Monthly Archive for December, 2008

things to break your heart

today some things happened that reminded me how breakable the heart is.

on the light end – my parents played a christmas trick on us. we came downstairs and nothing was where it usually is, no stockings, no presents. i know we all said we were scaling back but…to nothing?! then, after we daughters tried to put smiles on our obviously disappointed faces, they surprised us. in the moments of thinking that maybe we’d actually outgrown the christmas thing, i saw that i wasn’t at all ready and might never be.

then we sat around talking about the loved ones who weren’t with us, for a number of reasons, just cherishing them.

at some point today we started having the kind of conversation that i have only ever experienced with family – a conversation where everyone is holding a set of cards, those cards are our life stories…and we all know a bit about everyone else’s hand, but no one knows the whole story. and…one person starts playing their cards, playing the game out. the words are one level of the game – the small talk, or bullshitting part. or deep real conversation part. but then, there’s the eye contact and subterranean tension and body language showing the rest of the game – who’s caught with hard cards to play, who wants out of the game, who’s going to play strategically, who is just playing for fun? and after the conversation ended, all i could think was – emotions are so loud. where there is love and history, emotions can make it hard to think, or speak.

at another moment, i realized (once again) that my parents spent 17 years seeing most of the moments of my life, and a few more seeing the youth of my sisters, and since then we have been flying through in passing – some longer visits, some shorter.

most of my growing up and struggling and drama and Life has happened out of their sight. so i have to explain things, share things that are hard to share, if i want them to understand more who i am now. most topics that come up in this house now – from international politics, to drugs and alcohol, to sex and love, to babies, to welfare and poverty – these are no longer theoretical. life has been writing all over our pages, the ending is changing all the time.

i idealize big parts of my childhood world, but i also realize that my parents did so much to create for us a world of our own, where things were good. and now, things have happened to all of their children that – good or bad – are hard. the human experience leaping off the page, tip-toeing away from fairly tale.

how do children intentionally transition our relationship with parents to show them what was instilled, what remains, how it is manifesting…even if some of those stories could jar their worldview? on the flip side, how do we stop resenting them for all the life they didn’t protect us from? couldn’t stop from happening? put us on the path towards?

and of course, this all comes back around to jesus. my extended family think i have forsaken jesus for california, but i am a huge fan of jesus. we have sense of humor with each other, of all the great spiritual beings out there – he and buddha are my faves. jesus = unlimited fish and wine, kicking it with prostitutes, meditation, spiritual journeys, forgiveness, meekness and martyrdom? i’m all in!

so today i was thinking of jesus as a child, born to save the world by going into it, into the darkest parts. in his father’s image, of his father, but of a world his father could never inhabit. and i was thinking that to some degree, jesus appeals to me because i can see a way in which we are all children with that calling, or at the very least being thrown forward into the dark, reporting back to our parents about the ways that the future is already here, each generation better than the one before, but more complex. and eventually, most people martyr themselves along the way – settling in a world that can’t abide by miracles.

but the universal truth is transformation, the feeling inside that we can be better; whether that motivation is an all-seeing father with a plan, or a higher plane of existence discovered within.

i suspect its hypocritical to hold an ideal around transparency and transformation, and not hold that possibility for my family. or go beyond holding, but intentionally push that ideal within my family, focus on my family as the point where i will see that ideal realized. that is the christmas thinking of an idealist who loves the better part of every faith i’ve ever examined.

the last few minutes of the spurs-suns game was remarkable, heartbreaking for both teams – though one walked away victorious after the kind of drawn out 7 seconds that renews your faith in flight and precision.

eartha kitt died today. the list of living people who blow my mind changes every day.

we watched the dark knight as a family, and its the most thrilling and tragic, morbid experience. watching heath ledger’s spinning, dark, vacuous joker, watching him go into that role so thoroughly that he perhaps never came out of, gives every aspect of the movie an edge that isn’t right, like dipping a body part into the bracing chill of someone else’s suicidal bath.

now i am up too late, again, hoping to sleep in tomorrow – because i can, though it never happens.

and so this is christmas.

christmas: a confession

it’s christmas eve at my parents still-new home in new hampshire, everywhere I look is covered in snow.

