Of blackness and whiteness and systems and gills……

~~~
I’ve been in the thick of a tremendous wrestle;
feels fearful to share because in hurtful ways I may get it wrong
but the conversation seems important enough
to take the risk so please hold space for my fumbling
~~~

Dear black people,
I didn’t actually see you.
Didn’t see your experience, that is.
I never heard clear all the places where your hearts bleed –
didn’t understand the depth of generational trauma.
Sometimes I wanted you to stop acting like a victim,
to stop being so angry.
It became a habit to just not look

I held a secret hard edge
because of the fear I felt in high school
when the frequent fights would break out,
especially when the friend I rode to school with each day
in his sky blue Volkswagen beetle was stabbed and beaten so severely
that he never again returned to our high school.
I felt undone by the loss and bewildered at your rage.

I didn’t see the system we were all swimming in,
the one set long in motion against you.
I didn’t understand that blackness and whiteness were constructs,
and that in this system my whiteness gave me gills.
I never saw how hard you had to fight to surface again and again for air.
I come from people who taught that we all have a reasonably fair swim,
that if you just swam harder…..
(wince and grieve)
I really didn’t see.

That same system stacked against you – to disadvantage you – was rigged to make
us believe there is no rigging.

And the thing is,  I’ve considered myself a progressive.
I recoil at obvious white supremacy.
But when I watched the recent murders with my own eyes
I realized I was seeing something  that was screaming to be recognized
and that I needed to brave behind that curtain and sit in the discomfort of a painful look and listen.
I took an 8 week deep dive into an intensive with diverse and challenging voices;
actually learned some history (not just the whitewashed parts)
and considered the effects of The Doctrine of Discovery,
Reconstruction,  Jim Crow,  Affirmative Action. 13th Amendment,
–  too many to unwrap here –
that “in the U.S. we often let our institutions do our sinning for us.”
I finally see the spirit of racism is a shape-shifter,  and that once chattel slavery ended,
the evil re-emerged again and again through new policy and law,
still at large and armed.

I realize I cherry-picked the hand-full of black voices saying what I already thought,
realized that we still benefit economically as a nation,
from oppressive,  exploitive laws and trauma to people groups,
that the harm has not been addressed- there’s been no formal reckoning.
The wound is still open on a systemic level even if individuals have heroically moved forward.
Few states have formally apologized, and until we have owned it as a nation,  taken responsibility,
and stopped the effects by deconstructing and re-imagining systems,
that just moving on isn’t even biblical (for my Christian friends).
(Do we think that God is at a lack for strategy?)

I’ve considered that this monster, racism, isn’t political;
that both parties have contributed significant pain
(thank you,  Mark Charles.  And deep respect.  You have my heart’s vote).
I’ve considered what we did,  not just to you,  but to Africa,
considered that racism’s power is to destroy everyone’s humanity.
I’m learning to learn slow,  to take the time to search a thing out,
to not move in a spirit of suspicion toward orgs like Black Lives Matter,
even when I can’t buy into all the internal ideology.
I’ve explored the foundation of conspiracy theory and slander and
grown in respect for the 9th Commandment
(and love for the God who I’m re-discovering as Justice and Mercy).
I’m learning to listen less defensive,  to lose more of my flinch
and let entire ideas roll out like carpet and air dry
rather than hurriedly tossing them with my hasty opinion
(example:  defund police to re-imagine public safety,
or statues – what was the context of the erecting of all these statues?
When were the artists commissioned?  What was going on in society at the time?
I committed to practice slowing my roll,  to listen with humility)

I could hardly stay in my skin at times these last 8 weeks.
My stomach hurt and my heart pounded with shock
and eventually lament.
I’ve stood in the breakers of your unheard voices
instead of diving for cover or scurrying back to shore
as I’ve done so many times before.

For now I have just this,
and I’m sorry for the drop-in-the-bucket nature of my words,

Just this,  dear black people

I acknowledge you.

I acknowledge your suffering,
from the cruel effect of of systems created
in order to advantage one group by disadvantaging another.
By disregarding and dismissing your humanity.
I see you showing up still
and it humbles me.
Your patience, long-suffering,  resilience,  courage – it drops me to my knees.
I don’t know how reparations will be made or when or what my part will be
but I will participate wholehearted.
For now, I just want to thank you.
For who you are and how you rise.
Please don’t give up.

