Black Lives Matter

When I first started blogging, I found myself in a community called Arkansas Women Bloggers. It was new for me, to be part of such a group. And boy, did I feel like an outsider.

I wasn’t a wife. I wasn’t a mom. I wasn’t a craft blogger. I wasn’t a food blogger. It seemed like there was no one else in the group who blogged as I did – without focus, without a clear purpose, without a real point of view.

Many times, many more than I am proud of, I found myself resenting the women in the group. I sat through workshops and sessions where women exhorted each other to “find your voice” because “your story matters” and my first, uncharitable, gut reaction was some variation of this:

How in the world can a woman who is happily married, with kids she loves, a good job, a huge house, and perfect hair, claim that she isn’t fulfilled? She has everything…why does she need to “tell her story” and “feel validated?” I am ALONE, I have no kids, no partner, I do everything myself…why is SHE claiming my space…and why does her story matter more than mine?

I am not proud of this reaction. But I am human, and humans are flawed, and therefore I understand it. And I know that I have to fight like hell to change my own mind, because here’s the thing: this might be my gut reaction, but that doesn’t mean it’s right. 

Donald Trump is a master at manipulating this part of our human psyche. He plays to it; sure, it feels good to blame immigrants or Muslims or political correctness for all that is wrong in your life. But that doesn’t mean it’s true. And it doesn’t mean it’s right to do so. That’s why we have the ego and the superego, if you believe Freud.

I’m spending all these words on this because I’m trying to find a way to talk about Black Lives Matter.

First, a confession. I’ve been unwilling to write about this because, well, I’m scared. Because I know that people I care about who are reading this might disagree with me. Because we don’t talk about “the politics”. Because it’s too divisive, too hard.

But here’s the thing. I may be scared of talking about this, but I am not scared of dying if I get pulled over by the police. And at this point, this is about more than politics. This is about life. I didn’t go to college and read books and work hard to be a better person just to clam up because I’m afraid of a little confrontation.

So let’s talk about Black Lives Matter. As a marketer, I’ve gotta say that a really good tagline shouldn’t need to be explained as much as this one is, but this isn’t an academic exercise.

First, it’s worth pointing out that many caring, decent white people have a really hard time knowing what to do about discussing race. I’m not looking for pity in that statement – I’m just saying it’s true. I have read several dozen articles over the past few days about how I, as a member of white America, should be responding – they are all different. So there’s that.

2nd, most us white folks cannot truly place ourselves in the position of our black friends and colleagues. We simply can’t, because regardless of our own struggles and triumphs, our skin color has given us certain privileges in today’s world. We can do our best, we can have empathy, but we will never really understand it on a visceral level.

And finally, let’s be totally honest here. When talking about horrible things like shootings and violence, the gut reaction to #blacklivesmatter, if you’re not black, could very well be “sure, but doesn’t my life (or the life of my friends/family) matter, too?”

Let’s go back to my blogging example. My first reaction to being a part of that community was selfish. It was based on a gut feeling; if someone else’s story matters, than that somehow means that mine doesn’t.

When you think about this in terms of blogging, that reaction seems pretty silly. And luckily, the story doesn’t stop there. I was able to recognize that someone else telling their story doesn’t hurt me; that both of our stories could matter, even if hers was the one getting all the clicks.

It’s the same with Black Lives Matter, although in this case, we’re not talking about blog stats; we’re talking about people’s LIVES.

So when I say that I believe that Black Lives Matter, I am not saying everyone else’s lives don’t. OF COURSE I’m not saying that, and neither are the majority of the people who are saying it.

I am acknowledging that many black people still face a society that hasn’t fully welcomed them as equals.

I am acknowledging that my friends, who are raising black children, have to teach them what to do to not get shot if they get stopped by police. Let me say that again. I have friends who are teaching their kids to never put their hands in their pockets when talking to the police. This is real…and it’s not ok.

And let’s just be clear on this. I am able to do all of this and also mourn the police officers who were shot for doing their jobs two nights ago in Dallas. I am able to mourn the soldiers who lost their lives all across the world as they serve in America’s military. I am able to mourn those fighting disease and hardship. I am able to honor all of those people for their heroism in the face of terror. I am able to hope that we can work to make things better. I am a human being, and we humans really do have the capacity to hold more than one thought in our heads at any given time.

