Thankful: the list

This year I am:

Thankful that I have my health and access to health care that I trust and am comfortable accessing.

Thankful I have a job that pays me a salary and pays for my health insurance

Thankful that though my heart is heavy with much grief and anger about many things in this world it is also nourished by the love of many through friendship and kinship

Thankful for my family

Thankful that some things don’t change as quickly as others

Thankful for the many people I know who are at present taking a stand against the assault on Gaza

Thankful for my cushy, comfy and oh so warm hoodie with the big buttons

Thankful that my imagination is as vibrant and ridiculously over-active as ever

Thankful for living in a place with four seasons

Thankful for all the hope I have inside me despite it all

Thankful for scheming and schemers

Thankful that I have little to fear

Thankful that I dream in color

Thankful that my future is mostly determined by me

Thankful for gchat that keeps me in touch with far flung friends and wastes hours of valuable work time

Thankful for books of all shapes, sizes and genres

Thankful for a full pantry and ‘fridge

Thankful for pals to watch TV shows and eat popcorn with

Thankful for writing and being able to play with the written word

Thankful for cats, kitties and cat memes on the internet

Thankful for candy

Thankful for spell check

Thankful for editors

Thankful for my education

Thankful for my home (leaky windows and all)

Thankful for my housemates

Thankful for toad and fancy

Thankful for how the community I work in service of has embraced me and trust me

Thankful for going to bars and drinking on election night with friends

Thankful for soccer matches

Thankful for my smarts

Thankful for the bright red cardinal that lives outside my window

Thankful for the images of home that keep with me always

Thankful that the Columbia River exists such as it is

Thankful that the Rocky Mountains, while not still growing, are in no danger of disappearing in my lifetime

Thankful for my mom and all her grace and power the she gave to me

Thankful my aunt took me to the YMCA for swimming when my mom was working

Thankful for sunny and cloudy days equally

Thankful for chit-chat

Thankful for naps

Thankful for people more talented than I who create art and dance

Thankful that bombs do not rain down on me or any of my loved ones

Thankful for all my feelings and emotions

Thankful for time to get things done

Thankful for the relative ease of my commute to work

Thankful for the chance to think thoughtfully about the many blessings in my life

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Toward Caring Social Change without Partitions.

his is perhaps a little late, missing the moment of dialog around self-care that emerged on the internet following an article by B. Loew. I’m a bit slower on the uptake when it comes to these things. I work in print, which means I often take a little longer writing something because I assume I have a longer production timeline. I also took my time with gathering feedback from close friends and fellow organizers (or rather they took there time in giving feedback…hehe). I wanted to be sure to get feedback from people who would be implicated in this piece before I sent to its fate in the interwebs.  So better late than never I suppose.

Toward Caring Social Change without Partitions.

Growing up my mother worked nights. Her weekend was Sunday and Monday. Knowing Sunday was a full day off, my mom would sleep late, usually until noon. As a result my brother and I would also sleep late on Sunday’s. Maybe not as late as noon but at least until ten, which for a little kid is pretty late. Once she was up my mom would always cook a breakfast of eggs and bacon for all of us. Then she’d drift away to read the Sunday paper for hours while my brother and I destroyed the house with our play. As I’ve grown up and become an adult in my own right I’ve kept up the family tradition of not starting a Sunday until late. I sleep in. I lay in bed for an hour listening to Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me on NPR and then have a bigger than usual breakfast, read the paper and go from there. My brother acts in pretty much the same way, except I think he still watches cartoons and eats bacon in the morning. My mom’s life has changed; she now works a different job that doesn’t include nights. But it remains for her too that on Sunday’s you sleep in and take it easy. For our family this is a tradition of self-care.

Something that has struck me through all the articles about self-care that have percolated on the internet is that I don’t yet see a definition being debated. It is more about how self-care is made a part of our lives in relation to our movement work.  B came at from a movement work perspective but was clearly focusing a critique on a specific area of movement work. Adrienne Maree Brown added a community friendship/kinship perspective and the very important idea of self-determination in what kind of care you need and ask for; Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha wrote of self-care through social and class identities and also added some much needed analysis around privilege and self-care. For everyone, this discussion of self-care has come to bring up personal emotions related to the self and our sense of place in our communities and our political work. For me it almost immediately brought up my mom and her Sunday morning routine and how it has influenced me in how I live my life.

