Not pummeling, not coping

A life like mine annoys most people; they go to their jobs everyday, attend to things, give orders, pummel typewriters, and get two or three weeks off every year, and it vexes them to see someone else not bothering to do these things and yet getting away with it, not starving, being lucky as they call it.

Muriel Spark, The Portobello Road in All the Stories of Muriel Spark, page 5, New Directions, 2001.

When I told a friend who was just beginning to dip her toe into the pool of consulting and freelancing that “the full time job is a vestige of the 20th Century,” she laughed out loud. Months later, she approached me and said, “you’re right!”

“About what?” I replied.

After an incredible job that came to a shitty end after the man in charge rubber stamped the sexual harassment of at least two women. My 27 year old self was clear that I could not stick around no matter how incredible the three years prior had been. I refused to speak with or even look at the perpetrator, I was so livid that I’m surprised, in hindsight, that I didn’t agitate or create more unease in the final six months. I had sought to get the harasser fired or disciplined but he got a paltry, bullshit type of give-you-a-pass reprimand and with that, I quit.

The 403b pension, the travel perks, and lest of all, the health insurance, we’re not sufficient to keep me bound to a job or employer. The camaraderie and relationships that were the utmost of that job were transferable and s on begging that I was clear that I could take with me.

Within five years of working full time, I saw that the myth of health insurance coverage either HMO or PPO, did not outweigh the loss of autonomy and therefore the likely loss of my own dignity by clutching to a job that I thought I needed more than I needed my dignity.

That set me on my lucky path to not pummeling computer keyboards and incessant meetings. I loathe the ass-kissing that plagues too many workplaces where people in manager and supervisor positions resort to odd if not petty factors to determine the appropriateness of an employee and their evaluations of an employee.

Once I began freelancing, I began to extract myself from the habits of meeting for sake of making sure that people were working and therefore not goofing off. That didn’t make sense in the early decades of the internet before social media. In my first years freelancing, I was regularly astounded at how much people in FT jobs were posting inane shit on social media throughout their day. And I noted that people in FT jobs were posting so juicy as they didn’t have the autonomy to go for a walk when their morning or afternoon had a short or long window of flexibility.

I have wondered how I would be different if I’d stuck to more full time jobs over the last 2 decades: my physical health, my submission to meetings, if reaching 65 for the sake of retirement would be motivating me to excruciate for 2 decades more.

I’ve been lucky with a heavy dose of being wise.

What to choose

I’ve been noticing more of what I’m habitually doing. Then today, I saw how it looked in someone dear to me.

Today’s lesson can be one of:

  • Holding gratitude or holding grudges?
  • Whining or writing?
  • Writhing or witnessing?
  • Scrambling or steady?
  • Floundering or focusing?
  • Tripping up or triumphing?

I had many years of getting distracted and turning away from. From taking some multitasking bait rather than simplifying, moderating and slowing down.

Discerning diminishment

Multiple occasions this week left me feeling diminished. One type was undervalued, another type was discredited, and another was misunderstood. I’ve been considering how frequently and habitually I diminish others and how often I feel diminished by others for trivial, mundane, ludicrous, judgmental things, over misunderstandings.

I’ve been reading about projection and transference as interpersonal and psychological dynamics between people or within families or workplaces and communities for 14 years. And I wonder how transference undergirded the arbitrary yet painful episodes this week.

I felt sad and angry and disheartened with each. I don’t even know how I’d describe what the accumulated diminishment felt like as I was stuck in mundane in each and wasn’t whirring with analysis seeking greater comprehension or new insight. I was stuck in bothered.

Now, at the cusp of the weekend, I know that there will be plenty more diminishing in the weeks ahead. I may not notice three palpably painful instances as happened this week but I’ll have to figure out what my first reactions are when the diminishment comes.

