It started with socks; On self care and adulting.


Last year, around this time, I wrote in a blog post, “It’s no big deal, I just have to go away and dream me all up again.” Dreaming didn’t look like what I thought it would. First my mother had a stroke, and that was terrifying. Then, I didn’t get the position with an organization that I had my heart set on. That was painful. Next, I was laid off from the organization that I was working for. That was depressing. That covers September through December 2014. Then my romantic life went to shit, ah January. That’s around the time this photo was taken:

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January 2015

When I look at this photo I see myself suffering from anxiety and neglect. This is the face of a woman putting her own precious self last on her own list of priorities.  Too much uncertainty. Too much struggle. Too much “just keep a roof over the kids’ heads and you’re ok” thinking. When life was hard, I was the last person I wanted to take care of. What I secretly wanted was for someone to come take care of me the way I took care of everyone else. And I say secret because never in a million years would I admit this to myself, or to anyone else. It was a shameful thing for a grown ass woman to want. And I did accept that I alone was responsible for getting my needs met, I just made sure I had as few needs as possible and I didn’t put much effort into meeting them. I was practicing self abandonment. I was doing to myself what my parents had done to me; something I would never do to anyone that I loved.

During this whole year I was in Interchange and getting a ton of weekly, sometimes daily, counseling. I was getting reparented by a dozen or so people regularly. My best friend and I were doing the training together and he took on a reparenting role in my life too. It wasn’t the healthiest thing for either of us, but it had a huge impact. He bought me socks for Christmas, because I didn’t own any. Ever. I made sure my kids had drawers full of socks, all different kinds, I just never thought to buy myself any. He made me eat warm, sweet gooey oatmeal when I was sad and didn’t want to eat anything.

This new me I was dreaming up could do that. Could accept the care being offered. Could say, I’m tired and scared and I need a cuddle and that’s ok. There’s this funny line my friends say when someone is flubbing up a moment, “Do you need an adult?” It’s ironic since we’re all super capable competent adults, and yet in certain moments we all suck at adulting. What struck me though, was how much I really did need an adult because I wasn’t being the adult my own self needed me to be.

Part of getting in touch with all the unmet needs I’ve carried with me from childhood was welcoming in the sad, unloved needy parts of me. After months of counseling support, the fears of being pathetic or unlovable that I had been suppressing burst through the stage door of my super ego and claimed the spotlight. My strategy of loving other people well as a way to prove I was worthy of love had to go. I needed to show up for my neglected self in a whole new way. So there I was, knowing I needed to do a thing, but not knowing how to do it.


October 2015

And then something magic happened. In May, I went on a retreat. Me! I don’t do these things. For one, it’s been impossible to take time away from the kids, and two… I just don’t retreat. Ever. It was an offer to get away from it all for 10 days and do a whole body chemical detox all made possible by friends who loved me. I said yes because this was the thing! This was a way for me to prove to myself that I mattered to me. I stopped eating sugar and drinking caffeine, it’s been 6 months and I feel amazing. 5 months ago I started moving my body more, I hated it at first. The sadness of not taking care of myself for so long overwhelmed me. But the joy I’ve found in movement is astounding to me. Every day that I prioritize my health is a day I know I am loving me. The loving connections I’ve made throughout the past year have made all of this self love possible for me. From a pair of socks to a whole new way of eating, I’m adulting!

Each moment of change this year led to another step of even greater change for me. Like dominoes. And it has been so uncomfortable at times, so much stored up pain that needed to be metabolized. There have been moments of shattering, where all my unconscious desires to be cared for rushed to the surface and it felt like I was drowning in grief. Moments of confusion and anger and bitterness and envy.  Impatience with my own process. Regret for not having done this for myself sooner. Embarrassment at how delusional I was. It’s all in there. And right next to it is acceptance, and kindness and understanding, and a gradually developing maturity. I’m so grateful to have an entire community supporting me in this process.

I did dream up a whole new me. I have a whole new profession, a whole new relationship to myself, a whole new vision of what’s possible for my family. And…now since I’m learning to care for myself, I’m all glowy!

Get This Dolphin to Woody Harrelson!

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This is a guest post by my dear friend Murial Barkley-Aylmer.

