Author Archive for Adrienne

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

attention liberation, attention reparations

attention is one of our most valuable resources.

in your own life, attention is what determines the quality of your lived experience. if your attention stays on what’s wrong, on your powerlessness and pain, you can become identified with a victimized, power under narrative, and that will grow.

if your attention is instead on gratitude, collective power, experimentation, curiosity and celebration, these things will grow in your life. brené brown and oprah and ava and all the manifestors know this.

to be able to pick your attention up from the main stream of crisis and commercials (and other competitions for your money), and to put your attention where you want and need it, is something i’m starting to think of as attention liberation.

with this administration it’s clearer than ever that there are many forces who benefit from keeping our attention on a reactive string, puppeting us through fairly predictable responses that usually don’t change underlying conditions or power dynamics. we listen to stories that leave us feeling furious and helpless, and we get engaged in our prescribed response (lately it’s usually a hashtagged post about how messed up the story is from every possible angle) – until the next time our attention is directed, to the next scandal or controversy.

but we can train our attention, train ourselves to pick our attention up and place it where we want it, where we need it to be. i do this with meditation, learned from various teachers and through generative somatics.

i meditate by focusing on my breath for 10-30 minutes daily. when i forget to practice, i quickly become reactive. i start to scroll the news obsessively, feeling my powerlessness and hypocrisy more than anything else.

when i meditate daily, when i intentionally liberate my attention, i find i have enough focus to make healthier life choices, feel my agency, and to do work that has a longer, deeper arc of transformation.

it’s not that i ignore the news. i dose myself with current events in the news cycle – i’m still learning to balance and measure how much is useful and when it becomes a distraction or a trap. i accept mainstream news as fairly cyclical, generally overwhelming…and as another way that money moves. there’s a ton of waste information, useless filler. the things we should know about are declawed, pitched for greatest affect, or told to us in a way that makes us scared, vulnerable to the suggestions and sales of others.

and there’s a compulsive and hyperbolic liar in the highest office of this land.

so i scan for what i believe and what i can impact. i take the impactful action as soon as i can – make the donation, spread the word, sign the petition, etc. if there’s not more i can do, i get back to my work, work i deeply believe is my calling.

i don’t want to spend my life reacting to other people’s cycles, their mistakes, lies, or ignorant projections, or the domination cycles of those who measure their humanity in false supremacy. those things will continue. but what we pay attention to grows. so i pay attention to the places we as a species are learning, changing, getting free, experiencing pleasure and joy.

my life feels so different when i liberate my attention that it almost feels like the universe is gifting me attention reparations. instead of being frozen by hopelessness and fear for my species, which is often my reaction to the news, i experience a lot of days where i’m full of awe, laughter, work that induces pride, noticing the small and massive miracles that are part of each day.

it’s taken a long time to train my attention even a bit, and i’m still super beginner level with it. but the results in my daily life are already so powerful. i feel somewhere between productive and prolific on the days i wake up and set my mind on freedom.

i want to see people with a transformational world view be as productive and prolific as possible. it’s a ways off yet, but i imagine it all the time, that we burst the shell of the old world with our vibrant, biodiverse, generative resistance in the form of willful, manifested ideological evolutions.

let us put our attention on a revolution for our species, and grow it until we earn the miracle.

tomorrow is the new moon

what we seed in the dark grows
the darkness is so powerful that whiteness tried to turn the world against it
but the darkness remains
the darkness grows everything you love
and when everything dies
it returns to the delicious dark
the wet and waiting earth
who only operates in miracle
nothing is broken inside the darkness
everything is becoming life
longing for life
reaching up from a molten heart
full of belonging
on the edge of flight
so driven
the darkness knows no separation
memory is dream is a thrill in the flesh

i race towards the poem
that i alone can hear
and in answering the call
i remember i am nothing alone, nothing.

surrendering to the truth
frees me, leaves me whole
i overflow with a thundering joy
that only darkness can hold
.

what do you need? what does our species need? write it down, everything, and show it to the dark, whisper it to the dark. fold it and plant it under your bed. in the dark.

love love love

i believe we are living on the precipice of the next phase of our species. and i’m with such good people, people who cry hard and laugh harder. and do one to move through the other, rolling across the full emotional span in epic waves. we feel what’s gaping and yawning underneath both of those releases, that scale of lovegrief that can’t be captured in any words i know…we let it be in our eyes, at our core.

