Category Archives: What I’m Doing

The First Day of the Rest of Your Life

Trail, trees, and sunrise on our walk this morning

From our walk this morning

One of the first things Eric said to me this morning was, “this is the first day of the rest of your life.” Yesterday was my last day of work at CSU. It was weird, but also right. A lot of people assumed I was some mix of excited and scared, but fear has nothing to do with it at this point. Yesterday felt a little bit like my birthday, a little bit like the first time I left home – which I also did at nineteen years.

I first came to CSU 19 years ago as a graduate student in the English M.A. Communication Development program, a program that doesn’t even exist anymore. While a graduate student, I worked as a tutor in the Writing Center, as a Writing Teaching Assistant, and as a Graduate Teaching Assistant. After graduating, I taught various Composition courses, did lots of coding and web design, was a web project manager for a bit, was an editor, a web manager, and eventually the department’s first Communications Coordinator. I created our first blog, had a big part in redesigning the website not once but twice, had interns and a budget. And then it all got to be too much.

There were seven years somewhere in the middle I spent working in a super toxic situation. The person in charge of a big project I worked on is a narcissist. I used to call him that as a joke, and then one day I looked it up in the DSM-5 and realized he fit the description exactly. As hard as that experience was, as awful as that time was, I learned a lot from it. I learned how not to treat people. I learned how to deal with someone constantly abusing me without lashing out or hurting myself. I got lots of therapy, and started practicing yoga and mediation. When my strategies of self-care and coping stopping working in the face of the abuse, I hit my breaking point.

When that happened, I was going to leave CSU. My plan was to quit altogether. Eric talked me down from a ledge, suggested I write up a new job description. I did, explained I could no longer continue to work as I was but that I still had a lot to offer. They agreed and I stayed. It worked out okay, but the workload just kept growing, and even though I said regularly to those in positions of power that it was too much, that it wasn’t sustainable or healthy, nothing really changed. The stress and overwhelm impacted both my mental and physical health. When I turned 50, I thought about how I’d probably work another 10-15 years, and I couldn’t imagine doing what I was for that much longer. I knew I couldn’t keep going.

My now empty office

To be fair, the job had never been my “thing.” It was confusing though, because my thing IS  teaching and writing, and the position allowed me to do something that sort of looked like that. And yet, I was doing those things according to someone else’s agenda, fulfilling someone else’s purpose, meeting goals that weren’t my own. It never really felt like the right fit, like an exact match. It always felt like a shoe that was half a size too small, or using a fork when really what you needed was a spoon.

After what feels like a decade of prep, months of having little to no time off because I was teaching my own things in addition to my CSU work or completing various teaching certifications, almost eight years of showing up to write regularly here, hours and hours of what career change coach Laura Simms calls a crossfade — “a transition period where your current and future careers overlap. Your current career fades out, and your new career fades in,” I finally was able to make the choice to leave. To be clear, I can only make that choice because my husband has a full time job he doesn’t plan on leaving, I can get on his health insurance, we own our house and have a really low mortgage, we can pretty easily modify our spending habits, and we don’t have kids. It’s a choice I can make because of my privilege. That said, I’ve also worked since I was 14 years old, and NONE of those jobs were pursuing my own purpose. That, finally, is what I intend to do now.

From our walk this morning

I don’t know if I’ve shared it here yet, but my new job title is: Contemplative Practice Guide. I am going to specialize in yoga asana, meditation, and writing as practice. I am going to teach in person and online. My mission remains the same as always, to ease suffering — in myself and in the world. My intention is to hold space for those cultivating the foundation of a sane mind and open heart, embodied compassion and wisdom. My hope is that from that foundation we can work together to make things better. Along with teaching, I’ll still be writing a lot, maybe even finish one of the books I’ve been working on for so long.

This Sunday is my final day of my last module of my 500 hour yoga teacher certification. That means for the next few days I’m focusing on putting together my capstone class I’ll be teaching. It requires that I create a 40-45 minute sequence that includes something from all of the modules so it’s a pretty big deal. After that, I’m going to circle back and finish my certifications from Curvy Yoga and Yoga for All. Then I’ll spend the summer cleaning and decluttering and repairing and painting our house, planting and maintaining the garden, reading books and taking naps, cooking (I want to learn to make bread, in particular), with one trip to Oregon to visit my family. I’m going to be researching places where I can teach locally, as well as considering the online platform I want to use for some classes I’d like to offer in the fall. I’m going to put together a new website that’s more focused on my “work.”