In B’s original post I noted that it was directed primarily at folks engaged in movement work. In this context I appreciated a lot of what B wrote. I have seen people burnout and then use the term self-care to generally become a flake. People who have spun their wheels to death and have felt too little reward for their work start to pull away. Some continue to make commitments they just flak out on, cause conflict with their indecisiveness, or try and shut down whole projects with their foul mood. Still others just drift away and are not really heard from again leaving things unfinished and a bit of bitterness in those left holding the bag. I’ve been frustrated by this issue that I see not coming from pure selfishness but from not building movements that like Adrienne and  others write, counter the messages of the dominate culture that our lives, health and wellbeing don’t really matter.

But B, who were you writing about? You do seem to be directing your comments towards something specific, yet unnamed. Through the lines of you article I read a reflection that brings to mind an idea of privileged entitlement to self-care that I see as linked to white models of community and organizing. I see many of your points through the snark, but would have liked you to be more explicit about whom you indictment of self-care is directed toward. Your critique holds many valid points, but implicates so many (parents, the disabled, the chronically ill, the old, the young…everyone) in a critique that was directed at something more specific that’s got you ticked off. This is why Leah’s response is so needed.

When B makes his remark about not knitting our way to revolution he is, I think, not referring to the same sort of thing as what Leah means in bringing up a quilting bee. I was glad Leah brought up quilting bees. As community and cultural traditions, quilting bees have offered great gathering points for social organizing. But again, B is bringing up a specific critique of self-care within a specific context but without specificity we’re all dragged (knitters, quilters and the like) into the critique.

Leah compels us to remember that there are many community traditions that are rich in both social justice/community/movement work and self-caring traditions. Our work must be a place that supports us and where our ways of caring for ourselves and others are supported and sufficient, not separate.

But whose culture or community doesn’t support this and what gives? Not everyone experiences the work for social justice the same way as to be chewed up and spit out by the endless churning of work. Nor does everyone experience movement work as separate from the rest of their lives. But B’s piece and much of the subsequent discussion has left me feeling like the conversation is being partitioned into how we take care of ourselves in movement work is different then how we take care of ourselves in the rest of our lives.

A few months Back By Jonathan Matthew Smucker wrote an excellent piece on Alternet about the dangers and limitations of the activist identity. He writes about how the stratification of activist doing activist work and everyone else lets people off the hook and sets up an us/them dichotomy that actually works against the interests of deep social change. I think of that article now as I think of my traditions of self-care and commitment to being engaged in social justice. To be engaged in movement work is as much a tradition in my family as sleeping late on Sunday’s. You don’t get one without the other. What is more, for some the act of engaging in social action work is the start of self-care.

I think of the community I work in; HIV+, poor and heavily challenged. I think of what self-care means to chronically ill, drug users, to those in recovery to those living on the streets, to multigenerational care takers living with not only HIV but also diabetes and heart disease. I think of the complex trauma histories of many in this community and wonder what they would think of this conversation. Instead of an end to self-care they may call for a start of self-care. Not because community and family don’t matter, but because those things or the dugs or the streets have always come first. But on AIDS Lobby day they show up. At 4am at South Station they are getting on a bus to DC for a protest. They, very often, see those acts as putting themselves first. Collectively joining forces through shared bonds is both a function of community and an act of healing.  Is this not also true for many of us?

On community care –

Of course I want my community to be there for me, to support me in taking care of myself and to take care of me when I can’t and to let me be a part of taking care of others. But I am still the one most responsible for taking care of me.

A dear friend of mine, Brenda who recently passed away after over a year battling health scare after health scare, was often heard saying “we have to teach people how we want to be treated”. I can’t just expect people to know how to take care of me when I’m depressed or consumed with grief. I have to teach them by asking for what I need and sharing what’s on my mind. In having supportive community I am able to take care of myself.

