When people get brushed off like crumbs….

I’ve been doing some deep dives into the shades of fear and dismissal
that are wrapped in the privilege that came with my skin.
I’m discovering some attitudes that I’ll be keeping
and tossing some been hiding in the basement of my thinking,
like forgotten relics
until the roof got torn off in this storm.

Mostly I’m shutting up and listening,
listening hard for what my ears weren’t tuned by my life to hear.
And I’m loving these new voices I’m feeding on
that sound to my heart like thundering waves and cicadas singing  and warm winds stirring and God.
And even though I’ve been in community with people of color for decades,
I have so much to listen and learn
and so I hush.

But I’m feeling it strong to say something
when exposed to the deep black pain that groans
every single time someone twists the knife with the words
“but all lives matter”
because the sting of having deep pain minimized,
well,  for that I have something of a grid.

~  ~  ~

I’m swept back some years into a living room lit dim as women gathered
to explore how to embrace the courage to shed our shame
to learn to process and share the hidden pain,
because shame gathers strength sitting alone in the dark.
I’d held back,  wrestling to say the thing that made my throat close down
and my lungs fold over tight.
When I finally stacked my awkward words on a ledge and pushed them off,
I held my breath as they fell into the light.

During the sharp quick moments after my words
tumbled to the ground
in that space where I longed for someone to hold them with me,
or say “oh Jen” or come alongside to help breathe just one next breath,
there came the brisk sweep of dismissal that felt like a broom
sweeping up some chips I’d just spilled.
Brushed away quick by the leader
who hopped over my share
as if I’d sneezed into a crowd.

I felt humiliated.
I packed my entrails back up
and held it all tight between my un-cried sobs until I could get to the safety of my car.
The sounds I cried in the bathtub that night
didn’t even sound human and it scared me hard
to hurt so guttural and exposed.
I felt banished in that someone had seen the soft underbelly of my experience
and showed no empathy.

And then when I called the leader on it,  privately,  and asked was this was a safe space for me
she was defensive,  dismissive,  deflective,
and minimized all the feels.
And then struck out how dare I “attack” her so vicious.
I’d never known pain like it. Or since.

~ ~  ~

Bearing a wound and carrying the pain unacknowledged,
(especially from leadership)
is a gut-wrenching and isolating place.
When the black community hears over and over
our protests – “but all lives matter”
I want to scream “stop it!”
Just. stop.
Can we sit with our brother and sister
and share the next breath they need to take
alongside of them?

Can we just squeeze their collective hand and say “I’m sorry.”
“I’m here.”
“Keep talking”
“We’re listening.”
Can we just hold some space for the hurting hearts out there?
Without rushing to dismiss
because it’s way un-comfy
and from our little white bubbles we don’t compute.

Can we please grow our repertoire of tools.
Accept our lack of empathy and focus in on learning to listen,
to becoming the humans we hope to be
– can we stop with the defensive posturing
and let black lives be heard?

If someone sobs and rages because we slam a heavy door on their hand,
can we lean in to see and serve the crushed fingers
instead of chiding them for being unruly in their pain.
We’ve crushed some things.
In sitting with this we will suffer.
Are we willing to do the work of humility
to hurt with the hurting
until a fierce tide of healing rolls in?

Oh God grow our empathy.
May we not leave a single soul alone
in their pain.

“Empathy is simply listening,  holding space,  withholding judgement,
emotionally connecting,  and communicating that incredibly healing message
of you’re not alone.
– Brene’ Brown

Congrats to Linda Mann – your name jumped up in the drawing and I’ll be sending
your package in the mail post haste.
Another art journal up for giveaway this week – leave a comment
to have your name in the hat.
And thanks – always thanks – for coming around.
I appreciate you big.

Comments

  1. An emphatic heart felt YES.
    Listening, really listening, is a precious and empowering gift. A precious, empowering and sadly rare gift.