– With love and respect,
one white person who is seeing clear enough at last
to get messy in the fight for change.

“An event has happened,  upon which it is difficult to speak,
and impossible to remain silent.”
– Edmund Burke

Time and space are limited here and I’m still digging out words to do justice
to what is burning and churning in my heart;
I’m not lumping all of anyone together – that’s not my intention.
My language is limited and

I’m wrestling still for the words to cobble together.
Please hold space for my inevitable fumbles.

Congrats to Cathy Davis for winning the giveaway;
I’ll be sending you a Tell Me Something Good bundle.
And offering up another with this post – plunking your name in hat with each comment!

 

Tell Me Something Good

When life rattles my timbers and storms down hurting so hard
that my peace gets swallowed up in mudslides of un-helpful thinking,
it’s become just shy of muscle memory,  this practice,
that throws open the windows of my heart
and lets the bad air out.

It started years ago while driving down the road with my husband,
the silence between us thick with a heavy worry.
I squeezed hard on the wheel and breathed aloud “tell me something good.”
He laughed and offered something – I don’t remember what.
Then I dug in and hurled into the space another something true – something balm to my heart.
Out louder – back and forth – we lobbed truth until the atmosphere
shifted and our thoughts settled into a clearwater place.

It became a thing,
sprung up maybe from a practice I’d been cultivating
of having a sit with God over whatever was brewing in my brain.
I’d get quiet,  drop down to that still place inside,  and begin to write out
whatever bubbled up from the deep.
Sometimes what landed on the page felt like gift and gold;
going back over the pages years later still feels like superfood for my soul.

So I have a big love for this practice.
Most of what I write comes from this place.
(big distinction between this rivery process and toxic positivity,
which feels like death
and doesn’t seem to grow a thing.
Like malnourished dirt.)

 Been growing up in my garden these past years
and feels ripe and ready to harvest.
I want to tell you something good,
to splash hope and healing all over bites of art soaked in love
and send them straight to the heart of you
where coals of hope may need breeze to flow brisk across the embers
until you’re standing up taller inside yourself,
and feeling more seen,  more included,
more brave in your breathing
for the deepest and dearest that you dare to dream.

Oh how I want to acknowledge you,
to tap into the big and seeing Love that sings over you sweet
and let it pass through my paints and pens and poetry,
then pass you the love-note
across the great big wide.
To let it land in your box like a gift from your future
calling back that the view from up ahead
is something that you’re gonna want to see
so lean into the wind
and hold tight to
the Love –
that you’re held,
and valued
and seen.

To hold the door for you to feel it,  bones and breath,
that this Love is looking and listening
to the faintest thought and thump of your heart;
that there’s no indifference to your place and pain.
To pass a note of warm embrace
and to hold space for the journey that is exactly and only yours.
With love and celebration.

(happy whisper)
Tell Me Something Good
– also the title of my book in the works
and looks to be available by Christmas.

“First I would write for you a poem
to be shouted into the teeth of a strong wind.”
– Carl Sandburg

I’m offering up these Tell Me Something Good bundles in my etsy shop,
and in a giveaway this week;
leave a comment and you’re in the hat:)
I’ll be sending a bundle out to Rebecca this week from last post’s drawing – geesh sorry it’s taken so long!

Always thanks  for coming around and acknowledging.
I appreciate your presence here.

 

Of slow crawl and stretch and set fire to the night….

Been chunking on extra wood to make a bonfire
out of the coals of gratitude I tend,
stoking it to a roar
because these times.
And this week.
So here,  bright flames leaping a fury of joy for….

~ dreamy dahlias and their diverse faces,

~ safe spaces to twirl and move and dance and groove healing
’till it flows barefoot to my bones
and soothes away the sick and tired of me.

~ all the silly cards and jokes sent to my Dad as he recovers his strength
alone at home.

~ the grace and capacity to re-learn and repent and change my mind,
to tolerate the discomfort of a painful honest look
at my internalized superiority (ouch) and privilege.
and do the slow work of learning,
even when it feels at times like drinking from a firehose.

~ for permission to step back from fb and the gram as a learning tool,
from all the partials and pieces that may prevent me from thinking through thoroughly
these wildly complex ideas and thoughts,
that “there is no humility in certainty”;
that “some people never learn anything
because they understand everything too soon.”
(Alexander Pope)
For the long slow crawl of this thing.
And that it’s okay to scrape my knees.

