Stuck

I got stuck in the elevator last week.

stuck in elevatorI got in, pressed 7 and rode up. The doors opened, maybe 4-5 inches, slammed shut, then everything froze.  I pressed every button on the panel, including the alarm. Nothing.

I’ve never been stuck in an elevator before. I know a lot of people say this is their worst nightmare but for me it really wasn’t that bad. Don’t get me wrong, I definitely experienced a little adrenaline rush. I was all by myself so I gave the door one last pound with my fist, sat down on the floor, looked around and thought “Wow, I’m stuck in an elevator.” It really does wake a person up.

(Spoiler alert, I got out.)

All week, I’ve been enjoying the quirkiness of the experience and playing with it. I’ve  been watching various things unfold from that wide-awake stuck-in-an elevator point of view. Like, I’ve been thinking about our national healthcare debacle, the mistrial of Bill Cosby, the happenings at my beloved alma mater The Evergreen State College; all of these as embodiments of the cosmic elevator in which our entire nation seems to be stuck.

How are we ever going to get out?

Today I’m thinking it has to be about everyday conversations where we learn to navigate the world with more finesse and not so much stuck-ness.

Let me give you an example. Yesterday, I watched two people end a heated debate with “let’s just agree to disagree.” Ever said that? Or had it said to you? That expression means so many captive things, including:

  1. My eyes are seeing that your mouth is moving and sound is coming out. But I am too busy in my mind thinking about how to represent and defend my point of view. When I see your mouth stop moving, I’ll tell you all about it.
  2. I am the one with power here (said both parties) and when this godforsaken conversation is over and we agree to disagree, each of us will return to our corners and shore up our power where we have it.
  3. You’re wrong.

Allow me to indulge you in a story someone told me once about “you’re wrong.”

There was a monastery in Thailand where people from the U.S. occasionally went to join the Buddhist monks to study and meditate. A woman traveled there and for several months practiced rigorously, Returning to the U.S., she found herself attracted to an evangelical church and eventually pledged herself to Christ. She vowed to return to Thailand to convert the monks. Her return to the monastery was greeted with great warmth. But as the days went on, they became increasingly confused and then annoyed by her preaching to them as they tried to study. Finally the monks went to the abbot to seek his wisdom about what to do. The abbot listened intently to their account of events, considered for a time, looked at his wide-eyed followers, shrugged and said “She could be right.”

Which is just to say, “agreeing to disagree” is to be loyal to a story that may be right. It may be wrong. Who knows?

Or may not even be the only possibility. What if there were a third, fourth, or  fifth story; one we can’t even imagine because we get too stuck on the only one we know?

Or maybe all the possibilities are not mutually exclusive? What if two things that appear to be at odds, are actually not and can both be true at the same time?

What would happen if we flipped the script and committed to “Let’s agree to work to agree”? Getting unstuck. There are solutions to every problem we have created for ourselves.

Including getting out of an elevator. Half an hour after I rang the alarm, two guys from the Olympia Fire Department pried open the doors and let me out. Ultimately, I’m left with only one question. Is it possible to be stuck in an elevator and be both annoyed and dazzled at the same time?

You can take the girl out of the protest, but you can’t take the protest out of the girl

I grew up on the Pawcatuck River. It’s a short little thing as rivers go, dividing Rhode Island from Connecticut and flowing into the Atlantic. As children in the 60s, all of us kids were strictly forbidden from swimming in the river because our moms said it was polluted.

This prohibition, however, only prompted us to “accidentally fall in” as often as we could get away with it. For decades now, we have worked together to clean up our messes. Today, kids can swim in the Pawcatuck River. It seems a shame to go backwards on this now.

I was snorkeling over a reef with amazing fishes a few weeks ago. Hearing news of the gutting of the EPA and thinking back about my childhood water and air quality prompted a half-assed protest. When I was packing for vacation, I didn’t include waterproof protest sign materials. Still, I did my best to make a splash. SAVE the EPA.

Save the EPA

This is so basic. The broad conversation on violence and relationships includes the violence we heap on our beloved mother earth. Our survival depends on resisting.

What ways are you finding to resist violence of all sorts and advance your values around peace and justice? Let’s see your best protest signs!

Show your love

We bring you this post from Karen Rosenberg, a Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence consultant.

Did you read about the guy who made threats against Jewish organizations as a way to hurt his ex-girlfriend? The Federal complaint reads in part:

“…the defendant appears to have made some of the JCC [Jewish Community Center] threats as part of a sustained campaign to harass and intimate Victim-1…harassment of Victim-1 appears to have begun shortly after their romantic relationship ended and to have included…JCC Threats in Victim-1’s name…”

Jewish Community CenterAt first the whole thing just seemed bizarre: making bomb threats against Jewish Community Centers to get back at an ex? How random. But then I realized with a sinking heart: if we understand how domestic violence works, there is nothing random here. This is textbook harassment. People don’t choose their tactics in a vacuum. They draw on what’s going on around them. We’re swimming in a sea of hate crimes. This guy used anti-Semitism—and fears of anti-Semitism—to punish his ex-girlfriend.

The spike in hate crimes stresses our most intimate relationships. The separation between the public and the private is an illusion. Those who choose to abuse their partners have newly prominent cultural scripts of hate at their fingertips. From this perspective, signs proclaiming love for our neighbors, support of our immigrants, and solidarity with Muslims take on real importance. They displace the rhetoric of hate. They remind us that we all deserve to feel safe, loved, and respected. So show your love in public. Our relationships depend on it.

I SAID I was SORRY

There are not many things that are awkward per se about being a gardener. But there is one. Sometimes I overhear things happening in my neighbor’s yard that I maybe should not.

