Author Archives: mrswhatsit9

The Power of Being Truly Seen

Rachel Naomi Remen quote: Being safe is about being seen and heard and allowed to be who you are and to speak your truth

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend an invitation-only, phones-down annual gathering of Smart People Thinking About Big Ideas. In the coming weeks, I’ll have some posts about the Ideas We Thought (and talked) About, but today I want to write about a relatively small component of the gathering that’s been on my mind since I returned home.

The two people who run this event invite about a dozen people to attend. Each year, some are repeats from the previous cohorts (eight years and counting), and some are new. The event is fairly short – two half days, with a full day in the middle – so they have designed their facilitation to build trust quickly so the participants can get real and get deep fast.

My particular cohort this time around was all in from the get-go. Shit got real within the first ten minutes of the initial round of “get to know you” introductions at the very beginning of the event. No one was posturing, it wasn’t about ego – people took the risk of sharing their real selves right from the start.

The facilitators structured the two days with multiple “check-in” points along the way. Each participant could speak a little, or a lot, or not at all. Each participant could share what he was feeling, or she was thinking, or both, or neither. We laughed together and cried together and challenged each other, and there was a decent amount of hugging, of holding someone’s hand, of putting your arm around someone, to offer comfort, or just to say, non-verbally, “I affirm you and what you’re experiencing.”

And for those of us with much experience in the feminist movement or Goddess or earth-based spirituality, those are all pretty familiar processes.

What was less familiar to me – and highly powerful – was something our facilitators called a “check-out.” Our final session, gathered one last time around the fireplace in the main room of the big cabin in the state park before we headed back into town for a farewell lunch and flights out, was a last trip around the circle passing our talking piece – only this time, others had the opportunity to share what they had observed about each person during our time together.

WOW.

There’s a company out there called Tribute that offers “eulogies for the living” and their key success metric is “tears of joy.” That is, they know they got right when the person being eulogized cries them.

Using that measure, we enjoyed significant success that morning. And it got me thinking.

On a personal level, I realized two things. One, I am very bad at taking compliments (as I suspect many of us are). I was unable to look my fellow participants in the eye when they were saying nice things about me. Two, even in that short an amount of time, those people saw who I really am and when called upon, reflected it back to me in a way that was powerful, and true, and deeply meaningful. Being seen – truly seen – and appreciated for what’s at the core of who one is can be life-changing.

On a larger scale, we don’t invest enough time in telling those we love the truth about the good we see in them. We do fine with “you’re pretty/handsome/sexy” or “you look terrific.” We do fine with “thank you for cooking dinner/completing that report on time/fixing the broken light – you did a great job!” We’re bad at “the way you care about everyone’s feelings and make sure everyone has the space and safety to express them is incredibly moving and important” or “your deep intellectual curiosity about the world around you is inspiring.”

George HW Bush died this week. They knew it was coming, and before he died, at least one of the people who spoke at his funeral was able to read the eulogy he wrote to President Bush. That’s unusual, but it probably shouldn’t be.

Resist the temptation to offer shallow compliments about how your loved ones look or the things they accomplish. Put in the effort to dig deeper and reflect back to them the beautiful truth of who they are.

Image found here.

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In the Bleak Midwinter

We’re not quite there yet, but it’s been cold and windy here the past few days. All the remaining leaves have blown off the trees. It’s dark at 5 pm. We’ve already had our first snow. Gaia is telling us, as clearly as she can, that it’s time for introspection, reflection, and planning. And fuzzy socks, your favorite warm sweater that you keep wearing even though it has a big hole worn through it at the wrist, steaming mugs of hot tea, soup on the stove, bread in the oven, roaring fires, and kitty snuggles.

Hecate and I had lunch earlier this week. It was the first time we’d seen each other in person since the #BlueTsunami, and we raised a glass to our hard work – and yours! – and toasted our success. We cackled about Nancy Pelosi being the bad-ass boss she is, taking down the opposition with a smile on her face and a shiv in her hand – you can have the carrot or the stick #FiveWhiteGuys, your choice – demonstrating in real time and in front of the world why she’s the only choice for Speaker at this moment in history.

