Aiming to please.

it’s hard for me to admit that it’s taken me this long to be honest with myself. for three years i’ve been in this work, and it feels like a major blindspot that i am just now realizing my why – this why is one that i didn’t know i was hiding from myself.

in reflecting on the prompts, i came across a quote from my journal from a few months ago. while processing a dream in which my desire to be given love in any form was shown, i wrote “what if i valued my spiritual self as much as i longed for my material and physical self to be valued?”

i know why i struggle with self appreciation and love: for many years of my life, i spent time carefully figuring out how to make others happy – which, in turn, lead me to learn how to make people like me, how to make them say “yes! great job emily!” if they like me and they like what i do, they’ll be happy when i’m around and they’ll be pleased that i’ve done so well!

i can recognize that this was a form of survival thinking that came from my childhood – my mother and my sister dealt with mental illness, and i felt that i had to be strong for my family.

so, why am i here?

i feel that it’s the right thing to do. but, what does that say about how i feel about being here? sometimes, i feel that it’s an obligation, not necessarily done out of what i thought was the goodness of my heart, but rather, to look good.

LOOKING GOOD STRATEGIES. INTERNALIZED RACIAL SUPERIORITY.

i hesitate to share these thoughts. i don’t want to retraumatize black and indigenous people of color who have already experienced white women who pretend to care, to come from a place of disingenuous intentions, or who don’t see themselves clearly enough to know when they’re hurting someone because they have the privilege of getting by without accountability.

i think it is interesting to see how i pretended to myself in order to dive deeper into looking good.

the question of how i have grown, though, is evident and relevant here as well; i think the reason that it took me so long to see and finally admit this to myself is because i am working toward self-acceptance, and with that, honesty.

i will also allow myself to feel courageous. i still remember a day in 8th grade history class when, the white female teacher demanding that someone volunteer a guess, i froze, my hand ready to raise into the air, but my gut saying “no, if you’re wrong, that would be the worst thing ever.” the fact that i feel very wrong at not having been able to see this truth about myself, but i will share it, shows that i can forgive myself for the moments when i was too afraid to try, and i can do better now. i hate being wrong. that is my IRS, but it doesn’t have to who i choose to be.

instead, i am learning to love myself, even when i have to admit hard truths. i know that by doing this, i am reclaiming my humanity, and allowing others to have more of theirs as well. it’s not necessary for me to pretend to be someone i am not in order to make other people feel good. i have to love the part of myself that is struggling to accept that the more i choose to please others instead of myself, the more i lose myself. the more i feed into a system of oppression, proving our worth, racing to nowhere. even when the way that i am choosing to look good is by being a part of antiracism activism.

it doesn’t feel like this means that i don’t want to be here. i’m trying to trust the process of seeing what shows up, accepting the possibility that this may not be the right time, but also giving this new awareness space to be. i’m reminding myself that my sense of timeliness in figuring this out is yet again, a facet of IRS.

i do not have to prove that i am worthy of being here. i just have to show up, and keep showing up, not only for the people in this group, but for myself. because i am human, and that means that i’m worthy of being here, as long as i can continue to look for and see that humanity in myself and in others.

“what if i valued my spiritual self?”

i’ve been learning more about my strengths that we found in YROL yoga teacher training. 3 of my top five strengths are relationship building strengths. two are executing – achiever (no shock there, hi timeliness) and restorative – i like to fix things. i wonder if my restorative strength, combined with lack of self appreciation, makes me think that if i can fix racism, i will finally be worthy.

what i have thought a lot more about is how my strengths of empathy, harmony, and connectedness make me focus so so so much more on building relationships with others than with myself. add in achieving, and i now understand why my main motivators are succeeding at helping people.

i want to spend some time focusing on helping myself instead. putting myself first. it feels so foreign, and also so corny. but i want to push back and say, Emily. you deserve to love on yourself. i have said this before, but i can’t name many action steps i’ve taken to hold myself accountable to helping myself. a couple, sure, but more often than not my instinct to help someone else is stronger, and without me realizing it i’m back in the pool of IRS.

i’m scared to push ‘publish’ on this blog. what if i wrote something wrong? i’m learning that i can’t control what anyone thinks of me. i’m learning that i have a hard time believing that people reading this blog don’t want to tell me i’m wrong and make me feel small, but want to encourage me and hold me accountable to the things that i’m saying.