IMG_0045 2If you would like to participate in the effort to unite “Hoover” and Woody, it’s as easy as sharing this message with your social networks in whatever way you do—help us to create a trending story so that we are able to get on the radar! If you are reading this and have a more direct connection to Woody, and are able to share Murial’s message with him, my heart would be so grateful, and the town of Chelan would love to thank you personally in kind.

This is the story of a meticulous metal dolphin and a movie star. Join us, as we optimistically set out to unite Woody Harrelson with our art, and our cause—fire victim recovery in Chelan, Washington. Use silly for good!

Theo Ramey is one of the most potent characters of my Lake Chelan childhood. I grew up perusing the shadows of his metal shop, creatures and vehicles and other beauty coming to life through his welding hands. His voice was gruff, his horseshoe mustache unparalleled, and his heart so incredibly kind. One of the greatest gifts I ever received as a child was made by his hands: a bunk bed of metered metal scrap and tin rosettes, all painted lovingly in the shades of girlhood.


When the fires raged through my hometown of Chelan, WA two weeks ago, I reached out to my artist communities for support. I was gathering donation “perks” (or prizes) for an Indiegogo campaign designed to raise money for those experiencing the most profound of the devastation: homes lost, forest charred, livestock, wildlife and pets displaced and injured. Almost immediately, Theo reached out. “ I have a sculpture for your cause. It’s a dolphin.” When I saw the photos, I was awed. Theo has been collecting her parts for 14 years—combing junkyards and antique store back rooms for perfectly comprised hunks of copper, brass, aluminum, and cast-iron. But when I asked for an approximate value, his answer raised my eyebrow. “Well, I was going to ask Woody Harrelson for $10,000…but I suppose that was the ‘movie star’ price.”

Turns out, Theo and Woody were neighbors once upon a time, working and playing in their own ways on Maui. While the two never met in person, Theo was friends with Woody’s cook and housekeeper. One day she brought Theo’s portfolio in to show her boss. When Woody marveled at the polished glory of reinvented junk, she told him, “I wish you could see the piece he is working on right now, a dolphin. It’s beautiful.” And Woody replied, “I’d love to look at it. Have him let me know when it is done.”

Fast forward 10 years, a thousand scrap metal searches, and a relocation to Western WA state: Hey Woody, the dolphin is ready!  And her name is Hoover.

Now, I don’t know Woody Harrelson, but as far as celebrities go, I feel like we could be friends. A questioning, boundary-heaving, environmentally-minded activist with a penchant for spontaneous and silly? I’d like to have tea. And maybe it’s crazy, but I feel like he just might be the kind of person who would respond to the quirky plea of a desperate stranger.


Dear Woody Harrelson,

Rumor has it, this dolphin belongs with you. You were in the mind of the artist as he slowly collected its components. Its baby-steps toward existence occurred on a plot of land abutting yours. And when the artist donated its gleaming form to our fundraiser, he did so with your name, laughingly, upon his lips. You already have one foot in our story, and I’d love to invite you the rest of the way in. At ‘regular people price,’ obviously.

Washington state seems perpetually on fire, Woody. You and I both know that the Earth is losing patience with our mismanagement of her resources, of *her* art. The way the West burns seems a clear indicator for change. At the moment, however, my grief is too great to look beyond the immediacy of this wildfire’s aftermath—the people, wildlife, and loved animals that are displaced and experiencing loss in my hometown. I don’t have much in the way of money to contribute to the rebuilding, but I’ve got my words to use, artist friends with generous hearts, and an incurable case of ‘the optimistic’.

If Hoover is your dolphin, Woody, let me know? 


Chelan (and me, Murial)

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Grow the Love: Supporting Chelan Fire Victims is a collaborative fundraising effort of the grown children of Lake Chelan, WA. Through art, storytelling, and heart-centered reciprocity, we are doing what we can to help rebuild the magic that made us! All donations above $25 are responded to with an artful “perk”—handwritten thank you letters, jewelry, visual and audio art, healing work and services! Check it out

Being seen and being accepted

Once the realization is accepted that even between the closest human beings infinite distances continue, a wonderful living side by side can grow, if they succeed in loving the distance between them which makes it possible for each to see the other whole against the sky. ~Rainer Maria Rilke

Interchange is almost over. I was nervous going in to weekend 8, I was cautiously optimistic too. I wrote about my hopes and goals prior to the weekend here. I shared my thoughts and feelings going in, it feels right sharing them again after the weekend too.