I come from a christmas household. I grew up going to church, to midnight candlelight services, singing hymns and carols, decorating a dying tree, shopping at german Kristmasmarts, out in the snow with candied apples and cold noses, amused by the little wooden toys that were all the rage a century ago. I grew up moving in and out of religious experiences, but Christmas was consistent.

My sisters and I would put out cookies for Santa, then all bunk into one room and maintain a state of total anticipatory titillation until we passed out, then we’d wake up at 5am, and one of us – usually me – would sneak out of the room and into the living room to assess what we had gotten from Santa. we weren’t allowed to touch anything till our parents woke up, and the whole thing had to be done in utmost silence, which is a high order for a child. finally we would get the parents up, sit in the early morning dark, drink hot cocoa, open presents.

a high emphasis was put on choosing Really Good Presents – that included cologne for my dad who never wore cologne, soap dishes for my mom, handmade cards, stuff that feels very necessary from a 5-year-old’s perspective. my parents were always completely beside themselves at the high caliber of our presents, they made giving the most fun part of Christmas. after we kids were done opening things, my parents would continue with their presents to each other, trying to one up each other, while we kids sat there patiently, watching them be a couple, instead of just our parents.

then when the gift opening was done and the gratitude expressed, we would relax for a day of having yummy breakfast, playing with new things or watching new movies together, then having a big and wonderful Christmas supper. it was just us – 3, then 4, then 5 of us. we were a military family, so we recreated this same Christmas experience in several places. people would call, send gifts in, but really the focus was on how well we 5 knew each other, and could pick just the right thing.

when my dog was alive, Sugarfoot, she would be trying to pull down the tree, and you know they make stockings full of dog treats, so she was all up in it.

one year, when I was little, I actually saw Santa, and he was very handsome, he looked like the most handsome person I knew then – our neighbor Bob. I was a child, so it was fine to me that he looked just like, but was not, my neighbor…Superman fooled adults with a pair of glasses, right?

As I got older we stopped using live trees, we got an artificial one with lights built in to it. When we snuck out to look, more of the presents from Santa would be wrapped. There were more gift certificates, still really well-chosen. One year, my little sister was studying abroad and didn’t come home. The next, we didn’t go to a candlelight service. The presents got fewer, we slept in later, we grew up – but even though we were all in or past college, but we didn’t given up the Christimas ritual.

we still haven’t. not for lack of thinking…we have developed an analysis around capitalism, have heard that Christmas is an orgy of spending on things no one needs, that Santa is the patron saint of greed, that there’s either way too much Jesus or not enough Jesus. i have heard people i love say that the whole thing is just silly and dumb and disgusting and a lie, and all of that. and i can see that. a lot of people have never experienced a really nice, good, love-filled semi-religious ritual. there are households where folks give each other tons of unnecessary crap, there are households where there isn’t enough time or resources to make it feel magical, there are households where the love is missing year-round and christmas is an attempt to balance it out with ‘things’. we just don’t do it that way.

now, we do it this way – i spend months thinking about really perfect gifts for each member of my family. we’ve had a big year, retirements and heart scares and babies and weddings and changes and blow-ups and drama and, you know, life. now, under the tree, are gifts i am really happy to give in the context of this past year. i helped decorate the tree, initially because it makes my mom really happy, but as we did it i realized that most of the ornaments are ones we made when we were kids, or that come from a specific place we lived, and it became a time to remember aloud our childhood. we have been relaxing for days, and tonight we will stay in, get lots of sleep, and tomorrow we will give to each other, and then cook. we made a commitment this year to really limit the presents, choosing one perfect present, instead of 30 sweet ones. we don’t want to be excessive, or wasteful; we don’t want to give people things they don’t want or need. we’re having a low-waste christmas, using recycled wrapping paper. little baby steps.

the whole year, and this whole ritual, makes me feel a huge tenderness for my parents, who pieced together this ritual from their own very different childhoods – from dreams and fantasies and fairy tales. they built this magical experience as two young people who fell in love with each other and then had to leave the south in order to pursue that love. i imagine them in their 20s, with me and my sisters as little babies, the military paying their bills and giving them a way out of their racist hometowns. it’s ironic and complex, but it was all about having good life, about giving us a “good” life.

