This came up as I was meditating a few days ago. I was thinking about how I might explain where I’m at, what I’m up to, what I’m thinking and planning, (I was thinking all this as I was supposed to be meditating).
In about four months, I’ll be turning 50. This seems significant, and it’s inspiring me to reflect on what I’ve lived thus far, and what my intentions are moving forward.
To give my intentions some context, up until about six years ago, I was in a long term abusive relationship…with myself. I was a disordered eater for 30+ years and still struggle with it, with old patterns of behavior, habits of being and thinking. I spent many years overexercising, starving and stuffing myself, smashing myself to bits. I’ve struggled with body issues, self-hate, anxiety, PTSD, and depression, and at times have been suicidal. For most of my life, I’ve been in unhealthy, not entirely functional, and even abusive relationships with people struggling with their own dis-ease. I’m an introvert and HSP, which, among other things, makes it difficult for me to maintain good boundaries between “my stuff” and everything else. I was date raped, twice. My sexuality is fluid, as in who I love isn’t so much about what bits they might have in their pants, but in many ways this is irrelevant because I’m in a long term monogamous relationship and don’t plan on changing that any time soon, if ever. I’ve lived through the loss of beings I love desperately, and didn’t always handle that grief very well.
To work with my own stuff, I’ve done a lot of therapy, reading, and classes, workshops, and retreats. I’ve always been a writer, have a daily writing practice, and have been certified to teach other writers for the past 20 years. I’m also a Buddhist, certified to teach yoga and meditation.
Two years ago, I wanted to shift my work, how I made both a living and a life, to teaching in the subject areas of personal growth, self-healing, creativity, and mindfulness, as well as doing more writing. My plan was to work at CSU for three more years and crossfade into my new career.
At the time, I was following the Black Lives Matter movement closely, cultivating a deeper awareness about white supremacy and patriarchy, but even in light of that my plan felt workable. I felt sure I could infuse my work with an awareness of the cultural and internal experience embodied by the women I hoped to work with. I was certain that together we could make change, ease suffering in ourselves and in the world.
Then the election happened. This changed everything. It no longer seemed reasonable or even safe to leave my job at CSU. It was also clear that personal liberation couldn’t be separated from issues of social justice. My notion of my work and what I had to offer shifted. I began to see that through staying in my current position, I could work towards dismantling systems of oppression. I started to look around my campus community to determine the places and people I could offer what I teach as service rather than a new career.
I’m white, so while I ultimately want things to be better for people of color, want to help them directly, I understand that the way to do that isn’t to step into their spaces and demand their attention. On my campus, that left two clear choices — our Pride Resource Center and our Women and Gender Advocacy Center, both the students who take advantage of these spaces and services, and the staff that provide them.
My initial thoughts are to offer to host Storybowls and Wild Writing sessions. If there is interest and the appropriate space for it, I could also facilitate meditation, yoga, and maybe even some other writing or book club opportunities. I also hope to begin to influence my department on matters of diversity, inclusion, and social justice. I completed the Social Justice Institute over the summer, and will take part in the Creating Inclusive Excellence Program this fall. What I’ve learned and the connections I’ve made along with the other classes I’ve taken on my own will hopefully support me in this effort. I’m imagining professional development opportunities and a more diverse curriculum to start. I want students of color in particular to feel safe, welcome, and excited to study with us, because without them we are missing out on so much. My not so secret agenda underlying everything I do is to dismantle systems of oppression, specifically white supremacy and patriarchy, in whatever way I can do so.
One thing that hasn’t changed, and won’t, no matter where I do my work or what I have to offer– my intention is and will always be to ease suffering, in myself and in the world.