520 years, 391 years, right now

today i am grateful for the passage of time.

i have thought i understood things in my life, and almost everything i have thought has changed, and will change again. i am grateful for having a mind that is willing to change it’s understanding, that is as of today unsettled.

i am grateful for time because it allows me to see my mistakes, to atone, to change. it allows humans to do this – sometimes in one lifetime, sometimes after generations.

my life sometimes feels like an accumulation of mistakes. not regrets, just things that went awry, when i acted from misunderstanding or fear, tricks of timing and fate. those mistakes i am able to understand have become lessons, which i am learning not to repeat. the rest, so far, have become patterns.

i am part of a human arc towards justice, but a human condition, a tendency towards mistakes. i am of a species that has a hard time choosing the right thing, the thing that is selfless, community-oriented, and does not cause harm, the thing rooted in abundance.

and we have a hard time apologizing.

time is the gift that allows us enough space from our actions to truly contemplate them. to not just say the words of atonement, but to feel the pain of what happened and truly desire a different path.

520 years ago, europeans landed on the shore of the u.s. believing they had reached india. we laud the leader of that lost expedition to this day. i am grateful that in my lifetime i have learned the costs of this mistake, that i can be part of forgetting his name. i see the finding of this land as a collective mistake, i remember who was here when they came.

in this moment, i am part of seeing that history as a violent mistake, a pattern we don’t want to continue, something to apologize for and transform.

391 years ago, european settlers celebrated their first thanksgiving here. they were 129 years into the mistake. it was too late to turn back, and where could they go? – they were the unwanted, because of their religious practices and, for most of them, their poverty class status. they had been violently carving a home into this land. they were calling the people who had been here, who were defending their land and right to be here, savages.

i am grateful to have learned about genocide, displacement, colonization and imperialism, so i can look back over time and see that this country was founded with injustice. only by seeing that can we begin to see other ways forward, ways that generate healing, respect.

i am grateful to have learned about the people who were here, who still are, holding the wisdom of how to be in relationship to this land and still, after all this time, willing to share it, fighting to share it, to protect home.

i am grateful to learn that each human has a lineage, an indigenous story, and that we have the technology to learn it, to be in relationship with where we are from, what we did to get where we are now.

we are in this moment, as a nation, when we have not found a way to truly acknowledge the mistakes of our creation. we still teach the lies to schoolchildren – it’s too tender, yet. it throws our heroic greatest-nation-in-the-world mythology into question. it is one of the underlying reasons i think we stand with israel in their current occupying massacre. if they are wrong, then we were wrong. and we can’t see a way out.

when i think of this, i feel grateful that time moves in eras and epochs, mostly beyond our comprehension. this period that we are living in is not so long on that larger timeline. i am grateful that i can imagine a future where humans look upon this period of time as an age of ignorance. from colonization to capitalism to climate, we are racing so desperately into our own destruction as a species. i know, because time exists, that this period will pass.

and we will be there, or we won’t.

i am grateful to know that humans once believed the sun revolved around us, and now we don’t. i think the relatively recent belief that history revolves around white people is ending, slowly but surely, through science and love and education.

i am grateful for my multicultural, multi-class family, which provides me with ongoing opportunities to learn, to open my heart, to feel the whole story that led to my existence, the horror in it, and the beauty.

i am grateful for the ways i have seen, in my lifetime, love overcome imperialism, manifest destiny, racism, and borders.

i am starting to see that love is the only way to heal belief wounds (what i am currently calling the internal trauma that results from beliefs which are so egregious to humanity and our home planet that it actually damages us to believe – beliefs like ‘we must compete for resources to survive’, ‘white is more beautiful than any other race’, ‘there are only two genders’, ‘violence can result in peace.’)

i am grateful that in my life i have had enough time to change some of my fundamental beliefs, and begin to heal the belief wounds.

i am also grateful that i have begun to truly understand my mortality. while time keeps on moving, for myself, and those i love, there is no future that is guaranteed. i must be just now, i must do the best i can with my understanding now, i must embody love in all of my actions now.

as james baldwin said, ‘there is never a time in the future in which we will work out our salvation. the challenge is in the moment; the time is always now.’

so right now, i am radically grateful for this complex day, for the little i do know and the lot i don’t know, for my family, friends, comrades, lovers, healers, practice buddies, babies and the abundance of love in my life, which drops my jaw every day.

3 Responses to “520 years, 391 years, right now”


  1. 1 Emily Levy

    Thank you for these words, Adrienne, and for the term “belief wounds.” I came to your site today to reread your Thanksgiving post from a few years ago, which has come to be our traditional reading at my family of origin’s Thanksgiving dinner. And I’m once again inspired by you, as I so often am. I’m delighted to be walking this earth at the same time you are. Thank you for all your being and doing.

  2. 2 Jamie

    absolutely brilliant and humble. thank you so much for your engaging and accessible language.

  3. 3 Claudette Carr

    Absolutely beautiful. And beauty will save the world. Thank you.

  1. 1 adrienne maree brown | some of our blog favorites

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