as we’ve gotten older and rejected the systems and beliefs that sit on the surface of rituals like christmas (and the good military), i’ve seen their confusion, and their attempt to be clear with the intentions they once had. i’ve seen them maintain the idea of love against our explorations. and then i’ve seen my parents deepen their own definition of what good means, as their children continue learning and pushing and breaking barriers and envisioning good that doesn’t depend on inequality/injustice. i’ve seen my parents get older.

also, at a certain point, we daughters have challenged ourselves to go deeper – to see the sacrifices our parents made in order to create a better life for us, and respect these small rituals of that better life.

these spaces that feel safe, and loving, and generous, these are about family and community. i always want to develop my analysis within the context of family and community, even though those are often the hardest places to apply radical thinking. i hate when people use radical thinking as a sword to cut cut slice away at community and family.

or maybe that’s all just a way to say, at 30, i never want to give up the beautiful thing my family does at this time of year, the way it feels to be this present with each other. i wrote this earlier as a post on facebook, and i think, paraphrased, it fits here: Its up to you how you experience your life – see the miracle, or madness, or mundane…they’re all omnipresent. I’m choosing the miracle as often as possible.

melted

just slipped out of a hot long bath with these bath cubes from l’occitane, reading the year of rice and salt, which i have been slowly reading for months. i have survivor to read, by octavia, but i am saving it. i had a whiskey and water. i nearly slipped beneath the surface and stayed there, not in a morbid way, just in the way that hot water – to me – is the most luxurious feeling in the world.

i watched 3 movies today, all ones i’d seen before, in the spirit of relaxation.

i have a huge amount of writing to do tomorrow, a biracial analysis on the election. i am very excited and ready to write this piece, i felt like it was building up over the past two years within me, i am ready not to write it, but to unleash it.

i’ve seen some amazing things this year, most recently the joy on my dad’s face at getting to videochat with his nephew. said nephew – finn – looked at the screen, and the mini-frame of his face – with equal parts wonder and disinterest. he is started to follow conversations, when his parents talk he follows. when he heard my dad’s voice come through the computer he smiled. we all laughed, and his face fell into a deeper smile, and my dad was amazed.

for a year, everything he does is a miracle, and my nephew is also in miracle zone. its a good moment.

looking for reruns of Hope-Rah tonight after the family watching of Wanted, because my love for angelina is a family affair.

hope you’re reading this in a near-nirvanic state of bliss.

things i miss and/or missed

have talked through incident with my amazing mother, and am feeling better. the chords i have struck run deep.

now. being exposed to pop culture and news in a way i don’t get when i’m deep on the job, i have become aware of some things.

new kids on the block are making a comeback? i saw their name on some lists, but thought it was just a new hipster group using the name or something! no. its really them! i am about to dig through the basement and find my hangin’ tough video collection. this is exciting, and im also concerned that they should be new men on the block now…but it’s all good!

i really miss our dog sugarfoot, who passed away in 2004. i am not a general fan of people who go on and on about their pets, cuz its a specific kind of thing. but she was ours for 13 years, and matched perfectly to us, and meant so much to us.

bettie page was alive?

more to come…

incident

i just missed an incident in denver, which i found out later on the news was a massive accident, a mystery, people jumping out of a burning plane, 38 injuries, some critical. my experience of it was a delay on the opposite side of the denver airport, 20 minutes late into boston.

i think major emotional moments can be like that sometimes.

some of my extended family have cut me off since i told them i was in love with a girl. i didn’t do it very gracefully or articulately, but i thought hey – take me or leave me, i have to be me. the longer this cut-off process happens the more it hurts. how could you not take me?

anyway…yesterday one of them called to wish my mother a happy birthday and i picked up the phone, handed it off. it felt like the incident, maybe slightly awkward for others…for me i felt smashed and burning and hurt and in danger. sad sad.

where’s my news story?

heading east

i am smiling in the airport, so i thought i would try to blog this moment.

i turned 30 this year, lots of drama, tragedy, checking out, checking in, messing up, learning to do better, learning to appreciate the smaller steps, all of that.