And we started talking about where we go from here. Because the thing is, the work is never done. It just moves to a new phase, and us with it. We all survived the past two years, although not without injury, pain, and significant loss. But our Republic and our democratic institutions held, albeit barely. A Democratic House comes into power in a few short weeks, fired up, full of new blood AND wily veterans, and ready to fight. Mueller is obviously closing in on TrumPutin and will clearly soon be ready to reveal TrumPutin’s crimes to the world. And if you don’t think that’s going to result in a level of chaos, upheaval, and danger beyond even the worst of what we’ve experienced in the past two years, I’ve got a bridge to sell you. TrumPutin is injured and cornered, and the house of illusion that’s been his entire life and reputation is about to come tumbling down. It’s about to get truly ugly.

There’s a lot of societal pressure at this time of year to party-party-party, and if that’s your jam, go for it. But if not, make sure to set aside some time for yourself, for quiet, for contemplation, for an extra half hour under the flannel sheets, for dreaming in front of the fire.

[text for screen readers of tweet by @BerniceKing Friday, November 30

Steward your energy well. Sustained community building and justice work require wisdom and self-care.]

Because the work of justice, the work of community, the work of the Goddess is shifting, and we need you, every one of you Magical Warriors, healthy, centered, rested, and ready for the next phase, wherever it takes us.

[Yes, I know In the Bleak Midwinter is a very christian holiday carol. It’s also one of the loveliest songs ever written. Try to overlook all the Jesus-Jesus-Jesus if you can.]

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The Signs Are Everywhere

1280px-Morning_Sun_on_Frost-Covered_Leaves_by_Gary_A_Stafford

It’s Monday Morning

mid-November, the world turned golden,

preserved in amber. I should be doing more

to save the planet—plant a tree, raise

a turbine, put solar panels on the roof

to grab the sun and bring it inside. Instead,

I’m sitting here scribbling, sitting on a wrought

iron chair, the air cold from last night’s frost,

the thin sunlight sinking into the ruined

Appalachians of my spine. I know it’s all

about to fall apart; the signs are everywhere.

But on this blue morning, the air bristling

with crickets and birdsong, I do the only thing

I can: put one word in front of the other,

and see what happens when they rub up against

each other. It might become something

that will burst into flame.

by Barbara Crooker

Image found here, by Gary A. Stafford.

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Bet Your Ass I’m #TeamNancy

Nancy Pelosi and RuPaul

[I just got back from a multi-day, phones-down retreat in a cabin in the woods with a bunch of smart, soulful people, and I HAVE THOUGHTS, but while I’m processing them, it seemed like the right time to re-up a post I originally wrote in the summer of 2017.]

Once again, despite the fact that she was instrumental in engineering the MASSIVE Democratic wave in the House, and despite the fact that Chuck Schumer was re-appointed to his leadership role in the Senate by voice vote even though he managed to LOSE seats in the Senate, we’re talking about whether or not Nancy Pelosi should be re-appointed Speaker of the House.

Arguments go something like this:

“She’s toxic.”

“Republicans hate her.”

“She represents highly educated, culturally diverse, wealthy, liberal, ‘coastal elite’ San Francisco, which, in the minds of middle America, stands in for everything they hate.”

[Here’s a thought: how about we stop apologizing for being educated and culturally diverse? There’s no shame in not having a college degree. There’s no shame in working with your hands for a living. There IS shame in being willfully ignorant.]

“I just don’t like her.”

[Hm. You “just didn’t like” Hillary Clinton, either. And Dianne Feinstein. And Kamala Harris. And Kirsten Gillibrand. And Tammy Duckworth. Could there be a….pattern here?]

[OH – and I’m not the only one who thinks so.]

I have to ask: whose interests would be served by dumping Nancy Pelosi in favor of a Representative To Be Named Later (But Probably a Penis-American, for reasons that will be shared below)?

