Lessons in Summer…

And officially, August is behind us.

Back in the day there used to be a seasonal “What I Learned” blog link up, and even though those days are long gone, as I attempt to regain some sense of routine and productivity, I decided keeping track of “what I learned” this summer would be a healthy practice.

With the June-August block of time fittingly in our rear view mirror, I thought I would sit down and take some time to share those things with you.

to slow…

This Covid year had already given us a crash course in slowing, but as the world began to (sort of) reopen, and many people attempted to return to the way they remembered life, before the Pandemic, my summer took me deeper. This slowing, in the warm and muggy summer months felt more of my own doing.

Hammocks and afternoons reading on the porch became luxuries that I could embrace rather than just WISHING I could, because I was so busy all of the time.

Tall glasses of sun tea, and late dinners of grilled fish and vegetables became a standard that we could enjoy because we were present in those moments.

Slow=Present. Connected.

to substitute…

This summer we experienced the major malfunction of our fridge/freezer, costing us a lot of groceries. We can’t really afford to replace it, so we’ve had to be creative about how we place items in it. It’s been fun.

Simultaneously, our most used appliance died. THAT loss hurt. Thankfully we love the company and they replaced it, even out of warranty, though it did take 4 weeks to happen.

In the midst of that four week span of time, our actual oven died.

I say all of this to show that, in a time when we were not wanting to “run to the supermarket” continuously, and our means of meal making was challenging the very way we did things, we learned to substitute.

One silly example: I learned that though I love guacamole on so many things, the walmart brand of single serving guac is actually delicious, affordable and keeps longer than the larger ones I would usually by or make.

That is just one little example of the many ways we learned to adapt amidst the challenges. What we found, now that we are on the other side of that, is that sometimes it’s ok to take the “shortcut” and substitute. We don’t HAVE to make things harder to meet other people’s expectations.

to ask…

June kicked of as emotions were newly high over the murder of George Floyd. All over the internet there was activism, support, and black out challenges to support not only the Black Lives Matter movement, but to continue waking up the world re: the realities of systemic racism and injustice.

Inspired by the Share The Mic Now campaign (of which Glennon Doyle was a founder), I wanted to be involved in something that made a difference. After digging around, and watching others take to social media with similar campaigns focussed within their passion/career field, I was encouraged to launch a Share The Mic Now campaign for writers, and so I did.

At first it was TERRIFYING.

Growing up in the late 80’s and 90’s, I was taught that colorblind is the response of a non-racist. To accept all skin colors, you have to be blind to them. I was taught you do not ask someone questions about their ethnicity. So even though amazingly courageous conversations were happening (finally) re: how absolutely WRONG that mentality is, it was still a part of my core. I felt SICK approaching other women and asking them to participate in something BECAUSE they are Black.

But I asked… And almost everyone did.

And then, four weeks later, we did it again.

And the experience CHANGED MY LIFE. The biggest way it did this is that it stripped away a wall and created very organic connection between women. Through those adventures I got to know some of the most beautiful and amazing fellow writers. I am so proud to call them peers, and grateful to consider many of them friends.

We have had some hard talks. I have learned (and am continuing to) so much. Connecting with other female authors is empowering and life breathing…

to continue…

Through that experience I learned something else too…

Early on, in June, when I was witnessing the online community ON FIRE over the injustice, while the real world burned too, I heard several prominent Black speakers say that the “support of white people is nice and needed” but that they couldn’t trust it, because they’d seen it before and it always faded when something else shiny and new came around.

I was shocked.

I had said I would read and listen and learn, and I was.

I had committed to placing myself in uncomfortable situations for change, and I was following through.

I didn’t ever remember seeing anything like this happen before so I truly believed this was the pivotal point when eyes (and hearts) would be opened. I wasn’t able to see things as so many Black Americans could, because I am white. This isn’t meant to be shaming, and yet, I began to see how so many react as though it is…

The more I learned, the more my vision fine tuned. I was (and still am) changing. There is no going back. It took a little while for me to realize the majority was not changing with me.

People went back to their normal lives, and the spotlight dimmed. It was subtle, but I woke up to this reality like a slap to the face, when a fellow believer verbally attacked me over a social media post. She told me I “was what was wrong with this country” because I believed this was a cause worth fighting for. That i needed to “shut up” and let people go on to their normal lives. The post in question had been someone else’s. I had shared it in a “story” suggesting it was, if nothing else, thought provoking.