I wish we didn’t have to, because honestly, it hurts to have all of this anguish and fear and despair in there.

But we have to try.

So I’m going to learn more about how the police work.

I’m going to not be afraid to tell my black friends that I stand with them and that I want to help.

I’m going to acknowledge that I might not say or do the right thing. My first reaction (and my 2nd, and 3rd) might be wrong.

But I am not going to let that keep me from trying.

6288 feet up and still searching

It seems that lately, I’ve become a bit of a view whore. Selling my soul, or at least my free time, in a quest for vistas that take me out of the daily and into the sublime.

Maybe it’s my own version of seeking something bigger than myself…

Maybe it’s because working in classical music makes my brain tired, and views are like coffee…

Or maybe I just like the how the world looks From the Top of Mount Washington, the highest peak in the Northeast, also home to the Worst Weather in the World. I managed to leave my camera card at home AGAIN (3rd time I’ve done this in the last year – grrr), so these were captured with my aging I-Phone.

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Count the layers of mountains

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This is what I want in life. Preferably with me and someone significant in the other chair.

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A famous trail that I might climb someday…maybe.

PS: Astute readers will note a “mistake” in the capitalization of a part of this post. Chill out, grammar police, I meant to do it. You’re welcome, Robin.

Of Gorillas and Guns and Expertise

It seems like a long time ago, doesn’t it? You remember, that time when we all became experts on gorilla behavior. And parenting. Boy, did we bring out the self-righteous pitchforks on that one.

Then, we got distracted from our armchair zoology by a 3-month sentence for a young man who sexually assaulted an unconscious woman, and suddenly we all became experts on judicial sentencing. And, it’s worth mentioning that, all sarcasm aside, there are far too many women who are experts at dealing with the devastation of rape and sexual assault. Far, far too many.

Then a woman made history by becoming the presumptive nominee for President for the Democratic Party. And of course we had to point out all the reasons we shouldn’t/couldn’t/wouldn’t allow that historical milestone to be celebrated. Because, you know, we’re all experts in political strategy and recent American political history.

And now we are wrestling with a horrible mass shooting, targeting those who really don’t deserve to be put through more than we’ve already put them through. And now we’re all experts on gun control and the 2nd amendment and LGBT issues.

To be honest, I’m tired of everyone being an expert.

The truth is, most of us aren’t experts at anything. We’re students of life. We’re observers. We’re laypeople; we can do our best to try to understand everything, but more often than not, we fail. Because we’re biased, because we don’t have all the information, and because sometimes, the information we have is wrong.

What we ARE experts at is far less noble than we think it is.

We are experts at judging people.

We are experts at wild speculation.

We are experts at listening only to those who speak to our particular bias.

We are experts at being mean, at cutting down others, at fostering fear of people who are different than us.

And we’ve gotten really, really good at crying out in pain, and having no way to channel our righteous anger into positive, forward-thinking action.

I usually try to end my blog posts with some sort of “but here’s how we could do better!” cheeriness. But I don’t think I can on this one. I don’t really know how. I guess I just want to say that I’m not an expert at any of the stuff we’re talking about these days. To be honest, this “un-expertise” has kept me from writing about all this stuff to date, because, really, I know nothing, Jon Snow. So I should just shut up, right? Maybe. But I do know a few things.

I know that I wish some real experts would step forward and help us figure out some of this out. You know, using facts and data and research and all that crazy, rational stuff. And I wish we had the guts to listen to them.

I know I’m grateful for my friends who ARE experts, and are doing all they can to help people.

I know it’s really sad that there is one less endangered gorilla in the world. And that it’s very good that there’s a little boy who’s still alive.

I know that I want to tell parents to give yourselves, and each other, a break – your jobs are hard enough without the world telling you all the ways you’re doing it wrong.

I know I must help the young kids in my life grow up to care for and respect each other, so maybe there will be fewer lives ruined by sexual assault in the future.

I know I will always remember the day Hillary Clinton smashed that glass ceiling and reminded us all to be thankful for the women who came before, who paved the path.