And, I have to find how to feel feelings of confusing or offense without resorting to diminish others to find how to not collapse the vastness of who others are by belittling them or denigrating their conduct instead noticing my desire to withdraw or move away from without making up a story that justifies aversion and amplifies disgust. To notice my misunderstanding without filling the space inside myself and between me abd them with a few reasons why I’m upset. Instead just feeling upset, without more story, for 15 to 40 seconds. Then to return to my own feet, my own heart rate, my back without observing their shape, stature or feelings.

With this, I may acknowledge them as they are without diminishment.

For what it’s worth: I am aware that diminishment is not [yet!] a word in the dictionary. Though based on some similar words, the concept builds upon the following (italics added) —

  • Diminish, verb: 1) to make or cause to seem smaller, less, less important, etc.; lessen; reduce. 2) [architecture] to give (a column) a form tapering inward from bottom to top. 3) [music] to make (an interval) smaller by a chromatic half step than the corresponding perfect or minor interval. 4) to detract from the authority, honor, stature, or reputation of; disparage.
  • Punishment, noun: 1) the act of punishing. 2) the fact of being punished. 3) a penalty inflicted for an offense, fault, etc. 4) severe handling or treatment.

Questioning patriarchy with Morgan Parker

I wanted to quote these two sentences from Morgan Parker:

When I wake up, I have fantasies about doing whatever. I’m not lazy, I just understand the relationship between time and money.

http://weird-sister.com/2015/03/09/my-dreams-of-being-a-feminist-housewife/

But, it is actually this one that stirs some things within:

Can I at once work to break down a heteronormative capitalist system while reaping its benefits: money, time, freedom, leisure, and peace of mind?

http://weird-sister.com/2015/03/09/my-dreams-of-being-a-feminist-housewife/

All we can do is utilize this current system and operation to foment the next system even when that new era may be decades or hundreds of years away. Even when finding alternatives to the dominant cultural ways, I participate in this current system while still being an example of something different than the current.

I believe that we can use privilege and powers bestowed by an unjust and imbalanced system to contribute to its destruction. That is a timeless inquiry for men and boys, for citizens, for owning class people to see that the position that they/we are in is untenable and rather than continue to benefit from it, we can confront it and aim to transform if NOC destroy it.

What is the ocean?

My answer in the form of a question: what is the ocean?

The ocean was the setting for the trans-Atlantic slave trade.

The ocean was the bridge to colonize the Americas.

The ocean is the medium for global capitalism.

These were the epiphanies in a conversation with a handful of other people of color earlier this week as I had not thought of the ocean’s role and distinction in these forces with global spread.

Today as I drove along the highway, I did see a whale repeatedly breaching and splashing about off of the coastline. Looking out at the blue expanse, I wondered what humans would need to recognize the enormity of the ocean and settle into the dominating presence that the ocean has over the continents. The ocean hegemony is not how it is perceived by humankind as we are self-focused though there are so many facets beyond comprehension, never mind the depths that are beyond cognition.

The ocean hegemony as the water gave life to all life, the lands arose from the ice and water and the life depends on the cycle f precipitation that depends on the evaporation of all that water out there.

The ocean hegemony is so all-powerful that humans do not register the supreme spot that the ocean holds as infinitum. We are partial to life on land as it is what we know, what we know better, and essentially all that we know even with the limited knowing of ocean matters.

12 definitions of decolonization from Yvette Mutumba

Pablo Larios interviews Yvette Mutumba about decolonization and she rattled off a list of twelve with the most fabulous prelude that I’ve ever read:

What follows only begins to touch on a matter of decades of thinking, working, experiencing, talking and growing.

As for the 12 definitions of decolonization:

> that I will not do the job of those sitting inside institutions and organizations that are predominantly white

> conversations which create serious exchange, but also discomfort, maybe even pain, on the other side of the table.

> having to sit with that discomfort.

> understanding that decolonization is not a matter of ‘us’ and ‘them’, but concerns all of us.