if i want to love myself, i have to truly go do it. i have to show up.

it’s hard for me to write this and trust this part of the process – the part where I’m honest and know that I am safe. likely because, without self acceptance, i don’t believe that anyone else can accept me.

that’s some victim mentality IRS right there.

here are some affirmations that i will say to myself to work on this acceptance.

i am not perfect.

we are all impacted by racism. we have to keep working on it together.

i don’t have to always look good. i can’t control every outcome, but it can still be okay.

i don’t always have to feel comfortable, but i am safe and loved.

i’m not in this alone. i am apart of something greater here.

Revealing

Over this year, I have grown in patience – with myself and with processes. I have grown into holding some more (and some more tenderly) the parts of myself that I have a harder time expressing – the direct, firm, strong boundaried, pessimistic, judgmental, dominating parts of myself. 

Motherhood has been a transformative growth process for me. I feel into the humanizing truth that everyone is a mother’s child. And the process of creating a birthing life has affirmed my power and ability to trust my body in a deeper way. I have grown to be both more soft and more firm. 

This year, I’ve had opportunity to steer with enjoyment in my body rather than evaluation of what I’m good at. I still fear failure, and I am growing into a growth mindset. For example, thinking about what role I play in future WWG, I know I enjoy facilitation so moving forward with that rather than evaluating all the ways my facilitation skills fall short of where I’d like them to be.

I feel less imposter syndrome. I am showing up as my full self to different spaces and in different roles. 

I notice when I’m rushing more.

When I see people, I see their joy.   

In many ways, I’m more easeful. I am allowing things to take the time they need a bit more. I see this playing out in the ways I have conversations about racism with my family. We talk more often about race and racism, and I engage in conversations with less of an “I must change their minds now” agenda. 

I am growing more awareness of the pervasiveness of my individualism. 

I am more okay with not being productive. 

I also feel myself gripping onto material resources less. That feels humanizing. I am connecting more deeply with things that whiteness historically took away – my connection to feelings and my body. And I see this growth as part of honoring the people I came from. It’s also how I love my mother.

And I’ve also seen and accepted more this year that growth is not linear. From that understanding, I also make space for the possibility that things that don’t look like or seem like growth to me are absolutely part of my growing. 

Before this year, In my mind, I’ve believed it to be true that there are many different ways to be an agent in dismantling systems of white supremacy and institutionalized racism and this year I feel that truth more fully in my being. Through the radical shift of how we come together without gathering in person, prioritizing time with Marcel and early bedtimes, and just the patience of having a longer view of sticking around (Pittsburgh, friends, family, work) – I now feel the everyday-ness of destroying regimes of white supremacist power and co-creating a new world. 

Also, I recently took a course “How to Raise an Anti-racist Child” and among the goals of the course, one was listed as, “help your child develop a positive racial identity”. That one stood out to me and I felt some resistance and confusion when I read it. Can I really encourage my white child to have a positive racial identity? Even with all our understanding of the violence inherent to whiteness and the harm perpetuated by white culture? In the course we talked about learning your ancestry before they became white and lifting up white people in the past and present who fought against racism as part of the process of creating a positive racial identity.  I hear that and I also know how much of Marcel’s ability to be critical of whiteness while not hating his racial identity is about me living out a positive racial identity. 

While this change is just beginning for me, I do feel a shift ideologically that I can have and want a positive racial identity – or at least to be okay with my whiteness. I know there’s more to it for me than the steps laid on in the workshop and I’ve resisted the urge to google answers for the how-to process. I think it will be connecting further with my ancestors, naming the part of myself (and others) I am most critical of, going back and joining others in writing a love letter to manifestations of IRS, and in all aspects of life embracing being critical as part of love. This year I’ve named being white more as a neutral identifier not just a condemnation. I’m curious about and in the process of developing a healthy racial identity. There is so much work to be done, but a shift is underway.

I have been working toward integration. From how my body digests food to how parts of me all form 1 whole. And so, to love myself I am inviting more and more of myself in. I hear one voice and I recognize myself. I’m reorienting to the parts of myself I fear with reverence and curiosity. Recent trauma has made this work take center for me as I learn about my nervous system and regulation through integration.

