Reframe it. (Parenting in Hard Times 3)

So many of us have been trying to figure out how to be cheerful and not scare our kids, which seems at odds with being honest with them about the truth. It feels like either/or. Either we lie and stay peppy so they don’t know anything’s wrong, or we tell them the truth of how bad it is and crush their feelings and terrify them. But what if we reframe the entire situation to make it about what we want our kids to learn from this instead of what we’re supposed to do perfectly?

Your job is to be kind to your kids, and one big way to be kind to them is to trust them to learn important things. Right now, in the midst of great sorrow, they can learn the most important things there are to know:

Your love for them is deeper than words.

They can trust you to do the best you can for them.

They are worth working hard for.

You will show them how to work for themselves.

When they get the chance to work for other people, they have to take it.

Relationships and community are of the highest value and are worth working for.

What if this crisis gives you the chance to apprentice your kids into being people who are strong and vulnerable, who can soothe themselves to be able to do what they need to do, and who work and fight for justice for others?

If you start thinking of these days as chances to show your kids that bad things happen but they can push back, even in teeny, quiet ways, you win. If you start thinking about what you tell them in terms of what will make them be able to make good decisions about how to act, you win. If you start looking for ways to teach empathy, kindness, and critical thinking, you win. You don’t have to worry about what information will do to them if you’re guiding them through how to receive and process and act on information as it comes in.

This is a tough request, especially when you’re feeling anxious and worried yourself. But it gives you a task to focus on that you know you can do. You’ve been helping your kids learn from the moment you met them. You can do this, too. Trust them to learn what you’re teaching, and trust yourself to be the teacher they need.

All my love,

Magda

Love the New Normal (Parenting in Hard Times 2)

Remember back when your kid was teeny and everything was horrible and you weren’t getting any sleep and you thought you were doing everything wrong and every minute seemed like an hour? And you wondered if that was the New Normal. Now you know that it wasn’t the New Normal, and most of those horrible things passed with time and some different horrible things aged in. It was all fleeting. The real New Normal was that you had another human in your life with thoughts and feelings and opinions, and you get to be with that person and watch them grow into who they are. The New Normal is actually kind of great once the immediate problems are gone.

We’re in the same kind of situation right now. We’re worried that the discrimination, lies, violence, racism, misogyny, fascism, overstepping authority, embarrassing statements, threats, bans, white supremacy, dismantling the system, and belligerence are the New Normal. They’re not, though. They’re the New Temporary. As the New Temporary they’re truly disgusting, but they’ll only become the New Normal if we stop fighting and working and pushing as hard as we can.

The real New Normal here is who we’re becoming in the middle of this.

Who are you now that you weren’t on November 7? I bet you have more layers, more resilience, more compassion, more strength, and better boundaries now than you did then.

What do you know now that you didn’t before? I bet you know so much more about so many groups of people in this country than you did before, along with what their experiences are like, and how you may have inadvertantly harmed them by things you did and systems you participated in. I bet you know more about how our government and political systems and electoral processes work. I bet you know what really matters to you, and what you’re willing to do to preserve freedom and justice for yourself and for others. I bet you know now that you’re not isolated and that there are millions and millions of people in this country who look nothing like you but want the same things you do.

What can you do now that you couldn’t before? I bet you can make phone calls to strangers every day. I bet you can go stand at protests and march for hours and chant with groups of people you have varying things in common with. I bet you can analyze what are good sources of information and make critical arguments of propaganda more directly than you could before. I bet you can assess who has your best interests at heart and who doesn’t, and maintain strong healthy boundaries. I bet you can keep pushing hard at the same time you’re laughing with glee at stupidity.

For years I’ve read obituaries of people who really contributed, and wanted to have that same record of contribution. I don’t mean people who were the most famous in their fields, but people who had years and years of cumulative work in their communities, of service and influence and contribution. And I’ve thought about how lucky they were to have been able to do that, to work steadily to make things better for their people. Right now we are all learning that. We are all doing that. We are all being that. We are contributing. And we get to keep going, even after the New Temporary is over and we get what’s left of our country on a better track. We get to keep doing this and being this in ten years, twenty years, fifty years. That is the New Normal. You get to be part of it and to raise your children immersed in care and love and activism.