the more i learn/remember how to feel, the more in love i fall with the particular aliveness that only sparks between us. that met longing felt when the interior world unfolding in me comes to a border and longs to be porous, expansive, vast, one, multitudes. this opening, these moments, this work, this makes a viable future possible.

today i remembered a song i was taught over a decade ago:

“oh i say thank you
oh i say thank you
oh great spirits
in this way
i long to give my life to you
in love and devotion
in love and devotion”
(this was taught to me as a gwitch’in song from haida gwaii)

even now, especially now, with a mask over my mouth and a storm at my back, i am learning what i must realize in myself, what i must defend and protect, what i must cultivate in the face of fear and death and supremacy: love, love, love.

beautiful horrors

i wake to a blushing sky
a burnt orange sky
heavy and too soft, too close
lovely and thick with particles
of trees and houses
ashes
of strangers who loved rolling hills
barrels of grape becoming wine
watching cows graze, waiting on sunsets
building family in a bit of space
who didn’t or couldn’t leave
when the fire arrived, hungry and indiscriminate

we live in an age of beautiful horrors
horrible beauties
whatever – the golden age of global warming
it’s a balmy apocalypse
gorgeous bare days in what should be fall
the leaves turn slowly, confused
storms spiral in waves across the sea
roar around eyes deep black
in the solid swirl of winds that
lift roofs and split walls

i want to surrender to the greater wisdom here
to the great cleansing
to the flames and the salt,
to the water that piles down from the sky
to know that it’s the next change,
what is
and what will be
but how can i swallow this bitter sense
that the hurt lands on those already hurting
but how can i trust this beautiful face
with its charred breath
its calm eyes in the heart of epic death
but how can i trust this chaos
shape it to move with us towards freedom
but how can i take a step forward
without that trust?

this is the way i wake up
don my mask for the day
walk into the end times
to find my beloveds
to go forward into the unknown
again
together

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missing grace: year 2

Thursday, October 5:

my friend Rye Young wrote a lovely, honest post this morning on working towards liberation, even if we won’t see it in our lifetimes. it sparked thoughts in me: lately, I don’t feel like liberation is a place, or some perfect state, some utopia. I feel it, it’s an interior knowing, supported by material conditions we cocreate. so…I see/feel liberation every day (eh most days) just at a small scale. personal. in a group, in a moment, in a movement. breakthroughs. liberation is everywhere, but it’s turned down by the hands of oppression. I’m trying to grow it, to turn it up, every day, inside my own life and others’ lives. we are the fire, we are the wave. ??

Friday, October 6:

yesterday marked two years since grace became ancestor.

i’ve been reflecting on how she redirected conversations when she wasn’t interested in the topic, how she demanded songs, and intellectual rigor.

i’ve considered many times that she wouldn’t have really read or liked the book…but who knows?

i miss how she remembered and asked about people’s lives, about my sisters and nibblings. how sweet and engaging she was with my parents. she was decades beyond us but never too good to hear our small trials and celebrations. i miss her smile when she liked what she could hear.

because of grace i value questions and iteration, and singular moments of transformation as the atomic space of collective transformation.

last night with the full moon i worked to shed any boundaries between myself and detroit, any lingering sense of not belonging. to let the place use my voice and my work to tell her story. detroit is the mecca of Emergent Strategy, among so many other incredible things. thank you grace for being one of the voices that called me home, showed me home.

enough moments of love

when she becomes stone in my arms
i know that she is asleep

when he makes the room dance in his skin
i taste his sweet aliveness

when she appears to be made of smiling wax
i feel how she has left this earth

when he throws wrapped paper at the people
i see that he is a curse walking

when they slowly unbutton their shirt
i blush – the future is flirting with me

when her mouth drops because of this government
i suspect she is a true capitalist

when he says women only ever wanted authority
i wonder if men can know freedom

when they say ‘please call me this please’
i trust that they’ve thought through my questions

when she says to me hello how are you?!!
i am her child again, always

when he calls me i drop the world and answer
i’ve lost enough moments of love

when she whispers to me with her mouth just so
i forget there is time space between us

when i look in the mirror and pause
i see no shadow in my eyes