Thank you for hearing me.

my rabbit died.

he was born with a cyst on his intestine but nobody knew it until it was too late.

the day before he died i tried to help a woman eat her dinner and there was that sameness of trying to feed her the way i had been feeding him for weeks, someone had sat her up in bed but her head had fallen sideways onto her shoulder and i put it back up against the pillow and asked her if she would like to try some cake and she said okay but when i put it in her mouth nothing happened and when i held the straw to her lips she couldn’t suck it.

after dinner she was doing that breathing my dad did and when i went in at 9 she was dead.

my rabbit died on my bathroom floor a little over 24 hours later, after the last time my bunny sitter checked on him but before i got home. he couldn’t move anymore so i had left him laying in his box with some kale stems and pear twigs hoping he would hang on until his doctor’s appointment on monday but they probably wouldn’t have done anything and maybe it was a blessing for him to die at home before he had to go through all that anyway. everyone at the nursing home wants to go home. i didn’t want to go but because of the covid everyone was quitting.

my other rabbit came into the bathroom and started eating the dandelions he hadn’t eaten, a woman was laying there after dying of renal cancer while my coworkers passed out her cans of orange pop. after i was cleaned up the body of a woman with kidney failure i put some of her reeses in my pocket. my mom gave me my dad’s shampoo.

every time i went into a woman’s closet i forgot to shut the door all the way and every time she told me to shut the door all the way until she had a stroke that paralyzed one side of her face and closed her throat so she couldn’t eat or drink anything anymore and her son said no to a feeding tube. when i went in to visit her before she died i told her that her closet door was already shut all the way so at least she couldn’t tell me to do that and she laughed out of one side of her mouth.

her son said thank you and hugged me when he came to go through her things and i said thank you.

once after her stroke i saw the trueness of everyone in her face.

in the morning i moved my rabbit out of the bathroom and onto the kitchen floor and me and my bunny sitter laughed about his life, how he didn’t care about anything except food, how he would pee right next to the his litter box and then sit down in it.

the next week i went up to the hospice floor for the first time to visit a man who was dying of colon cancer, because of the covid i didn’t even know if they would let me in, people said it just depended on who was working the desk that day, but they did let me in and his sister was there and we stood by his bed and laughed about his life, and his spicy v-8 and his pretzels and how he was always falling out of bed and i told her about the time when there was 3 of us in there trying to get him back in bed and he said are you going to call my sister? and the nurse said you know you can call your sister any time you want and she suspected he was falling out of bed just to get us to call his sister.

there was the sameness of that too.

i kept wanting to reach over and pet my rabbit and then i would remember that he had died and it was different now and there was some celery on the floor and i kept wanting to push it closer to him and then i would remember that he had died and it was different now.

a woman with a brain tumor died about an hour before i got there and it was only after i wanted to stop the funeral home man from putting the sheet over her face that i remembered it was different now.

i helped him slide her onto the gurney and there was that sameness in the feel of the bodies of her and my rabbit.

maybe someone put a sheet over my dad’s face after we left.

maybe someone will put a sheet over mine.

my therapist says it will be all of us but i can’t believe it.

when the she was dying i tried to sit with her but my mind would go all over and before that i would hold her hand and try to talk with her a little and once i called her son for her. i made her repeat his number about 5 times and she said about 5 different numbers but i dialed one anyway just because and he answered.

all evening i walked past a woman with congestive heart failure doing that breathing but she wasn’t mine to care for that day and i didn’t feel like going into her room and then later when she was mine and i finally went in to take her temperature it was too low and when i turned on the light she was dead.

i bought a card and sent it to her daughter. i wrote that i had the honor of working with her mom and i knew she really cared about her. i wished i had gone in there before she died.

a woman’s covid test came back positive about 5 minutes after we took her to the bathroom and put her in bed and although i tested negative she died six days later and i had this survivor’s guilt.

i bought a card and sent it to her son. i wrote i had the honor of working with his mom and i knew she really loved him. she was always saying his name.

my grandma and my dad both had brain tumors and i was almost done painting a picture of poland on my kitchen wall when my rabbit got sick. when i sat in front of the picture i felt like i didn’t need brain cancer anymore.

