Checking My White Privilege In The Mirror

Remember the Pandemic – That Virus?

Well it hasn’t gone away. But the nice weather had people out protesting “Stay at Home” orders. Men, fully wrapped in their weaponry; marching, pushing their way into State Capital buildings in protest. The president said “These are good people. They’re just angry. Let them speak.” The police stood back…gave them space. Some states then lifted the stay at home orders and opened beaches, parks, some businesses, even bars in some places. And people rushed to them. FREE AT LAST to get the virus or not. “My body. My choice!” They had been heard!

New cases of the virus continue. Latest report says that there are at least 100,000 a day. The death toll is now almost 110,000 in the US.

But Then Something Else Happened

On May 25, 2020, George Floyd, a 46 year old black man, died in Minneapolis after Derek Chauvin, a white police officer, knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes while he was handcuffed and face down on the street. His offense apparently was that he had passed a counterfeit $20 bill. The entire incident was recorded by a bystander on her cell phone. According to what we see on the video, Mr. Floyd never seemed combative but he was still taken to the ground. Derek Chauvin held him down with his knee on Mr. Floyd’s neck even as Mr. Floyd cried out “I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe.” The officer held his position while three other officers stood by until Mr. Floyd was non-responsive. The video was then shared on social media as yet another example of police brutality. Yet another! This was extremely hard to watch!

A New Protest – A Real Protest

This time, this video turned into a flashpoint for communities across the country to go to the streets in protest. In the early nights, those protests turned into riots and looting. Stories circulated that this destruction was being instigated by either White Supremist groups (far right) or Antifa (far left). The thought is that the intent was to make the Black protesters look bad. But cell phones were at work highlighting the faces of the instigators. White people. White people were starting the destruction, throwing the first brick.

Some states called for help from their National Guard and the president activated the military riot units to guard the White House. Tear gas, rubber bullets, pepper spray and brute force were used. At one point a large military contingency was used to move peaceful protestors back so the president could cross the street to have his picture taken standing in front of a church and holding up a bible. He has yet to speak to the country with any sort of understanding and reassurance that the protestors voices are being heard. Instead, he has erected an 8 foot tall fence around the perimeter of the White House and has instructed the state’s governors to “Get tough” with the protestors otherwise they will “look foolish”.

Waking Up To A New Reality

People are outraged and more and more officers are being suspended from duty for using excessive force. While police brutality and the death of George Floyd are the focus of the protests, there are other spotlights shining down on…white privilege and systemic racism as a whole. It’s in the spotlight that I find myself being totally uncomfortable. And I’m writing this as my own reflection. I have never seen myself as racist and condemn the acts of White Supremacy but still right now I need to question my white privilege.

Here Are My Thoughts

We are a country who has turned it’s collective back on inequality, let whole populations of minority races live in poverty, brought undocumented immigrants into the country to toil in our fields and clean our resorts. We have let our education system be funded by property taxes knowing full well that wealthy districts can develop great schools while poor districts just get what they can afford. Health care is also based on ability to pay. Poorer paying jobs have little or no health insurance while better paying jobs provide Cadillac coverage. So is it any wonder why more Black people have died from Corona Virus?

At one point, the president signed an executive order to demand that meat packers coming from facilities with high incidents of the virus must return to work. No orders to make sure the facility was following any kind of protective guidelines, just “return to work”. Guess who works primarily in meat packing plants? They are primarily minority people.

A spotlight has been turned on us! White people are standing in this light naked, still holding on to pandemic protest signs that read “I Need A Haircut”.

We, who hoarded toilet paper and filled our freezers with meat while still demanding that the shelves be stocked daily so that they were ready for our next frantic buying spree.

We, who for years, have blamed Black people for not “lifting themselves up by their bootstraps” to get themselves out of poverty, while ignoring the pleas for a living wage. Grocery store workers, meat packers – deemed “Essential Workers” during the quarantine, probably don’t make $15.00 an hour.

We, who watched as a black football player took a knee in a respectful quiet way to protest police brutality. We didn’t support him when his protest caused him to lose his job. We didn’t support him when his protest was turned into “disrespecting the flag”. We didn’t support other football players who were told to stand or else during the National Anthem. This protest was not allowed because it was causing people to turn away from football. It was deemed too offensive.

We, who have watched multiple videos and heard multiple accounts of black people being gunned down for looking suspicious, maybe reaching for a weapon, or running away. Some have been even killed in their own homes! We have let the outrage be carried by black communities while we stayed quiet. And when charges were dropped, which they almost always are, we believed that justice must have been served because we simply did not have all the facts.

We, who allowed cries that “Black Lives Matter” be replaced with “All Lives Matter” and stayed quiet as yard signs and bumper stickers popped up everywhere that said “Blue Lives Matter”, systematically diminishing the whole original message.