So that’s a little about where I’ve been, how I got here, and where I’m headed. As always, I can’t thank you enough, kind and gentle reader, for being here. For showing up, for listening, for offering encouragement. I am so grateful for you.

What I’m Doing

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.

What I’m Doing: Something Good

#kitchencounterlovenote

A while back, I updated the description for my weekly Something Good list. I added this clarification: This list has changed a bit recently from things you’d typically label as “good” to “things I think you need to see” because the world has shifted and there are things that are important, that need shared.

My mission, my purpose (for my life and this blog) hasn’t changed — to ease suffering, in myself and in the world — but the way I do so has evolved. I used to think the best thing I could do was help to cheer people up, empower and encourage them, remind them that the world and people are fundamentally good. I still think there’s a need for that. There’s always a need for that. But in the meantime, I’ve noticed the need for something else too — speaking out and taking action against oppression, injustice, and aggression. And I am convinced that the primary issue of our time is systematic white supremacy, so much of my effort is focused on dismantling that however I can, because it is harmful to ALL of us, not just those being oppressed.

A critical comment on my last Something Good list made me want to clarify for you, kind and gentle reader, what I’m doing here. The comment referenced The Kind Hearted Blogger Pledge I’d taken some time ago, said that my blog wasn’t kind and neither was I. I took a bit of time and reread the pledge, and realized that I could no longer abide by it completely, so removed the button from my blog.

I believe there is a distinct difference between being kind, or rather “nice,” and being compassionate. I’ve talked about it here before, but the short version is that being “nice” means doing everything I can so that no one feels uncomfortable, staying positive and only saying “nice” things, giving people what they want in order to avoid conflict. Being “nice” is being accommodating, compliant, likeable, quiet if necessary — not rocking the boat.

I’m not nice; I’m compassionate. True compassion does not shy away from causing discomfort or setting boundaries, because compassion is concern for the suffering and misfortune of others. And if you are conspiring or directly involved in the suffering and misfortune of others, I most certainly am not concerned with your comfort or your feelings — if for no other reason than I’m too busy mitigating the harm you are causing and trying to stop you from doing more damage.

In action, compassion first means I practice, regularly focusing my effort on being more mindful, more present, openhearted but stable, healthy, sane, aware, wise. I’m constantly working to heal myself, to process my difficult emotions rather than acting on them, working to unravel my habitual patterns, trying to approach each situation with curiosity rather than judgment, not allowing my discursive thoughts to take control of my actions, considering how I might be generating suffering and figuring out how to ease that.

In action, compassion also means I act on behalf of others who are suffering or being harmed. I am willing to allow people to be who they are, believe what they choose and do what they want, but as soon as that requires the oppression of or violence against others, I won’t comply. I cannot agree with, support, or allow that.

I suppose my blog is an invitation of sorts. I invite you to make this effort with me, to be more compassionate and sane people, to heal what you need to heal in yourself so that you don’t harm others, to remain curious about your own confusion and blind spots, to step in where you see others being harmed and offer help, to give space to the voices of those who are oppressed and otherwise silenced, to protect what needs kept safe, to listen deeply, to maintain your sense of humor, and not give up. As the tagline for this blog urges: life is beautiful and brutal, tender and terrible — keep your heart open. And don’t ever let anyone tell you that to have an open heart, to be compassionate, requires that you be “nice” and keep your mouth shut.

Activism for Introverts and Highly Sensitive People

As you might already know, kind and gentle reader, I am an introvert and a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP). Because of this I prefer dialogue over debate, connection over confrontation, individuals or small groups over large crowds, quiet over noise, calm over chaos. To be completely honest, most of the time I prefer to be alone.

I used to say, “I’m not a very political person.” I’d joke that if people were on opposite corners of the street carrying signs and chanting about the various ways they opposed each other, I’d be more likely to show up with sandwiches for everyone than to grab a sign and join a group on a corner. I had strong opinions, voted, donated money to various causes, used my social media and blog to share information and marginalized voices, but I wasn’t what’s traditionally considered “active.”

