First Blog Post. Un-Blocking

Blog blog. Blog blog blog.

I’ve had major blockage in starting my blog entries. In writing personal. vulnerable. expressive. things in general.

I’m bogged down in perfectionism. In editorial paralysis. In commit-a-phobia. In recoiling from what I perceive as vanity. In the shear terror of permanence. Future reflection. Future judgment of myself informed by past judgment of myself.

I’m attempting exposure therapy. Writing with no editing. No proofing. No re-reading. No backspace bar (j/k).

What is White Woman’s Group bringing up for me? Gratitude. Community. Learning. Unlearning. Impatience. Boredom. Compassion. Whiteness. Racism. Judgment. Empathy. Envy.

What I am learning about undoing racism in a group of white women after learning about undoing racism in a group of Black and Brown and white women. We are not practiced. We are practicing. A Black woman told me my soul is worth saving and I believe(d) her. So I show up. I don’t always know for what. I think I know why.

Blog blog blog. Blog blog. This is uncomfortable. This is like peeling scabs. This is not who I am. This is exactly who I am. Deep breath in. Breath springs out.

WWG5 – Shared Agreements Reflection

I notice that I came into this group with a very high trust level (based on the interest of each member and the vetting that has already happened) so my personal need for shared agreements was minimal.  I was more interested in how I could hold myself accountable to the group (and my self) than I was about what I might need.  As we have continued these conversations, that remains to be true but has not prevented me from finding value in the conversation each time.

The topic that has been most interesting to me is Felicia’s ground rule about voiding when needed.   At face value it is obvious to me that we should all take care of our physical needs and go to the restroom when called for.  Yet this one, more than others, strikes an obvious values conflict for me because it feels so important to hear what each person shares and I don’t like to walk out in the middle of a discussion.  I’ve always been trained to ‘wait for the break’ and so I have learned that this is a choice, despite the physical cues that my body might need otherwise.  I can certainly think of times where my physical needs kept me from fully focusing and yet I was determined to stay in room.  It seems obvious and refreshing to let go of this expectation (and I’m curious to see how I work with this one).

This one also strikes me because it is easy for me to identify other areas of my life where I don’t let things go.  I chronically struggle with clutter, if not hoarding, and I easily hold onto grudging and ideas of how I have wanted things to go.  The characteristic of whiteness that I identify most with so far is the desire to plan for the future and control how things will go.  This process involves attachment and clinging, as well as ‘toughing though’ my planned agenda even if it is no longer what my body calls for.  I have long been working to live with more fluidity and with greater integrity with my body so this shared agreement is a good reminder for me.

Giving thought to The Before

Since I have been blatantly disregarding any sort of before/after self-care when I am facilitating spaces, this is an attempt to center myself and bring more love and peace into my heart before and after. 

What am I feeling?

I feel anxious. I feel restless. I feel vulnerable and raw and exposed. I feel alone. I feel pressure to be “perfect” in my information and delivery. I am expecting myself to be an “expert,” as if I can protect myself from criticism or mistake-making or outright failure by creating a “fool proof” curriculum and teaching. I am afraid of making a “mistake” so horrific that I am no longer respected or admired or welcomed or allowed to be part of the community I have come to feel I need (and am afraid to need). I am afraid of isolation and loneliness, not trusting that I can be ok on my own, even if others reject me. I fear I am not “enough,” that I do not know how to function alone. I fear I am an imposter, unqualified by some intangible board of experts to teach this material. I do not trust that others can accept me as I am, in my imperfect process. I do not trust that I can accept myself. I do not trust that I can accept others. I am afraid of the anger and frustration that rises to the surface immediately when others “challenge” or dissent from my views. I can feel my chest and throat tighten, can feel the inner critic accusing me of making a mistake (which is, I tell myself, unforgivable, and certainly could have been prevented with better knowing and foresight on my part). I have a difficult time maintaining curiosity. I feel myself close into a ball of self protection. I forget to breathe. I forget my self worth. I feel I may crumble, which would be the most horrific outcome of all, destroying the “put together, in-the-know” persona I have built. 

