The Break Is Over

Hey, friends.

You probably didn’t notice – (well Jemmy did, but the rest of you probably didn’t – that I have been utterly silent for the last couple months on the blog here.

It’s been a busy time, AND, I just haven’t felt motivated or particularly inspired to write about anything. The muse comes and goes, I suppose.

Well thanks to Jemmy’s reminder that I’m a writer, I’m writing this. And hopefully, more to come in the future. I have a new vision for the work I want to be doing in the community. There’s a framework for it in my head and I want to share it with you. There’s also a lot going on currently with local campaigns that I want you to know about.

So I might post more often and if I post too much, you should let me know. You should also let me know if there’s anything I SHOULD be talking about that I’m not or anything you want my opinion about, please let me know. Your feedback is important to me and will only inspire and inform my work and my writing. I hope this can be a conversation, not a monolog.

Also, if you need something to put a smile on your face in these times just walk by the Olympia Family Theater across from City Hall on the mornings when the little kids are all dressed up and playing in the lobby. That’s a scene of carefree bliss that I NEED more of these days to combat the dismal veneer over us since November.

 

Cheers!

This Day

Today is not my day. If it is yours, I hope you make the very best out of it. If like me, it isn’t yours, then let’s use this season to hone our compassion and tolerance for things we don’t believe in, and take the time to reflect on the people in our lives, not what they believe.

Whether it’s politics, religion, gender, who we’re attracted to, or our favorite food… we all, each and every one of us, exist on an undulating and ever fluid spectrum. To try to pin each other down is a disservice to love. To say that another person, because of their beliefs, or even their actions, is absolutely evil – that is to say irredeemable and completely gone – is to deny the darkness within ourselves. If you know your own darkness, you know that you are complex and cannot be defined by any one point on your spectrum. Love is rooted in the acceptance of your own darkness and the darkness of others, and knowing that without it they wouldn’t, and we wouldn’t, be whole.A lot has been said about 2016 as if it happened TO us. As if we were passengers, without control. I reject this. We make our every day in every moment. Thousands of hacks like me will write millions of words about the coming year in the next week, but I think we have some work to do unpacking 2016 before we’re ready to hope for the future.

I would just ask that for these final days of this year let’s reflect on not the events that occurred, but how we responded. I mean deep down, not in the veneer of social media, but drill way down into our roots. What I saw this year was an awakening of a spirit where no matter how angry or scared we were on the surface, there was an undercurrent of love that is becoming our foundation. Fear can’t win, and neither can those we oppose, if we wear that love on our sleeve. They can’t beat us if we love them because they need us to hate them. To steal from Dorothy Day, we can only love ourselves as much as the person we love the least.

Happy Day, and see you around the bend, my friend.

Service

This is the first time I’ve sat down at the keyboard to write something since Tuesday. I’ve been through a lot of the same shock and numbness that I’ve seen a lot of people vocalizing. Like most of my white friends, my shock was instinctually rooted in the fact that this country could elect a person like Trump – racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, admitted (proud) sex offender, etc – that shock is in willful ignorance of our POC and LGBTQ+ friends who have been TELLING US for years about the country we live in.

For a lot of people like me – who tend to rely on data and polls – we’ve been preaching that Clinton had it in the bag. Wrongness in the polls at that level would be certainly unprecedented and nearly impossible. We ignored that we’ve never had a candidate like Trump before, so of course something unprecedented was possible.

Over the last few weeks I’ve focused on the data, while many women, mostly the mothers, in my life have focused on their gut. Their guts hurt, they were worried, they couldn’t shake the sense of dread they were feeling.

To everyone: I’m sorry for ignoring you, I won’t make that mistake twice.

But this isn’t an election post, this is about service.

I’m a Veteran, and this being Veteran’s Day, if I decide to leave the house, someone will say, “Thank you for your service.” I’ve yet to meet a veteran who isn’t a little peeved by hearing that from a stranger. It’s not that we don’t appreciate the sentiment, people always mean well. For me, it’s that it devalues that word.

Service.

One of my favorite quotes is from Dr. Cornel West:

“You can’t lead the people if you don’t love the people. You can’t save the people if you don’t serve the people.”

Love and service are intertwined and without love, service is a meaningless gesture built on sympathy or some other hierarchy where you’re putting yourself above others.

In my head the past few days there have been five words rolling around, looking for traction:

Magnanimity – our actions are rooted in grace, not fear and resentment.
Reciprocity – we give love and receive love in equal proportions so that we can rise together.
Community – we don’t look inward, we think of our neighbor first.
Love – we project it even in the face of hate or indifference.
Respect – we treat each other well, communicate directly, and choose radical honesty over politeness and comfort.

I choose these five things as my personal pillars. My guiding principles going forward. I choose to serve my world, love my friends, and stop shrinking away from my responsibility as a man of privilege to stand up and kick open doors.

If you’re reading this, I love you. Please share it and let’s start a revolution of the heart.

 

Love & Fear [Radio Raheem on my mind] #billnunnrip #mantime

I have heard people say that there are two basic emotions:

…Love and Fear…

and that they don’t coexist. They cancel, or push each other out – love drives out fear, and vice versa. I often hear this in what I think are oversimplified, overly broad terms. They suppose that love and fear are constant ways of being, and that we can choose to live in one or the other – if you catch yourself living in fear, flip that switch and turn on the love. I think that’s a high ideal but probably not attainable. Love and Fear aren’t a blanket, they’re fleeting and transient emotions that can crash over us like powerful ocean waves only to retreat again. They can also loom for awhile like a fog and become like the air we breathe. But love will always strike into fear and fear into love, like lightning cracking into the night sky.