Our privileged silence gave permission to white supremacy. We have looked the other way because we, too, did not want to lose our place in society. This place we feel we’ve worked so hard to attain. But did we really? Or were doors opened for us because… we’re white?

I’ve guided my own daughters through adulthood to believe that life is about choices and doors are presented. It’s up to us to choose to walk through them or not.

But now, I see that as the purest example of White Privilege that exists. We Have Choices! We Have Doors That Open! No one is blocking our path. Even our fear is mostly self imposed.

So, now that we are standing here naked, totally exposed for our privileged selves, what are we to do? Well, we have choices, now, don’t we.

  1. We could scream and shout, blaming others for exposing our nakedness or,
  2. We could run from this light and hope that it will be turned off so we can go back to “our normal”,
  3. Or we can admit that we’re ashamed, embarrassed and disgusted with the way we look in this light. And we’d like a chance to get dressed again. Now we may not dress right initially because we’ve been in the dark for a long time, but we’d like to try. We want to learn. We want to listen. We want to help. We want to say that our supremacy was wrong. We want to share the abundance of this country to raise everyone up. We want to unlock doors so everyone has choices. Hopefully, we can find peaceful ways to communicate. Maybe we can even put our guns away! We need to listen more. Listen more, fight less. Listen more, talk less. Listen more. Listen more. Listen more.

We might even be able to make this the new definition of “Make America Great Again.”

I am standing here, now, looking at this person, honestly, in the mirror. I have let myself go. I stopped paying attention for some reason. I let myself rationalize that there was nothing I could do anymore. Now, I am being honest with this person. All the white privilege that exists in my closet right now needs to be replaced.

#She Persisted

I had a dream last night, the kind that stick with you after you wake.

I was looking for a tool to scrap old paint off my windows and there it was the perfect thing at a neighbors house. I asked to use it saying I’d even pay for its use. He said sure and then felt a need to add “Probably you can get your son-in-law to help you with the job.” Now it was just a scraper and I just looked at him! He said, “Well, do you want to rent it or not?” And I said, “I’m sorry, I just have to get over my feelings about you assuming that I’d need help to use a scraper!” And he returned that same confused look back to me! And then I woke up.

Even laying there awake, I was agitated. Why are women still not viewed as capable? And I sadly thought of the announcement that Elizabeth Warren was dropping out of the presidential campaign. Why had she not gained the traction that she needed? She was smart, eloquent, prepared. Still, there was a fear that she could not stand up to the likes of Donald Trump. Still have to fight man to man?

I raised two girls and now am watching three more baby girl grandchildren grow in this world that has battled with the simple idea of equality. I have shared story after story with my daughters about how I was raised to assume a female role of housekeeping and childcare while protecting a man’s self esteem. I told them and showed them that we were smart too, that we had every capability that a boy has and all we had to do was march out into the world with confidence.

Two divorces later, I can still hear my brother’s warning: Be careful not to surpass your husband at work. It will hurt his ego.” I had surpassed both of them. I was still confident. I had a right to grow just as much as they did. One husband used emotional abuse to try to hold me back, and the other just quit his job and took up residence on a local barstool. My desire to be the best I could be in my field had, indeed, lead them to believe that they were somehow worthless.

And so here we go again, we had the opportunity to show our daughters and granddaughters that an intelligent woman could lead us and we caved, too worried that a woman can’t take on a man even though the woman is better prepared. What do we actually say to our baby girls? We say, “She persisted and so will we.”

Finding Inspiration In A Rock

Working still on trying to find my way. I’m now reading JULIA Cameron’s newer books: It’s Never Too Late To Begin Again and Walking In The World. Both are inspiring me, again, to keep moving. Just keep moving!

Begin Again

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I Am A Rock

For a few years, now, I’ve been on  a journey to “find myself”.  I know, people used to think that’s something for the young and foolish but when I was young, I didn’t have the time to find myself.  Now, I do.

So, currently, I am engrossed in a book entitled “The Artist’s Way – A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity“, by Julia Cameron.  I am actively participating in multiple, suggested exercises, feeding my brain with positive affirmations, unblocking negative thoughts and fears – things that block creativity.

One of many, simple activities was to go on a rock hunt. Search for rocks that stand out  for some reason.  She said that they were, then, to serve as “small constant reminders of creative consciousness”. That’s all… Hmmm. Ok.

So, off I went to find rocks that spoke to me. I walked and walked, looking for the…

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Let Your Light Shine

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Everyone has the ability to reflect light. It’s a choice. So I choose the light!