Now I understand that perspective as a manifestation of my privilege. I could stay out of politics because for the most part it had very little impact on me or my daily life. I’m white, married to a white man, a “dink” (double income, no kids), college educated, a documented citizen, able bodied, neuro-typical, conventionally-ish attractive, live in a liberal area, a homeowner, cisgender, pass as straight, work at a university in the College of Liberal Arts, a native English speaker, have health insurance through my work (along with paid sick leave and retirement), and have no criminal record. Did I mention I’m white? Things are pretty easy for someone like me.

So even with the election of this new president, my personal experience won’t necessarily change. However, what has become very clear to me, in the past decade in particular, is that isn’t good enough. It will never be good enough. As long as we continue to be a culture where white supremacy is embedded in every institution, and people who look like me willingly do harm to people of color, gladly oppress those who are different, actively generate suffering for others in order to maintain those systems and that privilege, I can’t be quiet or still.

And yet, this presents a clear dilemma for me: I am an introvert and a highly sensitive person. What does it mean for me to be “active”?

Here are some ideas:

  • Take care of myself. It’s important to prioritize self-care, for all the reasons we always hear about – not being able to pour from an empty cup, putting on our oxygen mask before helping someone else with theirs, that making an offering from our own suffering only generates more suffering. It’s essential to maintain my own sanity and wellbeing, so I can be of benefit. I must practice (yoga, meditation, writing), train my own mind, learn to work with my own emotions, feel what I am feeling. I ask for help if I need it. Sometimes that means a therapist, sometimes that means cancelling plans or texting a friend. I practice self-compassion. I pace myself. I take time for creative practice. I make space. I try not to lose my sense of humor, (my go to antidote here is to search YouTube for blooper reels from my favorite shows and movies). I loved what Ethan Nichtern had to say recently on the subject, “In times of fear and stress, sleeping, eating well, and exercise are the first things to evaporate. Let’s make sure they don’t. It all starts at home, and the first thing we need to do is take good care of our own bodies.”
  • Educate myself, about everything. I’ve been reading about the history of issues I care about, as well as the current state of affairs, trying to pay attention to as many people of marginalized and oppressed populations as possible. Besides reading, I also listen. I filled my social media feeds with those same people, along with many activists. Most importantly, in situations where I’m not an expert (i.e. pretty much all of them), I listen before I act. I check my own ideas against what’s already been said and done, and look to those already doing the work, those with the knowledge about skillful action, to understand what I can do to help. I’ve joined some really great mailing lists like My Civic Workout, subscribed to things like the Safety Pin Box, and am taking lots of classes like Hard Conversations: An Introduction to Racism.
  • “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are,” (Theodore Roosevelt). I asked myself, “What can I already do? What are my skills? What do I have to offer?” I’m a yoga and writing teacher, and a meditation instructor, so I looked for ways I could offer those things as service. I started to take local action, learning about the issues in my home town, county, and state, and the ways I could help make change where I live. I can sometimes feel overwhelmed by the national and global issues, but by bringing my view down to the level of my own community, my neighbors, it feels more workable to me. Doing good things for people I know, am connected to, is more doable.
  • Make offerings. I enable the activism of others, offer help, support them however they might need. I look to see who is already doing the work, and I donate and volunteer to help them. I practice generosity and kindness whenever the opportunity to do so arises. I lovebomb.
  • Use my voice. I can write my congress people, an op-ed, a blog post, or a letter to a person I know needs encouragement to hang in there or even to do better. I can use social media to share information and amplify marginalized voices.
  • Build confidence. I sometimes will challenge myself to just one hard thing, something I’ve never done before, and see what happens, knowing I’ll need to allow for extra time to prepare and time to repair after. For example, the first time I called my congressperson (gah, I hate talking on the phone), I wrote a script to use, but I still cried as I read it, in part because I was nervous but in part because I was so angry and concerned about the issue and was overwhelmed by it, and I needed a few days of rest after. Sometimes I’ll bribe myself, “if you do this, then you can spend the whole day in your pjs tomorrow, reading or watching tv.” I show up to things, taking a buddy if I can, staying near a door, taking breaks or leaving early if I need to. In situations where I feel insecure or unprepared, and where support is offered by someone more skillful and experienced, I get trained, certified, or otherwise empowered. For example, in a few weeks I’ll be starting the Coaching as Activism Program.
  • Cultivate community. As an introvert, I need time alone, but I also need to feel connected to people – really, truly, and deeply. Some of the ways I’ve done that are to: Start a book couple, (one friend to read and discuss a book with, rather than a whole group). Go to a movie, like “I Am Not Your Negro” (a documentary about James Baldwin), and then go out for dinner or coffee and discuss it. Get a group of my favorite people together once a month to share and support each other, maybe over dinner or a collective creative project. Designate an ally – a therapist or friend that is my “go to” person in a crisis. Surround myself with good people.
  • Seek guidance and inspiration. I look to the people and projects I admire and trust. I take their advice, follow their lead, allow them to vet what is important, and to recommend what I should pay attention to or take part in. I read, watch movies, listen to music – because art can be activism, and it can be medicine.
  • Focus my energy. I trust myself to know what to do, when, as well as when to wait or even opt out altogether. I know my limits and triggers, and I honor them. I maintain boundaries. I give myself the time and space I need. I limit my time online, am careful what I read, make sure to fact check everything, and take a break when I’m feeling overwhelmed — How to Avoid Being Psychologically Destroyed by Your Newsfeed was a helpful post in that regard.