I can feel absolutely and completely in love and forget about those fears and traumas that make me wary, shaky, and uncertain. Then once I settle a bit and start to notice nuance and detail, I begin to notice those fears again. They wait, lying dormant, but there they are. Jagged little darts of anxiety triggered by a word or tone from a lover. A simple and seemingly innocuous action might put me into a weeks long tailspin where the fear makes me forget the love for awhile.

Left unchecked this leads people to all kinds of silly or hurtful behavior. You might push your lover away until you figure things out. Or you could completely crumble and give them everything they demand of you, not realizing that this erodes you and the more you do it the more of yourself you lose. Maybe you up and leave, or seek attention elsewhere. All of these are fight or flight responses, and none are productive or healthy. They also have nothing to do with your partner, and everything to do with you.

I also hear people say that relationships are 50/50 – two people meeting in the middle to “complete” each other. I don’t think anything could be more wrong or destructive. John Legend nailed it with his song, ‘All Of Me’

‘Cause all of me
Loves all of you
Love your curves and all your edges
All your perfect imperfections

Love between two people is about 100% of me and 100% of you in a partnership where you love my worst and my best and I reciprocate and support you and learn from you and we build our empire together.

Love and Fear are natural. I choose both. I choose to love my fears, and fear my loves and learn from it all. I’m thankful for them and everything they’ve taught me about the world and myself. I’m grateful to them for giving me good instincts about people and the world. They are not what defines me, they’re a guide – an angel and devil on my shoulder, balancing me out.

Love and Respect…

and “Put some extra mozzarella on that motherfucker and shit.”

untitled

I had a little dream the other day. I was sitting in a group of people. There was a chill in the air and the mood was grim. There was pain and sadness, clingy like a damp t-shirt. I was seated. There was an old man directly in front of me. A black man whose face bore the marks of time like rings to a tree. His eyes told stories his voice could never say. We were mourning, what I do not know. He wanted to pray and reached out his hand to me. I took it. He clasped his other hand over mine and I followed by putting my other hand on top of his other. His prayer, I do not remember the words to, only the cadence and gravitas. He finished with a flourish and said amen. The people all around repeated, amen. I saw him notice that I didn’t say amen. He asked me, “You don’t say amen?”

“No, I don’t believe in that.” I said.

“Well, what do you believe in?” He asked.

I said, “I believe we’re all wrong, and that’s alright.”

He looked up as if he was checking in with his God. Then he looked back at me and sort of pensively nodded.

I remember waking up wishing I could shut my eyes and immediately jump back in to hear what he was going to say, what wisdom he might invoke. Maybe he was just going to tell me I was a fool. But now I’ll never know, and that’s alright too I guess. It’s OK not to know things, or to feel lost every once in awhile. I’m glad for little reminders to not be in such a hurry.

The Last Year of My Life

Yesterday marked the one year anniversary of a monumental life change for me, and I’m feeling like I need to tell you about it. Maybe to finally purge it, a sort of mental spring cleaning – or maybe to just organize it better in my head.

A year ago yesterday, I woke up in a job that I loved – a job that I created, in a program that I created. I had dedicated the last three years of my life to it. Looking back, I often neglected my girlfriend, friends, family, and self in order to ensure success for the program. I worked every day. For three years.

I had just had one of the best weekends of the three years in that job. We had just launched a huge new project, one of risk and reward – faced with doubt and skepticism, my team and I forged on and got the job done. We launched that new project with great fanfare. City Councilmembers cutting the ribbon. Front page of the paper. I don’t think I’d ever felt greater pride.

A year ago yesterday I walked into my boss’s office and she fired me. The reasons given didn’t (and don’t) make sense – but they don’t matter anymore, so I won’t get into that.

As I look back at the last year, I see the stages of grief very clearly.

At first, ego took over and let arrogance get me through by denying that I had any feelings about it. My denial was internal. I pretended to be blase about it, to accept it. To shrug it off and move on. Inside, I was a wreck. On the inside I was confused and didn’t know how to talk about it.

Along with this denial, the anger seethed underneath, like a pot of water just about to boil, shimmering and threatening to surface. I took this out on people by being short with them or ignoring them even when they reached out to help.

Slowly I became depressed. I didn’t know I was depressed because I’d never felt that before – it was something completely new to me. Learning how to be depressed was something I chose to do alone, which is probably the worst way to deal with it, and likely prolonged it for months. I became insular and guarded. I didn’t want to connect with anyone for fear that they’d see my vulnerability, which I still perceived, from my Man Box, as weakness.

Finally, slowly, and thanks to a community of people who supported me, and my amazing family, acceptance started to manifest itself. Too many people are a part of that to name any one of them – but if you ever said a nice thing, gave me a hug, or even took a minute to chat, please know that those small acts helped me as much as any support I got from anyone.

Today, while not yet fully recovered financially, I can say without a doubt that my heart has recovered. My heart is longing for the next big thing again. My mind is plotting a course for the future that will see me taking risks again – because taking risks is the only way to make good things happen. There’s an old cliche I believe to be true that says you can tell more about a person by how they respond to failure than by how they respond to success. I strive to learn and grow and take risks that might lead to failure so that I can learn and grow and risk again and again until I can’t or I die.

Thank you all.