    • jennifer says

      All the yeses. Listening may well be our finest art form:)
      Thanks so much for your presence here, Sue.
      Warm hugs,
      Jennifer

  2. have you seen this yet, Girlfriend. it will give your heart courage… this woman has more courage in her little pinky than all the governors running our country combined right now. Take a listen…

    https://youtu.be/JtPfoEvNJ74

    • jennifer says

      I have. She is beautiful and speaks wonderfully. And I hear her. I share her perspective that the victim narrative is not helpful or even
      thoroughly accurate. And I understand her frustration that history is re-writing George Floyd’s story. We humans do that – this often comes with a movement. I admire her courage.

      However I do believe that this is a movement because the bowl of all the tears and prayers through all of the years is at last tipping. Because of the very heartcry of God. Justice and mercy and humility – it’s time. This is not political, although this kind of profound and shifting energy will be politicized. Because, again, we’re all human and we peek through our limited-vision keyholes into the big picture, each of us seeing a different piece. I think the danger is when we assume that what we’re seeing is the whole deal.

      Restraining a long impassioned reply that I’ll save for another post:)
      Always I welcome your sharing here, Liz – thanks for joining the conversation.
      Warm hugs,
      Jennifer

  3. I listened carefully to Ms. Owens. That’s a big part of our job now as white citizens: to listen. She is right that George Floyd is not the “best that the black community can hold up to represent us.” She is right that he had a criminal background. Where I disagree with with Ms. Owens is her belief that the millions of people who are holding peaceful demonstrations all over the world are doing it solely for George Floyd. He is a symbol. He died a hideous death for all to see by a sadistic officer while others stood by with complete impunity knowing they would be exonerated. It is THAT system that people are demonstrating about. It is Eric Garner, Treyvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, on and on. Ms. Owens, can you not find any in those who were wrongfully killed by police to hold up to your standard? What about Ms. Taylor? An EMT asleep in her apartment when police barged in, her boyfriend thought it was a home invasion. Shots were fired. Ms. Taylor who had saved countless lives in her line of work, was murdered by police. Please look at the big picture. Please look at hundreds of years of blacks as a lower caste in our society (more represented in the criminal justice system now than ever before and mostly for non-violent offences) and tell me you wouldn’t feel anger, that there wouldn’t be a tipping point. I think that is what George Floyd represents; an inflection point in American society. Jennifer, I praise your words. This is a time to listen with humility. I don’t need to hold George Floyd up as a martyr to know that Racism is dyed in the wool in the United States of America. Ms. Owens in of course entitled to a strong opinion. On FOX news? Does it occur to you that you are being used?

    • Jane Brocious says

      Thank you for this eloquent response.

    • jennifer says

      I appreciate your thoughtfully crafted reply, Susan. I agree that the tide sweeping in is not about Georgy Floyd.
      I see it as a tipping point a long time coming. Too many years of evil unleashed on a people. And I stand and cry for justice.

      I also acknowledge there is much political spinning. Just one small example – I watched in horror
      a story on our local news about the protest in Asheville – absolutely stunned that the police would even do thing.
      Then learned firsthand from someone I know and trust what actually happened – saw footage. The truth so violently manipulated.

      It’s happening on both sides of the spectrum. Discernment so desperately needed. The issues so complex.
      Again, impassioned response restrained. So much conversation to have:) Thanks for being a part!
      I value your input and perspective – thanks for being here, Susan:)
      Warm hugs,
      Jennifer

      • Thank you, Jen, for creating this space grounded in respect and beauty. We are all learning here. I agree that the political spinning is terrifying, especially in an election year. I fear for our Republic when “truth” is not honored as such. We’ve always had this, I suppose, but never have I seen it so horribly used to maim and destroy. There is more in common with us than what separates us, I try to remember that. The media isn’t helping….we must *talk with one another*. I am on the board of an organization that works with law enforcement AND communities of color – hard to find such nuanced discussion happening in both of those spaces at once. Those are the things that give me hope. Peace to you.