Not Democratic interests.

Nancy whips and counts votes like a mo-fo.

In 2009, Nancy held a divided Democratic caucus together and LBJ-ed the hell out of them (aka, twisting arms until they popped out of the socket) to get the Affordable Care Act passed.

Nancy saw through GW Bush from the start – and DIDN’T support the Iraq War, for those of you who STILL insist on hammering Hillary about that.

Nancy raises money like a boss. No matter how much you might want to romanticize $27 donations, running for office is expensive and will remain so, absent structural change that will impossible given the current makeup of the Supreme Court. She brings in the money.

Nancy held the Democratic House caucus together through two of the most difficult years in its history, when Democrats’ legislative and executive influence has at its lowest ebb in maybe 100 years. Dems may have been individually demoralized, but she kept them together and enforced party discipline in a very difficult time.

Want receipts? Here. And here. Also here (on her own website, but a WaPo article). There’s this, too.

[Another thought: Democrats HATE Paul Ryan – in fact, his approval ratings hover at or below Nancy’s. Paul was also UTTERLY ineffective. Yet he chose to leave Congress on his own. No one pushed him out, and there was no rush on the Republican side to dump him, was there?]

So again I ask: whose interests would this serve? To quote Slate’s Political Gabfest podcast from June 22: why should the Democrats do something the other team wants?

Why are we even having this conversation?

I’ll tell you why. Republicans have learned how to weaponize Democratic men’s misogyny and are using it very effectively against us.

Who taught them?

I think you know the answer to this one: Bernie Sanders. And they learned his lessons well.

Want receipts? Sure. Let’s start with Salon. The Boston Globe. Snopes. HuffPo. Also, HuffPo. A terrific Medium post from a women’s studies professor. The always-insightful Melissa McEwan. I could go on: Google provided over 400,000 links to this topic.

Dump Nancy?

Fuck, no, Democratic men. And while you’re at it, get over yourselves.

FABULOUS image of Nancy and RuPaul found here.

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What a Colossal Waste of Energy

Handmade protest sign - message so much for taking a few days off after the election

Last night, like many of you, I turned out in my town for the #ProtectMueller protest. The image above is of the sign I created for the rally. On the bus on the way back, I got thinking about what a colossal waste of energy getting us to Tuesday’s #BlueWave was.

“But Mrs Whatsit! Democrats kicked ass on Tuesday! We flipped more than 30 seats in the House – we’re on our way to flipping close to 40 when the counting is done! We flipped SEVEN governships, including KANSAS for chrissakes, and one or both chambers in SIX statehouses! We now hold a MAJORITY of state AG positions! We flipped HUNDREDS of down-ballot seats! Even our big ‘losses’ maybe weren’t – the Florida Senate and governor races might be going to recounts. Stacey Abrams might get her runoff yet. Even Beto, who definitely lost, pulled a bunch of down-ballot Dems across the line in Texas with his momentum. ARE YOU OFF YOUR NUT? That’s not a waste of energy!”

Really?

Let’s look at this in a little more detail and from the perspective of opportunity costs.

We had to KILL ourselves for months on end to cajole people into doing their civic duty. Citizens bear three main duties: to pay taxes, to serve on juries when called, and to vote. Only one of those is optional, and maybe it shouldn’t be.

I’d like to share an observant tweet:

[text for screen readers:

Tweet by Dan Lavoie, @djlavoie from November 6, 2018

The whole idea of “registering” to vote is bizarre.

You don’t “register” to pay taxes. The government proactively knows who you are.

When the government want to make something easy, it can.]

That’s a great point, Dan. The government manages to find me – and knows who I am – when it comes time to pay my taxes and when it comes time to serve on juries. Why is it acceptable that voter registration is so complicated?

Look, I know the states are supposed to be the laboratories of democracy, but allowing each state to set its own rules about voting is ludicrous. Every state has different requirements about who can register, and how far out you have to register, and what you need to do to register, and what you need to do to vote, and when you can vote, and where you can vote, and whether or not you have to show ID and of what kind, and what equipment you use to vote, and whether or not there’s a paper trail, and how to handle things like early voting and absentee voting and voting by mail, and what triggers a recount or a runoff, and on and on and on.