On Saturday morning, when we were all first gathered together, Steve asked people to raise their hands to show what levels of work we’ve done on identities and oppression. He started with who was completely new to looking at oppression and privilege and then proceeded all the way up to who has done a lot of work, who might even be called an expert in this field. I raised my hand for that one. There were very few of us with our hands raised. Fighting oppression and remedying social stigma is what I do professionally. I’m an anti-racist researcher and intersectionally aware sexual health educator. From racial justice to media justice to reproductive justice, I’m all in, all the time. So if I’m a pro at this, why was I so anxious about a spending a weekend with a bunch of people I’ve grown to love and trust talking about stuff I’m really good at talking about?

Honestly, it’s the well-meaning white people thing. And then the well-meaning straight people thing, plus a dose of the well-meaning upper middle class thing. I’m a queer, mixed-race, woman who is a single parent and was raised in poverty. That’s a lot of marginalized identities wrapped into one package. I’m also privileged in that I can be perceived as both heterosexual and white, my children are white, I have a graduate degree, I’m a U.S. citizen and I’m able-bodied. So I’ve got a lot going for me. I experience interlocking oppressions while experiencing interlocking privileges.

I was really, really afraid that even in this loving, super supportive space, I wouldn’t be seen as the complex person I am. In my life, I have learned that in order to be seen as valuable I must only identify with my most privileged self. I’ve had to collapse into as close to a one-dimensional being as possible to be seen. That’s my fear in large groups. But as we went through the morning’s activities where each person practiced unapologetically claiming our multiple identities it hit me. I felt a shared fear ripple through, the fear of being undervalued once we’re identified as “different.” That’s what living in a hierarchical society has done to us. As I listened to each member of my home group describe both the visible and invisible labels our society slaps onto human beings, my fear of not being seen and supported for being the complex person I am transformed into a curiosity of “How can I make sure I’m seen and supported in my totality?” That may mean I have to specifically request to be seen in my whole human complexity. That may mean I walk away from an interaction if it isn’t serving me and that may mean seeking out an ally when I need to. Me having that transformational thought was a direct result of the prior 7 months of work I’ve been doing in Interchange.

I realized that showing up in this mixed space as my full self with all my interlocking identities claimed and trusting that care and support would actually be available to me was how I was going to overcome oppression. I carried that question with me for the rest of the weekend. Each new activity and each new exercise, I looked for evidence of how I was being seen and supported. I have 30 years of experience in not being fully supported, I know what that looks like and how to deal with it. I’ve accepted being heart broken about it. What I don’t have enough of? Examples of being seen and accepted. And I’m done being heart broken.

Sunday afternoon I had this deeply healing experience when we split up into specific support groups. I was able to get the support I’ve always wanted around being raised in a family with domestic violence. I could have been a group that was focused on any of the marginalized identities that I claim, but what I really wanted was to be seen and supported as someone who had violence in their childhood and has done the work to not have domestic violence in their adulthood. I wanted to be seen and supported as that person by people who experience being that person too. And I was. I learned that though each person in my group had a different version of domestic violence, we shared similar outcomes. Hyper-vigiliance. Fiercely independent. Fear of abusing our own children. Fear of intimate partners turning violent no matter how long we’ve been with them. I sat in the center of a small group and we saw ourselves in each other and we loved and loved and loved each other. 

I connected deeply over the weekend with people who both share and do not share my specific stigmatized identities. I spoke truths I’ve never spoken before. I identified the blocks that keep me apart when what I so achingly want is to belong. In the weeks that have followed weekend 8, I’ve brought the question, “How am I being seen and supported in my totality?” into my counseling sessions. And then within those sessions, a new question came, “How do I make sure I am seeing others in their totality too?” This is a radically new approach to interacting for me. 

If you’re interested in Interchange, I highly recommend it. And I’d love to see more of my community doing this work too. I’m happy to answer any questions and share more of my experience. You can check out the Interchange website too.


Healing Three Generations of Mothers

As I parent, I always feel like there is something better I could be doing. All the time. There’s this songbird perched on my shoulder, chirping away: “What else? What more? What next?” Maybe that changes once they move out on their own. I don’t know that part yet. Mine are still underfoot… well… underfoot while being taller than me, it’s like having 6 foot tall toddlers sometimes.