Like one fine spring day when my neighbor’s front door SLAMMED and their really quite adorable teenager turned round on the front stoop and screamed back at the closed door “I SAID I was SORRY!” Car tires squealed. Calm settled back.

I know it’s not funny, but I said I was sorry – big emphasis on SAID and SORRY – has since become part of the vernacular in our house. When we do something stupid and apologize but the other won’t let it go I SAID I was SORRY can sometimes break the spell of an argument that is going nowhere.

I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry.

I’ve been thinking about apologizing and making amends more than usual lately. I mean, I’ve thought about it a lot over the years related to my work. How batterers and sex offenders can apologize and make amends for the terrible things they have done to their loved ones and others.

And is that even possible?

And yes it is.

But now, every day, I’m watching the much bigger picture of our nation coming to terms. Watching as the scabs and scars covering our many national shames split open and bleed.

For instance, this New York Times article: A public apology for the inconceivably wicked crime of the lynching of 16-year-old Austin Callaway, taken from a jail cell and murdered on September 4, 1940 in LaGrange, Georgia.

Ernest Ward, right, the N.A.A.C.P. president in Troup County, Ga., said he had “a newfound respect” for Louis M. Dekmar, the police chief in LaGrange. I am in awe of the people in LaGrange. Those with the courage to stand up. To face the past and to face the present. To be together. To struggle even as it gets messier and messier.

It is incumbent on me, on all of us to be together. In person. To lean in toward one another and whisper in each others ears “I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry.” To bust wide open and tell one another our stories and see where that takes us.

There’s still time to make 2016 better

Are we there yet?The year is almost at a close, and boy, what a year it’s been. There were good things, there were bad things (I’ll spare you the top list for this one), and then there was the election.

On election night I was one of those shocked white people that couldn’t believe what I was watching unfold. I went to bed thinking, “how could this happen?” I woke the next morning feeling numb and in disbelief (obviously, my white privilege had taken over, so that’s something I’ve had to work on). I’ve had moments of denial, disbelief, and just plain being scared. In a way I felt paralyzed, like I no longer had any control or say in what the next four years would bring.

But no matter how discouraging and dark it may seem, now more than ever we need to get up and take action. So before 2017 hits, here are some things you can do to make 2016 a little better.

  1. Don’t argue, talk: A few years ago I wrote a blog post about the arguments my father and I used to get in and how we figured out a way to have respectful conversations by putting our relationship first and our differences second.
  1. Organize: Join organized resistance like the Injustice Boycott.
  1. Try to understand: There is a lot of interesting analysis out there on why people voted the way they did. It’s helped me understand the state of our country and where people are coming from. It doesn’t make me feel better, but at least it puts some of the puzzle pieces together. After all, if we don’t understand the whole problem, it’s hard to find a solution.
  1. Register for Advocacy Day: Talk with your legislators about local issues that impact survivors. It’s more important now than ever!
  1. Pay attention to people: In a time when things feel so divisive, take a moment and ask people how their hearts are doing. Slow down, really listen, and find common ground.

The art of blessing the day

This morning, I woke up thinking of lines from Marge Piercy’s poem, The Art of Blessing the Day.

This is the blessing for a political victory:
Although I shall not forget that things
work in increments and epicycles and sometime
leaps that half the time fall back down,
let’s not relinquish dancing while the music
fits into our hips and bounces our heels.
We must never forget, pleasure is real as pain.

Last Friday, I drafted a blog post about how to support the water protectors at Standing Rock. I tried to keep up with the most urgent calls to action, as the situation on the ground shifted by the hour.

standing rockThousands of people from around the world have gathered to support the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s peaceful opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline project. The proposed route for the pipeline threatens the Tribe’s water and sacred land. Police action against the water protectors has recently erupted into violence. Hundreds of unarmed people have been injured by water cannons, tear gas, rubber bullets and percussive grenades. The threat to the water protectors escalated as the Army Corps of Engineers set a December 5th deadline to leave the area, and the North Dakota governor ordered immediate evacuation.

So much is at stake. The waters of the Missouri River and the well-being of tens of thousands who depend on it. The right of sovereign tribal nations to protect its citizens. Native women and children who are the targets when oil industry “man camps” bring a massive influx of sexual violence. The fate of the planet, as oil consumption fuels environmental devastation.

Then Sunday night, a surprising victory. The Army Corps announced it would deny the pipeline project permission to tunnel under the river.

The celebration reminded me of another sweet moment, nearly four years ago, when Congress reauthorized the Violence Against Women Act. That victory came after a long standoff, 500 days of negotiation. It was a triumph of unprecedented solidarity among advocates, and the courageous leadership of Native women.

The victory was not complete, but it was real. After the win, it took another kind of grit to insist on celebrating it. The next threat loomed. The inevitable strategic failures immediately came into focus with 20/20 hindsight.

But the discipline of blessings is to taste
each moment, the bitter, the sour, the sweet
and the salty, and be glad for what does not hurt.

By yesterday morning, the oil companies made it clear they would continue construction of the pipeline despite the government’s decision. It is hard to imagine the little relief that has come from the Obama administration will last once Donald Trump is in the White House. For the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, the fight is not over. Meanwhile, the next battles are already happening.

What we want to change we curse and then
pick up a tool. Bless whatever you can
with eyes and hands and tongue. If you
can’t bless it, get ready to make it new.

Here is what you can do right now:

  • Call or email your Congressional Representatives. Ask them to do everything they can to halt the Dakota Access Pipeline.
  • Give money to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. Help cover legal costs and equip water protectors for the harsh winter.

Celebrate. Get ready. Fight. Repeat.