Maybe not so current by the time you read them.

A picture is worth a thousand words.

Some pictures tell thousands of stories.  

Yesterday I experienced a profound, overwhelming and visceral grief while visiting an outdoor art installation here in DC. 

Suzanne Brennan Firstenberg’s installation “In America How Could This Happen…” plants a small white flag for every person who has died of Covid-19 in the US.

Relatives can write names of loved ones on the flag, or Firstenberg will do it for you.

Walking this awful field in the twilight yesterday I cried and cried for people I never met and their families who I will never know. Flags of multiple family members who died are planted together. It is a devastating physical representation of the ongoing pandemic.

My husband and I stopped to thank the artist as she was diligently walking her installation, re-staking fallen flags and picking up trash that visitors have left. She was grateful that we stopped to visit. She shared how some of the people who have been denied the rituals of grieving are finding some solace by planting a flag and honoring all who died.

We thanked her again.

Art is one of the super powers of civilization. It has the ability to transcend, and to unify, and to speak even more than those thousand words about our humanity.

If you can, visit this art installation before November 30 and let the dead speak.

picture of number of dead from covid-19
The artist updates the number every morning

flag for Kenneth bridewellflag for Terry bridwell

grandpa norman

This morning while I was getting dressed this morning my husband said “TGIF!” and I said, “Really? You’re sure it’s Friday?”

His professional life still has standing meetings that keep him aware of the calendar in a way I that I clearly lack.

Holidays are also sneaking up on me at this point.

Tonight is Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, and it always reminds me of my husbands grandfather, Norman. I only knew him for a brief 6 years before he died, but I loved him and miss him still.

Norman was a story teller with a forceful personality. He was equally kind and caustic, friendly and demanding, and because I was new to the family, I could enjoy his flaws and find his quirks charming.

My husband and I went to dinner with Norman at least once a month back then, and then more frequently after his wife Frim passed away. Eventually I started cooking meals for him at his house and this always included sweets.

A favorite of his was the Crowned Apple Cake for Rosh Hashanah. It looked dramatic and was dense with apples and honey. It made for a sweet New Year and a happy memory. 

Rosh Hashanah always feels like the start of the “baking season” filled with birthdays, Thanksgiving, Christmas and Hanukkah, and ending with my daughter’s birthday in January. 

Now, in the time of Covid, when caring for ourselves and others means NOT gathering, it’s hard to mark the holidays and rituals. Milestones like graduations, weddings, and births come and go with muted celebration and little fanfare.

And while I regret the lack of celebrations, I am most distressed by our inability to mourn in person.

It is almost impossible to lessen someones grief. All we can do is show up, pay respects, and mourn with our people during the most brutal of milestones. Bear witness and bring food.

And now we can’t.

I know we will get through this pandemic and it will be a marker in our history and memories – a before and after time. And hopefully it will forever help us remember what is truly important in our lives.

For me, as I am sure it is for most folks, most important are those I hold dear. The family and friends that I long to hug, and celebrate with, and comfort through all the milestones and all the rituals.

I look forward to the day we can be together.

Until then, to my family and friends, and to all those who celebrate across the world, L’shanah tovah.

I wish everyone health, happiness, and a sweet New Year.

 

It’s been 159 days since my family started quarantine.

The litany of events we have experienced in that short amount of time, both domestic and world-wide, resembles a ludicrously bad disaster movie plot.

A late-nite, after the bars have closed, watch it in the dark while eating cold cereal out of the box kind of movie. That you have a hard time remember all the plot points the next day because – was I drunk?!?

Was there really a firenado *and* an in-land hurricane? Thousands and thousands of people marching in the streets during a pandemic? Paramilitary guys with American flags stapled to sticks that they then used as weapons against counter-protesters?

Hang on, did they also close post offices and take away mail boxes to keep people from voting? That can’t be a thing. Can it?

And empty store shelves, the hoarding of toilet paper, pandemic-deniers refusing to mask, and businesses closing and the economy collapsing … totally unrealistic.

Who green-lighted this mess?  Wait, it was that Snakes on a Plane guy wasn’t it?

Coping with stress (#CovidCoping) has become a sub-genre of advertising, marketing, blogging and every other medium. There are whole categories of hashtags devoted to #CovidBaking, #CovidCrafting, #CovidPuzzles, coloring, yoga, cooking, work from home (which is now WFH), and managing children.

And of course wine, wine, and more craft cocktails/fancy beer than is probably healthy.

We are not big TV watching people over here at Bougie Central (didnt even own a TV for 20 years or so), but movies are a bit of an obsession. More so now during quarantine.