i asked my mom about her dad and she said he liked to draw and she used to see him sketching little pictures on pieces of paper. she didn’t know what he was drawing though. my mom took me in his room when he was dying and he cried and said my hand was warm. i looked for his dad’s grave in the cemetery near my house but i couldn’t find it. i found a dad wreath and put it near where the deer walk.

one of the nurses died and some of my co-workers put money together to get purple forever in our hearts t-shirts made with her face on them and i bought one too.

purple was her favorite color.

because her vitals weren’t good and her bloodwork wasn’t good and because she was a full code which meant they would have to try to revive her if she died the nurses were sending a woman with lung cancer like my grandpa to the hospital. and because i was afraid i wouldn’t see her again i went to her room but i didn’t know what to say so i just asked if she needed anything and she said no honey i’m okay right now. i thought about holding her hand while we waited for the paramedics but i didn’t know if she wanted me to.

my therapist said consent is a big thing in our society right now but sometimes it’s not possible and if she were dying she would want someone to hold her hand.

me too.

the woman came back from the hospital later and i was ready to hold her hand this time but she died before i could.

the nurse said she’s gone and i still wonder what that means.

i made her look really nice in the bed before her son got there.

her name was jean too.

the flies started coming in my kitchen window and at first i shooed them away from my rabbit but they kept coming and they started to crawl in his nose and there was this smell. my bunny sitter said his body had probably already started to decay before he died.

these flies kept landing on a woman and she would try to shoo them off of her and i kept making myself go back in there with the smell and asking her if there was anything i could do. people said her body had probably already started to decay even though she was still alive. it wasn’t until later that i thought i could have said something to her about breathing to make the whole thing easier but i didn’t know what.

cheyne-stokes is a kind of breathing that people do when they are dying sometimes and i thought my dad did it until i actually looked it up and learned what it was. the woman with the brain tumor was doing it while i sat with her. the pause after the breaths gets longer and longer until it goes on forever.

when i listen to my bunnysitter breathe in i imagine their diaphragm going down and their lungs expanding and their belly squishing out like they taught us in yoga anatomy. when they breathe out it all goes the other way.

my bunnysitter said my rabbit’s breaths got shallower and shallower.

it wasn’t until my bunny sitter held my hand that i let a woman at the nursing home hold my hand instead of twisting it away when someone grabbed onto it like i usually did.

she started to cry.

a woman said that i hurt her with my hands when i was changing her and i said i’m sorry i hurt you and she said it’s okay it only hurts for a few minutes and i said i don’t want you to hurt at all, you are important, and when i said it to her it was like someone was saying it to me.

What goes around comes around

The last year. Wow. I started a new job, fell in love, traveled, sat with my dying grandmother, bought a house, broke up with the man I loved, and thus far have survived a global pandemic. As I began to reflect on the last year – my growth, my ideology, my journey with anti-racism and my own humanity – I am overwhelmed. The year has brought me some great joys and other terrible losses. I have cried so much this year that when I sit with the year I feel raw. From exactly what I am not entirely sure.

During the last WWG3 Amanda gave us the questions from Felicia and a chance to silently reflect. Quickly I found myself separating things in my mind. My thoughts about “Ways I’ve grown” quickly shifted into ways I’ve failed. 1 point for perfectionism. When I looked over what I had written, I felt ashamed because most of it was “just personal stuff about life” not “about whiteness or anti-racism.” 5 points for dualism. That was until I remembered there is no where else to do the work of undoing whiteness other than in one’s own life and relationships.

This learning and unlearning, this living, is a process. Once I began to examine the year I saw connections between “just life” and anti-racism that I hadn’t previously considered. One big thing ideological shift I’ve made this year is in my understanding of boundaries. Raised Mennonite (a historic peace church that praises martyrdom) I struggle with boundaries. Over the past few years I’ve been learning to feel less ashamed for setting boundaries. I have been getting better at saying “yes” and “no” honestly and confidently. Yet, within the last 12 months I have been forced to confront my tendency to frame boundaries as other’s problems. Boundaries were about what the other person could or could not do, should or should not do. In this way others still had control of my actions – would they do the right thing or not? Today though I have learned (or more accurately – am learning) that boundaries are about me regardless of the other. What I can or cannot handle, what is or is not healthy for me. This small shift gives me great freedom. It allows me to actually consider me! It allows me to own my decisions. It allows me to speak my truth simply because it is mine. Simple? Hardly. It is surprisingly hard for me to stop acting as a chameleon to other’s desires and figure myself out first.

