Friday, May 22, 2015

me, me, me, me, me

Enjoying the moment.

When I started this blog, I titled it that because I realized I want that. I want to be able to enjoy the current moment. To let go of what lead up to it and to release the worry about what might come next. More then a reality for me, it's been a goal. A goal that's been really hard to achieve.







In the past year, I've turned a little inward. Ok, maybe a lot inward. I've been doing lots of 'me' work, really focusing on who I am and how I can be my best self. Some days, my head spins with how focused on me i am... i talk about my life as the Molly Shea Show. I even have a theme song (if it's not obvious, it's a way i've come to taking myself with less weight. shit's not easy right now, but i'm also growing into being able to take myself a little less seriously... at least some times). While much of my life has been internally focused, I've also been learning and pushing myself to share with others, to reach out for support, and acknowledge I need that. I've turned to books, friends, therapists (oh so much therapy!), yoga, groups, reflection, listening to music (anyone whos been around me knows Jessica Lea Mayfield and First Aid Kit have been on literal repeat all year. Give those ladies a go, they are magical), and walks. I've thrown books across my room when I decided I didn't want to read it anymore and I've cried while doing dishes at work.
 I've had what felt like weeks where sleeping for more than 3 hours at a time just wasn't possible and days where twelve hours of being in bed felt too short. I've drank ridiculous amounts of coffee and started eating out with friends more often. I've been lucky enough to have an amazing friend teach me to quilt (look at it! are you looking!? I made that!), and have come to refer to my sewing machine as my favorite therapist (sorry to all my 'real' therapists, but ya'll got nothing on that beauty). I have goals about how often i want to do yoga, go for walks off the sidewalk, and see friends. I keep a series of jars by my bed to help me take a moment for gratitude and help seal up thoughts that are keeping me up all night. I have a fucking app on my phone to encourage meditation.


I've delved head first into therapyland, and for the first time am taking on 'self-care' as something real and worth doing. As part of that process, I've also started up a new wave of meaningful work in my life. Or maybe, feeling a need to do that work made me realize I needed to do some of that 'me' work. For the first time in my life, I've picked up work where I have a (direct) dog in the fight. That's by no means to diminish the work i've done and ways i've contributed to other realms of social justice, or to say the fight for environmental justice isn't connected to me. It is, but now, the work I'm doing is much more personal. More direct. Much, much harder (for me).

I've started teaching self-defense with a righteous organization, IMPACT safety. I'm still learning, but have already learned a lot. Working with teenage girls is where it's at for me, it's what I want to do most. All people deserve to be able to protect themselves, but it's that age group that lights a fire in my belly and makes my heart break into tiny little slivers. Working with folks with developmental disabilities has also been a striking reminder of why i stopped working at a day center for adults with development disabilities- the ways that folks who need support, love, and care the most are also the most susceptible to abuse. The ways the world we live in is not ok, where manipulation, power, and control allow for sexual assault to be commonplace. Where one and three girls and one and seven boys are abused before they are 18.

As I delved into IMPACT, I got trained up by the amazing humans of SARNCO (sexual assault response network of central ohio). In the middle of their 40 hour training- about trauma, about PTSD, about societal norms, about oppression, about empathy, about care, about the medical system, about abuse, about support services- i realized i felt deeply called to volunteer with them. Every day, 24 hours a day, there is a human ready to talk to you, to a survivor, to a co-survivor (someone, like a mother, friend, or partner, who is impacted by the abuse of someone they love), to anyone who needs help with sexual assault. Also everyday, 24 hours a day, there is someone ready to show up at a hospital and advocate for a survivor- let them know what the heck is happening, listen to them, watch their children, give them resources. That's about 1,440 hours a month that people are volunteering to support survivors in central ohio, through SARNCO alone (let alone the many other ways people give support). While it is heartwarming to know so many folks do that work and they do it so well, it's also a heartbreaking reminder that work like that is needed, because abuse is so common.


I can't say what will happen next. If i'll keep doing this work, if i'll find something new, if i'll ever make another quilt, if meditation will ever make sense to me. It pains my heart deeply, actually, to not know what tomorrow will feel like. But, some days, I'm able to sit with where i am. Let today sink in, and on rare occasion, even enjoy it.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

No.

Sometime last month, or maybe even 2 months ago, I was walking out of a therapy session (more on that-- maybe. but maybe not) and for some reason happened to look at my tire on my front driver side. It was wicked bald and on the inside the wires were starting to pop out. Same thing on my other front tire. With a drive up to Detroit the next day, I wasn't sure they'd last another 24 hours. Literally. My therapy mind quickly jumped to problem solving-- and before too long I was driving up Cleveland Ave looking for a used tire place.