In between the expected foreign movies and obscure B&W content on the Criterion Channel, lives a movie genre that truly sustains me, rejuvenates me and gives me hope.

The dance movie.

The Washington Post had an article about dance movies with an apologetic title of “Best Bad Dance Movies”. No such thing in my book.

I will watch any and all dance movies from old classics like White Christmas and  Seven Brides for Seven Brothers to the “Honey” series (4 total) and the Step up franchise (6 movies!)

Watching dance movies is all about pleasure. No guilt. No apologies.

I know I am forever “that white girl” as much as want to be a Fly Girl, and I don’t care. I’m a lousy dancer and a lousy singer and it doesn’t interfere with my fun one bit.

“Dance like no ones looking” implies there is something to be ashamed of. Nope.

Dance because you can.

Dance because everyday above ground is a good day.

Or at least watch a dance movie.

*******

PS:  I have been neglecting writing for pleasure, this blog & my ever-under-construction book, even before coronavirus in some misguided attempt to “focus seriously on work”. The reality is all the ways we express ourselves contribute to “our work”.

So.

I am going to dance more, sing more, and write more. No guilt.

female hip hop dancer in front of speakers

I had an interesting conversation with a Bernie Sanders supporter recently and was treated to a vehement, negative rant about President Obama’s endorsement of Biden.

This person is under 25 and said they will, in fact, vote for Joe Biden despite their deep disappointment and utter lack of faith in the “traditional” political system. That good old practical, incremental political change being peddled by the folks in power is a bitter pill that some are refusing to swallow.

But the open anger with Obama’s message startled me.

I have rarely heard anyone under 25 (in my somewhat limited circle) openly criticize Obama, let alone exhibit such disgust and disappointment with his message. 

Apparently Obama’s choice to only endorse Biden when it was apparent he had the delegates to be the Democratic nominee made some young folks lose respect for him. 

I talked about what I thought the strategy around Obama’s choice of timing meant. How endorsing Biden early would cause people to accuse Obama of trying to influence the race. Or how endorsing anyone other than Biden would automatically sink Biden because it would signal a lack of confidence from his boss.

We went through a few more scenarios and explanations but nothing shook their opinion. The bottom line was that Obama lost respect because the endorsement didn’t feel true. The timing was so strategic and calculated that his endorsement had lost all authenticity.

It no longer mattered. 

When I think of the “leadership moments” so many are experiencing with the Covid-19 pandemic, I can see how choices to focus on controlling the message, the brand, or “the optics” can lead to a loss of authenticity.  Too much time spent plotting strategy like its a chess game can destroy years of social capital and good will.

In addition to the strategy and planning necessary to make decisions and respond to this emergency, it’s clear authenticity and servant leadership are going to be equally important to those impacted.

How will you be an authentic servant leader during this constantly evolving crisis? 

Often people think these kinds of questions are only for those with broad authority like the politicians, industrialists, and corporate executives. But even those without authority have opportunities to lead in some “realm of influence”, even if it’s only ourselves, or with others in our home. 

We have some good examples of servant leadership from politicians (Mike DeWine, Governor of Ohio comes to mind), business owners like Chef José Andrés, and an ongoing litany of groups and individual citizens stepping up when and where they can. 

Those examples of everyday people, celebrities, and local store owners remind us that even in the midst of a pandemic, with chaos and high, (high!) anxiety about the future, we still own our actions. 

It will be interesting to see if Barack Obama can recover the trust he lost and how, if at all, the Biden campaign will incorporate Sanders campaign slogan “Not me. Us” which is an unambiguous call for authentic servant leadership.  

And finally, a Public Service Announcement you may have heard before.

Long ago I decided to openly share my political leanings on my blog and business website.

Mainly because folks who disagree with the work I do are going to assume I’m a bleeding heart liberal  (do people still say that?), or an “elitist”, or a Commie, or a Socialist, or whatever pejorative is au Courant. It’s simpler to be clear.

If you’ve worked with me as a coach, or participated in one of my workshops, you’ve heard some version of my core beliefs:

  • We are all good people doing the best we can – and we can do better.
  • Assume ignorance before malice.
  • To know the good is to do the good.
  • The common good is worth individual commitment.

These are beliefs that inform my thinking and my actions. The language may change depending on the audience, but the guiding principle is static.

Maybe its 6 weeks of isolation, or maybe its my over-dosing on the news, but I am struggling damn hard today to live my values.