 Surrounding me, forever, have been harbingers of doom and gloom. I admit, there is plenty of bad, in the world, to keep the flow of negativity going but while others share posts intended to incite anger, hatred, and frustration, I choose to give something that might allow a moment of quiet, calm, peace.

I started this blog two years ago and at the time I was living in a small apartment that butted up to a nature preserve.  It was there that I found peace.   I would walk the trails, allowing my eyes to wander from tree to flower and more, simply waiting for something to catch my eye. When it did, I’d stop and linger with the camera snapping frame after frame, zooming in to capture the intricacy of its beauty.

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These were taken in the summer time. There is something about flowers that soothe a restless heart.  I read somewhere that flowers don’t try to compete to be the best flower in the garden. They just bloom!  So, I surround myself with as many flowers as I can and, today, I choose to just bloom!

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You can too.

It’s a choice!

Words

 

It’s all been said before.
You’ve heard the words.

“Relax.
Go with the flow.
Just focus on today.
Take one moment at a time.”

Right? Right!

Words!
Just words!
No one can tell you how to handle this.
No one can feel what I feel.

Everything will be ok.
 Just breathe!
Focus on this moment.
Don’t worry about tomorrow.

But everything doesn’t feel ok.

It’s hard to breathe.

I can’t focus.

I am worried.

Ok.
I will listen.
I will be by your side.
Cry, if you need to.
I’ll hold your hand.
Scream if it helps.
I’ll understand.

Sometimes,
Silence
Is the best advice.

Sometimes,
Being present
Is the best friend.

The words will always be there.
They linger in the air
For just the right moment.
When I’m ready
They’ll be heard.

What Really Matters?

IMG_9485This older me, this wiser me…

looks back before I head into this new year.  This older me, this wiser me reflects on one simple question:  “What really mattered in my life?  What really mattered?

Was it to be popular with others my age (first in school, then in my job, then with other parents, and on and on)?  I wanted so much to be popular.  Did that really matter?

Was it to have nice things (clothes, cars, houses, furniture)?  I longed for nice things, worked hard for nice things, my whole life.  Did those things really matter?

I did so much in my life.  I always wanted more.  I had a career, a marriage, children.  I raced from task to task, wanting to be the best for each of them; always longing to be better than I felt I was, feeling less than perfect all the time.

Did it matter?  Did it really matter?

This older me, this wiser me looks back and thinks…

What really mattered was the laughter, the love, the hugs, the conversations, the moments of pure joy.  None of these things had popularity or fashion or money requirements.  They came to me free of charge with only one requirement; I had to give these things back to others.

This older me, this wiser me…

found peace inside, and with that peace came this simple but profound understanding.  I realized, as I looked back on my memories that when I laughed, others laughed.  When I hugged, I got a hug in return.  When I listened to others, others listened to me.  When I shared my moments of pure joy, it made others happy and they, in turn, shared their’s.  When I gave love, I got loved right back.

So, what really matters in this life?

How about if you STOP!  Stop trying to be… and do… and want… and need… something more. STOP! Stop wishing…and hoping… and longing…for something you don’t have. STOP!  Stop believing that being popular, having a great job, making lots of money is what matters…because… it doesn’t.

In the end, the older you, the wiser you will look back… at the laughter… the love…the hugs…the conversations…the moments of pure joy.

And, they were all free to give and freely given in return.

So, this older me, this wiser me says…

This is my gift to you for the new year.  You don’t have to wait to be old to be wise.  Right now, today, you can bring laughter into your day, you can hug someone and listen (really listen) to someone.  And then, try sharing a moment of pure joy.  See for yourself.  See if, by doing these things, you find love.

And, that, my friends, is what really matters…to love!

 

 

The Christmas Letter

S.M.I.L.E - Simple Messages In Life's Eye

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Once a year, I do it. Once a year, I collect my thoughts about how my year has gone and I summarize it the best I can into a Christmas newsletter.

I know, I know! There are so many thoughts about “The Christmas Letter” that you get from others each year. Some are braggadocios: sharing every possible wonderful trip that was taken, how smart and successful their kids are, and how they just moved to a bigger, grander house. Others drone on and on about little things like how well their garden grew last summer. One year, I got a letter from my aunt. She listed every illness, broken bone, surgery, and sadness her family had experienced over the past year and then she ended it with “Merry Christmas”. I couldn’t help it. I laughed!

So, why do I do it? Why do I spend time writing this letter that…

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Maybe I Should Take Up Knitting

Journal Entry - July 22, 2015
Part Six of how Morning Pages(my journal) 
helped me process through a change

When I was a teenager, my mom told me that I needed to take up a hobby; something like knitting, embroidery, or crocheting.  She said that if I didn’t, I’d be bored.  Well, I’ve made it for 64 years without any of that yarn but I may be nearing a point. I like having a project to work on and just like with a knitted sweater, I like having a way to give it to someone.