just had brunch and did the farmer’s market with my sweet dear friend dani, who is finally moving to the bay for her california stint. and seeing cali thru her eyes is making me like it again. we talked a lot about healing, time, and patterns – how as we get older, life does get more tragic…or at least we get more aware of the tragedies. we start to see people around us settle quietly, and that’s a tragedy of it’s own. so it feels good to reach the end of another year and still be figuring it out, pursuing the ideal, protecting the fierce parts of ourselves.

i just checked a suitcase full of dirty clothes all the way thru to boston like a college kid, and i have 2 good magazines and 2 books and my journal for this trip, a charged ipod, and all the really hard trying work on my to-do list got done. there’s some writing to do, some tasks, but nothing devious to do right now. i can actually be present with my family. we need that.

its gonna be snow everywhere i go – i feel like i am leaving oakland to see loved ones and also to get my hibernation time.

there’s two mothers in front of me with little kids – and their kids are soooo cute and sooo wildin’ out. and this may sound odd, but i feel good about where i am as a mama with the baby thing. i LOVE being an aunt, and i LOVE not being a mama yet. not even tempted.

i feel good about the state of my little cave in oakland – this year i got a bed that’s off the floor, and a real bookcase, i let go of the egg crates i’ve had since college.

i feel great about ruckus – the journey continues to blow my mind and teach me that its easy to talk, to have an analysis and critique, to have a hope/dream/vision…its harder to act right.

here’s something weird – my sister got married this year in this chapel:

http://www.saintjohnsabbey.org/media/camera.html

why is it online with a real time camera?

anyway, this is a ramble, my plane is boarding. yay vacation!

frost/bush

just got home from seeing frost/nixon, and was really impressed with the story, how it unfolded. it’s impossible not to transpose some bush, some reagan onto the nixon character – the story is all about acknowledgment.

which is not to say that if bush had been apologizing for the last nearly-8 years, that that would be enough. i don’t have a lot of patience for sorry, i read ntozake shange too early in my life and it’s made me never be too interested in “sorry” when improvement is what’s called for.

that said, it is deep to me how forgiveness, redemption, and apologies work. that is – they can’t be skipped. when a great violence has been done, or a great crime against humanity committed – when it can’t be undone…that acknowledgment is one of the ways we begin to pave a new path. to apologize is to say – i have learned, and i won’t do it again. to apologize and then repeat the offense? well then you are the boy who cried sorry, and no one cares.

i have never thought it was a weakness to apologize when you really did something wrong. but i also don’t think it’s good to get guilty-minded, and start apologizing for everything. there’s a sweet and genuine spot called ownership. i think as a leader it is particularly important to hold that space.

today i got an email from someone i love dearly, with some important feedback in it. i have sat really thinking about this email, about the critical feedback in it and how to appropriately respond – where is the appropriate place for apology, how do i acknowledge my power in the situation, and what are the changes i need to make to ensure this doesn’t happen again? time, as i’ve experienced it, doesn’t move backwards. this is why actions matter to me so much more than words.

i’m no nixon, i’m no bush…and yet, we all make decisions every day that have impacts beyond what we can see immediately. if we are to exist, coexist, and evolve in this chaotic incredible world, we have to stand fully present in the experience. that cognizance gives us the ability to reckon, and that reckoning gives us the ability to learn, forgive, be forgiven, and grow.

onward and upward.

planning out a year

today i spent the day with the ruckus staff, planning out a year of activities. we’re halfway through our weeklong staff lock-in. and it’s kind of a crazy idea, given how things change so quickly in this modern world, to think we can predict how the world will be in 9 months, and plan an amazing training for that time. and yet we’re in a great place, have built such solid relationships, are really sustainable and aware of our capacity to knock stuff out. its a great time to plan. but i have had less time to blog and think about stuff that isn’t calendars :)

certainly the world is happening as i write this. but i love to think of the world as this little sliver ruckus is leveraging to change everything for the better.

Throwing Shoes at Bush

found on facebook this morning:

“We are collecting shoes to bring to the gates of The White House on Monday, January 19th, Bush’s last day in office. In the Middle East, throwing shoes is a great insult and no one is more deserving of such a “gift” than Bush. Organize to collect shoes in your region and join us in a parting gesture to the Bush regime. Big party in DC later that night!”

this is a reference to the amazingly brave shoe-throwing incident last week, aka Shoegate.