The Covid-19 pandemic has intensified behaviors that once upon a time in our society would have been unthinkable. The one that’s getting to me today is the appropriation of the language of civil rights struggles to promote a fringe, anti-quarantine agenda.

It is twisted and cruel.

Some may call it framing or spin, but I fully believe “words create worlds” to paraphrase David Cooperider.  So calling “Stay-at-home rules” a “Lockdown Order” makes space for all kinds of outrage and false equivalence.

Citizens unhappy about actions meant to protect the majority – to which they belong – are posturing as if their civil rights are being trampled. I want to know:

  • Who is marginalized?
  • Who is disenfranchised?
  • Who is being sacrificed because “we” are more important than “them”?

There’s a big difference between believing you are marginalized or disenfranchised, and demonstrated evidence that you, in fact, historically and currently, have fewer rights and less power.

Anti-quarantine rallies have appropriated phrases like “My body, my choice” to support not wearing a mask. The same “choice” that they would withhold for a women’s personal reproduction decisions.

When I say “My body, my choice” I mean I will fight for everyone’s right to make their own reproductive decisions and I won’t interfere with your choice.  Appropriated that phrase means “My choice will be your choice too.”

Anti-quarantine folks equate their “struggle against injustice” and loss of their liberty to shop, dine out, and watch sports, to Rosa Parks’ fight for integration and civil rights after slavery and Jim Crow.

Even though public safety is a common good, not evidence of oppression, anti-quarantine folks are falsely equating pandemic safety measures to actual genocide – to Hitler putting “Jews on trains”.

I support Free Speech because I value my rights enough to fight for your right to express your views even when I find them morally reprehensible. Like the statement about Hitler.

Today I can feel myself struggling to find my balance and grace in the face of the appropriated language and the many inflammatory, falsely equivalent headlines.

So I am reminding myself right now, out loud and in front of you,  “I am a good person doing the best I can, and I know I can do better.”

I know we can all do better.

FDR Memorial, Washington DC

I remember the first time I felt like I was rich.

Standing in the check out line at the grocery store I realized I hadn’t mentally added everything up to make sure I stayed on budget, I just put what I wanted in the cart willy-nilly.

And I was shopping at Heinen’s, a “more expensive” Cleveland grocery that met a lot of our vegetarian needs cheaper than Whole Foods.

Heinen’s was the store my husband grew up with but I struggled with shopping there because they have a policy that you leave your cart in the store, take a number, and then drive up and they put your groceries in the car for you.

I’m sure this keeps the carts in good shape, helps the parking lot be less insane, and makes the elderly, infirm, pregnant and exhausted feel grateful, but I was none of those things.

I couldn’t wrap my mind around it and so I would carry all the bags to my car in one awkward, often painful trip to avoid making the workers wait on me.  

I carried my own bags for years from some misguided idea about solidarity mixed with guilt over being able to afford shop there in the first place. 

Over time I came to notice and understand my visceral reactions that make me feel “rich” or “poor”.

Wealth is relative and external comparisons are imprecise at best. I’ve written before about how comparisons are usually rigged to make us feel either inferior or superior, but feeling rich is different somehow.  

I am still frugal in a lot of ways and can pinch a penny until it pinches back, but buying whatever food I want still feels indulgent. It’s not like I’m buying caviar, truffles and $50 bottles of wine, rather it is the sensation of being able to choose food without restraint.

I feel rich, and privileged and happy walking through a farmers market knowing I can buy things because they are beautiful.

I fall in love with peppers and leeks and fresh dug carrots. I can spend an excessive amount of time choosing from 7 kinds of lettuces and heirloom tomatoes. I want the eggs from the organic, patchouli-smelling hippy that puts out pictures of his happy chickens, and olives from the man who spends 6 months of each year in Greece on his family farm. I want to sample and buy the expensive cheeses from the tiny boutique creamery run by two sisters.

Unfortunately my bougie love of shopping for food that inspires me has been completely wiped out during the COVID-19 safety measures. And thats more than ok, its outstanding. I would eat only frozen vegetables 😦 for the rest of my life if it meant no one else died from the virus. 

And I know how rich I am because I can stay home.

Now, as we continue to struggle with adapting to a reality shaped by SARS-CoV-2 (it’s real name by the way), I see more and more people expressing gratitude for health care workers and deep appreciation for the wage workers who keep the groceries running and deliver the take-out. 

It makes me hopeful that we will soon have open discussions about the historic and current systems that perpetuate marginalization, oppression and gross inequity in one of the wealthiest countries in the world. 

And I continue to wrestle with the ways that I want to communicate about these tough topics when folks are under profound levels of stress. Maybe that makes it an even better time?