All my love,

Magda

Keep it on an even keel. (Parenting in Hard Times 1)

(Cross posted at AskMoxie.org.)

Keep it on an even keel.

Kids need routine and stability. You need routine and stability. In the middle of the world falling down around us, the only one who can provide routine and stability for you and your children is you.

You may be feeling like you can’t keep it together logistically, if things get any worse (and that may be true). You may be feeling like you can’t keep it together emotionally for much longer (or that you aren’t currently keeping it together emotionally). But you have to stick to routines, for your kids and for yourself.

There are three things to know about all the madness swirling around us right now:

1. You can’t fix everything that’s happening. There are some things you don’t have any control over, and there’s no leverage point you can access to control those things. There are some things you do have influence over, and you need to take action, but you can’t do everything on every front. If you have a daily action plan, follow that. If you don’t, get one, and then follow it.

2. You shouldn’t fix everything that’s happening. It’s not your job to. There are 188 million adults in America who didn’t vote for Trump, and if even 3% of us are active in resisting, that’s more than 5 1/2 million people doing resistance work on a daily basis. That’s a lot of people, and more are joining us every day as the Bannon administration gets worse and worse. There are jobs for everyone. But no one should try to fix everything, because it isn’t reasonable. And no one else can take care of your children the way you can. That’s still and always your most important job.

3. The bad guys are creating chaos on multiple fronts because they can, and because they’re trying to incapacitate you with panic. If you stop living a normal life, they win. If you dig in to routines and to normal life, you win for everyone. Your stability and consistency provides stability and consistency for the entire country. If you descend into panic or obsession, that undermines the exact structures and systems we’re trying to save. Don’t help them destroy things. Grit your teeth and keep going.

This is going to be a long fight. And now that we know how to fight, we’re going to be fighting forever. So you need to find a way to create a good, safe environment for your children in the middle of the struggle. That means keeping up routines, including emotional routines. Hugs, kisses, snuggles, wrestling, feeding them good foods, making sure they get exercise and seeing sunshine when there is any, helping them with homework, asking them to do chores, following daily and weekly traditions, seeing friends, staying connected to family members, maintaining faith routines, and play. Lots of play.

Your heart is breaking, but don’t let that break your kids’ hearts. Stay boring, loving, and solid for them.

All my love,

Magda

 

Don’t spiral

Writing yesterday’s post about accepting some hard truths helped me. I’d been having moments of startling, like you do when you’re out without your kids and every once in awhile you have a little panic about where your kids are before you realize they’re home safe. I’d been having moments of startling and thinking I wasn’t doing enough and I needed to be calling someone that exact minute or everything was going to get worse.

After I wrote that post, though, it really connected for me that there are things I can’t control. Not by calling or going to my official’s office in person or divesting my money or putting my body on the line or anything. I can’t do anything about them except watch them play out and react to them to protect myself and my kids and others. I can’t stop them from happening.

And then yesterday a bunch of friends said they were having panic attacks from how fast things are going and how many things are happening, and that they’re afraid not to know what new thing has happened as soon as it happens so they can fight it. But that’s not fair to anyone. You do NOT need to know about everything that happens if only because it’s causing panic attacks, but also because once they’ve happened you can’t do anything about them.

You cannot stop something the turd-in-chief signs into law. If there is something you can do about it, someone will ask you to join. You individually do NOT need to spin and spin trying to find a way to fight.

So. If you are feeling panic attacks, do some radical self-care by stepping away from media and social media. Seek out things that calm you. Hang out with children. Do NOT allow yourself the mistaken idea that it’s all going to fall apart if you’re not watching and clenching your jaw. Tap out, and then in a day or two tap in again for your shift of watching. Then tap out. Then tap in. Rinse, repeat, for four years.