I can feel the ways uncovering these things about myself is important, but I am realizing as I type that I am feeling a shift in my body. I feel raw and tight and afraid. I feel this is not a helpful prep process, and/or is not the time to explore these themes. Let me try another way… 

I am capable. 

I am present. 

I am willing.

I am a person.

I am a person in the presence of other people. 

Our humanity spills out of us, into the room. Though we each try to protect ourselves from it, we are vulnerable and nervous and afraid. We fear we will say the wrong thing, or be rejected. 

How can we create a different space? Can this space be bold?

Can this space hold differing opinions? Is there room for all of us at the table? Is there enough to eat, enough to share?

Can it be enough, whatever it is, with whoever it is, tonight? 

Can we hold one another with the hope of our best selves, our best intentions?

Can we each reserve the right to make mistakes? Change our minds? Hold space for all that shows up, for all that comes out of us?

Can I accept myself, for exactly where I am in the process, in my journey, today? Tonight?

Can I forgive myself?

Can I love myself?

Can I hold myself in the highest regard, with the gentlest of care?

Can I care for myself as though I am my child? As though I am my dearest friend?

Can I make space for others to be as they are, exactly as they are, loving themselves as their children, as their friends?

Can I release my own vision?

Can I release control?

Can I breathe?

Can I feel?

Can I be fully engaged and present for each moment, each unknown moment, trusting the process and trusting the space?

Can I know that we are all planting seeds? Can I believe that? Hold to that? Not need to see the blooms to know there is growth in each one of us?

I can. I am able. I am doing it. I am here. I am here. I am here. I am willing. I am willing. I am willing. I am worthy. I am worthy. I am worthy. I am enough. I am enough. I am enough.

We are so very, very human, each and every one of us. 

We are each exactly who we are, where we are. 

And where we are tonight is here. Together. May all unfold as it will.

Tit for Tat- Substitutions and IRS

I am writing this blog post later than I had planned and later than had been requested. This has been an interesting time to add the assignment of writing blog posts for me, as it coincides so closely with a vertical shift of noticing that I have experienced related to IRS- specifically, over the past few weeks really noticing what I am up to, cognitively, in employing IRS as it is happening. This has been a big deal, because it has moved my understanding from conceptual to experiential (which in turn mirrors a whole lot of other personal shifts that I have been working on in therapy… but that may be for another post) in a significant way.

I spoke in WWG5 last meeting about recognizing what IRS responses were activated for me when the blog post request was announced. My go-to’s: perfectionism and over-delivery were significantly active. I began to frenetically think about the available or unavailable time that I had to get this activity completed- what could I move around, shift about, cancel or reschedule… and then how would I determine if it was a “good” post or not? Would I need to edit, would I feel like this was well-stated or unclear? And then I noticed that I was engaging in these almost-obsessional thoughts and aha! I could not do that, I thought. I could push against this particular manifestation of IRS by trying something different. By stepping back and planning to do the work when I did indeed have the time. But then other words start to jump out and push forward: distancing, carefulness, silence. How was my reaction to initial IRS responses simply subbing in another IRS experience, perhaps one less familiar or go-to for me, but still engaging in behaviors that ultimately demonstrate another form of IRS thinking and actions? And where I am choosing to sit with this today is to not necessarily try to fix or jump to answers without spending as much time as I can in the noticing and the experience itself, which is where deepening of understanding has to come from. Sitting in the discomfort, the unanswered questions, but also allowing for positive feelings around the access to recognizing what is happening through this new (clearer?) lens in real-time.

My face is numb but my heart is smiling

I had a bad day today.

Recently, my neighbor confided in me that her partner is beating her and her 16 year old son.  I hear them fight sometimes, horrible fights, but have never heard signs of violence.  He is volatile, displays signs of regular drug use, and has threatened my partner and myself in the past.

Today I made the choice to childline them.  This was not an easy choice for me because I vividly remember being abused when questions were brought to my parents about my household… This decision came after a lot of deliberation about the harm that the call could make (to myself and Anthony, as the only other residents in the house and to the woman and her children) if the neighbor was home when CYF visits.  This decision came after a lot of reflection on how emotionally affected I have been by living above, and being able to clearly hear, the abuse in the apartment below.  This decision came through fear, pain, anger, and sadness.