As a person who struggles with depression and ongoing complex grief surrounding the death of my dad I’ve needed my whole community at different times and in different ways to keep me going. I’ve had to learn to ask for help, advocate for myself and let people know what I’m capable of contributing at any given moment. What Adrienne wrote in her piece about self-determined care struck me hard. It has been just over four years since my dad passed away. Since about a year after his death I have been receiving messages that I need to be beyond my grief by now. In many aspects of my life I feel a pressure to have moved on through the grieving process – that my hurt, anger and sadness shouldn’t be so acute. I felt a great sense of relief in reading Adrienne’s article. It reminded me to stay strong in my conviction that the community that in working for social change and community justice needs to also have a place for my grief. It breaks my heart to think that this part of me would not be supported or a part of movement work I am engaged in. Perhaps this is partly why my movement work looks so different today from four years ago.

In the past year as Brenda’s health deteriorated her community rallied in a way that I think exemplifies the give and take of supportive community care that is connected to community justice work. Over the year friends helped Brenda by taking her to medical appointments, staying at the hospital and driving her to events. Through it all Brenda stayed involved with her organizing work in the HIV+ community. Recognizing that this sort of involvement was a part of her health and self-care, her friends helped her to do this. For Brenda, who had become so dependant on others to still have a role where others were depending on her to get work done was a source of strength. For Brenda, caring for her community was a way to also care for herself. As both B and Adrienne said – movement work can be healing work.

Communities are amazing sources of care. When my mother had cancer her friends responded to her need to be taken care of by stepping in and coordinating support. I’ve been to many “rent parties”, organized by a group of friends to help another friend raise money for the next months rent when times were hard. This is the stuff we and many other pockets of community just do for each other. These are the same people I’m in struggle with for social justice. A lot of the carrying on with the carrying on of life is just part and parcel with working for social justice.

I won’t pretend that it’s as easy as just saying “be gone your silly boundaries!” Social movement organizing has gotten a little more complicated then all that as B points out. Given the rise of the 501 c3 empires what is social movement work is so differently defined by different groups of people its almost useless to talk about. In fact I keep using the word ‘movement’, but I’ll admit it….I don’t know what that means. I haven’t felt a part of a movement since 2003 when we I was in the throws of the last hurrahs of the anti-globalization movement. Since then I have simply been in it to win it with my friends and community members working to hold each other safe from a world out to get us.

Self-care and community care are to me the stuff of life; Rooted in identities and forged in tradition new and old. They are the things we hold individually and collectively that bring us closer together, give us joy and rest and tie us to our past and prepare us for the future.

The Botville Shopper

After a couple of grand years the Daily Boston Adventure has met its end. It was a great way to document my first years in Beantown, but life has evolved and so has my esthetic. Therefore I would like to introduce the Botville Shopper. You’re one stop spot for all things bot.

The content from this blog has been moved to the Shopper and will be archived. New content will have the familiar charm of this blog but perhaps a bit more depth, variety and consistent use of spell-check.

Onward!

MBP

 

 

My Blog: 2010 in review

Here we have a post mostly compiled by WordPress on how my blog did in 2010. Not to shabby considering the sporadic nature of my posting and the questionable quality of my editing and grammar. So thank you one and all for sticking with me. Especially thank you to all who made ‘The impending hatching of baby snuffleupagus” the number one post of the year. No idea what that means, but you can rest assured I’ll find ways to write more about snuffleupagus in 2011.

My blogs health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads This blog is doing awesome!.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 5,400 times in 2010. That’s about 13 full 747s.

 

In 2010, there were 26 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 119 posts. There were 118 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 119mb. That’s about 2 pictures per week.

The busiest day of the year was February 12th with 100 views. The most popular post that day was The Impending Hatching of a Baby Snuffleupagus.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were facebook.com, twitter.com, Google Reader, en.wordpress.com, and powlsy.tumblr.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for earthsea, snuffleupagus, pegasus, airline ad, and san francisco fog.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

The Impending Hatching of a Baby Snuffleupagus June 2009
1 comment

2

Is it a bird? Is it a Plane? Eh…is it a Night Club? June 2009
1 comment

3

New Zine – Get in on the Action February 2009
3 comments

4

Road Trip Through the Washington Palouse and the Channeled Scablands of my Childhood December 2009

5

Giving Birth in Chains: The Shackling of Incarcerated Women During Labor and Delivery July 2009

New Issue of The Worst: A Zine Compilation on Grief and Loss is Out!