If you’re feeling calm and energized (like I am), use some of your energy trying to shift the panic attacks from us to them. Can you cause enough good trouble for the enemies that they begin to doubt themselves? Get THEM on the defensive.

188 million of us who didn’t vote for Trump, plus our kids.

All my love,

Magda

Some sad truths

The past couple days have been a little overwhelming. I’m seeing a lot of us get confused because so many bad things are happening, from the USDA to the EPA to FHA to every other acronym we thought was sacred. This is the new normal, so don’t whip your head around every time you hear a noise. You can’t afford to get whiplash. Your neck and the rest of you needs to be in good shape to keep going in your life.

Sad truth #1: You can’t stop everything. Yes, some things we can stop with a bunch of calls and letters and organizing. Some things we can’t do anything about. We can’t do anything about this FHA loan thing, although the mortgage industry may be able to do something about it when their business plummets. Same with some of these other asshole moves our garbage president is pulling.

The upside: If you can’t do anything about it, just write it down in your Book Of Horrible Things and then move on instead to something you can do something about.

Sad truth #2: Your Trump-voting relatives and friends still don’t get it. They might, when things start taking effect for them. But they also might never. If they haven’t understood any of your explanations by now, they might not ever see what’s hurting you. That’s not your failure.

The upside: You can stop arguing, and save your energy for the few who do get it at some point. When they do, help guide them into resistance work with us.

Sad truth #3: No one is going to reward you for resistance work. You’ll probably be told you’re doing the wrong thing, actually, by people you deal with regularly.

The upside: You HAVE to care for and about yourself. By the end of this four years you are going to be highly skilled in being really kind and affirming to yourself. It’s time to drop all ideas that criticizing yourself is somehow noble, and start being really good to yourself. Notice the relief you feel when you get to put down the load of constant self-monitoring and recrimination.

While I think that “happiness is a choice” stuff is bullshit for a lot of us, I do think you can make specific and deliberate choices to walk away from certain fights and expectations that will allow you to feel more calm. Think about looking these truths in the eye and putting some stuff down that isn’t serving you.

All my love,

Magda

Post-March limbo

Saturday was wonderful. I marched, and most of my friends marched in one way or another. My mom and aunt knitted pussy hats for themselves and for my 101-year-old grandmother. It was affirming to see so many people opposed to our new garbage president.

But there’s a lot of backlash happening today, and a lot of propaganda about the inauguration and PGOTUS’ first acts and about the propaganda about all of this, and so many jokes that it’s impossible to keep up. (I got trapped in all the #alternativefacts jokes and now have no idea who’s actually in the SuperBowl, honestly.) And our Reps and Seantors aren’t answering their phones anymore and we don’t know who’s supporting what and it’s all getting a little overwhelming.

Here’s a plan to focus and stay calm and energized:

1. Do an After Action Review of whatever marching activities you did over the weekend. What happened that was good and what could have been done better. Be sure you’re seeking out the voices of all the people in your community who need to be represented in the process. Write down the things you want to keep doing and the things you need to improve on, so you have them right there in front of you for the next four years and can keep doing more of the good things and solving the problems.

2. Keep doing the actions you’re being told to do by whatever action email you signed up for. Consider sending them a little cash, too, since most of these are run by regular people who are doing this around their jobs and other lives.

3. Follow your normal routines. Even if you could fight for 16 hours a day at a certain point you wouldn’t be useful anymore. This is a loooong fight. How much can you do in one day and still keep yourself together and your relationships intact? Half an hour? An hour? Call, write, organize, and keep your eyes open for projects that need what you have, but the rest of the time just keep going.

4. Self-soothe with music, art, and fiction. Listen to music you love. Look at beautiful things. Read and watch stories that entertain you. This is never time wasted. (Watching 37 minutes of Days Of Our lives on my phone every day is helping keep me sane.)

