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.

It’s ok to be calm

“Your healing is the world’s healing. Allow it.” —Randi Buckley

I know a lot of us are feeling constantly disrupted because of this election and the aftermath, and who are still feeling panicked and unsafe. After awhile that feeling becomes almost an addiction, and it feels like we’re betraying other people and the world if we can find calm and comfort.

If you’re someone who’s been traumatized in the past, you already know this cycle of anxiety and alarm, and how terrifying it is when you stop feeling anxiety and alarm, and how that feels like something even worse is going to happen if the anxiety isn’t there.

But.

You deserve to feel peaceful within the situation you’re in. Peace is power. It allows you to live the life you are capable of living, to be the advocate for the kids in your life that you can be, and to take joy in being alive.

Realistically, you are going to have to live the next four and eight and twenty years the best you can. Working and loving, with the most you can bring to both of those. Trump and his acolytes and the white supremacists and the oil companies don’t get to steal your life from you any more than any of the structures of our racist misogynist society get to. You have been living through our system already. You can live through these new changes and resist them at the same time and be at peace and heal from trauma every day.

And you have to. That’s not up for debate. As Randi says, “Allow it.”

First, triage. For when your chest gets too tight and your stomach clenches and you wake up with a start or you can’t fall asleep:

Assess your situation. Are you safe? Is your body ok? How is your breathing? If you have children, are they safe? If you are safe and as whole as is normal for you right now, start thinking about your breathing. Be intentional about breathing in and breathing out, paying attention to how that feels. Draw your focus to your toes and then slowly up your entire body, assuring yourself that you’re still here and you’re still the way you normally are. You are still here, still resisting.

If you are not safe, do whatever it takes to become safe, whether that’s leaving your location or asking someone else for help.

Breathe and think about the parts of you body that are ok. Think about the items on the to-do list I posted yesterday. Once you have worked your way through that list, you can put it aside and know that it’s taking care of itself, and you can focus on your real life and handling whatever comes up in your view as it comes.

To regulate yourself and get yourself out of the loop of fear, I’m giving you three assignments to do today and every day:

  1. Move your body rhythmically for 30 minutes. If you can walk outside, walk outside. Jog or run or swim or bike or row or step dance or jump rope if you like that better. Or put on music you like and dance for 30 minutes. It is better if you work up a sweat doing this, but I’ll take anything you give to it. If you can’t do 30 minutes today, start with however many you can do, even if that’s 1 minute, and work up to 30. You’ve got all the time in the world. Spend it on your body.
  2. Do something with your hands that involves rhythm and repetition (if you can move your hands). Knit or crochet or embroider or latch hook or carve wood or soap, or do cat’s cradle or origami, or knead bread dough or make meatballs or stuff dumplings or chop carrots, or do connect the dots or coloring books, or do rhythmic hand games with a kid you know, or Spirograph, or (air) drum along to some loud music, or something that keeps your hands moving in predictable ways. The goal is 20 minutes every day, but I’ll take 10.
  3. Spend some deliberate time snuggling with at least one other mammal today. (If you’re a bird or lizard snuggler, ok, and I don’t actually get it, but if it works for you, go for it.) If you live with other humans, make sure that you give each one of them a long, tight hug that gives them energy when you first see them in the morning, and when you last see them at night. If there’s someone at work that it’s not creepy to hug, hug them, or seek out a friend every day to hug. Spend time petting your pets. Make an effort to have some skin-to-skin or skin-to-fur time, even if it’s just your cheek against their cheek.

Make an effort to do these three things today and tomorrow and the next day. Making the effort for each one counts. Progress, not perfection. Eventually, once you’re more healed from a lifetime of trauma, these activities will keep you regulated on a daily basis. Start now.

All my love,

Magda

Sign, seal, deliver

This is part 1 of easing your mind enough to be able to live through each day without fear and anxiety. If you didn’t read my post about the long game from last week, go read it now and then come back. Assuming that we are all committed to resist Trumpism and teach critical thinking, it’s time to get things in place for the struggle ahead. Here’s a list of actions to plan and take:

1. Figure out how much direct action you can take and then sign up for one of the action emails that tells you a short, manageable list of things to do to resist. A weekly one is Wall Of Us, and you can sign up here: https://www.wall-of-us.org/subscribe/  A daily one is Raise Your Hand If You’re Gonna Fight and you can sign up here: http://tinyletter.com/resist Sign up for ONE of them. (You can manage one. More than one will increase your anxiety.) And then when it comes, do what it tells you to do, every week/day. Even if you’re afraid of the phone. I’m afraid of the phone, too, and I have a flat Midwestern accent and a slight lisp and I am making these calls and if I can do it, you can do it.

2. Decide how you’re going to handle it if you witness a hate attack. These white supremacists are coming out from under the refrigerator to attack people of color, Muslims, women, LGBTQ people, immigrants, and anyone they perceive as being less than they are. I am asking you to consider stepping in physically to help someone and stop these neo-Nazis. I am practicing and running scenarios to be able to step in physically if I’m alone or am with my children. I told my teenager (who is the size of a big man) yesterday that he needed to know that if something happened in my presence I was going to step in and I needed him to keep himself and his brother safe and call for help. I’m using the same procedure we’ve been rehearsing since they were little and we lived in NYC, but without the complication of being underground on the subway: I tell them I’m stepping in and call for help from other adults in the vicinity, hand them my phone unless they have their phones out, I step in, they call for help. If you rehearse it and talk about it enough, when it happens you’ll just do it without hesitation.