> acknowledging that this is not a current moment or trend.

> not necessarily being political, but no choice to not be political.

> admitting that having grown up in a racist structure is no excuse.

> transparency from the institutional side.

> re-centering

> stepping back and making space.

> creating safe spaces.

> changing structures as much as building new structures

When facing racism, undercut and expose

I wrote an email on Wednesday with a subject of: “About Black hair & portrayals of Blackness” to the mother of another child in the 3 and 4 year old class. What propelled, if not compelled, me to do so was having read a helpful article on microagressions by Ruth Terry in the October 2019 YES magazine a few weeks prior. In it, Terry describes how Derald Wong Sue responds to microaggressions with:

 By “naming” a microaggression, a concept Sue borrows from Paulo Freire’s seminal work, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, we are able to undercut its power and expose metacommunication behind it.

I’ve had mixed feelings about microaggressions for years, yet the article provided me with some new perspectives of how to name what happens with ignorant interactions and how to deal with them, leading me to conclude that this was an opportunity to practice confronting the petty bullshit that white people spew and do in the faces and over the days and lives of people of color.

Simultaneously, I have been doing work this year where a big piece in the group dynamics work is to “name the thing.” Having to practice what I am preaching, I sent the “portrayals of Blackness” email in order for me to name to one white mother how whites — in her family and in the world — need to figure out how to talk about and tell stories about whiteness, family histories, and experiences with race. And when I say race that is shorthand for racism and racial differences and race-based consequences be they in school, in workplaces, or in society.

I had to name the thing for myself because to not do so would be to placate and accommodate ignorant, hurtful conduct. I was deliberate about writing how this other parent’s behavior was racist as well as name some of the larger implications of racism and the heft of what it is to be Black in the United States; though, I could have said Black in the world, but that would have been a bit too meta and likely abstract for a white person that I had never had a conversation about race before Wednesday’s email.

I made a clear request for corrective action and also asked that they let me know of their choice. I made that request not assuming that they would definitely respond or even acknowledge my missive. On Thursday, I did get a response from the husband saying two things: that the corrective action had been done and that I should not (maybe it said never) contact them again.

I was not looking to make friends with the other parent. If anything, I was undercutting power by exposing what was already in the internet. And I was practicing for my own liberation. And for the liberation of my descendants, both blood and chosen.

End is not in sight

We are undertaking a vast experiment in the days and years and decades that we are alive.

As creatures of habit, we are forever attempting new ways to structure guarantees into life. This is a tricky choice and an attempt to bring greater assuredness into the daily experiences and relationships that defies the essence of being alive in an unknown and unpredictable world. Despite all the messages and signals that we have been told, we do not know what to do in order to know what lies ahead. This we cannot know. Entire lifestyles have been created to offer predictability and a greater perception of knowing what will happen. But we cannot know what will happen; we may know what can happen but are not the entire determinant of whether something will happen as we imagine it to be.

In the midst of all this not knowing, there is concern, anxiety, confusion, and a strong pull to be in control. Control is a fiction where we believe that only one factor, or a few factors, determine an outcome. Control has a confident, brash ego that tells itself and others that it is all that matters; it is unclear whether Control actually knows otherwise, or genuinely believes in its perceived superiority than any (and all) other factor.

Immersed in the lie of Control, I settle into Faith. Faith that there are many factors and divergent forces swimming amongst one another. Similar to the choppy, erratic movement of Brownian’s Motion that I learned if in Form 4 Physics. Fast moving but not in a single direction, so much force. Much uncontrolled force. Uncontrollable.

Faith that there are much greater forces than humans alone and all of humankind on this Earth. Faith in the dogged resilience that fosters life, spawns evolution, encourages experimenting, and embraces change when it happens. Faith that there is much more happening than I can see with mine eyes, hear with my ears, taste, and sense in all ways. Faith in tiny, miniscule, microorganisms of force and Faith in profound, vast ecosystems that harmonize air, earth, water, and fire.