Meanwhile, I stay home and walk around my neighborhood – masked and very distant! – taking pictures of whatever is in bloom to share with friends on Instagram, and remind myself there are many ways to feel rich.

 

My family has been isolating here in DC since March 12th.

I’m grateful that we’re healthy and able to live our social-distance lives without some of the more serious stresses being experienced by the poor, the disenfranchised, the service workers, the health care workers and the first responders.

Sometimes it’s hard to remember it’s not a competition. We can all put our suffering in perspective on a scale from near death to absolute luxury, but it doesn’t change the fact that each of us are suffering.

Yeah, yeah, first world problems and all that, but shaming folks for feeling lousy about their own personal circumstances doesn’t actually DO anything productive. Except possibly let the shame-er (is that a word?) do a little virtue signaling and feel self-righteous about their social awareness.

In my privileged, bougie life during Week 1 of isolation I did the following:

  • Stared at the bedroom ceiling in paralyzing grief. I do not recommend this as an alternative to sleeping.
    • The grief was and is a combination of the empathy over the struggles my clients are experiencing, my own loss of clients & income from March – September 2020, and the anticipation of what this world event means to a whole generation of young people.
  • Had 1-2 glasses of wine every single evening while telling my husband this is an absolutely acceptable coping mechanism for both of us.
  • Took 4 naps. This may not be a big deal for others but I haven’t napped since the first trimester I was pregnant with my daughter 22 years ago. Since I am not pregnant I’m going to file the napping under depressed escapism.
  • Spent 68% more time reading news on my devices (yes multiple) according to those highly annoying reports they give you each week.
  • Read 7 magazines on the library app Libby.
  • Took a long walk every day with the kid to notice flowers, cute dogs, and interesting architecture.
  • Purchased Fellowship of the Ring movie (extended version)
  • Read good two novels, abandoned one mediocre book.
  • Took turns sharing my office with my husband so we could each make phone & video calls in privacy.
  • Baked bread.

Week 2 had a bit more structure

  • Decided to give away coaching to anyone who needs it (pay-what-you-can). Because being of use to others is more important than money right now.
  • Stared at the computer screen for several scheduled hours a day NOT writing the book I’m working on.
  • Flipped through 3 cooking magazines on the library app.
  • Reached out to clients, family & friends to see how everyone is doing.
  • Read one good novel and abandoned 4 more that the library recommended but were too uninspired to continue.
  • Baked some more bread.
  • Started to do yoga in the mornings with the kid (who is herself adapting to college online)
  • Downloaded three self-help books from the library and started plotting out my much needed self-improvement.
  • Purchased Two Towers movie (extended version)
  • Removed my essentials and gave my husband my office as he is on video calls nonstop at this point. The dining room table is now work-from-home central for both me and the college student.
  • Started converting my professional development workshops and trainings to Webinar format. I’ve resisted this for years for a variety of reasons but that’s another blog post.
  • Scheduled some video appointments with my therapist (Yay me!)

Now we are heading into Week 3 and I am setting my intentions in the hope it will keep me accountable. In week 3 I will:

  1. Write at least 250 words a day. A modest and therefore achievable goal.
  2. Bake the biscotti I have been craving and not judge myself for eating it with my mid-morning coffee.
  3. Create a daily schedule EVERY DAY! and then use it. Several days in the last few weeks are a complete blur which is disturbing.
  4. Do 30 minutes of yoga or other exercise.
  5. Finish the really good book I discovered so I can start the next book in the series.
  6. Resist the urge to check NYT, WaPo, BBC, Reuters, Twitter and FB every hour. Yes resist is a loose goal because I don’t know what my tolerance for this is yet.
  7. Practice using loving kindness when the urge to judge or give in to outrage overwhelms me. Especially when indulging in #5 above.
  8. Find one good thing every day to reflect on before I (hopefully) sleep.
  9. Take melatonin every night because the majority opinion is that its not addictive and what can possibly be bad about being addicted to getting full 6 hours of sleep anyway?
  10. And finally, – maybe I should make this #1? – I will forgive myself if I do not execute on any of my intentions for Week 3.

I hope you and yours are healthy and treating yourself with gentleness.

Hit me up if you want a video chat or need some coaching. That is a serious offer.

an isolated beach in Spain
A beautiful, isolated beach visited last year

 

 

 

 

Anti-Semitism is on the rise. The series of attacks and incidents taking place almost daily over the last several months have been a surprising wake up call for folks who don’t normally pay attention to such things.