My experiences in the last year learning to own and name my boundaries for myself remind me of the ways I have learned to own my interest in ending racism (like in this blog post from 2018). Over and over I have been told that anti-racism work must be self-interested. It must stem from a place of knowing what I want and need for myself and why. If I do not consider self-interest, I easily slip back into the old, worn grooves of paternalism, maternalism, white-savior complex, and one-right-way thinking. I do things to look good, to achieve supposed perfection, to fit in. But this just hurts all of us and nothing is redeemed.

The idea that self-interest could be the gateway to greater health and healing is not at all what I was taught. “Surely,” I thought, “I must give up myself for others to live. Surely, I must be empty so they can be full.” Yet here I am in 2020 finally understanding more of the truth of Brené Brown’s research that “compassionate people are boundaried people” (The Gifts of Imperfection, p. 16). Isn’t self-interested anti-racism work just holding self-interested boundaries against the deformities of whiteness? Isn’t it just owning for yourself and for your own sake that you cannot tolerate certain behaviors and ways of thinking? That you will not participate in certain ways of being? That you will hold people accountable – not because they need it (although they might) but because it matters to you, to the person you want to be, and for the world you are building? When I consider it now I am surprised it took me this long to make the connection between self-interest and boundaries despite being told time and again.

But here I am. A year later. In some ways I don’t feel any different, more human, more humane. I still struggle and miss the mark every single day. I still need confession. And yet, I am learning. I have been learning. I will continue to learn. It is exciting to see the way owning my self-interest has helped me own my boundaries and I cannot wait to see how compassion will grow in me. I am eager to keep learning to speak with my own honest voice and with my own convictions. The way I can learn to prioritize things based on the values I choose not the ones of the world. The way I can work on becoming the person I mean to be. It is a long journey but here I am. Here I am.

unlearning, relearning, learning new things

Fall is my season. It contains my birthday month, my favorite pastimes and moods, weather, the promise of change and newness coming through the world. In reflecting on the past year, I noticed I continue to look at years as I did when I was a student: they begin in the fall. The student mindset offers me diligence, self-application, that sense of accomplishment, and a clear structure within which to measure myself. It’s both/and. Good and bad. Useful and limiting. Comfortable and tiresome.

One of the slowest, largest changes I notice over the past year is my ability to step beyond the role of student into other ones much less comfortable, ones that require taking more responsibility for myself and the way I use my power, access, and influence: mentor, gatekeeper, leader, collaborator. I can see the value I bring to other people in relationships. I’m growing into the ability to mentor other white women in this work without walking the familiar, damaging lines of teacher/student that I learned in school. I’m learning to manage in-between-ness.

White Women’s Group has always been a place where I can show up fully as myseful, able to trust in the support, challenge, relationships, healthy conflict processing, and guidance from each person in the group. Last month, I started seeing a therapist to work through all of the things that are intertwined with the work of WWG that also require specific, personal delving. I’m just starting to see the fruits of that new relationship, and I credit my openness to seeking therapy (again) to the practice of vulnerability I’ve had in WWG. Even when we received Felicia’s questions for this reflection, I noticed the instinct to hide—from myself, from the group, from our accountability partners—for fear of criticism. I processed that emotional response of fear and self-protection and ego and moved it through.

Therapy helped me find words for the main growth I want to share: I’m shifting from a punitive mindset towards white people and myself to one more centered in love, joy, connection, and accountable healing rather than judgment, measurement, or dogma. For a non-religious person, I’ve been a straight-A pupil of Puritanism. My capacity for shaming (myself and others, usually in my own head) runs really deep (generations deep). What would it look like for me to reach out to my family members I’ve written off? What would it look like to hold the good, bad, complicated, uncomfortable, joyful things all together and contend with that instead of separating everything and everyone into my good/bad dichotomy? I’ve already seen the shift in my own relationships. I’ve already seen that of years of working with my most conservative family members has turned into open dialogue. What could a few years more accomplish?