This is ridiculous.

That’s not a “lab.” That’s not “let’s figure out who’s doing it the best so we can all adopt good practices.” That’s chaos, and a recipe for voter suppression and disenfranchisement.

And PTSD. Goddamn Florida. I saw a tweet the other day (which I’m sad to say I can’t find at the moment, because I’d love to credit the author) to the effect that if Florida were given the choice between cake and boot to the head, it would go 50.1% to 49.9% and have to go to a goddamn recount. Visions of “hanging chads” are giving me goddamn night terrors.

Step one, the US needs to federalize how voting works. ONE set of rules about how you register (I recommend automatically, when you turn 18, just like you have to register for Selective Service – and, by the way, young women should have to register for Selective Service as well – with registration maintained in a blockchain) – and when you can vote (early and absentee voting should be not only allowed but encouraged) – and what sort of ID you have to show (I recommend none, since in person voter fraud DOES NOT EXIST, for all practical purposes) – and what equipment you use (I recommend MANDATORY paper trail). And election day should be a national holiday. And all primaries should be required to be held on weekends. States have proved themselves incapable of handling this in a reasonable and fair manner at the state level. It’s past time for the feds to step in.

We also need mandatory voting. As a recent Washington Post article points out, many countries have mandatory voting, to good effect: “higher turnouts…have a broader stimulating impact on political participation.”

Mandatory voting provides a nudge to good civic behavior: “The advantage of compulsory voting is that it is a gentle way of putting pressure on citizens to get more involved in political issues…”

It also “…limit[s] the influence of groups that may not represent the majority but [are] disproportionately well-organized.”

Particularly if we nationalized voter registration, made it automatic, and tracked it through blockchain technology (as I recommended above), it would be a simple matter to start off by incentivizing voting via a modest tax credit, then once citizens were acculturated to it, switch to a modest fine for NOT voting, also assessed through the federal income tax filing process.

Back to the concept of “opportunity cost.” How many hours over the past two years have you devoted just to trying to get people off their lazy asses and out to the polls? Multiply that by the thousands of other activists like you who were doing the exact same thing.

Where else could those thousands of hours have been invested? What good could they have done?

Could they have gone to working on educating people about climate change and advocating for our political leaders to DO SOMETHING before the planet becomes uninhabitable for humans?

Could they have gone to doing anti-racism, anti-sexism, or anti-homophobia work in your community?

Could they have gone to building community in your church, mosque, synagogue, or coven?

Could they have gone to volunteering in your local public school or at your local food bank?

Could they have gone to joining the board of a small non-profit that’s working for good in your local community?

Could they have gone to caring for an elderly relative, friend, or neighbor?

Could they have gone into picking up trash on your street or cleaning up a local waterway? Community organizing to get traffic calming measures installed or a playground renovated?

That’s what I mean when I say it was a waste – it was a terrible waste of human potential that could have been invested in so many other important places, if we actually treated voting in the US as the civic DUTY it is and re-arranged our laws and processes accordingly.

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Bring It Home, White Women

marchers from the Women's March

Because if we really are going to see a #BlueWave on Tuesday, that’s who we’re depending on – college educated, suburban white women who usually vote Republican. Does that terrify you? It does me as well, and I AM a white woman (although I do not live in the suburbs or ever vote Republican).

Yes, we need the black community to show up in Obama-era numbers, even though he isn’t on the ballot.

Yes, we need Hispanic and Latino men to get over their machismo and vote for the Democrat, even if she’s a she.

Yes, we need the 40+% of young people who CLAIM they’re going to vote to ACTUALLY SHOW UP to vote.

But the richest target for FLIPPED votes is the 44% of college educated white women who voted for Trump and in the intervening years have FINALLY seen the patriarchy for what it is.