Back in November, when I first brainstormed the outline for this post, I couldn’t find much already written on the subject. Since then, more has been written, and the search results were much better when I tried again.

What I’m Doing: Fat Acceptance

joel-peel-99630

This blog started with my “life rehab.” After years of a toxic work environment and two significant personal losses, I looked at my life with a new clarity and realized I wasn’t happy. As I dug a little deeper into the “why?” I realized I’d been in a long term abusive relationship — with myself. As I untangled the “why?” there, I discovered self-aggression directed at my body, which manifested as disordered eating and overexercise, a self-loathing that at times turned suicidal.

I started therapy, directly focused on the disordered eating but which uncovered deeper suffering still. I worked a lot with Rachel Cole. I read a lot of books, did research, took classes and went on retreats. I stopped dieting, quit starving myself. I stopped working out with my trainer. I became a yoga teacher and meditation instructor. I did a little more therapy.

I started making choices about what to eat and how to move that were about feeling good and overall wellbeing, rather than about a number (weight or clothing size or BMI) or how it would make me look. I embodied what it meant to love myself. It’s been a lot of work, effort and energy and attention, and I’m still not all the way “there,” (whatever that means).

hereistheworldtext

What I realized the other day is that because of the work I’ve done for myself, it’s natural for me to advocate for others who suffer in similar ways. Because of my increased awareness and sensitivity, I see things other people might miss. I understand suffering and love in a way some people won’t even allow themselves to consider. They choose instead what is easy, embodying willful ignorance — pettiness, hatefulness, bigotry.

Take this video, for example. Someone shared it on Facebook the other day, with the caption, “Inspirational ❤ .” I watched it and had a completely different reaction. I felt sick to my stomach, then I cried. The more I thought about it, the angrier I got — white hot rage.

The video was made by Edeka, the largest supermarket corporation in Germany. As I write this post, it’s had 2.6 million YouTube views, and on their Facebook page it’s been viewed 33 million times, been shared close to 450,000 times, and the reactions range from like, love, and “haha.” There are 16,000+ comments on the Facebook post, and many are in German, so I didn’t spend time reading them and can’t really tell you exactly what people were saying.

The video is blatantly fatphobic. It portrays fat people as lazy, satisfied with eating the same gruel day after day. They eat lunch at their desk as they work or while waiting for the bus, and even their pets are fat. They dress in muted dull colors and are shown restricted to the city, with its concrete and lack of nature. The clear message in this representation is that fat bodies (people!) are lazy, boring, joyless, unhappy, and essentially immobile.

At a key moment in the video, a young boy notices a bird outside the window. Seeing it fly gets him excited about the prospect of flying himself. We all know humans can’t fly unaided by the technology of a plane, or at the very least a hang glider. No matter how thin you are, a bunch of balloons or a pair of cardboard wings won’t enable you to actually fly. And yet, the video shows differently.

latestrawberries

The boy tries everything he can think of, but always fails, clearly because he’s too fat. Then one day, he sees the bird eating berries, so changes his own diet to berries. I’m sure you can guess what happens next. It’s pure “body transformation = happiness” porn. The boy looses weight because of his new diet, and makes a pair of cardboard wings that allow him to fly just like the bird. The final scene is of him relaxing in a lovely lush meadow, “finally” happy in his new thin and therefore apparently magical body, popping a single berry in his mouth. A caption in German reads, “Eat like the person you want to become.”