Keep doing what you’re supposed to be doing. PresBro is trying to dismantle systems, so keep your own system running in as boring and healthy a manner possible.

If you’re getting a little freaked out because your big cause hasn’t found you yet, fear not. It’s going to find you soon. Keep calling and doing mimimum daily actions and you’ll be ready when your thing finds you.

Make this as difficult as possible

We are going to lose so much. The deck is stacked against us and we cannot win everything, or even most things. We are going to lose things we didn’t even realize were things.

But.

188 million adults in this country didn’t vote for Trump and Trumpism. And we can make it as difficult as possible–at every step–for them to steal from us.

With each other, especially with the most vulnerable, sow peace. Be kinder. Be sweeter. Scaffold each other.

But with Trumpists and those who are trying to destroy us, resist at every step. Punch with closed fist. Laugh while you draw blood. Make it as long and drawn-out and expensive as possible for them to steal from you.

If you’re Gen X, be a cockroach. If you’re Millennial, be a unicorn. We’ll go high and low at the same time to make them fight a two-front war, while you Boomers be show ponies and kick them in the kidneys.

There are jobs for everyone. You don’t have to do all of them. Harass your politicians. Raise disobedient children. Be queer as fuck. Make a lot of money. Go bald with confidence. Be kind to your employees. Run for office. Organize people. Be loyal to youself. Don’t give evil a pass.

Be difficult.

Be incredibly, stubbornly, exquisitely difficult.

All my love,

Magda

Gen X, we have to talk

You guys, we’ve been sold a line, for our entire lives. Told something about ourselves that wasn’t true then and isn’t true now.

For the most part, the Greatest Generation and Baby Boomers have been lying to themselves about us and to us for 50 years. From the time we were born we were told we couldn’t do anything important. That we were too spoiled and unambitious and wan to be trusted. We’d be lucky if we could manage to get jobs or finish college, and we should be grateful for anything they let us have. We were told this by our Boomer parents, who seemed to be chronically annoyed that we weren’t them, so they gaslighted us about not having “lived,” like they did, through Vietnam and Woodstock and LSD (and then selling out and settling down, but they never talked about that).

They expected nothing from us, and told us not to expect anything from ourselves. The most we could hope for was cleverness and rebellion, a la Ferris Bueller. But real leadership was for them, not us.

Despite that, we’ve lived. We got jobs and finished school, and even though we’ll never have the same standard of living our parents did (because their racist labor and tax policies gutted the middle class) we’ve become responsible adults, good parents, engaged community members, experts in our fields. We just don’t talk about it, because we don’t know we’re good at any of this. We think we’re just getting by, slinking through and holding everything together. Reality still bites, in our minds, even though we are doing things our parents and grandparents never could have imagined doing.

And that internalized gaslighting has overflowed onto the Milennials behind us. While the Boomers were telling us we couldn’t do shit, Milennials were growing up being handed participation trophies just for showing up (talk about confusing) and left to their own devices (talk about lonely). They grew up without a horizon. So they formed communities of friends and learned not to trust what adults told them about themselves. Where we learned helplessness, they checked out of the system. Now they’re a powerful combination of capable and cynical, and we’re unnerved by the fact that they aren’t afraid to speak up. We were trained to be afraid to stick our heads up, and we’re freaked out that Milennials weren’t monitored closely enough to learn to shut up and bow their heads. Boomers just woke up to the fact that they hadn’t criticized them enough, so they’re spreading the myth that Milennials are spoiled and difficult to work with and unrealistic. And since we’re perplexed by Milennials’ lack of fear, we’re buying into this negative hype about Milennials, too.

We can’t. We shouldn’t. They didn’t do anything but play the hands they were dealt, just as we did. What we have to do is realize that the entire game has changed. Those two generations ahead of us have screwed all of us over so completely that the only people who can save the world are us and the Milennials. We can. But we have to do what no one ever did for us, which is give ourselves permission to lead.