In grad school, I developed this particularly brilliant habit for getting my thesis done. When I need to write, I mop the floor first. Yup. While I’m sweeping, scrubbing, rinsing and drying, the desire to be writing builds so I’m writing in my head the whole time too. It’s a great trick for getting things done.

Right now, I’m wanting to write about parenting and oppression. I’m in the final stretch of the Interchange Year Long Training; Weekend 8, also known as “The Oppression Weekend.” This weekend we’re focussing on Social Identities, Oppression, Internalized Oppression, Reclaiming Power, Being an Ally, Leadership, and Mental Health Oppression. You might think one weekend focussing on oppression can’t be effective… Yeaaaaah. No. There’s a method to the madness that we only meet once a month for the weekend intensives. In Interchange, you can go as deep as you want to. You have some ancestral shit to deal with, there’s space for that. You want to stay in the now and focus on your struggles in finding a job that doesn’t suck your soul from your body? There’s room for that too. I’m planning on going hella deep. Like, three generations of oppressed women deep. My direct maternal lineage is not for the faint of heart.

I was 13 when my mother piled on layers of clothes to jump into the pool of our apartment complex mid-winter. She was surprised at how her body automatically started swimming, keeping her alive even though her mind wanted to die… I was a year old when my mother’s mouth is wired shut to repair the bones my father’s fist shattered, yet they were still in love with each other. She leaves him not because they have a violent relationship, but because she judges him as weak…I’m not even conceived but I know my mother’s first memory; her aunt dragged through the yard by two uniformed men then shut into a white wagon. Her grandmother not looking up from the red eye gravy she’s making… My mother’s parents met because they shared the same nickname; two teenagers named Red in Coffee County Alabama. He lied about his age to impress her. Lying was the kindest betrayal he ever showed her… My mother never laughs when she talks about her own mother. There’s no safety to be found there. No way to fend off that sad.

I understand why love scares the hell out of my mother. It’s all very logical. I’m not sure you can have the life she’s had and not hate love. Love is at the root of all pain. Love is the fingerprint at the scene of the crime. Love is why children go hungry and women get beaten, raped and abandoned. Love is a trick and a trap. Love is a weapon.

Imagine how the oppression we’ve experienced impacts my ability to show up fully in love with anybody. Imagine me trying to trust in love. Now imagine me unconditionally loving the hell out of my mother and my grandmother and my children. That’s what diving deep into Interchange is doing. I’m so very in love with this community dedicated to transformation. To being real. Like, really real. Do I want to overcome oppression? Totally. Do I want to do it alone? Absolutely not.

A Request from the Sweetest Man I’ve Ever Known (Guest Post)

Img_00059Dear Men,

Please be sweet to the boys in your life. You do not need to toughen them up, there are enough TV shows, movies, video games and other men who buy into hyper-masculine patriarchy to teach them that sort of thing.

I implore you to teach the young boys in your life to learn their emotional landscape. Teach them to cry while holding their heads high. Teach them that it is not a crime to desire affection from others. Show them that it is not weakness to empathize and be graceful with their power. Men, I’m asking you to show more of yourselves than was shown to you.

I know it is hard to give gentle sympathy for the little bruises, both physical and emotional that the boys suffer, but we deserved that then and they deserve it now. We are human, they are human, and we can show them how to become men who do not hold in the pain that erupts into violence, bitterness, and isolation.

I ask you to honor the boy you once were by being gentle and emotionally encouraging to the male children in your life.

Thank you,
Makana M. Grant

The Gift of Speaking Clearly

There is power in speaking directly. Learning how to utilize a declarative tone of voice has helped me navigate tricky situations throughout my life. I am grateful that I have the ability to say exactly what is on my mind and convey my thoughts clearly. I feel like teaching our children to communicate clearly and effectively is super important. For my sons, I worked really hard to teach them emotional literacy. “Tell me how you are feeling” I repeated over and over and over. I asked them this question without an expectation that them telling me how they were feeling should make them stop feeling. I just wanted them to be able to name the feeling they were having while they were experiencing it. Often they were feeling more than one thing at a time and I would help them list those feelings out.