3. If you’re afraid of what will happen to you and your family personally (financially, socially, educationally, etc.) under the Trump regime, shore up as many gaps as you can so you have fewer things to worry about specifically. You may have been thinking “How bad is it going to get?” and the only answer I have for that is “Trust Jesus, but lock your car.” You won’t regret protecting yourself, if only because that frees up more energy to fight for others.

4. Reach out to the people around you to find out what they’re afraid of happening, and help them protect themselves. Do you have neighbors or friends who are going to be especially vulnerable to these criminal vultures and their policies? Help them with paperwork and planning, and help them with resources and support so they’re embedded even more in resilient communities. Immigrants, religious minorities, single parents who are just scraping by financially, kids who seem to get in trouble in school a lot and their parents, neighbors who might be in danger of losing their houses or not being able to keep the heat on. They are probably not going to ask you for help, so get quiet and start watching carefully to see what you can do to help them become more stable.

5. Think about the things that you’re afraid of being taken away, and how those structures are already too limiting and harmful to a lot of people. A lot of these structures are already systematically racist and misogynist–defending them just because they’re all we’ve got is a whole lot of energy to stay in the same place. Since Trumpists are trying to harm us, it makes exactly zero sense to merely defend. We need to attack and push for more equitable structures and more justice than we currently have. Getting along, seeing the other side, waiting and seeing–none of that is going to save us. There is no amount we can compromise that will make them stop pushing. So don’t compromise. Push back HARD into their territory and take what we need. Part of this is contacting your local politicians and demanding that they make your city a sanctuary city. Send your clergy people this story and ask them to become part of this movement. Put your money where your values are and divest of structures that reinforce an unjust system. Don’t support white-only institutions. Support institutions and groups that are fighting back. Meet up online and in real life to take collective action to demand more than we have now. Listen to the people who need the most change and do what they say.

6. Unplug. Knowing exactly what Crybaby Don and his criminal band of appointees say exactly when they say it isn’t going to change anything, and it harms you emotionally and physically. Set limits on the amount of time you spend reading and watching the latest ridiculous crap. Spend that time instead reading or writing fiction or poetry, cooking, doing things with your hands, exercising, making art or music, laughing with other people. They don’t get to make you jump every time they do or say something. You are still you and you deserve to feel good, in spite of it.

All my love,

Magda

(For anyone with depression, my friend Shannon and I write the Advent Calendar For Depressed People and it might help you know you’re not alone.)

The long game

Loveys, I’ve been struggling with writing a post to tell you how to stop being scared and what to do to quell the panic. I have a list of things but they aren’t hanging together yet in any way that feels helpful to anyone.

But then I was driving my 9th grader to school this morning and an Elton John song came on the radio and I launched into one of my cultural literacy lectures, about Elton John and Bernie Taupin and how they were such a strange combo because all of Elton John’s songs sound so natural, like they were written by one person and the lyrics and music just came to him together, but instead the lyrics were written by Taupin and the music by John and how do those songs hang together so well when the parts were created by different people? And how in the world does Taupin write lyrics from John’s point of view so brilliantly? I told my son about “Someone Saved My Life Tonight,” about Elton John being engaged to a woman and being suicidal about that, and a friend talking him out of doing the socially acceptable thing by marrying her so that he could be true to himself instead. And how by writing those beautiful, nuanced lyrics for Elton John to sing, Bernie Taupin has saved more lives than he could ever know.

And then I started crying, in the car on the highway, because it hit me that my child has been trying to communicate since the beginning (when he was 3 days old my mom said, “He’s trying to talk to us” and she was right), and words and language are important to him, and he’s developing into a nuanced and powerful writer. So then I got fierce in that way that embarrasses the crap out of him even when we’re alone, and told him that he HAD to keep writing. That the words he put together were important, whether they were jokes or song lyrics or short stories or impassioned treatises about the moral danger of homework. And that his critical brain needed to keep working. And KEEP WRITING. Because he had no idea whose life he was going to save, literally or metaphorically, with something he wrote.

Then he changed the subject and I stopped crying and we got to school and he told me he loved me and got out of the car.

This is what I have for you today: This is going to be a long, slow ugly fight. Bad things are going to happen. Many bad things that we literally can’t do anything about, and a lot of bad things that we’ll almost prevent but not quite. And we are going to keep losing things we never thought could be lost. But. As long as we keep teaching the children in our lives to think critically and create things that connect with other people, we (humans) win.

If there are kids in your life in any capacity, spend time with them. Take them seriously and nurture their skills. Apprentice them into critical thinking. Invite them to look behind the curtain. Talk about race and sex and gender and how those things affect how people are treated and how they intersect with our systems and institutions. Encourage them to do a critical examination of media they consume and look for the mechanisms and motivations of the messages that are sent (and the ones they receive). Raise your children to be critical thinkers who can’t be fooled and enticed by demagogues and public narcissists. That’s the long game here–creating more humans who use their brains for justice and joy.

Now that this is off my chest, I think I can write these lists of how to regain your balance. Stay tuned.

Love,

Magda