And I know that my heart is breaking for my friends in the LGBT and Muslim communities who are experts at being made to be afraid to live in their own homes, neighborhoods…and even their own country.

Maybe if we all became experts in taking care of each other, we’d do better. Maybe.

When life is just…fine.

The other day a friend asked what what going on in my life.

I hemmed and hawed…um, well, you know…and eventually settled on: “You know what? Not much really.”

We had just finished a 5K, raising $500 for the MSPCA, were enjoying a nice snack in an outdoor beer garden, and were about to head home to suck up the last few hours of a largely uneventful weekend. The day prior, I’d taken Sadie on a long walk in the Arboretum, and taken dozens of photos. I’d worked a puzzle (on my laptop, my latest brainless obsession). I had some web work to do for a friend, plans to do some laundry, and I wanted to cook myself a meal at home. And watch some Buffy reruns.

That was it.

I had no drama to share. Nothing more than the usual dysfunction at my job to talk about – and we can only rehash that so many times before it gets boring. No Grand Adventures on the horizon (though there will be, just haven’t made my decision – or saved enough pennies – yet). No new baby to rhapsodize about, no wedding or anniversary to celebrate – I include these because they seem to have taken over my facebook feed lately – and no tales of a new relationship (or even an old one).

Nothing really to write home about, as they say.

I felt lame.

I felt boring.

And I realized that this is at the heart of my restlessness lately. The feeling that it’s somehow wrong to simply be living my life in all it’s humdrum-ness.

This is not an original thought, I know. But why, I wonder? Why aren’t we content to just be where we are, in the moment, and be good with it?

It probably has to do with Mazlow’s hierarchy or something. Whatever it is, it’s kind of annoying. It would be nice to just say “nope, I’m just living my life and that’s fine”, and actually believe it.

So I’ll say it. I’m living. I’m cooking, running, reading, hiking, playing volleyball, working, hanging with my dog & my friends, exploring Boston, dreaming of my next trip…and not much else.

And that’s fine.

I almost believe it. Almost.:)

Tales of the chronically-disheveled

If I were to look back on my life as an athlete/exerciser, there’s a lot I’ve done. From gymnastics in my youth (I was terrible) to volleyball in college (I was not terrible) to running and hiking these days – I’ve logged a lot of miles, both literally and metaphorically. I am proud of this. But there is one skill I have never, ever been able to master.

It’s the art of looking good while doing all this exercising.

You know what I mean, dear readers. You know these women. Hell, many of you probably ARE these women, the ones who can run 5 miles and flash a brilliant smile in your slightly glistening, glowing face, as your shiny straight hair clings to your cheeks just enough to look like you exerted yourself, but no more than that.

You are the ones who could play a 5-match volleyball set and somehow make a sweaty pair of spandex and an ugly jersey look good. Wearing mascara that somehow didn’t smudge. How did you do that?

You’re the ones I pass on the hiking trail, in your perfect duds and artful pony tails. Sometimes you even wear a bandana wrapped just so around your perfectly shaped heads, as your appropriately-bearded hiking mate whistles your gleaming-coated and perfectly obedient dog to your side.

You’re always friendly. You always say hi. And I always imagine you laughing at me as I pass.

Because I am always a mess. Today, after finishing a 6.4 mile trek, I was feeling good. I thought I might take a selfie in the gorgeous New England woods to mark the moment. I turned the camera on myself and nearly yelped.

Hair flying literally every which way, escaping the elastic – I’m pretty sure there were a few twigs in there, too, perhaps a small animal? Dirt on my face, and not the kind that they smudge on in your makeup trailer. Even my clothes were in disarray, which is a special accomplishment when you consider I was wearing a backpack with enough straps to keep an astronaut in her seat.

In that brief glimpse, I saw myself as I’d been hundreds of times in my life, red-faced and sweaty and gross after a workout. I laughed and put the phone away, because y’all don’t need to see that. I packed my muddy-pawed and dusty dog into the car. And I sent a silent thanks out to the many friends who still hang out with me even when I’ve got my post-workout, ahem, glow, going on.

To those of you who can’t relate at all to what I’m saying, well, sorry. You just keep being your gorgeous selves, appreciate your good fortune, and keep smiling your perfect smiles at the rest of us. We won’t hate you (too much).😉