mystery; a star that cannot feel the constellation i’ve been clustered into, just the darkness.

joy is possible in each place, and in the transitions.

i’m learning that because i learn experientially, i have to be so intentional. i have to move towards experiences that keep growing me up, that challenge me and demand my authentic self. and can meet my authentic self when i show up.

there’s so much of the storyline of my life and grief that i don’t get to choose. i do get to make decisions along the way. i get to think for myself…it’s important that i keep doing so, keep feeling for myself.

i get to determine how much i will let others see and feel me in real time. i know now that i see good in people, and in moments, brighter than anything else. i am learning to listen and feel beyond what i can see, to believe the shadows as much as the light. i am learning that i don’t get to determine what others think about themselves, or about me.

i take the actions, build the relationships, hold the boundaries and shape the life that keeps me in right relationship with myself.

lately things keep happening in my life that are so deep, so true and so good that i can’t believe it. not perfect. not tidy. but absolutely mine, my lessons, my good news, my adventure.

i am accepting responsibility for what i’ve been given. i am accepting the blessing of the time i have left. i know this life is precious.

channeling

it takes so much rain to feed the potential fecundity of our home, to meet it in the earth and promise it the sky.

so if you need to cry, water yourself, water us.

love is profound, it is the reason we risk the grief and heartache and confusion and loneliness. soon those who cannot feel will become irrelevant, for we are awakening to the places beyond logic, beyond the histories we’ve been sold, our strategies imbued with witchcraft and longing, our structures surrendering to what our bodies and hearts know about belonging.

even when we win in this new-tired paradigm we know it is the step and not the destination. this is all, the learning, the loss, grief and the realization it’s all part of love – even if it’s always yearning.

can’t you feel it? somewhere in your lineage is peace, pleasure, dance, love. is justice, is freedom, is how to be on this planet, is love. it might be behind or ahead of you, but there is a lesson we need that only you can touch.

death too is a flow, even if it goes where we cannot see. but you, reading this, you are not dead yet. you are here with a million choices.

i choose pleasure and liberation.

you?

that one time in Chicago

how to respond to an invitation from the Obamas

when i was invited i thought it was spam or a mistake. then very coherent emails keep following up.

i looked on the internet and yes, it was true, the Obama Foundation was having a summit on those dates in chicago. i didn’t really have time to go.

but. well. geez.

as y’all may remember, i identify as an American revolutionary who endorsed Obama, twerked on a cop car the night he won, critiqued him with my work, and eight years later thanked him for taking on the impossible job.

also, Michelle. Malia. Sasha.

i am curious about where they go from here with all that sun-kissed we-survived energy. i am curious about whether emergent strategy can help them, without being coopted.

and i was asked to be on a panel about the role of fiction in social change (Octavia’s Brood) moderated by my college friend Courtney Martin, with NY Times bestselling author Angie Thomas. a chance to plant seeds.

i said yes.

how to dress

day 1 i wore see-through black lace, cream tulle, bright lipstick – femme armor; if you are dazzled, you won’t see that i’m shaking.

my friend Sally Kohn saved me a seat at the opening event and basically held my hand through the first hour until my outsider anxiety settled. i centered in my analysis and what i care about, and realized i have enough ground to be able to listen with an open heart.

so much happened so quickly – the Obamas were actually there (i know, duh, but still), they set a no selfies rule (grown folks business! as Oprah says, be 1000% present!). there were amazing speeches (my favorites were Heather McGhee and Anand Giridharadas), and people like Thelma Golden and Lena Waithe and Krista Tippett were just walking around.

how to fall for Lena Waithe

yes Lena is that fine in real life. and gracious. the first time we met i was too shy to interact much, though i did thank her for her existence and she did compliment my look (style icon compliment swoon).

the second time, she sat behind me while Michelle was speaking. now, i didn’t know she was sitting behind me, just that whoever was right behind me was all up in my ear saying “mmhmm, yes, that’s right, preach” at all the same times as i was, and thus we were kindred. so when i turned around and saw that it was Lena, i just hugged her (cue Insecure-style vision of our great love). she smells so right, and deserves this full paragraph of adoration.