“I’m feeling angry!” 


“I’m feeling sad!”


“I’m feeling tired”


“I’m feeling stompy!” (Stompy was a feeling I named when the boys were little, sometimes we just needed to stomp it out, you know? And in my house, stompy and hungry were often paired together.)

It’s hard to teach kids things we ourselves were not taught, but it’s worth the struggle. Sometimes it’s the shape of the void that is the teacher. As a young parent I was feeling around the edges of my own incompleteness so that I could offer more to my sons. Emotional literacy felt pretty big.

Deep breath, yes, that’s a heavy admission to make publicly. Inhale, exhale.

So… yes with the direct language! Yes with speaking of our own experiences with authority! Yes to declarative statements!  Yes to eye 39201_10100104800720323_1109204_ncontact and squared shoulders and equally enthusiastic no’s and yes’s! And I hope we all have the patience to deal with toddlers and teenagers who test their abilities on the people closest to them. It was hard at 3 and 4 to listen to my kids tell me exactly why they hated wearing coats in the middle of January and it’s not really any easier hearing them say similar things ten years later. Seriously. Jackets. It’s winter, why are we even having this debate? Sigh.

It’s an interesting thing to see my kids use my tone of voice and my declarative way of speaking. It’s even funnier when they try to use it on me. I tell them I’m immune to that particular super power since it originated from me. Something I’m really glad I took the time to instill in them is that we can’t tell other people how they are feeling. We can only speak to our own emotions and then ask someone else how they are feeling too. I didn’t want the boys to be know it alls. That slippery slope was always a ride ready to be taken. Balance, right? We can speak with authority about ourselves and our experience; we have to ask other people about theirs. 

Right now in this moment I’m learning a little more about being attuned to my loved ones without having this fear of overstepping. There is a nuanced clarity involved. I am going to name what I’m seeing. I’m seeing this feeling in you, is that right? It’s a new kind of balancing. I feel good about learning how to give this kind of attention because I have a solid foundation of not assuming I know how people are feeling. It feels like a new gift to give. A way of paying attention that is intimate and special but also requires skill and vulnerability. 

I’m hoping that I’ll be able to teach this to my sons too. And it’s also entirely possible that they already know it and I’m just catching up to them. They’re smart like that.



Owning the Awkward

If I had a dollar for every time my kids said, “Mom, that’s so awkward!” I could fund universal childcare for us all. Since they’re teenagers now, I can look back over the years and see how awkward has evolved. Cuz while the exclamation is the same… what provokes it has changed.

Me dating is no longer awkward (it totally once was) but me talking to them about them dating? SO much awkward. And yet, we have a template. Tackling the awkward head on is what our relationship is built on. At each stage, of both their development and my own, there is “teh awkward” that we have to face, discuss, own and in some ways obliterate.

I want to stress that one families’ awkward can be another families’ easy and yet another families’ straight up traumatic. The matrix of our history and current situation create the framework that our awkward defines itself within. What’s easy for you to talk about off the cuff with your kids may be something that I would need to do with the help of a coach to discuss. It’s all relative.

Having on open and ongoing age-appropriate conversation about sexuality with your kids is crucial to their wellbeing and safety. One way they know it’s an important aspect of their lives is that we are willing to face down the awkward. My strategy has always been to own the awkward. Call it out, claim it. And then do the damn thing anyway. Sometimes I’m the only one with the bubbly gut over a situation. Other times, I’m totally non-plussed by a subject while their ears are turning red. Either way, I have to say, “This awkward and this is how we’re gonna get through it.”

In my house, we’ve been talking a lot about gender and the cost of not conforming to the binary. And I’m grateful that, for my teens, it’s not an awkward topic. They can see that it’s fucking tragic that kids get kicked out of their homes for being trans, or get beaten and abused, or commit suicide. We’re talking about how to be supportive to any of their friends who come out as trans or who don’t identify with the gender binary. What’s awkward for me is that I have to be honest with them and say, “Yep parents are abusive to their own kids because of gender.” That shit sucks. Informing your children about the cruelty other children experience is fucking awkward. And necessary. And tragic. And scary.

Being real with your kids about child abuse kinda makes talking about periods and how babies are made no big deal, right? Easy peasy. Talking with your kids about sexual assault? AWKWARD. But if you’re going to teach them about consent (…and you’re going to teach them about consent, right?) you have to include that part of it.