Gen X, I’m asking you for a few things. Here they are:

1. Know your strengths. We are the generation who has been kicked every day in the same spot and then called weak if we cry. We are bruised and raw but we wake up every day and do this thing, over and over and over. We’re the cockroaches of humanity. We’re always here. Four years is going to be a piece of cake for us.

2. Stick your head up. What do you know? What are you really good at? Do those things, unapologetically. Do those things, publicly. Step out into leadership, wherever you are. You do not need permission. Take it. Once you start leading, we will follow.

3. Protect and support Milennials. We have a lot of overlapping stresses but they were trained by default to turn outward to heal, while it was really only safe for us to curl into little balls so we wouldn’t be noticed. Not our fault, and not their faults. This optimism and faith in each other that they still have is precious, and we need to nurture it and put ourselves between them and harm. Protect their enthusiasm and creativity and lack of fear.

4. Think about roles. We are really good at adapting to flawed systems. Milennials are really good at ignoring systems and creating alterate paths. We’re huge knowledge and skill repositories. Milennials are aces at execution. We’ve been playing the long game since we were born. Milennials get things done now. Together we have everything we need.

5. Realize that there is no permanent record, and you’re the grownup. There’s no penalty for failure. There is no one you have to answer to except your children. Do what you want to do, big and loud and out in public. And bring everyone else with you, because none of us need to hide anymore. Our moral and spiritual and creative leaders died last year. The incoming President of the United States of America is an overgrown toddler none of us would trust to catsit. That means that you have all the authority in the world.

6. We need you. Step in.

All my love,

Magda

Take your shot

I’ve seen a lot of people lamenting that they never did enough to prevent the rise of Trump and Trumpism and white supremacy, and now they think it’s too late.

It’s not too late. We are resisting. And even if they do a lot of damage, we need to make it as difficult for them as possible. Wear them down. Make it cost them.

That means everyone needs to take their shot, whenever their shot shows up. Everyone doesn’t have the same access and opportunities, so work with what you have. There are a few politicians who are taking their shots by doing everything the power of their positions allows them to do to block Trump. Some of us have skills and professions that let us obstruct more than others do. For some of us, the shot is raising children to be critical-thinking freedom fighters. For some of us, the most we can do is call and send letters. Some of us write, paint, draw, make music as our shot. Whatever it is that you can do, do it.

Your shot is your shot. Whether it comes once, or every day.

I’m going to ask you specifically to consider running for office in 2017 or 2018. Is your local school system protecting kids who are being targeted now by the white supremacists? If you were on the school board, you could affect that. Is your town or city a sanctuary city for immigrants and people of color? If you were on city council you could affect that. Written and enforced HOA policies might have saved Trayvon Martin’s life. Who’s on your HOA board? Is your state passing hideous bills during this lame-duck session? If you were a state representative or senator, you could change that.

Take your shot whenever it comes. The rest of the time, rest and heal.

All my love,

Magda

A project to unite us

I’ve been thinking about unity of thought and feeling, so here’s a project for those of us of good will:

Every day at 9 am, noon, and 6 pm your time, will you say one of the following passages? One is a prayer (for people who believe in an external force that guides you–Hindus, Christians, Muslims, Jewish people, etc.) and one is a blessing (for people who believe in an internal force or no force–atheists, Buddhists, pagans, agnostics, etc.).

The prayer:
Creator of us all, save us from the forces of evil who try to harm us. Turn us toward you and toward each other, and send us your protection from all harm. Help us love one another and work for justice together.

The blessing:
May we respond to the suffering of ourselves and the world with wisdom and compassion. May our good actions be unobstructed, and may we be at ease and peace as we work together for justice.

If you’re in, set your alarms for 9, noon, and 6, and copy and paste in whichever one you’ll do into the alarm reminder or your notepad. Then when your reminder alarm goes off, stop and pray or bless for the fifteen seconds it takes.

Special thanks to the clergy and laypeople I ran the prayer past, and to Rev Jay Rinsen Weik from the Buddhist Temple of Toledo for the blessing.