~ for the soft breath of evening and the way the last glow of each day lingers on the ridges
before it dips down low behind the night.

~ that delicious knowing that you’re actually,  finally,  gratefully dipping again
into a sleep that may hold you for a little while.

Just sharing these short snippets because i don’t feel good.
But I’m feeling it big to write it down,  these next little words,
and send them out into the big wide……

Right now,  just especially,  try a little tenderness.

Let loose compassion
for the humans holding on.
For me that is strong creed that family,  friendship and faith community
are not places to rally around political beliefs
but to care even more carefully for the core
around which we gather
– the Love that overrides every political position.

Fight for relationship when you sense it’s getting dragged under the wheels
of the political machine.
In the end that’s what’s going to matter:   did we learn how to love.

I didn’t want to not show up.
Because my heart has a thing for you:)

“You can resist bullcrap and live to tell.
The status quo is counting on your submission but you do not have to bow down.
This will create tension,  but I’m convinced that a tension-free culture is a dangerous one.
Tension can be defined as the act of stretching or the state of being stretched.
You will feel the stretch,  you will cause the stretch in others,  and this is called growing.
If no one injects tension into the atmosphere,  we will always default
to existing power structures that operate beautifully
as long as no one puts any pressure on them.”
– Jen Hatmaker

These days I feel like g-u-m-b-y; embracing the burn:)

Giveaway!  This week it’s a bundle.
Tell Me Something Good – a bundle of made-for-you bites of art
with handwritten encouragement for uniquely you – I will spend some Rivertime,  have a soak about you
and write down what bubbles up as I listen to hear what the ripples speak.
For you.  And send them to you in a bundle.
* Coming soon to my etsy shop *

(And happy little leap to send last post’s giveaway to Sue of Elephants Child!)

The wonder, the welcome and the walls…..

It’s the walls I hate the most
as we head deeper into the tangle of briars that is this season
of lines drawn hard and stories and hearts left unpacked in the corners
where we may polarize and hide
because it doesn’t feel safe right now to show our underbellies.
As if we weren’t already lonely enough.

All the sharp biting can make it feel too dangerous to be honest online,
and that fear can spill right across the table in real time where we actually gather.
As if connection may be easily severed.
Un-knowing each other so hard only grows our sense of isolation,
and when you feel unheard,
a deep lonely can set in strong.

I love the way Brene’ Brown describes this experience:

“I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve called Steve from the road and said,
‘I’ve got the lonely feeling.’  It’s not unusual for Ellen or Charlie to say,
‘I don’t like that restaurant.  It gives me the lonely feeling,’ or ‘Can my friend spend the night here?
Her house gives me the lonely feeling.’
When the four of us tried to drill down on what the lonely feeling meant for our family,
we all agreed that we get the lonely feeling in places
that don’t feel alive with connection.

My daughter used to call it the Sunday night feeling,
and I think as a nation we’re cultivating it like a well-worked orchard.
Miles of barbed wire and disconnect grow the now-thriving acres of lonesome.
How can we be love in all this crazy?
We work and pray for systemic change in the long game, yes,
but we bring healing into the fray every opportunity we get
during those moments when we find ourselves offended.
Right before the fight or flight kicks in,
each time our soul breaks out in hives
and we feel compelled to slam a door….

…in just that hair-trigger jolt,
before up come our defenses,  our posturing,  our pride,
we can (big breath)
go
low
and instead of rising up ready to battle or bolt
we choose to maybe  e-a-s-e  open some space to listen and better know
the human, the heart
and the hope.

We could be addicted to closure,
to feeling clear and correct and certain,
and we humans can make stuff up if necessary – whatever narrative we need to hold –
so that we feel like we’ve got this thing handled
on the moral high ground
and have wrangled into our journey some sense of control
on this huge spinning dizzying ball.

I believe it’s possible to do this season from a more spacious place –
that we can hold our beliefs and opinions  strong and with courage,
examined and curious and unashamed,
and also hold also brave space for connection.
That each time we feel the prickle of offense,
instead of throwing up walls,
we
can
lean
instead
into having an awkward sit in that uncomfortable place
of listen-and-slow-your-breath-down,
holding space for: “I don’t see or  agree,
but will work to understand,  to offer acceptance,
and hold space for where you land.
I won’t judge you,  won’t fear you,
will acknowledge your value and worth.
I honor you as more than your affiliation.
You’re included,  you’re welcome,  you’re heard.

