If You Can ‘Huh’ You Can Hear

 
Monday came quick, right? Some folks may still be off and that’s just fine. I hope you feel as lucky as you are. For the rest of us, we’re back on it and the demands feel heavy, I bet.
 
My inbox… ewww.
 
I felt the urge to charge into everything and do all the stuff I have in my mind all at once. But uhhh… nah. It doesn’t all need to be done at once. It does need to be done right though. For me to do it right, I need to get right.
 
So I tune out.
 
Breathe in, breathe out. Let that sound in. Just focus on that.
 
With the rhythm of your breath as a four four time, cut time, waltz… check in.
 
Do you hurt physically? Where is your body in this moment? Can you address your pain? What can be done immediately? Short-term? Long-term?
 
Do you hurt mentally? What is on your mind? How are your thoughts organized? Can you address your pain? What can be done immediately? Short-term? Long-term?
 
Do you hurt spiritually? How are you taking care of your spirit? What is on your soul? Can you address your pain? What can be done immediately? Short-term? Long-term?
 
Have you slept recently? If not, sometimes answers can be found in our dreams and rest. Rest if you can.
 
Have you eaten recently? If not, sometimes answers can be found in the solace of a nourished belly. Eat well, sitting down and focused on your food, if you can.
 
Have you had a glass of water? If not, sometimes answers can be found in this basic liquid. Drink a decent amount of water (I’d go with a pint this week, if you can handle it) and feel the feeling of it going down. This one is a little non-negotiable.
 
Check in again and if all is well, take care to let the world in at your pace. Remember yourself. Get right.
 
 
A while ago I wrote a pretty bitter post about some time I spent in Atlanta while a small band of young people fought white supremacists in Charlottesville. But something else happened there that has sat with me this weekend and will follow me into 2018.
 
During the Q and A, our panel got a question on political education. A young white guy stood up and said that he’s tried to tell people about the numerous atrocities committed by the United States ad wondered if he wasn’t saying the right thing. His description of the interactions were really difficult for me to fully understand because the people were so monochromatic and detached from him. Another disaffected white dude shouted agreement with him.
 
“No one listens to us!”
 
Another panelist pointed out that the starting point for these discussions is important. The young man who asked the question, for example, was trying to tell people about the US role in Latin America and while what has happened is important, it might not be the best angle of approach. He posited that maybe the answer to getting someone to listen is to do some listening.
 
They didn’t hear it, I recall. I felt bad for them as I knew it was only going to get worse.
 
Sometimes I do interviews or talk to media people and they talk about the labor movement in this really strange way similar to the way the young man talked about the people he was trying to influence. I used to think it was because they didn’t like decisions made by union leadership or the bizarre way labor is forced to interact with the economy. But this last year has really educated me as to the central reason why he and they struggle with you, me and us.
 
I want to talk about imperialism all the time. I want to rail about Nigeria (I mean wtf) and Yemen (OMFG) and Palestine (holy shit) but I also recognize that I can’t start where I want to start because I want other participants in the conversation. If I want to talk to anyone, I need to recognize where they are because I want something from them. Truthfully, no one is out there looking for my hot take on anything and that’s true for most of us (laugh if you want but it is true.) All this “educating” is really just “signifying” otherwise and no one has time for that shit. I’d say its especially important now but fuck that… we should have been listening a long time ago.
 
Folks in the labor movement, in the classroom, on the street or anywhere else want to hear all kinds of things from us. But they’d love it if we at least pretended like we care what they think. They’d love it if we stretched a little and showed some concern for their lives and their ears. They’d love it if we at least listened to them for a while before we opened our mouths after rolling our eyes at the thing they said that we think is uninformed, dumb, bizarre… And before you get all upset, I’m saying “we” because I’m watching my back (and mouth, and keyboard) on this first. It’s gonna be frustrating and more than a little slow but it’s damn sure better than fascists in the White House (again) and watching your comrades drown because of climate change.
 