However, this decision came with thoughts of love and an increased personal awareness that I contribute to participation in WWG.  This decision came while visiting my new therapist, who made the call with me, who was recommended to me by Amanda and whom I would not have visited if I had not joined WWG and decided to consciously address these things.  This decision came knowing that tonight (WWG) I have a warm space to come to where I feel safe enough to fully explore my emotions (even if I don’t feel ready to talk about them).  This decision came with support of friends and family and open discussion about the implications of calling CYF and filing a police report (which I am doing this weekend) on a black family when the man in question was brutally beaten by police 20 years ago, sued the city, won, and has been in and out of the system since.  This decision comes out of love, for my neighbor and for myself as a child.  This decision comes out of deep reflection on what I needed when I was 16 and in an abusive household.

This was not an easy decision.

But, this decision was made possible by the intense self-reflection that I have experienced over the past few months, and by the people that I have allowed in during that reflection.  I meant it when I said that I never have been in a space of this many white women that is so nurturing and filled with love–but I also think that I may have inhabited those spaces without being ready to enter into them.  The intentionality in which we have created this environment has allowed me to feel vulnerability and love in a way that is new to me.  

So thank you.  Thank you for that first meeting where I entered the space upset and you cared for me.  Thank you for not allowing me to withdraw and write this group off.  Thank you for working together, and with me, in the creation of norms that support and sustain our group.  Thank you for showing me love, and support, and strength, and above all, hope.

Reflections on WWG5 and the Community Agreement

After I attended the PISAB training in June and followed up with Amanda, I realized I was stuck.  The skills I had used to function throughout life thus far were not supporting me in doing the necessary internal work.  I was struggling to identify and hold that white supremacy culture harms all of us even me as a white woman and my white family who are so tied to many of the harmful systems of white supremacy culture.  I realized I wasn’t going to be effective in anti-racist work or in talking with my family and friends about white supremacy culture until I began this work and developed new skills.  So, I entered WWG5 ready to be challenged and supported to dive into the introspective and spiritual work to identify, understand, and challenge my internalized racial superiority and to grow in compassion.

Reflecting on the last four months in WWG5 and our community agreement is leaving me amazed at the growth and the beauty of this process even when it’s been incredibly hard!  Working through our community agreement and processing together how to hold ourselves and each other accountable to the agreement has demonstrated to me the effectiveness and impact of vulnerable and truthful conversations on personal, relational, and communal growth.  Observing people practice the ouch, oops; listening for understanding; speaking your truth and more has been an opportunity for me to learn and grow in my communication and relational skills.  My growing edge seems to be challenged each time we meet, which is exactly what I need.

The past few weeks, as I navigate some of the hardest relational situations I have ever navigated, I’m realizing how I am utilizing the agreement and skills I have learned from WWG and YROL in these situations.  I’m also recognizing and processing when my internalized racial superiority is impacting the way I want to move forward in these situations.  Right now, I feel so grateful for WWG because I don’t feel stuck anymore.  I feel like I’m growing and I’m trusting the process will continue to help me to grow.

the economics doctor wanted his bed made.

where were you born? he asked me.

here, i said.

oh you’re not from another country? he asked.

no, i said.

oh i thought you were from another country, he said.

nope i’m from pittsburgh, i said.

he smiled hard at me and nodded.

pittsburgh’s a good place to hide out, he said. a lot of people hide out in pittsburgh.

oh yeah? i said.

yeah i know a lot of people from other countries that are hiding out in pittsburgh, he said.

why are they hiding? i said.

i don’t know because their governments are messed up, he said. no i’m just saying that i don’t know anybody.

you know a lot of people, i said.

no i don’t know anybody, he said.

okay, i said. well thank you for helping me with the bed.

of course, he said. i can’t just sit while other people work.

well other people do so i appreciate it, i said.

other people are assholes, he said. how do you say asshole in your country?

he laughed.

it wasn’t until i left his room that i realized he had confused me with a latina coworker who is always walking around working and like me never says too much to anyone.