Since Sunday, and our return from the river camping trip, I’ve been working on a video using the photos and some live video inserts.  It should have been an easy task but it was made complicated by pesky copyright violations and 10 second limits on personal video inserts but I learned a lot and last night I was able to load it to Facebook.  As usual, I wish I had taken a moment longer and loaded it to Youtube, it would have looked better.  But, I got excited and anxious to share.  Oh well, it’s done and now I sit in wonder of what my next project will be.  Maybe I should have taken up knitting. 🙂

I sure did like the diversion from sad thoughts of my daughter and grandson leaving. I spent yesterday, then, with my grandson.  He played in the dirt in his pajamas because…why not?  Then, he ran around the house in just a diaper having the time of his life. He just didn’t want to get dressed. The beauty of it was, there was no need for him to get dressed.  Finally, when he realized that we couldn’t go to the construction site without clothes on, he willingly went upstairs.  Then, fully clothed, we took off early to meet up with his mama for lunch.  It took us an hour to go 15 minutes because we had to stop and watch an excavator dig up a sidewalk.  Then, we had to remove all of the rocks from the sand under our favorite swing, and then… swing, of course.  Finally, we had to check the progress on the buildings that are going up in the neighborhood. It was a perfect walk, a beautiful day, a great (peaceful) lunch.

I want my daughter and I to go back to that place, that time.  Instead, our conversation is focused solely on the baby.  What did he do today?  Any new words? Was he a good boy?  I ask nothing about the job interview.  She shares nothing about the status.  I can’t help her with her feelings. She can’t help me with mine. We’re just carrying the burden alone…and it makes me want to vomit. Part of me is saying, “Just go already. Just go!”  The other part of me is holding on to my grandson so tightly.

Why can’t my son-in-law find the perfect job right here? Why do millions of other people find jobs to be close to their families.  Instead, they are moving to be close to a brother he hasn’t seen in three years.

Their new baby…will I know that baby?  Will that baby know me?

I think I need to learn how to crochet.  Maybe those hobbies were  meant to help you cope with grief and pain and loss.  Maybe my mom was right. WHAT?!?

Help Me Breathe!

Journal Entry - July 17, 2015 
Part three of how Morning Pages(my journal)
helped me process through a change.

Yesterday: chilly, ending with rain. Today: windows steamed up, heat arriving.  Supposed to be in the 90’s.  Prepare thyself for sweating it out in a tent tonight and tomorrow night.

Time for the annual (now) Dancing on the River’s Edge.

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Yes, this will be the third year, Chris.  This year, some have taken to the idea and actually invited their friends.  A “Friends of Friends of Friends” party, just like you liked.  It’s exactly what Cindy wanted year one for your memorial celebration.  Maybe, it’s growing into that, maybe!  Be with us this year, ok?  Protect everyone out on their canoe rides.  Protect the children near the water’s edge.  Keep us from making poor choices with too much alcohol.  We love and miss you, Chris – you know, in that special way.  You were one of a kind, that’s for sure.

Night sleeping is interrupted fits of reality.  Are they moving?  Prepare yourself.  Well that means a gut ache every day.  Tears that come on out of the blue because of a random thought. I try to wrap my head around a new form of normal.  Facetime chats, once a week…maybe.  It will seem like they’re right there…maybe.  Maybe I’ll fly there every two months.  Maybe not.

And the new baby.  Will she know me?  Will she be afraid of me?  “Who is this stranger?” she’ll scream.  Well, the shaman said it best; this is not my family to raise.  So stand back, Grandma.  Stand back.  Your help is no longer needed.  Thank you for your service.

Do I sound bitter?  I don’t mean to. What do I really feel like, now?  Right this moment?

Old, I feel old!  I’m entering a dark place.  It’s deep and cold and damp.  It’s scary.  I know there’s light and I should reach for it but I don’t even want to.  I told my daughter that she should take me out of her mind when making the decision to move.  It’s not about me.  I’ll figure it out.  Right now, I want to back far far away…from the hurt.

When my brother was dying, I didn’t want to see him.  I didn’t want to be there to say good-bye.  I don’t want to be with my daughter and her family, now, either.  I don’t want to say good-bye.

I think I need help with this one.  I was wrong when I told my daughter that it’s not about me.  It is about me this time!  It is about me! And, the only place I have to talk about it is here in this journal.  Many other parents have children move away.  They give their blessing and wish them well and move on.  I made my daughters my whole life, especially after their dad died.  Yes, I remarried, but even my new husband knew that my daughters came first.  Always first.

Help me, now, fill this gapping hole that’s being dug.  Help me breathe!

Help Me Breathe