Within a week I had women from the Collective Community pouring out very similar stories. We were all sick over A) the disgusting responses of people we had once considered “ours”, and B) so heartbroken because what we had seen was merely a fragment’s fragment of what generations of Black men, women and children have felt constantly. Sobering.

It’s so easy to be swept up in something meaningful, when the whole world is floating that current. When the bend comes, and we have to go it mostly alone, against the water’s strong push- it’s a whole other thing.

Continue. The best news, despite hurt and sadness, is that we find new people we can call “ours”, and those people are way more ours than the ones who came before.

to adapt…

With all of our slow, extra time, we were able to do some things we hadn’t had time to do before. One was finally putting in an outdoor movie space. We’d wanted to do this since we moved here in September of 2018. We had slowly acquired the items needed and even attempted it last summer. We couldn’t figure out how to do it well, plus we were so busy…

But this summer we did it, and it’s amazing! Neighbors love it. We’ve had friends over and they love it. Hands down, the highlight of our summer!

When our local theater opened, last week, we lucked into some passes. Pre-Covid, we were AVID movie goers. We love movies, loved the experience. It was just “our thing”. In fact, we were at the theater two days before they went on lockdown, because I was doing some presswork for a small release. Coronavirus was already a major topic, and we left that screening terrified we were about to die. In the small, packed theater we had fellow patrons coughing here and there, and the energy among us all was stiff and rigid. As the credits rolled, I remember thinking “I feel like this was emotional and I should be crying, but honestly I just want to get the hell out of here!”

With our free passes, we braved going back last friday afternoon. It was weird. We were actually the only two people there, and had no anxiety about anything. We just didn’t love it. It felt long and uncomfortable. We realized that, although going to the movies had been such a big part of our lives, we hadn’t really missed it. We each admitted that our home theater is so much more fun.

We were both surprised…

What about you? What did this summer teach you?

Breathing…

I entered into my relationship with 2020, filled with hope. While I have felt the steady decline personally, each year since 2015, I resolved that THIS YEAR would be the difference.

It has been different.

It has made a difference.

While the things I had vowed to see done this year were not exactly petty/shallow:

  • finish my book.
  • complete my book proposal.
  • begin the publishing path journey.
  • do more yoga.
  • spend more time adventuring.
  • save more money.
  • focus on intentional quality time with my people.

They weren’t on par with the sci-fi movie we’re all about to live, either.

These weren’t bad goals, but they weren’t really flexible ones either. (except the yoga one, but that’s a bad joke.)

Today is the very middle of this very, very, very hard year. While so many of us have lost big, this year, I find my soul hesitant to say that it has been a “bad year”.

Sure- CRAP has happened. Finances are almost non-existent for many of us, and businesses/ventures we’d worked so hard to build- are simply gone. So much loss and devastation has happened, but for the first time in my adult life I am watching a world question what our part can be to insure that these losses are not in vain. That we, as a collective, can grow from them.

We were all forced into this global Pause, and for one unexpected moment we could not help but see that the earth could instantly begin to heal…

What about us?

Could we?

Within this Great Pause, we were pushed to take stock- stock of our resources, relationships and our reasons. For the briefest of seconds, we all stood terrified, on the same page reading the same words. We all tried to grasp the palms of one another as we simultaneously inhaled, and exhaled, and questioned if this was it.

The “big bad” is far from over, but once it became a symbol of old news and new normal, a majority of us went back to life as usual. We chose to forget the things we feared, which also meant we had to let go of the goodness of together.

Then one night, an angry man kneeled on the neck of another man, murdering him.

This tragedy happened before humanity had put enough distance between them and the season of Pause. Our human hearts were still a little exposed, a little raw and ready for something real to happen.

And the people rose up.

A dying man cried out for his mama, and told the world he could not breathe, and human beings of all colors came face to face with the reality that we have been choosing to barely breathe for the majority of our lives…

Fresh air is there, for the taking.

We saw this, in the Pause.

The Oxygen of together restores life. It does.