I do have some sympathy for them. It’s a horrifying awakening.

As a black woman I respect with whom I serve on a board of directors recently put it, “I don’t have white friends.” And as I told her, “I get that. White people are exhausting, and I AM a white people.”

It’s relatively easy to put your condescending white boss or racist white cops or your not-very-neighborly white neighbor or #BarbecueBecky and #GolfcartGail and their ilk into a box over THERE of THEM who hate US, so we don’t truck with them. While you can’t always stop them from harming you and yours, it’s really easy to keep them out of the core of your emotional life.

People of color can construct private worlds from which we’re excluded, and it’s understandable when they do. Which is another reason to treasure the people of color who are your friends – your REAL friends – because they’re giving you a gift that they don’t owe you.

It’s devastating to realize that the ones who want to harm you look JUST LIKE your husband, your father, your brother, your son. The ones who want to harm you MAY ACTUALLY BE your husband, your father, your brother, your son. There is no way to put them in a box over THERE of THEM we don’t truck with.

Goddess love the lesbian separatists, but that’s just not doable for the overwhelming majority of women.

Knowing that you’re sleeping with the enemy and there’s no way around it wounds you on a level that your white boss saying you’re making good progress in your career because you sound white (yes, that really happened to a friend of mine) never can.

But those white women – the ones who don’t want to face the awful truth of their lives, who don’t want to deal with that pain, who don’t want to blow up their most intimate family relationships – are EXACTLY the ones we need, and we need them to be willing to do EXACTLY that.

All we can do in this, the Last Weekend, is keep working for change and hope that enough of them do.

[What about women of color? Aren’t there men of color, too? Aren’t women of color also impacted by the patriarchy?

Well, yes, of course. But women of color often choose – and have chosen – racial solidarity over gender solidarity, and for some very good reasons.

One, racial issues have often – although not always – been more urgent than gender issues. Example? Although women were legally treated as property in some very important ways up through at least the 1970s, white women were never sold on the auction block in the US.

Also, men of color, as victims of white supremacy, can be more attuned to sexism and, even if they aren’t, are often unable to access at least some components of male privilege, so patriarchy expresses itself differently in those communities.

And it is far more natural to choose solidarity with your father, your husband, your brother, your son than to choose solidarity with some random white women from the consciousness-raising group.

And white feminists have done a terrible job of standing in solidarity with women of color going back to (at least some of) the suffragists. We’ve expected them to be willing to work on the issues that matter to us, but we rarely return the favor.

So yes, there is patriarchy in the black community, in the Hispanic/Latinx community, in the Asian community, in the First Nations community. It expresses itself differently and impacts the members of those communities differently. Someday, Goddess willing, the scourge of racism will recede enough that women of color will have some space to work through how patriarchy that is distinct from white patriarchy affects them. My only hope is that white feminists will be able to pull our heads out of own own asses in time to be of some assistance when that day comes.]

[Notice white men continue to get a pass, even from me. With a few exceptions, they’re pretty much beyond hope.]

Image found here.

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Ignore the Polls

It’s coming down to the wire, and we’re all exhausted at this point. And I don’t know about you, but I was starting to lose my mind BEFORE right-wing terrorists, goaded by TrumPutin, who is DIRECTLY and PERSONALLY responsible, decided to attempt mass assassination of Democratic leaders, progressive funders, liberal voices in the media, and journalists earlier this week.

So I wanted to share some wisdom I saw on Twitter earlier this week:

[transcription for screen readers: tweet from @leahmcelrath, “no one knows what’s going to happen in this election. no one. if the polls and hot takes are making you too anxious, it’s okay to ignore them. just vote, breathe, and help get others out to vote.”]

Polls are up? Ignore them and keep working like we’re 20 points behind.

Polls are down? Don’t get depressed – lots of folks who are going to be part of the #BlueWave are being missed in the polling. And keep working like we’re 20 points behind.

This is it, y’all. Shut out the news and the noise, put your head down, and fight for our beloved republic. This may be our last chance to save her.

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