Oh God I want to not give my ego what it’s hungry for,
to un-satisfy it’s demand be large and in charge.
I want to choose an open heart,  an uncertain path,  and a big wide love lit bright.
Still baby-stepping and re-learning and willing to change
through the long of this hard day’s night.

“Cruelty is easy,  cheap and rampant.”
“You cannot shame or belittle people into
changing their behaviors.”
– Brene’ Brown

Pride assumes
Creativity wonders.”
– Stephen Roach

Congrats to Lisa Moreland – your name popped up in the giveaway this post;
I’ll be sending your print along to you – with a whole lot of love.
This week I want to give away a new handmade journal
Leave a comment and you’re in the hat!

When the heart thumps of longings and lanes…..

In the heat of our culture’s loud and frantic traffic right now,
it’s sometimes hard to find and hold steady to your lane.
The message is loud and the pressure real:

                      ~ you should be doing more to protect your family and community from the virus.

~  you should be doing more to end ignorance and fear,  and to dismantle racism.

~ you should doing more to connect with truth – to navigate the hype and the false
and arrive correctly on the right square.  And quickly.

~ you should be doing more of all the things and also taking more
of a pro-active role in fighting more for social justice
in every arena,  anywhere there is suffering,
(If you’re not quarantined,  say if you are running a small business,
there is a lot of extra to catch up on
once you’ve served your community so you’re just
gonna have to sleep a little faster and go a little harder,  man.)

And,  hey,  if this is all too intense to absorb and process in your 24,
you just need to pick a side.
One of the two.  Pick one wing of this big bird and devote unquestioning loyalty,
then begin to lob insult and venom at the other
(yes,  you’re all on the same bird but don’t think too hard about that
while you bloody the wing you didn’t choose – it’s easier to go with the
good vs. evil narrative.  Keeps it simple.)

Cult Tip:
If you want to keep it super sweet and simple,  just pick a side and then go with
whatever that side is saying about all the issues.  Lots less bother.
You’ll even get a script.

Either way,  the shoulds are clear:
you’re expected to weigh in and raise a flag on every issue.
In every fight.
At every moment.
And whatever work you’re learning or doing already,
you should do way more.

Are you tired already?

                                           One  option:   Succumb to inertia.   Or despair
Better option:
Find and focus on doing your work.

I believe in the work.
I believe that this season is pregnant with the call to dismantle racism,
to require justice for the marginalized, for the objectified,  for the de-humanized.
My heart burns hot for systemic change.

I also believe that we are all many parts
-you have a lane and it’s where you’re made to thrive,
where you’re most productive
and there your passion carries weight
that creates sustainable good.
In your lane,  the riffs your voice makes are not only delicious,
they also help make this planet and her people more whole.
You were born to fill that space – we need you there.

So how do you know that place?
How do you find that niche – your own true north?
Finding and filling it is maybe much of the work of being human
because we want to love wide,  yes,  but where exactly do we put our heft and hands
every single day?

The answers,  I believe,  are rumbling around down there in the deeps of your very own heart.
Always it’s in the heart connection- that God-container –
from which our truest and most satisfying life-living flows.

And what I want to say to you right now is
don’t be driven by the shoulds.
Especially in the loud of this season,
don’t lose your heart.
That still small voice in the quiet of you
– it’s your lifeline.

“There are a million creative paths through compassion work…
That thing that is bursting in your chest?  Listen to it.  Give it energy;  give it life.”
– Jen Hatmaker

My lane,  for now,  is to dive deep to listen and learn and also
to offer up process that helps turn up the quiet and cultivate the listen and know.
It’s been growing in me for years, this way, and it feels to me like
tall trees and big sky and laughing waters
and helps tug the trueness from my often overcrowded heart.
It’s been a slow and bumpy launch because of Covid, and my website is still in the works
because I’m still nose-to-the-ground like a hound dog in a tall meadow
sniffing out the path.
I’ll come back with details soon.

Congratulations to Elizabeth Nelson – I drew your name in the giveaway
and I’m honored to send you an art journal I made.  With big love!

Another giveaway this post.
This time it’s a print – a warm starry night in a Summertime garden.
15 x 20 inches
Leave a comment and you’re in the hat:)