What I really want to impart upon you, fellow Awkwardian, is that talking to your kids about their 4691_791953586513_1247099_45324321_5253646_nsexual health, or gender, or consent or pornography is going to be awkward and you get to do it anyway. As parents we are constantly modeling behaviors; how we handle awkward topics and conversations is most likely how they will handle awkward topics and conversations. And we’re also who they compare other people’s reaction to awkward situations to. Consider yourself the Royal Ambassador to Awkwardlandia.






Polly: Sex Culture Revolutionary


Have you ever wondered how revolutionaries are made? Like, no really, when I read about someone who dedicates their life to making change and I always think, “How in the Hell did they come to be where they are?” It’s quite a gift to be able to have that question answered in real time. Polly Whitaker has a memoir out that is more than just a recounting of her life, but it is also the memoir of a moment in the sex-positive movement. The first time I met Polly Superstar in person she had her own float in a parade in San Francisco. I’m sure she wouldn’t say it was her float, but rather it was the float she helped organize to represent her community in the civic festivities. But c’mon. It’s Polly. To me, the float was hers and she had earned every sparkly square inch of it. In the years since, I’ve gotten to know her as a brilliant and brave woman. Thoughtful and insightful. I’ve always enjoyed the brief moments in between our hectic schedules where we have a chance to compare notes. Now, you can have that exchange with Polly too.

Polly isn’t a parent, but her own parents and the story of her childhood are major themes in the narrative. This bit, I really loved:

polly_2“Aged five, I took a trip to the National Gallery in London, accompanied by my father’s first wife Marjorie—a very traditional woman, the total opposite to my mother. In the quiet whispering rooms of this classic museum of art, I faced a huge canvas of a naked woman surrounded by nymphs and satyrs, giving herself over in communion with Bacchus. I looked up and asked in a very loud voice, completely inappropriate for the surrounding volume of the gallery, but totally innocent in its tone: “IS THAT WOMAN A SEXUAL MANIAC?” Marjorie had no reply for me. She looked down, mumbled something about not wanting to miss the Constables, and pulled me quickly through to a room filled with landscapes. I went home that day and drew anatomically correct pubic hair and nipples on all my dolls, aghast at their lack of accuracy.”

Polly’s mother was a sex therapist and her father a balloonist. Maybe a perfect combo to make a sex culture revolutionary? Note the patch on her jacket… “ballonists make better lovers.” Sort of exemplifies her parents sense of humor! I asked Polly is she ever considered following in her mother’s footsteps. She said: “No, I’ve never been very academic. I’m an artist and I’ve always known that. When I was a teenager making decisions about what to do with my life I didn’t think about a career. I wanted to be a rockstar. I followed my heart and refused to compromise. Sex therapy sounds like a lot of work. It wasn’t until recently that I realized how connected I am to my mothers work.”

It seems Polly’s parents were sex-positive before being sex-positive was cool: “I was raised without shame around sex. I know that makes my experience pretty unique. Questions were answered when they came up, in simple terms I could understand. I was never fooled or mislead or lied to. My parents raised me with a very encouraging, liberal outlook and raised me to think for myself, be responsible for my actions, and appreciate the value of friendship. I think they did a great job.”

_MG_2867I think they did too! I really enjoyed reading this heart felt and brutally honest memoir. I’m grateful to be included in the book tour so that I can support more honest conversations about sexuality in our culture. You can check out the other reviews and interviews of Polly: Sex Culture Revolutionary here: 


This post is part of the Polly: Sex Culture Revolutionary Virtual Book Tour. If you make a comment in the thread below you’ll be automatically entered in a chance to WIN a LIMITED EDITION signed hardcover copy of Polly: Sex Culture Revolutionary.

The comedian Margaret Cho called it “Raw, untamed, emotional beauty–Polly is a true supernova. This memoir is as touching as it is hot, as moving as it is a masterpiece.”


Buy your copy of Polly: Sex Culture Revolutionary

Join Polly’s mailing list

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Click the image below to check out the other exciting stops on the tour.