The bitter people call this idea divisive. They realize, but don’t admit, that change is scary and they are “happy enough” barely breathing. In the Pause they breathed so hard that their lungs ached, and while that felt cathartic in the moment, the moment was fleeting and the pain seemed overwhelming and scary.

Barely breathing sounds like silence.

It looks like shallow obsessions, for distraction’s sake.

It looks like consumerism- starvation for that next thing, because we’re internally convinced that will be the very thing that will make the ache to inhale subside.

The people who killed the Man who could not breathe, had titles to serve and protect. Can we not all see that this tragedy effects every single one of us? Because of them, (and other fear and anger driven officers) many have turned on all of the men and women also sworn to serve and protect.

This is not a Blue issue, this is a BREATH issue.

Those killers, they didn’t want to breathe either.

Killers do not always wear a uniform. When they do, they hurt their brethren too, because it distracts and divides the people. This world is filled with good people, and bad people. The bad people wear all types of clothing.

Sometimes good people are white, but generations of evil white action has made our light skin hard to trust.

Sometimes the angry, hate-filled “bad guy” is the one beating his wife and children, and the police save them and take him away.

Sometimes, as we’ve seen, the bad guy wears the uniform.

This isn’t a blue issue, this is an abuse of power issue.

It is a refusal to truly see, issue.

The people who stay silent and protect them, the ones who stay silent for fear of rocking the boat- the ones who stay quiet because they are “happy enough” in their ignorance- those people have been holding their breath beneath the water for so long that they can no longer even imagine using muscles to kick to the surface and gasp for air…

But what happens to them then?

They drown.

Have you tried reasoning with a hateful racist? You can’t.

You can not change the mind of a dead man.

In the Pause I learned that I need to breathe.

I NEED to fill my lungs with people and kindness, with unity, art and collaboration. I need to hold hands with everyone who is different than me.

I NEED to breathe in the wisdom and stories of others, and damn it, I NEED to see how my refusal to do so, for so long, contributed to the problem.

Last year one of the most important people in the world, to me, decided I was only worth her silence. She stopped talking to me, stopped regarding me, and in the journey of that decision, the oppression of her silence killed our relationship. I will always love her, but her silence killed a part of my heart that had spent nearly two decades connected to hers.

I am not angry at her. I hold only prayers for a beautiful life and a healing gratitude at the time we had together.

Silence is disregard.

Disregard is apathy.

Life cannot be sustained apathetically.

Silence is death. Often a slow, drowning death, and we may be so hell-bent on our refusal to inhale that we fail to see the Grim Reaper coming straight for us.

I can be silent no more.

I am breathing, filling these lungs.

There is no sort of. You either inhale, or you don’t.

You love, or you don’t.

You listen and learn, or you lose. You may not feel it today, or tomorrow, but it’s coming.

The Pause paved the way for changes like we’ve never seen. People rose up and protested for brunches and haircuts, and this bold action led to the opening of an unready nation…

Just you watch what happens when even more people finally begin to take real breaths, and rise up for LIFE. Black Lives Matter. We aren’t saying Only Black Lives Matter, but instead crying out that we take notice- injustice is killing and we all need to stand up and help.

Today, July 1st, I am inhaling the grace, wisdom and strength of the brave Black women I am befriending, the ones I am listening to, the conversations I am having and the ugly truths I am facing, regarding my own privilege and fragility.

I am admitting that this is not a journey I am fit to lead, and so I will listen and learn until forever. Letting go, further, of what does not serve this path towards an equal world, where differences will be celebrated and color radiates, in all shades, like the sun.

As my filled lungs exhale, they will practice the whys… with a voice that grows less shaky every single day, I will say-

George Floyd

Ahmaud Arbery

Tony McDade

Breonna Taylor

David McAttee

Elijah McClain

With this I will inhale again, breathing deep the awareness of an ill-designed system, and do what I can before exhaling…

Say their names.

And I will never breathe them all because there are just so many, but in remembering I can be moved forward. We all can. These horrors of a structured design meant to keep us afraid and on top, must not go on.

Months ago we sat frozen in fear as the entire planet seemed short of the very machines the hospitals needed to breathe for the sick people who could not breathe on their own.

Inhale

With a knee to the neck, George Floyd had his breath stolen, and the world rose up, giving breath to movement.

It is time for us to come together and breathe again. Black. Blue. Brown. White.

Exhale