The message is clear: fat = unhappy & unhealthy. And to change yourself, simply change your diet. There’s so much wrong with this that I don’t even have space in a single blog post to dismantle it completely. What I do know is “the cake is a lie,” (essentially, your promised reward is merely a fictitious motivator). There are plenty of studies, books, articles, and research that debunk this simple formula, and even more personal stories that make it clear that diet and exercise don’t automatically lead to happiness or health.

Eating good food is a choice, but more importantly YOU get to decide what “good” means. For me, good food is what appeals to me, satisfies my eyes and nose and mouth and stomach, tastes good and makes me feel good — sometimes that means I feel more energy, sometimes it means I feel more relaxed. Sometimes that means eating a kale salad, but sometimes it’s a slice of cake, and none of my choices have anything to do with my worth as a human being, because what I eat isn’t about morality. Same goes for movement — I do what brings me joy and feels good to my body. It has nothing to do with trying to chase a number or manipulate the way I look. It has nothing to do with being pleasing or acceptable or valuable to anyone but myself.

The bottom line is this: One’s choice to treat others with generosity and compassion, to be a sane and wise person in our dealings with other people, should be based in our common humanity, NOT the way our pants fit. I guarantee if you turned your effort and energy towards loving people, towards easing suffering in yourself and in the world, you wouldn’t have time for all this other nonsense.

lovebomb07

Some resources that might be helpful:

What I’m Doing: Begin

begintoknowwhy

When I got a package from Sabrina Ward Harrison recently, a thank you for a GoFundMe project of hers I’d donated to, on the back of the enclosed thank you note was the above — most likely it was a practice sheet or something that didn’t turn out quite how she’d imagined. In that way it was a reject of sorts, and yet ever since it came in the mail, I’ve had it on the shrine that’s on my writing desk. The “real” artwork she sent is still safely tucked in it’s envelope, but this is out.

This is where I am: at the beginning. And any time I feel discouraged, like I don’t know what to do or that what I do is never going to be enough, I remind myself — simply come back and start again, let go and come back, (which is what my teacher, Susan Piver, always says), and to lower the bar (that from the brilliant Rachel Cole), all the way to the ground if necessary, meeting me wherever I happen to be.

I can’t really do much more than rest and heal right now, after my surgery. And I won’t lie, even though I’m doing okay, it’s not easy — I’m tired and sore and can’t really get completely comfortable to fully rest. This is my “work” right now, and it is workable. And yet, even with all this stillness and rest, my mind keeps on going, continuing on in confusion and contemplation.

Here’s what I feel like I know: After all the overwhelm of the first initial weeks of the new administration, all of the frantic scrolling and reading and listening I did, meeting with other like minded people to do a lot of “wtf?” and “what do we do now?”, I’ve narrowed down all the issues to one core problem — white supremacy.

Every single action taken by this new administration has been an effort to maintain white supremacy, to strengthen systems already in place and to dismantle anything that contradicts them, including engaging in the ongoing oppression of people who don’t happen to be white.

I’m not gonna lie, this is hard to acknowledge when you are white. When there is no way to opt out or undo your whiteness, your privilege. At first, I literally couldn’t see, having worked so hard to maintain blind spots, put so much effort towards being willfully ignorant. Once I chose to see, the weight of that reality was overwhelming. Then once I decided to do something, it can feel like I will never be able to do enough, no matter how hard I work at it.

So I come back to the one thing I can do: begin. That has required a lot of deep listening, specifically to people of color. I’ve also been reading a lot, doing the work for myself rather than asking someone else to explain it to me. It’s meant being uncomfortable and confused. It’s meant joining classes and communities where I can get support for doing the work, where I get assistance understanding from people who’ve already figured it out and want to share. It’s meant helping, even before I’m entirely sure what the right help is. It means I make a lot of mistakes. It means I allow my position to be decentralized. It means I step back and let others speak. It means that even when I feel uncomfortable or confused, I don’t make it someone else’s responsibility to fix that. It means I show up. It means I don’t give up.

 

What I’m Doing

zafe-zone-sticker

I completed Safe Zone training at CSU this week. I stayed after and talked with the Assistant Director about offering some of my Crazy Wisdom classes, either to their staff or some of their student groups. As I already mentioned the other day, I’m finishing up 37 Days of Activism, and just started Hard Conversations: An Introduction to Racism and Healing from Toxic Whiteness, all really great online courses.