I’m making more space in myself for that vulnerability, for tenderness. I’m guarding against a culture of Strength and Power and Competition. I’m here for being sensitive and in tune with myself, and making space for others to do the same. As we look at this next chapter of WWG, I’m buzzing with the possibilities this curriculum and community sphere can offer to other white women who need to learn how to exist beyond the white femininity we have been cultured into. I’m nervous for the growth this will demand of all of us. I’m grateful to our community network and YogaRoots on Location for continuing to grow this beautiful web of people. Thank you all.

This last year- some reflections

When I think of the question how have I grown, the thing that keeps coming to mind is softer. It’s actually the only thing that keeps coming to mind so my spirit or my mind must really want me to hear it. I’m know I’ve grown in other ways but this feels like a foundation.  I’ve grown softer into myself. I’ve grown softer into relationships.  I feel sadder, softer, more joyful. I feel more. Boundaries are more firm, but the lines are softer.

This last year (2 years, really, because my experience of time merges them) has felt like a constant unfolding of the ways I’ve tried to remain bottled up, cause whiteness told me to. I used to think that once I cracked open, I’d be done cracking open, as though once is all I need. Thanks life, we did it, check that one off. That idea seems really funny to me now, especially since I feel like I crack open every day in many different ways. I know now that I’m going to continue to crack open and come back together over and over and over again. I see now the way that has always been true and led me to where I am in this very moment. And with this (ac)knowledge(ment), maybe my only option is to keep growing softer so I can continue to take shape with the cracks. 

I recently realized that I was still striving to get to a place where I wouldn’t mess up anymore. Like, I would say out loud that I know it’s something I’ll do forever, and in my brain-heart have been striving to get to the place where it won’t happen anymore. I’ve been curious about what it means to fully embody my fullness- moment to moment. Like reaaallllyyy. To really work with the knowing that I’m going to mess up in many ways and many contexts until the end of time. Because I’m human and perfection is a lie whiteness sold to me to keep me anxious and subdued. What would it be like to both live in my values and hold space for falling short at the same time. The  realization that I haven’t actually been doing this is newer and I think there are still parts of me that think I can work my way out of this…so I’ll keep you posted. 

The experiment/practice of offering myself grace has offered space to extend others the same. Again, something I thought I was doing- which sometimes I do very well, but here I am specifically thinking about my family relationships — which continue to grow as I do. I realized that I was expecting perfection from them, which blocked me from seeing them and their humanity. There was a time where we couldn’t share space without steam coming out of my ears. Complicated histories and presents, unprocessed and unbroken patterns, and victimhood. I’ve been practicing meeting where we both are as a foundation for our relationships. Something that feels much easier in my friendships and more casual relationships with others, I’ve finally started to offer that same space to my family of origin. And THIS…has offered much more space for sharing and healing. For trying to get to know who we are. Thank you, friends, for the nudges.

This year has reiterated that life is short and anything can happen at any moment. I’ve been trying to cherish these moments and this time and access deeper parts of myself and my lineage in it’s (and our) entirety. I’ve been working on letting my intuition lead, even and especially when it feels scary. I’ve been practicing listening. My understanding of community has grown. Saying you’re in community and Being in community are different things. Being in community has meant more vulnerability, practice receiving and asking for help, offering and receiving accountability, moving through conflict and staying in relationship, and releasing some of the ways individualism shows up and harms me and you.

We have come to the part of the post where I’m not sure what else to say. I love you. 🖤

This year, I named what I want.

This year, I named what I want.

Of course it’s not the first time I’ve named what I want or named what I didn’t want, but it’s been a minute.

The current of anti-racism work that I jumped into six years ago has been a powerful tide. I have ebbed with its no’s and accountability moments and destructive rearrangement of relationships. I have flowed with its momentum and expansion and opportunities for mentorship and new growth. I have also tried swimming against the current (to the point of exhaustion) while maintaining my white lady poker face — and sometimes not. I have felt at times like the current was being done to me, as if the call to live into my life’s purpose was greater than me, as if my work fit a critical niche, as if saying no to its power was not an option, as if it would take me where it pleased whether I liked it or not. (These things are true and also, not true.)