Love in the time of Ferguson

My father doesn’t understand why I’m committed to racial justice. It’s always been bewildering to him, maybe cute or exciting on the good days, self-indulgent and misguided on the bad ones. I remember being 14 years old and arguing with him about the impact of race and socioeconomic status on high school graduation rates in my heavily segregated school district. We were sitting in his car after having gone out to dinner on a school night. I hadn’t seen him in months and when he just randomly stopped by to take me out I hopped in his truck determined to show off my intellect. My desire to be stronger and smarter than my father started early. He’s also a fairly emotional guy. He feels what he feels when he feels it, masculinity be damned. He’s 6’4 and built like an Oak tree. He’ll cry if he wants to. You’d think that’d be an awesome thing for a daughter to witness; her father being emotionally available. Maybe. What it was in my teen years was another way to compete with him. I’ll be stronger, smarter and… less emotive. Hah! So there. I win. 


Turns out I’m just as big of a mush ball as he is. If not more so. Us Oak trees, the roots of our hearts run deep and we weep the big leaves. 

Thanksgiving this year was rough. My dad has been ensnared by the toxicity of mainstream media. The lazy, easy to digest, pseudo-reporting of CNN and Headline News convinced him he knew what the Hell he was talking about when he chose to bring up the nation wide protests to police killing Black people in the streets. He really thought he had some wisdom to bestow. Common sense racism I call it. It’s just common sense to believe that Mike Brown did something to deserve being shot. My dad listed off all the things that the news told him justified the execution. I debunked them one by one. I do this for a living; critique media and deconstruct narratives from a racial justice lens. So at this point in the after dinner conversation I’m still winning the “I’m smarter than you” game. But then he said something that made me angry. Once the words were out of his mouth my sons pushed their chairs back from the table and cleared the room as if someone had shouted “Fire in the Hole!” They removed themselves from the blast radius. My older son patting me on the shoulder as he went. 

The fight we had isn’t important. Anyone who has a loved one that spews ignorance at the holiday table has had this fight. My social media streams were filled with people having these arguments, strategizing how to handle them, bracing themselves and looking for support. 

There is a brilliant Queer Afrofeminist Nigerian writer, Spectra, that I’ve been following for years. She is insightful and loving and brave and generous in her blogging. On November 26th she wrote Dear White Allies: Stop Unfriending Other White People and I breathed this quote in fully:

“This is the time to remember that the outrage you feel can in no way match my own and therefore you have way more emotional capacity than I do to talk some sense into the ‘other side.’

This is the time to remember that your “solidarity” does not render you powerless; in fact, the entire point of your solidarity is to lend the power you DO have to folks who do not.

And by the way, this is the time to remember that you do have power.”

Do I have the capacity to be the person my dad works this shit out with? I better be, given that what I’m feeling is nowhere near what Black mothers and fathers are feeling now, have been feeling forever. Nothing compared to what my Black loved ones are experiencing, wrapped in despair or rage or seeking comfort. I may be feeling heartbroken at the failure of my society to protect and respect us all equally; my loved one is feeling hunted in his own hometown. What I want is for my father to feel this with me. To feel it in his gut too. To weep with me, to be angry with me, to fight along side me. So what is preventing that from happening?

My dad and I love each other deeply, he thinks of me as brilliant and beautiful and brave. He’s shown up for me in ways he hasn’t had to. We have a relationship based on mutual respect, kindness, trust, and the ability to see the good in each other. So if I can’t dig into racism with him in a loving and compassionate way, then who the fuck is supposed to? He’s my dad. I love him. I’m not going to give up on him. In order to reach him, to meet him where he was at, I realized I didn’t need to be smarter than him, or stronger than him, or less emotional than him. I needed to take a risk and be vulnerable with him.

First I told him that I know he is a reasonable person. That he needs to know the reasons why Mike Brown was killed, and he agreed to that. I said I know that he believes in justice, so he’s looking for what justifies a cop using deadly force on an unarmed teen. To him there must be a good reason for why this happened. The news has provided him with those reasons, right? The kid held up a store, he reached into a cop car, he was massively sized and super strong, crazy enough to charge at the cop even after being shot at, right? The media has been spewing that nonsense from the jump precisely to ease the conscience of reasonable people like him. He agreed to that too, maybe not as whole heartedly. I tell him that the fact he needs a reasonable explanation is so important to me.