I’m reading Big Girl: How I Gave Up Dieting and Got a Life by Kelsey Miller, just got done with The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl by Issa Rae and You Can’t Touch My Hair: And Other Things I Still Have to Explain by Phoebe Robinson. Next will be something by Roxane Gay, either Bad Feminist or Difficult Women. She’s going to be reading in Denver in February and I’m hoping to go.

Michael Xavier

Tomorrow I’m teaching a yoga class. Our theme will be showing up as you are and being with whatever might arise, keeping your heart open, confidence in the way that Susan Piver describes it, “the willingness to be as ridiculous, luminous, intelligent, and kind as you really are, without embarrassment.” We’ll be opening our hearts, reaching and stretching, finding strength in our legs and balance in our foundation. Later, I’m going to see Moonlight at our local indie theater, the Lyric Cinema. On Monday, I’m going to the MLK march and celebration.

I started a group called the Hen House Collective. My intention was not to start a “movement” or a “revolution,” but to figure out how to help with what’s already being done, to have some company during this process, to help me filter through all the information and figure out what actions to take. There are going to end up being about 10-15 of us, and we’ll have our first official meeting the first Sunday of February. I suggested some prompts to consider before we meet:

  • What issues do I care about most?
  • What local issues or groups do I want to most help?
  • What special skills or knowledge can I offer?
  • What do I want to know more about?
  • What sort of action am I most comfortable with?

The invitation letter I sent went like this: (with special thanks to my dear friend and teacher, Laurie Wagner for the inspiration)


Farm Country
By Mary Oliver

I have sharpened my knives, I have
Put on the heavy apron.

Maybe you think life is chicken soup, served
In blue willow-pattern bowls.

I have put on my boots and opened
The kitchen door and stepped out

Into the sunshine. I have crossed the lawn.
I have entered

The hen house.

My friend and teacher Laurie Wagner shared this Mary Oliver poem recently on her blog. In her post, Laurie said “I’ve never been political. The truth is, I’ve been sleep walking in a field of privilege my entire life. I’ve been in the comfortable bubble.”

Like Laurie, I’ve never been particularly political. I’m fundamentally a peacemaker and as such have always had trouble “choosing sides.” As an introvert and a highly sensitive person I’m also uncomfortable with confrontation and chaos. I used to joke that if two opposing groups where having a debate, I’d make everyone sandwiches or hand out cookies rather than holding a sign or taking a stand. The truth is my privilege has meant getting involved was always a choice – I could decide to show up or I could stay out of it altogether.

This is no longer the case. As Laurie said,

I also never understood how one person could make a difference. There are so many issues, where do I start? Where will my money and my time be most effective? It’s dizzying for me.

But today, with Trump and his cronies at the helm, I realize that it’s not so much the difference that I might make that matters, or whether I know the right words to get into the conversation, but instead it’s the way I want to live and show up in the world that matters more. I’ve never felt a call to action until now, and I’m not entirely sure what my contribution will look like, but Donald Trump – if he’s done anything – has woken me up, and from the looks of it, has woken you up too. This is his gift. This is the doorway, the invitation and I’m grateful in my life time to get a chance to walk through it.

I feel called, as Laurie does, to take a different approach. To be uncomfortable. To take action, without reactivity or aggression. To read more, to listen more, to educate myself. To contribute – my time, my effort, my attention, my voice, my money. To find out more about my local issues, figure out how and who I can help. To do what Theodore Roosevelt said and, “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”

I’m wondering if you’d like to do this with me? Keep me company, do this in community? Here’s what I’m thinking:

  • Meet once a month
  • Be a combination reading, writing, and action group
  • Share what we know (links to articles, people to pay attention to, upcoming events, movies or TV shows to watch, etc.). There’s so much information to sift through right now, so many possible actions that I would love the help of some people willing to share the effort
  • Share what we are working on
  • Share what we are struggling with, confused about
  • Collectively do good work, local or otherwise
  • Do some creative work together
  • Use social media as a tool to support our effort
  • Support each other as we individually and collectively work through the best way to navigate this shift, to engage with whatever might arise, and to do so without becoming overwhelmed or burnt out

Anyone want to join me in the hen house?


In some ways, I know that no matter what I do it will never be enough. I also know that no matter what I do, there will still be suffering. I’m also realizing how important it is to take care of myself, to not get overwhelmed or burn out, to not loose my sense of humor. And I am so so grateful that as I do what I do, I have good company and help — that includes you, kind and gentle reader. ❤