All good, I’m feeling it. Yesterday my girl Dani and I were talking about how scared we are for that journalist’s life. Today, we had a moment of like – a shoe throwing campaign would have been so hot 5 years ago, to just make it a thing that everywhere Bush went, people were pulling off their shoes and throwing them at him.

It’s not too late.

I kind of like the idea of Bush’s last month being one full of thrown shoes, shoes from all walks of life, shoes we learned to take off quickly in airport security lines where we are all suspect, shoes with holes in the feet – recession shoes, boots from soldiers who didn’t make it home, shoes worn to funerals Bush wouldn’t attend, shoes from children left behind, manolo blahniks now too expensive for owners who lost everything in the past couple of weeks, shoes found in foreclosed homes, shoes shoes shoes.

And the throwing of them is sort of tender – an action full of anger, but so soft compared to all of the things bush has allowed to be lobbed in his name, in our name, bullets and bombs that can’t be ducked. its the insult of it, and the totality of it – i take this off of my body to throw at you. its got a nice baseball reference embedded in it, a strong arm delivering strike after strike. i’d love to see a shoe-throwing campaign that sounded like a mandate.

i have plenty of shoes.

young women’s power

good rainy oakland morning y’all.

i spent the weekend in chicago at my first meeting for the young women’s empowerment project, or YWEP.

“Our mission as the Young Women’s Empowerment Project is to offer safe, respectful, free-of-judgment spaces for girls and young women impacted by the sex trade and street economies to recognize their goals, dreams and desires. We are run by girls and women with life experience in the sex trade and street economies. We are a youth leadership organization grounded in harm reduction and social justice organizing by and for girls and young women (ages 12-23) impacted by the sex trade and street economies.”

some of you know and many of you don’t that some of the first organizing work i ever did was in the harm reduction field. harm reduction, to this day, is the organizing model i find most effective, practical, and transformational. the key point is “Meet them where they’re at”, with “them” being an active drug user in the model. with active drug users, the idea is that rather than coming at people with a goal of them becoming abstinent, you meet them where they’re at and support their journey towards power and self-determination.

harm reduction is about seeing the underlying problems and accepting that those are going to be there, that people don’t make decisions in a vacuum, values the quality of life over adherence to someone’s rules, calls for non-judgment (my favorite thing!), and tries to end the practice of people setting goals for others to live up to. it moves us away from patronizing, colonizing communications and decisions.

harm reduction can be extended to anything, particularly to any behavior that is addictive, or could be endangering. shira hassan, the current co-director of YWEP, pulled me into her world years ago when we were both just starting out in the harm reduction world. she was the first person who told me about fat positivity, inspired the most vulnerable piece i’ve ever written, My Body. My Self., in clamor magazine (which i can’t find online archived anywhere, RIP clamor :( )

i’ve been intentionally trying to get off of boards. for my upcoming project The Reluctant ED, i’ll speak on how silly and overwhelming it is to expect EDs to really be able to hold it down on working boards. but when shira asked me to support this group, it was like an invitation to come full circle, have an active part of my life be in harm reduction work, to return to world of sexual health and safety and power for young girls, which is where my work truly began, 17 years ago.

the meeting was totally inspirational, and though i can play only a limited role from afar, i was so so honored to meet the next leaders of this work, young girls who, at 20, have the analysis that every single woman on this planet, every single person, should have: that they are priceless.

and then, for loooong-term readers of this blog, i got to see the heartbreaker last night. so much time has passed, and it was really wonderful to meet, both as healthy and happy now as we were unrealized and traumatized when we first knew each other. i’ll never get past the healing properties of time, it’s ability to make possible the days you think will never ever ever come.

and to connect the healing from that moment in my life to the work of YWEP, and the power of women and girls, the pattern of disempowering women and girls, and how that pattern shows up in our adult lives until we get the space to lead our own lives. then, with our heads held up high, we can show our true selves, beauty, happiness and love to anyone, we can forgive anyone.

i believe internal transformation is the microcosm of the transformation of the entire universe, and in that vision i can see that interpersonal relationships remind that we are all so deeply connected, impacting each other every day in a million ways, so of course our healing is connected. that we are not many, just unique, distinct parts of one greater body in the process of learning to exist and evolve.

ah whatever, just good to feel good about life. :)