I found one, but it wasn't the one I was looking for. I doubt it would have popped up on google. It was small, dirty-- and open. They had the tires I needed and the price was the same as the bigger googleable shop further down the road. As one of the fellas switched my tires out, I sat watching a world cup match on the oddly nice television-- inside the terribly build addition to the garage- that was now the office. Next to me on the chairs that were once white, three women chatted in a language I didn't understand. They were wearing clothing I couldn't imagine wanting to wear. A young woman (a teenage perhaps) wandered in and out of the door in the office-- seeming both confident and a bit on edge. The shotty addition, the dirty chairs, and the unfamiliar women were honestly part of what made me glad to stop by. The place wasn't comfortable to me- but I appreciated it. 

My tires were replaced, I paid in cash (another thing I liked), and I drove on back home. 

Just the other day, when I finally decided to pay attention to my car, I headed back to that same tire shop to replace the back tire- that somehow had an oddly flat spot on it that thumped every time it rotated. I was glad to see the shop was once again open, but with a little less hustle and bustle. It seemed quiet. As I pulled in, the same mechanic who replaced my tires last time remembered that back tire (which he told me at the time needed replaced). Once again, I waited on the dirty chairs, this time watching the ever disturbing news by myself.

As he came in, I got up to walk out and pay him. But he stopped and sat on the desk in the corner.

Wait a minute...

(pause) mhm?

You Married? 

huh?

You married?

ha- no.

You have a boyfriend?

i've got a partner... do you have a boyfriend?

(pause)

I'm looking for you.

huh?

You. I'm looking for you. 

Oh. uhm, no?

Through his thick accent, I actually couldn't understand him that well. He said something more-- maybe two or three things more... as i lowered my gaze to the ground and slightly shook my head no and backed out of the office. Once I was in the parking lot, I was able to catch myself. I asked how much I owed him, and handed him cash. I felt relieved my keys were in my hand.

I don't know what he was saying- but the answer was no. no. I've never really been afraid of strangers. I know-- deep inside my body as well as from statistics- that men I know are much much more likely to assault me then a stranger. But everything inside of me screamed no, yelled at me to get out. Oddly (or maybe not so oddly...) I could barely shake my head no and back out of the room. It's like I couldn't physically do it. 

It took me... a while... to shake the feeling. To let it go, let it leave and for me to.. rebalance. That's also unusual-- that sorta shit rolls off my back (again with the strangers...) within short moments. But it felt hot and full in it's suffocation. That place where feelings sometimes come from-- some folks call it intuition-- was confident i needed to escape. 

-----------------
Today, several days later- I still have an intense feeling from that interaction. I still don't really understand it. I wonder what role racism played in my reaction, and in what ways i felt more afraid because he wasn't white and because enlglish wasn't his first language. because he was 'other'.

Unfortunately, I suspect racism did tint that-- and created something where those feeling felt... so... big. 




Saturday, July 19, 2014

Towards Collective Liberation

Several months ago, I started hearing lots of folks talking about a new collection of essays put together by Chris Crass--- Towards Collective Liberation. It's a book that focuses in on stories and experiences on fighting racism and sexism, while building power.



While the book is interesting upon it's self, the most interesting and exciting part about it was reading it with some friends. About once a month or every section-ish, we'd get together on a video chat and talk about it. To make that even better than it sounds, those friends were EK, Bex, and Cole.

I enjoyed reading it, and more so talking about it-- but I have to say: I didn't love it. More particularly, I wasn't that found of the parts the Crass wrote--- there's something about white guys writing about anti-oppression that feels like... not that great. I did find valuable insight, and we had some interesting discussions, but overall i was underwhelmed by it. I think that's mostly because I had high expectations and that so many folks seems to be saying it was a great book. It was fine, I'd even recommend reading it--- but--- not highly recommend it.

-------
What I Liked About it...

There's one section where Crass talks opening about some of the things he does, in his daily life, that are sexist as all get out. It was actually hard to read ("... i know that my instant reaction is to take men's opinions more seriously... almost never having zoned out on what a gender-privileged man is saying because i was thinking about him sexually... etc. from Going to Places that I'm Scared of, p 124), but i gained a lot of respect from the honesty that was said and laid out. As someone who also (like all people, if i dare say) has thoughts or actions that don't match up with what I want in the world, it feels really compelling to see someone owning that-- not apologizing or explaining-- but owning it and working to make it different.

I loved having space to think about the ways privilege and skill sets intersect with expectations and power consolidation (Food Not Bombs essay, p 78) and the complexity of sharing the skills we do have (Going to Place that Scare Me, p 118). Of course, the ideas of structurlessness came up in many ways, all of which I ate up (and let it feed my righteousness? yes, probably).

Towards the end of the book there was a lot more essays and interview style writings from folks who were not Crass--- and I was more excited and pensive about those sections. It felt less theory based, and more... just how it is. Groups like the Rural Organizing Project blew my mind with how they've moved folks along, ways in which they prioritize collaboration with organizations that focus and acknowledge privilege and oppression, and individual and collective experiences (A struggle for Our Lives, p 204) and later digging in more about how "to hold the complexity, historical knowledge, and pain when people of color we're supporting act out intersecting forms of oppression (p 248). 