Don’t worry I won’t count this towards my 10 posts in 10 days. But I just wanted to make sure folks know that the latest issue of the Zine the Worst about grief and loss in radical communities is out and ready for you to get a copy to read. Its a truly beautiful zine full of compelling and thoughtful essays. I can’t tell you how much this zine has helped me! This issue also includes an essay by me!

Check it out and get a copy today!

10 Posts in 10 Days: Ya, right said the joker in the back

I know I will live to regret this. Happens every time. But in the interest of forcing myself to write and thus clear the clutter of words occupying my brain (preventing it from accumulating more useless facts and figures) I will endeavor to write 10 new posts in 10 days. What’s different this time around? This time I only mean to post 10 new posts in 10 days. That could mean two posts in one day and none on another. Just so long as in 10 days time there are 10 new posts. Clear? You can direct any questions you have to the rubbish bin under my desk.

On Work and the the Life Therein

I am consistently inspired by the hope, tenacity and compassion of the people I work with, all of whom are living with HIV or AIDS. Each time I feel the wax and wane of my motivation to keep working, to wrap my life around a job I am drawn back by those who are called my clients. In reality we are like partners. In implicit and explicit ways we learn from one another and support one another.

Just the other day I was reminded by someone who comes into my work about a very true part of human nature: it is easier to learn to live in crisis management mode and uncertainty then to live a life in progress. Sometimes the hardest parts in our journeys to heal and transform our lives are the moments when we are faced with taking action on necessary change.

When I’ m working with someone who is struggling with housing, addiction, and any manner of mental and emotional trauma, the work becomes most intense when we are the cusp of a stride forward. The greater the stride forward the great the emotional upheaval. I’ve come to notice that a lot o time the this resistance is rooted in self doubt, shame, and pure fear over becoming what we want to be rather then what we are.

I know how to doubt myself, I know how to make excuses, I know how to engage in the same old, same old no matter how destructive it may be. I know how to do it and that is safe, that is practiced, that is where I am known. Outside of that, in the world of my minds eye, my visions for my potential and dreams or my future I am lost. The motions to get there are not practiced but instead are every changing and evolving. That is, on most days, terrifying.

On the brink of getting into a safe, sober housing situation a client will sometimes relapse in a hard, hard way.  The immovable object that is us, stuck in moments of our deepest self-loathing, is a crutch when we we fear that tomorrow won’t be the same, nor will any day after.

This week I lost a client who was also a friend. The death was sudden and unexpected. This person lived a life love for friends and family. But as with so many people I come to know in my work, this person also struggled mightily to overcome addiction, to separate from a violent partner and to stay positive and connected. There are few at my work who did not become close to this person and none who didn’t believe in there potential. But in the end it takes just one bad night or picking up just one too many times to push a body to the breaking point.   There is a quote we often use at work during group sessions: “It is never too late to become the person you were meant to be”.  Not one person at my work  believed that this person couldn’t overcome. I’m hurt and angry of course. But I am also frustrated. I once decided for myself that in the long road ahead working for justice there would still be those left behind, or those who fall under the trundling wheels of the system, those we can not gather up around us and keep safe or help to heal. Those for whom justice will come to late. But damn! if I don’t want to believe that right now. I want this person back. I want to walk into work and see them in the lunch room or in the art room. I want more time. More time to keep them safe and surrounded by love and to once more tell them how very much they mean to me. I want to see the day they become who they were always meant to be. That person you could catch glimpses of during any conversation.

As of late I have been engaged in a lot of very thoughtful conversations with friends about inertia and the fear of embracing the things we truly want to be and do in this world. One friend calls it a coat, another calls it a mask. Both are good descriptors of what I feel hinders me from embracing those things that I feel would complete my self image. Those things that would set me in a constant motion of transformation and growth. I think now, if I can’t do this for myself, how could I have possibly done it for my dear friend at work who is now gone? In these moments I of course have self doubt about what I do and wonder aloud if its the right thing to do.

Well the truth is of course that we are all in process together. We use our good forces to do what we can to give a leg up to others when they need it, to give a little more of ourselves to someone who needs our support and love. I have seen the joy the accompanies the fear of taking a great stride forward and embracing the hope someone has for them self. This I learn from the people I work with each day and in truth this is what I try and replicate. Not just something I learn in class. Rather something I learn from them about  the act of keep on keeping for that day when hope overcomes fear.