9 months later, and 10 years on

May 2015. Today is Mike Brown’s 19th birthday. This I learned from the political education and relationships that I have benefitted from through the It Starts Today campaign that ends today on Mike Brown’s birthday. April 2005. Ten years ago, I was invited by John, Courtney, and Jamie to apply to join the Advisory Board at Resource Generation. I did so. I entered my first board meeting at the Walker Center in suburban Boston in a cohort of rookie board members along with Andrew, Ajita, Penny, and Meg. We were some kind of board Fab 5 heading into headwinds of organizational turbulence, interpersonal challenges, and divine breakthroughs that I could hardly fathom when I first walked through that doorway as board member. It was revolutionary to attend meetings where the culture was to introduce yourself by saying four things: Your name. The place you live. Your class identity. Your “PGP” (preferred gender pronoun). I’ve been more schooled in and on gender and sexuality from the colleagues, friends, comrades, and confidantes of RG than any Women & Gender Studies classes could have instilled. At the first RG conference that I attended (circa 2006), multiple RGers did not only talk about their inherited wealth but told stories of how they could trace their white families’ wealth all the way back to slavery. The hairs on the back of my neck stood up. It rocked my world. And, I was hooked. RG gave me the tools, the political education, the camaraderie to be able to say that “my mom grew up in a working-class, white family” for the first time. I had never understood this, nor seen this facet of my family tree before being immersed in spaces that were explicit and unapologetic about class, classism, capitalism, and class dynamics. Not by being outwardly focused and waxing philosophical about class in society, but by being inwardly focused on families and the belief systems and biases that color my choices. I have been off of the board for just about four years and forever give thanks and have multiple, daily appreciations for the gifts that having been a board member at RG has bestowed upon me. Wisdom, love, patience, courage, trust in others (in their anxieties and their daring feats and so much more), impatience, humility, a yearning to tell stories and write blog posts among them. And ask others questions so they will write their blog posts and tell different versions of their stories. Today, I honor the life, the premature death, and the legacy of Mike Brown and all the people of Ferguson, Missouri. As one more name, place, and episode in the long legacy of lynching and the addiction to violence that discolor the US Constitution. I had not known the name of Ferguson before last summer. The people and popular outrage of Ferguson compelled me to figure out how I could act where I was and with those people that I already knew. To inquire who were the small group of people that I could band together with in such a nauseating, perplexing, horrifying time. If you’ve got some change in your pocket, some discretionary dollars in your bank account then go and invest in Black liberation, in Black leadership, and in Black dignity. By investing in Blacks in America, we are investing in all humankind. Thanks, yall. And, praise Jesus that I’ve learned to see that those who believe in freedom are of all races, of all classes, of all nationalities. And, I will continue to seek out those who believe in freedom and civil disobedience.

What qualifies as amazing

A friend asked me about “three things that you find amazing” and I replied with:

First thing that is amazing to me is the possibility that there is enough fresh water on this planet for all of us, just as there is enough sunlight and solar rays for all energy needs. We’ve been socialized to believe that there are finite resources and that they must be fought over, hoarded and controlled. I just said possibility, it may be more fitting to say notion or reality.
Second amazing thing is how I am allowing more and more of the illogical to pervade. I am in a new phase, the post-intellect, that is more aptly returning to how we as humans and nature fundamentally are. This is a condition that gives rise to the recent curiosity about freshwater.
Third amazing thing are the new experiences, new challenges and new learnings in my lived experiences. I have been baking one loaf of sourdough bread a week for much of this calendar year. I began taking a six-week, fiction writing class at the community college this week where I was exuberant as I walked the hallways towards room 571 and after the inaugural class. I learn, read and ruminate the animal totems that I encounter around me. This week alone, they have included magpie, praying mantis (a white, albino one), and deer.

Prompts can tremendously help me out. Amazing is enticing.