how to gala

on the first night there was a big gala style dinner with assigned tables. we all went over there in buses, and it really was like, buses of excellence.

the biggest impression i was left with from the entire summit was that there are so many people who are solution oriented and sane, divergent but in conversation with each other, brilliant people focused on the future. and i have to take Octavia’s lesson (everyone is a potential ally) seriously and understand these brilliant people as potential allies in the work i am passionate about.

and everyone, big speaker and participant, was on the bus.

i rolled over with my new friend Candice, who is part of the Harriet Tubman Collective. we got little cards with our table assignments and headed into the museum. my table number was 46, which i assumed meant somewhere near the back.

in fact it was right up front and center. and when i got there there were several other people all looking at the little cards with our names on the table.

adrienne, Ted, Joel, Whitney.
Uzodinma, Ashley, Kirsten, Roberto.
President Obama.

my internal dialogue at this moment was – “whaaaaaaat?
but do they know who i am? who i serve?
but i’m a post-nationalist revolutionary!
how do i best use this moment to grow our work?
but my whole outfit is see-through!”

and then i heard my nibbling Mairead’s voice in my head saying “my fravorite name, Barack Obama”.

we were all surprised and unable to play it cool, so we sat and bonded with each other a bit until everyone was seated and the Obamas arrived in the midst of the black suited security river that flows around them.

President Obama hits the same intersection of charming, handsome, smart and corny as my father – universally appealing (unless you’re racist, which, go heal…or just can’t with presidents, which i respect). he feels familiar. he and Michelle walk with dignity and ease in their bodies. he talks with long, thoughtful pauses and when he smiles it reaches his eyes. his presidency is behind him, and he seems excited about what is ahead of him.

Michelle was one table over, facing me, and i think we caught eyes and had a moment – but i haven’t been wearing my glasses so i can’t swear by it.

a group called the People’s Supper set the tone and i was really moved by Jennifer Bailey, one of the founders of the group, who shared her family story with deep vulnerability from the dinner stage.

we then had facilitated time (good job Whitney!) to share a bit about our names and how we show up in the world. two minutes to tell the president how i show up in the world? i spoke of magic, miracles, writing, facilitation (it felt good to speak the names of Movement for Black Lives, Black Lives Matter at that table) and love.

Obama gave me a big hug at the end, said he saw the love goddess in me. i felt similarly, that i saw in him, and in Michelle, a great love – for each other, for the nation, for our species. we are walking very different paths, but love guides those paths through the impossible. afterwards i felt grateful to be in practices of complexity.

how to cry about TLC in public

the next day i attended a session on design of the foundation and wrote community benefits agreement all over the pages. there’s no reason not to do one and model that as a best practice for development that serves the people.

then i did my panel and the highlight was Angie, a YA writer whose novel The Hate U Give is slaying the NY Times bestseller list. she told a story about her love of 90s foundational group TLC that made us all gasp and concluded with a big reveal. we had to cue Waterfalls before the panel was over. Courtney was a masterful moderator and we had some truly authentic time together.

how to take a selfie with the president

shortly after that i was sitting in on the fantastic Mia Henry’s session and the president came through to listen, and was asked to say a few words before he left. i honestly don’t know that he said much, but that might be because i was busy snapping this abysmal photo.

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i left before the concert, feeling hopeful. i think that was the point.

moon tell me

moon teach me

how to wear the scars without masking
how to be all the time darkness and light
how to follow, to be satisfied with reflection
how to be careful with the tides
graceful, but crafting storms
to be the one who gives, who is held in orbit
teach me how to love the sun
please
please tell me
teach me how
to be seams and pockmarks and…beautiful
to be a portal of longing and connection
to take a month
to open and then to close again

because I am not perfect
I surrender to the light every time
if it’s a flash, I sit dazzled in the darkness
I don’t even know how to wane
teach me
to fill up with ritual
to be so powerful
and so very small