        • Yes – all the yeses. Thank you for your presence here;
          it’s an honor to have you hold my words.
          I appreciate.
          Warm hugs,
          Jennifer

  4. I appreciate your sharing. There’s so much to be learned. Your message… so heartfelt Jennifer. 💗

  5. Jane Brocious says

    Oh Jen! This piece needs a nationwide audience. I’m exploring options! This one is perfection!

    • jennifer says

      Jane I’m all thumbs but willing to learn how.
      I appreciate you nudge – really I do.
      Big warm hugs,
      Jennifer

  6. maribeth jaklik says

    Powerful write. Your experience of being “brushed off” has only deepened your empathy for the Other (but I’m sorry you had that experience). I’m discovering personal and collective pain needs to be witnessed and acknowledged. Not fixed. Not brushed off. Not minimized. Deep and empathetic listening has a healing power all it’s own.

    • jennifer says

      Being and having a witness is such a powerful thing.
      I’m discovering this also.
      Yes – yes exactly. There is healing in this art.
      Thanks and yes,
      Jennifer

      • Michele Bergh says

        I am so sorry you had that experience. I can sense the pain it caused and no one should ever have to experience something like that. I appreciate your sharing and hope you feel the support of those in your community holding space for you today.

        • Thanks so much for sharing here, Michele – it’s an honor to have you hold my words.
          Your kindness is palpable and I’m touched – so much gratitude.
          Big warm hugs,
          Jennifer

  7. Please send this piece somewhere, anywhere bigger than just us. Not only is it incredibly bold and brave and raw and so searingly honest it cuts to the heart straight away. I am so sorry for your experience and it had to be brutal for you then and even now, recounting it. But in the way that grim, awful things have a way of giving gifts we don’t realize till then, your gift was the power of empathy and heart. Your heart is so big and full and the way you share makes such an impact. This belongs somewhere big. New York Times big.

    • jennifer says

      Jeanie I don’t know how or where but I will – will lean in to learn.
      Thanks for your nudge. And kindness.
      Big warm hugs,
      Jennifer

  8. Speak Loud! Eloquent words of enormous consequence✨

  9. What an impressive statement that needs to be heard nationwide. I agree with Jane Brocious. It needs to be heard in a wider forum. Please let your voice be heard as it speaks volume for all of us, Thanks for so eloquently expressing the heart of a nation and even beyond the borders.
    What a gift you have, Jennifer.
    Hugs, Julia

  10. Like you, sweet friend, I’m tuned in and listening and trying to learn. Right now my heart is breaking for that young woman who was so brave, who tried so hard and was treated so wrongly, if I was my younger self I would just want to go beat them up ( see, so much learning still to do ). I agree with all your friends here before me and say to you that of all the manymany things I’ve read lately on these serious, sad, important subjects this piece in your words is the most profound yet and needs to be shared widely … please.
    So much love to you and appreciation for your heart and soul xo

    • We’re all learning, this beautiful community of ours. I love that.
      So much willingness to do the hard stuff. Such a thing of beauty:)
      Thanks for holding my words with kindness always.
      You’re a gift.
      Warm hugs,
      Jennifer

  11. kathy ammon says

    Oh sooo beautifully shared – thank you
    THIS- all of this. 💜
    “Can we please grow our repertoire of tools.
    Accept our lack of empathy and focus in on learning to listen,
    to becoming the humans we hope to be
    – can we stop with the defensive posturing
    and let black lives be heard?
    We’ve crushed some things 😞
    Oh God grow our empathy.
    May we not leave a single soul alone
    in their pain.”🙏😔

    • Thanks, Kathy – I so appreciate:)
      It’s an honor to have you hold my words with such care.
      Big warm hugs,
      Jennifer

  12. Bonnie Snyder says

    That was beautiful. Thank you for sharing.

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