This year has been one of grieving and recognition and discernment and healing. I have made great strides in letting go of my attachment to the victim narratives in my head even as I process the hurt of things out of my control. I have felt self-assured — really felt it! I have felt that I do in fact have everything I need. I have exposed myself and shown my Self and I am still here.

Trauma Container: Healing from Patriarchy by Amanda K Gross

In the WWG space, specifically, I have realized, interrupted, and corrected a pattern of — what I will call — deceptive power sharing. This has happened before for me in the discontinued spaces of WWG1 & WWG2 and again at the end of WWG3’s first year, in which I invited a non-hierarchical version of decision-making. This year, I invited folx into a strategic planning process, a collective collaboration from the ground up. This process fit all my anarchist ideals of using my gatekeeping power to power share. The process wasn’t bad per se, but even though we used a spiral-shaped framework, the energy and the utopian words and the hours of work neither ebbed nor flowed but rather swirled around in a incessant, ungrounded, pool of stagnation (In transparency, I’m exaggerating here to make my point.). I realized that I was asking these very patient and loyal white ladies to do work which was my responsibility as the leader. I questioned how my ideals were holding me back from engaging with reality in a way that honors my skills and affinity for being in charge. I recognized that I was avoiding offering my vision and opening up to the possibility of rejection. Once I did my own work of clarifying and offering a concrete vision, it initiated a more focused conversation and allowed us a way out of the whirl pool.

In claiming what I want (and taking responsibility for it), I have named wanting a shift in my role with WWG and, (drum roll, please) a desire and readiness to leave Pittsburgh. In doing so, I am leaving generations of martyrdom behind. I want sunshine. I want clear skies. I want greenery all year round (or at least most of the time). I want breathable air and a congestion-free throat. I want joy with my tea and fun in my relationships.

Now that I feel clearer about what I want, I feel even less clear about the process of getting there. Which is fine, she said with the grouchiness of impatience. I also feel open to the (many) possibilities and committed to sustainability in our shifts. I feel held and supported by those from WWG who have engaged in this process. I feel grateful for your support and for sticking with me through our ebbs and flows. I am excited for our accountability meeting and curious and as ready as I can be for the unexpected.

Reflecting on the past year(ish)

I don’t remember exactly how much time has passed since our last accountability partner meeting, but I do remember what felt urgent for me to work on in that moment. Which is why I was initially panicked when asked to reflect on our time since then. What progress have I made? How can I measure it? What do I have to show for it? The linear-thinking, perfection-seeking, to-do-list-making, progress-must-be-quantifiable IRS showed up hard. And if I measure myself by those standards, then I… failed. At our last accountability partners meeting, I was struggling with fear (of abandonment, of confrontation) around talking about race and racism with my closest family members. I was focusing on a gatekeeping action plan for my own, not-yet-formed yoga business. Now, a year and some-odd months later, I’m still struggling with fear in talking to my family. The yoga business that seemed so important to “get right” back then, now doesn’t feel so urgent anymore. So if I’m trying to calculate the amount of progress I’ve made on these aspects of my life, then yes, I’ve failed. But confining myself to these narrow parameters isn’t humane. It discounts what is beyond and besides those parameters. It doesn’t leave room for grace and mistakes (of which I have made a lot).

Ideologically, I’ve been reflecting on how scarcity culture and individualism work together to uphold white supremacy. The interconnectedness of these is becoming clearer to me. And when I reflect on myself and peel back the layers of IRS, individualism and a fear of lack are two of the main motivators behind my more familiar IRS (perfectionism, one-right-way, intellectualization). They were the main motivators behind my anxiety about reflecting on the past year(ish). I measure myself individualistically, without consideration for the nuances of the relationships I have with others (my family and my co-workers, for example). I fear I haven’t made “enough” progress.

I may not have made progress on my future business plan, but I have been actively looking for ways to be a better gatekeeper in my current job. And when the pandemic put that job on pause, I discovered some of the other ways that I am a gatekeeper, besides just in the corporate/career sphere. I stepped into leadership positions this year, and got comfortable with being uncomfortable in the role of facilitator and mentor in the WWG space. (I might even… enjoy… facilitating? Shhh, don’t tell Amanda!)