This is when my eyes water. This is when my voice cracks. I tell him I know that he doesn’t want to live in a country where Black people are killed for being Black. Yes, this violence is heartbreaking, Yes, there is no end in sight. Yes, it’s been going on for lifetimes. And yes, our hands are bloodied by it. All of that is true. I feel all of those things, it’s not like I am immune. So I know what it is I’m asking him to do. To see the injustice, to let it in. I say it hurts me so much when I hear him insist that when a Black teenager is killed by police, it’s because the kid must have done something to deserve it. I speak to his vulnerability. I say I can see his heart and that I’m hearing him say this injustice is too much for his heart to handle. I know that he is protecting himself from a level of cruelty that should be unfathomable. I share that I know once we see no defendable justification for Mike Brown’s parents to bury their child, we can’t unsee it and we feel powerless to stop it. I tell him that is what I’ve felt. And he listens, and we don’t fight. He doesn’t say I’m right and I don’t need him to. He lets me be. I let him be. We’re also really good at giving each other space.

This is what I have the capacity to do so that nobody else has to. No person of color, no stranger on the street, no coworker, shop owner, neighbor, needs to have this deep level of empathy for my father. But I do. And who knows how long it will take! Will we fight about it again? Maybe. I don’t expect this to be a one time conversation. I do know that I will try my best to come at it from this perspective, it’s too important not to come from a place of love. I will not avoid the topic, I will not shy away from conflict. I will love him unapologetically again and again every time.


Taking the Time to Dream

I’m a U2 fan. Whew. There. I admitted it. Ok, so, in rock history there’s this moment when U2 is finishing their Lovetown Tour, after the release of Rattle & Hum, when Bono says, “It’s no big deal, it’s just – we have to go away and … and dream it all up again.”

And they did, they holed up in Berlin for a few years and came out with Achtung Baby. I’m not sure I can adequately describe how amazing that is. Rattle & Hum is a masterpiece. They could have stayed with those sounds for the rest of their careers. They didn’t. Sometimes I imagine Bono, the raging narcissist, penultimate extrovert, quite literally climbing the studio walls in the pains of audience adoration withdrawls. But he had his art. He had his band. And he is one driven motherfucker. 

Sometimes I feel like my kids are my masterpieces. The parenting I’ve done as a young adult is impressive. The resources I’ve weaved together, the alliances I’ve made, the relationships I’ve cultivated, the years of focus, the stands I’ve made and the paths I’ve abandoned… this is art. Sometimes I feel like I’m the large canvas that got partially sketched on, then was set aside in order to focus on more pressing, smaller pieces. Always in back of the studio though, maybe a sheet covering it, maybe some dust gathering, but still there waiting to be given proper amounts of attention. A big canvas requires a big dream and many hours of dedication; hours without applause or adoration.

Yes, besides mixing my metaphors, I’m making the analogy that my kids are my Rattle & Hum and I’m hoping that my next life phase turns out to be Achtung Baby. Bono isn’t alone in his raging narcissism. 

I haven’t done much dreaming. Strategizing, yes. Absolutely. I’m really good at choosing the next right thing. I am an excellent evaluator, especially under stressful conditions. I see something is  wrong, I fix it. I make decisions, I stand by them, until it’s time to reevaluate. But dreaming? The expansive, open ended, hearts desire stuff? Not too much time for that since I made the big life changing decisions when my sons were tiny babies. I dreamt of a different life for us and I made it happen. My life, while challenging, does not suck. I feel very successful in certain ways. I feel adept and confident and savvy in so many arenas. I’ve achieved so many things I wasn’t supposed to. 

If you’ve been a reader of mine for a while, you’ve probably noticed a lot less articles, posts, and features. I’ve been writing for myself mostly. Writing to see what’s inside. I’ve been excavating. This past weekend I exposed a long lost layer of dreams to the air and while I was so afraid that these hearts desires would crumble in the sunlight, turns out they’re made of some durable material. I feel like I’ve been digging with the big equipment, jackhammers and pick axes and now it’s time to switch to the fine tooth brushes. There’s something there, what is it, what does it look like? It’s not something I’m ready to share publicly. But that doesn’t make it less valuable to me. I guess that’s the cost of taking the time to dream; there’s no adoration in the private process.

And now, well, it’s no big deal, I just have to go away and … and dream me all up again.