Let’s do a lot of listening. We can start now but it’ll take us a while to figure out what it means to listen to each other. Let’s make 2018 the year that we heard women. Let’s make 2018 the year that we heard people of color. Let’s make 2018 the year that we heard the neurodivergent. Let’s make 2018 the year that we heard across class lines. We don’t have to like it. Let’s just listen and see what happens to what we say to someone that we’ve heard for the first time in a long time. Let’s see what their reaction is when they realize that someone actually gave a fuck about whatever they said instead of waiting for their turn to speak.
man speaking empty audience

Defrag

Hey!

I want you, today or tomorrow, to find some sacred silence and be there.  Do whatever you want in that space.  You can scream and cry, laugh your ass off, or just sit and think.  Give yourself anywhere from five minutes to whenever you think you can’t take it anymore.

Give yourself the time.

Breathe.

Drink water.

Eat something that tastes good AND is good for you, even if it takes some work.

But before everything, give yourself the time.

2017 has brutalized us, that much is clear.

When January was on us, I remember how afraid I felt along with everyone else.  I wondered what cruelty would come from our government and how vicious they would be.  The speech that Trump gave at his inauguration was a horrible reminder of what we’re capable of as human beings, fulfilling my nightmares about what would emerge from his orange maw in the weeks and months ahead.

Comrades started their fighting, building new structures and campaigns to take things on.  I myself started working on a thing I continue to have fun with and we’re going to win.  But getting to the win will require much more than what we have constructed to date and that’s true for all of us.  January passed by so quickly that I can really only think about life in seasons when looking back.

Winter and Spring was amazing as people started turning airports into arenas.  Summer pushed us into thinking deeply about our own security and what we’d do when our families were threatened.  Charlottesville made a lot us, myself included, re-examine relationships and really take a hard look at what these times mean for us in terms of who our friends are.  A lot of people that were in my life tangentially just aren’t anymore.  Summer changed to Fall and we’re still hurting.  The fascists might have been sent slinking back into slimy corners, but their damage remains with us.

So why be amazed when Fall turned Winter and we all feel like we’ve been sitting in a blender for months, ready to be poured into holiday-themed containers and served?  It’s been really hard and we’re not dealing with it very well.

I’m not dealing with it very well.

Particularly as the days get ever darker and the light hits my face that much less, I find myself getting existential about it.  Why now?  “I’ve got so much to do!  I don’t have time for this,” I say as I struggle to get out of bed.  I’m longing for holidays just so I can do nothing and, dare I say it, ignore even the people I really like.  I can feel myself slowing and seeking trusted warmth, like a bear during a harsh winter.  I’m a lot more introspective and generative in this space and it’s translating into some fun (if not fucking weird) stuff.  Why?

Because I’m a computer nerd, the metaphor I’m starting to work with is a hard drive that needs to defragment.

Fragmentation occurs when the file system cannot or will not allocate enough contiguous space to store a complete file as a unit, but instead puts parts of it in gaps between existing files (usually those gaps exist because they formerly held a file that the file system has subsequently deleted or because the file system allocated excess space for the file in the first place). Files that are often appended to (as with log files) as well as the frequent adding and deleting of files (as with emails and web browser cache), larger files (as with videos) and greater numbers of files contribute to fragmentation and consequent performance loss. Defragmentation attempts to alleviate these problems.

–  Wikipedia “Defragmentation”

Over the course of a year, I’ve done a lot of amazing things that are fun to remember, especially as many of them are fresh (Turkey!  South Korea!  Halloween!) and feel so new.  Those things take up space, just like the horrible things, and they’re all mixed up together.  Some stuff I can try to forget but can’t completely let go.  Other things I don’t want to forget but they slip my mind.  It’s a jumble and I’m lucky to get out what I can, in retrospect.  My file system is like anyone else’s:  it has its hiccups and places where it is less than perfect.  It makes mistakes.  But I think, also, I got lucky in that I got a high-performing hybrid drive in my skull that – like most high-performance things – requires a little extra care.  It’s not that it’s better… it’s just intended for different uses.  Emotional processes need a little more love.  Decisions?  Extra processing time.  But if I keep things going well enough, my platters will keep spinning.

