Wednesday, November 21, 2018

A non-exhaustive list of things for which I am infinitely grateful

First, a moment of silence and love for all of you who, through distance or circumstances or loss, are unable to celebrate Thanksgiving in the way that you want or with the people that you love. Infinity of hugs to you. 

My friends: I hope you know that you don't have to do something just because it has always been done. Because I want to is enough reason to do anything. Because I don't want to is enough reason not to do something. You don't have to make all the foods or buy all the things or see all the people if those things fill you with dread instead of joy. This day, and all the days, may your minds be open to wonder and curiosity, may your stomachs be full of all the delicious nutrients and may your hearts be bursting with love and gratitude. 

And now a non-exhaustive list of things for which I am infinitely grateful:

* Clean water. Clean air. Shelter. Food. Healthcare. Education. Human rights. Hugs. Everyone should get to have these things. Every single human everywhere. 

* Wild spaces. Mountains to climb, canyons to explore, trails to roam. Some parts of the earth and of ourselves should always be left wild.  

* Books, blogs, music, movies, TV, art. For making me laugh and cry and better able to understand the full range of human experience. 

* Financial independence. I don't owe any money to anyone for anything. That is a freedom and a luxury I don't take for granted. 

* My parents, who loved me for the weird, independent, adventurous kid I was, who nurtured my love of reading and running and writing and who taught me that I could be anything I wanted to be (but that of all the things a person can be, the most important of those is kind). When I was a baby I would habitually climb out of my crib and throw myself on the floor (Why? WTF who does this? I cannot explain this other than to say that it is just so very me). My parents were probably worried or scared I was going to get hurt or maybe they were just like what kind of weirdo child do we have, always trying to skydive without a parachute? The best part of this story is that my parents put pillows all around my crib. They never stopped me from climbing, they just gave me a soft place to land. And that is love: the freedom to adventure and explore and be yourself, knowing you always have a soft place to land, a home where people love you no matter what. (I won't get to spend Thanksgiving or any holiday or any day with my dad ever again, but so much of who I am is because of him that it feels like he is always here in some way, every time I laugh or run or save money or say "you gotta be freaking kidding me." One Thanksgiving when I was little, Dad and I wrote a story called The Turkey That Got Away about a turkey who hid under the hunters' tents to avoid being killed for Thanksgiving dinner. And every year I hope that somewhere out there some turkeys got away). 

* My friends. I have met so many amazing people in my 37 years of life. People who opened their doors and their arms and their hearts to me. People who were there for the joy and the sorrows, the failures and triumphs, the beauty and the pain that is life. Genuine human connection is, hands down, the very best part of being alive (sorry, cookies). And my life has been filled with it, thanks to you. 

* Dogs. This requires no explanation. Dogs are the actual best. 

* Husband Man. More than anyone else, Pete has seen me, all of me, all the ridiculousness and sass and motion and feels and fierce independence (at times detrimentally fierce) that I am. I am a lot. I know I am. For some people it is too much. But I have never had to make myself smaller in any way in my relationship with Pete. I have been my whole bigger-on-the-inside self from day 1, I have pushed and challenged us to be better people and partners, and 1173 days and 2 giraffes later, he's still here. He always says he loves everything about me, and maybe one day I'll believe that could be true. All I know is Pete is my home, my soft, funny place to land. (By soft, I mean strong, Honey. So big!)  

Lyric of the moment: "Thank you, friends. Wouldn't be here if it wasn't for you. I'm so grateful for all the things you helped me do..." ~Big Star "Thank You Friends"

Thursday, November 1, 2018

I don't have the right words but these things need to be said

I've seen several posts on social media lamenting the loss of friendships over politics and requesting that people not discuss divisive or controversial political topics online. I think most of these people mean well. They just want their Facebook feed to be all puppies and rainbows. And I get it. Puppies and rainbows are awesome. But life is not all puppies and rainbows. Life is also sadness and struggle and heartbreak and rage-inducing injustices. I understand the impulse to feel like can't we all just get along? However, it's not that simple, especially when some groups of people are trying to deny basic human rights to other groups of people. Expecting the oppressed to just "get along" with their oppressors is cruel and unfair. Personally, I will not stop talking about politics, online or otherwise. I'm not going to be a dick about it (I mean, not intentionally. I'm imperfect, I make mistakes). But I have strong opinions and I'm going to assert them. I will strive to be respectful and compassionate but I will not be silent. Being silent in the face of injustice would make me complicit in perpetuating the injustice.

When people say they don't want to discuss controversial or divisive issues, what they really mean is that doing so makes them uncomfortable. Most people have a very low tolerance for discomfort and especially for witnessing the pain and suffering of others. This doesn't make them bad people. It's a natural impulse to want to avoid discomfort. But learning how to sit with and tolerate uncomfortable feelings is one of the best life skills you can develop. It is especially important when it comes to social justice issues that we are able to have those difficult, uncomfortable conversations. Because that's how change happens. Everything is divisive and controversial until it isn't. The reason slavery was abolished and women got the right to vote and gay marriage was legalized is because of all the people who refused to remain silent. It is important work and it must be continued.

My life is very privileged and with great privilege comes great responsibility. Having privilege doesn't mean that your life isn't hard. Everyone's life is hard in some ways. Having privilege means that your hardships aren't compounded by prejudice against your race/gender/sexual orientation/physical disabilities/body size. (Please read more about this if I'm not explaining it well here - just google "what is white privilege/able-bodied privilege/thin privilege/heterosexual privilege/etc to find many examples). I have so much privilege and I need to use it to amplify the voices and the stories of marginalized people. Because everyone deserves to be treated with respect, to be treated as a PERSON. Everyone deserves basic human rights. I cannot be the person I want to be in the world if I remain silent. If being outspoken means that some people no longer want to be friends with me, I can accept that. Social justice is more important to me than being liked. Besides, I believe in true friendships, the kind that are unconditional. If your friendship is conditional upon me always agreeing with you or never saying anything "controversial," if I have to make myself smaller in any way in order for you to like me, I cannot agree to that. I won't be anything less than everything that I am. I would not want anyone else to be either.

I understand that we're all at different places in our journeys and that's ok. I'm at a place where I can see so much pain and suffering in the world and I am choosing to bear witness to it rather than avoid it. I want to hear your stories and your opinions and your experiences of being a person in the world. I want to talk about the injustices and the pain and the struggle and the sorrows, not just the puppies and the rainbows. Because that's the whole point of everything - to be here with each other, for each other, to make the world better for each other. And to do that we have to listen and we have to confront the uncomfortable, unfair realities of life. We have to acknowledge the systemic injustices in our society and work together to rectify them.

I'm not the most articulate person. I don't know all the things, I don't have the answers. I don't have the right words, but these things need to be said. I don't think my words are going to change anyone's mind. I can only change myself. So I will continue to change myself. I will keep listening and learning and feeling the uncomfortable feelings and challenging myself to do better and be better. I hope you will join me. If you have puppies, please come on in. If you have anger and despair and pain, please come on in. I want to sit with you on the sunshine and rainbow days and on the WTF What Fresh Hell Is This?! days. I want to sit with you on all the days.

Lyric of the moment: "Sick of leaving things half done, leaving things half said. Oh I am, I am trying the best that I can. I am, I am trying..." ~Vance Joy "Best That I Can"