I have found myself thinking a lot about a section that talks about the ways we change and feel powerful when we put our bodies on the line. It made me reconsider the ways i look at 'direct action'  in the day of a digital world--- how getting a petition signed can actually create meaningful change in a person, if they do it person to person, face to face. (Leading with our Vision, p 244).

-----------
Good On Ya, at least mostly...

While I wasn't all that into what Crass had to say- or maybe the way he said it- I do really appreciate the book and his writings. I think folks who step up and take leadership to educate others about oppression are great. Sometimes we don't do it right, and we make mistakes, or we say things that make folks uncomfortable (not in a good way), but I can (metaphorically) applaud taking a stance and stepping into that role. If I were to ever meet Crass, I wouldn't say he opened my mind or showed me the way or even represented the struggles of women (since that's the one I have first hand experience with) well-- but I would say thanks. An honest, sincere thanks for writing a book to bring folks along, to share experiences and know-how, and for stepping it up. 

-----------
Take home Message...
reading and talking about challenging ideas with friends is way better for me than reading by myself and leaving it be. 

                          
{sometimes EK and Bex would be in the same place-- which was always notably not ohio}



Friends Rule. 


Wednesday, March 5, 2014

recognize ---> intervene

Something like a month ago, I went to a workshop lead by Training for Change- called Whites Confronting Racism. It was a 2 and half day workshop held in Philadelphia. A nice bonus of the workshop was two dear friends of mine also attended- Bex and Eli. The three of us share some common experiences (and have a lot of divergent experiences, too)-- since we all worked and lived together doing anti-mtr work in Appalachia. 

I went in thinking I didn't have expectations- and I was totally ready and open for whatever they sent my way. That's somewhat true, I was open and ready for what they had for me, but I also had hopes and expectations. Per usual, those expectations were unrealistic and ungrounded (things like: 'I'll leave the workshop feeling clear about ways I can best utilize myself to fight racism.'). What I got wasn't so clean- but it has been useful and the longer I sit with it, the more I feel the impacts of that weekend seeping into me. 

We set the stage to understand that white supremacy is systematic and large--- it's not just about us. But we do exist within a world that runs its self on the combination of white supremacy and racism, and so we do have a role and a say in the process. And I can choose to act in a way that is in line with my values and works to build the world we want. 

We looked at ways that white folks express racism. There was a list that we spent time working through called "examples of white group-level behavior/privilege' that listed common behaviors people of color experience from whites. There were a lot that I really identified with-- which-- was both unsurprising and a little shocking at the same time. Two that really stood out for me in my life; a tendency to give 'perfectly logical explanations' for racism (rather than acknowledging the systematic patten that any given circumstance fits in) and not listening to feedback, and rather explaining my intentions. 

I also really appreciated an activity designed to help us see our true 'core' selves and find ways to allow who we are to guide our actions. (Which, felt well paired with a lot of the work I've been doing with my coach- Zo. who is great.) We looked at ways our actions,  ways we want folks to see us, and our fears hold us back from being able to... well... be who we are. 
{our actions and sometimes the way we want folks to see us, are just the tip of the iceberg. But there's a lotta stuff going on under the water--- and if we're not intentional, our actions and core self might not match up}


I also found myself really struggling with how the forms of supremacy and oppression we were talking about apply to other oppressed people, too. For me, being a woman felt really present. A lot of what we talked about hit home for me-- but not because of my skin color. In some ways, I'm glad to see the connections--- but I am also weary of 'using' the oppression i feel as a shield to avoid talking about ways i benefit from white supremacy. 

We spent a fair amount of time talking about ways to intervene-- to call out and disrupt the flow of racist bullshit that happens all around us. There was lots of useful things around that, but one that I'm excited to talk about was a role playing activity. That I liked. (I literally can't think of any other role plays that i enjoyed being a participant in- so it's sorta a big deal.) Basically, we talked about something we'd like to do (around racism) and had our partners push us and criticize us--- while the other partner reminded us about who we are at the core. 

I decided I'd ask my housemates if they were willing/interested in being part of a discussion group about whiteness and racism. My biggest self doubt is that I'm not a skilled facilitator in this area and won't be able to guide us to somewhere useful and that folks will feel like I'm wasting their time. Through the role playing activity, I got to realize I had that fear and therefore am able to prevent it from disabling me. 

Several of my housemates have said they'd be into a discussion group, and we're going to start with picking a reading and talking about it. We haven't started yet, and I still feel really concerned I'll do a shitty job, but... we will start. 

When considering my unstated expectations (feeling clear about how to best fight racism), this feels pretty small. and insignificant. and maybe even stupid. with some reality check on myself (and my self doubt) I can see that it is small- but it is worth doing. The next step can be bigger and better, but starting here is real. And without this workshop, I never would have suggested it, and my household probably wouldn't do some of this work together. 

ps: there is another training this may, and i certainly recommend it. I also have a few solid and great resources/reading lists that i'd be happy to share with folks, so let me know if you'd like that.