I’m starting to think, having no idea if its even the right direction to be thinking in, that part of this turn inward is my brain’s chance to reorganize.  Depression is still pretty mysterious (hard drive errors stacking up?  platters that won’t spin?  too MUCH introspection?) but it feels like this turn downward and inward has a purpose and a point.  So I’m going to roll with it, I think.  I’m going to make some pies and mac n’ cheese casseroles and read a few books.  I’m going to knock things off the Wunderlist (I swear!) and spend more time playing with Justice in front of the fireplace.  Maybe it’s just time for all of us to take the time to reorganize our minds in preparation for what is to come, trusting that we’ll have the space we need for the lives we want.

Eat well, get some rest and I’ll see you after the break.

mac-and-cheese-with-bacon1.jpg

 

 

 

Fall Feels

Sometimes it helps to close your eyes, sometimes it helps to keep them focused on a blank space on a wall or a picture you like. Do what you need to do. But I want you to imagine a dot. Let that dot be any color you (or it) want that dot to be. Keep that dot in the center of your eye/mind and start to work on your breathing. Start by just breathing in and out regularly. Feel the air enter on the breath in, then feel it pass on the way out. Repeat but with each passing breath, let the air flow a little deeper. With each breath, keep your eye on that dot. Try to make more and more space in your mind for the air and the dot. Focus. Repeat this for a while.
After you’ve taken some time with your breathing and Dot, assess your situation as always but let’s add some additional areas to consider.

Do you hurt physically? Where is your body in this moment? Can you address your pain? What can be done immediately? Short-term? Long-term?

Do you hurt mentally? What is on your mind? How are your thoughts organized? Can you address your pain? What can be done immediately? Short-term? Long-term?

Do you hurt spiritually? How are you taking care of your spirit? What is on your soul? Can you address your pain? What can be done immediately? Short-term? Long-term?

Have you slept recently? If not, sometimes answers can be found in our dreams and rest. Rest if you can.

Have you eaten recently? If not, sometimes answers can be found in the solace of a nourished belly. Eat well, sitting down and focused on your food, if you can.

Have you had a glass of water? If not, sometimes answers can be found in this basic liquid. Drink a decent amount of water (I’d go with a pint this week, if you can handle it) and feel the feeling of it going down. This one is a little non-negotiable.  

Now, check in again. How are you? Do you have access to a range of emotions? Are you feeling them? Do you need more assistance than what this list can provide? If so, take a minute to think about where that assistance is located. If you can’t find anyone close to you, feel free to FB message me. From there you can call me. I’ll listen to you.  

My vitamin D count is low, so output gets higher for a while I think.  Supplements are amazing for this so it looks like I’m back on my weekly sunshine pills.  Being seasonally affected means being aware of the pull sooner rather than later, but I didn’t “feel it” till this weekend.

It’s getting closer to a year’s end and I’m ready for all of that.  2017 has been one long relentless blister on my foot and I’m ready for that sumbitch to heal already.  I can see the need for a kitchen filled with good smells and I’m anxious to bring it into being.  I might get started waaayyyy before and try some experiments as takeout menus have been my drug of choice for too many months.  

I was talking about organizing, hands flailing as I talked about the need for a good narrative (particularly with Americans,) and Doc asked me an interesting question: when you are creating these stories, how do people feel?  I explained that it is sometimes important for people to feel like the hero in their own story and I play with that a lot.  He then asked:

When is it not the case?  Meaning, when should they not feel that way?  Shouldn’t people always feel important even when it’s  dull or you don’t think what is happening is important?

Things really suck and hopelessness is a headline away. It’s enough to make you sick (and a lot of us are.)  We are often looking for someone to save us and truth is, when we are looking for justice we often get mad when all we find is just us.  But that’s the way it is and if we get over the disappointment that comes with responsibility we might find some power underneath it.

I am sitting with that as I look at what comes next.  We all need, especially now, to feel like we are going to win and that we are all part of that victory.  Monday emails need to be full of life and sunshine because that’s what I need.   

Posting something important in a separate post and it’s gonna be NSFW.