I still struggle a lot with my family, but I don’t shy away from the hard conversations quite as much. Sometimes I show up to the conversation with too little, sometimes with too much. Sometimes it’s a complete non-starter, and sometimes there’s a spark of something. It’s always uncomfortable and often cringe-worthy. It’s a constant struggle to hold more than one truth and not fall into either-or thinking – to hold deep affection and pride for my family, and also hold the heavy truth of our participation in and profit from white supremacy. It’s difficult to try to convey the enormity of this to my family, and also meet them where they’re at. But approaching it from a place of love and a desire for more honest, less superficial relationships has helped. And offering myself the grace to just try it and mess up has at least helped me to get over my perfectionism (for the most part). A year ago, I wouldn’t have even started half of these conversations, out of fear that I wasn’t “ready” for them. This is a lifelong road and I still have a lot of work to do here, but the past year has brought me some clarity in approaching my family and myself more lovingly.

So, I haven’t exactly made a lot of linear progress in the past year(ish). But I have most definitely grown. I’ve stepped out of my comfort zone and into my power in leadership positions I was terrified of. I’ve pushed my growing edge in the hard conversations. I’ve opened myself up to grace and forgiveness, and that’s starting to spill into my other relationships. I’ve gotten clearer on the power and responsibility that I hold, and the work that I still need to do. I am ready to keep doing the work.

Family History Project: 1

Hello My Dearests,

I feel regret for my inability to be present last night. I love you all so much and the grief of not being able to share physical space squeezes my heart during every session. I’m newly juggling virtual school for Mose and his friend during the day on Thursday. It caused me to have way more screen time than my body can handle (it’s disturbing to think I used to be on my screen 8+ hours a day without noticing an effect). 


I’m not going to move through this project gracefully. My teenage energy (as Amanda refers to it) is going to come up a lot. It’s one of my default energies when it comes to process family dynamics and trauma. There’s a lot of hurt, anger, fear, and even rage behind it. It will be messy and I will probably prevent it from being messy enough. And I’m swimming in my victimization and it claws at my throat and cements my shoulders and squeezes my eyes and snarls my mouth with self-judement and shame.

I spent some sleepless hours last night visualizing my socio-geneogram and am getting really excited about the categories of information I want to include. Stories, economics, quotes, dynamics, assimilation, criminality and criminalization, rebellion, tenderness, authenticity, connection. I will have no shortage of IRS. It will overflow. I picture a color coding to help me tune into and quantify specific information and embody it through visual absorption.


I briefly shared about the project today with my cousin and my heart cracked open just a little bit more. She’s a rare point of connection and also a connection in which we’ve done some family healing together. And what of Mose? And what of my chosen family (thank you Teal)?
I both welcome and prickle at these “assignments”. They feel both like ways to delve deeper into the work and to evade embodiment. I’m in my yearly season of grief. I want to ride it like a wave. I want to be in it. I want it to burn me down.


xoxoxSue

What gates am I keeping?

Is the disavowal of power so complete that I fail to see how I am a gatekeeper? Why is it, the only example that comes readily to mind is work life? Why, if this is so obvious, am I not more proud of the ways I am showing up and gatekeeping in that space? Why was it so hard for me to see how vital a role I play in this everyday with my children? Why am I not extremely proud of how I am showing up and loving them and listening to them and talking to them while doing this work?

Why am I choosing to struggle alone and in silence? Choosing victimization and individuality and competition instead of vulnerability and openness and connection is an example of how I’m living in the disavowal of power. I’m so grateful for writings and work of others. I’d forgotten how much it helps to expand my brain and heart.

I guess I feel confused and not validated enough to continually be aware of the power I hold. In this unpracticed space I don’t feel ready or able to defend myself. I feel human connection in white women’s space where we are working on being aware of all the pieces of internalized racial superiority that inform our thoughts and actions. I don’t feel that same connection outside of the group. I feel surrounded by opposition and ignorance. I feel watched and judged. I feel weak and unable to defend my power or remember that it exists everyday.

I appreciate the reminders that I am not alone in any of this. I’m not as individualized in my struggle with this as I love to think about myself. I love the freedom that has opened in just imagining less tangible places where I am a powerful gatekeeper. I realize there is more power here than I imagined possible. A real power unlike the patriarchal, capitalist racist power modeled everywhere. The power to just be.

The funny thing is that I would just like to get my work done first, because someone is watching… even if it’s just the neighbors.