I work hard to pay attention by following statistics about hate crimes and white supremacists through the DOJ, SPLC and ADL websites. I also read both extreme left and extreme right rhetoric on Twitter, and as much objective & non-mainstream news as I can manage.

Some days this is hard to take.

I had a really hard day recently when my kid sent me an extemporaneous essay she wrote after talking to her grandmother. My daughter is Jewish like her grandmother and the rest of her father’s family.  She gave me permission to post her essay on my blog.

________________________________________________________________________________

My grandmother asked me to stop wearing my star of David necklace when I traveled. She said “you never know when someone might be crazy, might hate you”. I wanted to tell her don’t be silly.

I wanted to say that growing up as an American Jew in the aftermath of the Holocaust, she inherited fear that is no longer relevant. And remind her that although the Ku Klux Klan had burned crosses on her college campus and her college roommate had asked to see her horns, that was fifty years ago. I wanted to remind her of the strength of the Jewish community where I grew up, where I live now, around the world.

But then I thought about having pennies thrown at me growing up, back when I didn’t even know what that meant. I remembered boys in school, people I considered friends, saying the Holocaust hadn’t happened and laughing at the expression on my face. I remembered literally being fetishized by multiple men who thought my religion made me sexually exotic. I remembered the faces of my students who told me kids at their school didn’t like them because they were Jewish. I remembered Pittsburgh. I remembered Nuremburg. I remembered the shiver of fear I felt when someone wearing military fatigues stepped inside the synagogue on Yom Kippur, and my family’s shaky, relieved laughter after services when we realized that every one of us had had the same reaction.

 I can’t dismiss what my grandmother said. And I can’t write off how I sometimes hesitate before I tell people I’m a Jewish Studies major. I don’t want this hesitancy. Judaism is the thing that I feel most passionate about, that helps inspire me and order my life. It’s given me a community [at my university], and connects me to a worldwide family that stretches back 2,000 years. I don’t want to be afraid for myself or anyone in my global community. We have gone through much before, but I fear that we have much left still to endure.

I know it’s important to keep ourselves safe at this time, but it feels just as important to shout from the rooftops – I’m Jewish, I’m proud, I’m human.

I am afraid to wear my Magen David. But I’m also afraid to hide it.

_________________________________________________________________________

Magen David translates literally as “Shield” rather than “Star” of David. And while it pisses me off that a piece of religious jewelry (and a boatload of empowered bigotry) could make my child vulnerable in the world, I am glad she is fierce enough to carry her shield.

Much remains the same since I wrote this post back in 2014, and some are actually worse. One thing that is better (and worse) is a new Tamir Rice Safety Handbook created by the ACLU of Ohio in collaboration with Samaria Rice, the mother of Tamir Rice.

The better is that Samaria Rice can help publicize a tool that may keep other children from being killed. The worse is that we need a guide for black and brown children to navigate interactions with law enforcement.

My version of the old “two steps forward, one step back” is to think of social progress like a spiral. I can’t always see how the twists and turns move us forward but I believe in the value of the outcome and so I keep on keepin’ on.

And I hope you do too.

ORIGINAL POST: Now What?, November 25, 2014

I knew the Ferguson grand jury would not indict officer Wilson. I’m not cynical, just familiar with history.

I knew I would feel like shit hearing the outcome, but I wouldn’t have predicted the sadness. I naturally lean toward anger & outrage in the face of our ongoing social & political injustice.

Closer to home, Tamir Rice, the 12 year old boy from my old neighborhood who was killed by a police officer on November 22 for having a toy gun, deepens my sadness and amplifies the questions.

  • How will we change the value we place on black lives in this country?
  • How will we change the perception that black skin is to be feared – the assumption that drives and justifies a violent response from police?
  • How will we grant black teenagers the benefit of youthful stupidity – a privilege widely enjoyed by white teenagers?

The biggest question, the one that is currently making me sad is – what do we do now?

I just taught a workshop the other day about dealing with difficult situations by recognizing your habitual responses and learning about different potential choices. Deciding how to respond rather than just reacting.

So how will we respond to our deeply flawed and biased society? What do we address first? The legal system? Gun culture? Institutional racism? The fact that citizens are brainwashed into thinking that they have no power to change the system?

If I had my druthers I’d start with eliminating folks feelings of collective helplessness so we can get to collective action.

We need to do more.

I need to do more.

Way back in 1992 it was considered deviant to have a tattoo.

People with tattoos fell into categories like punk, artist, biker and the formerly incarcerated. This meant that I wore a watch over my wrist tattoo until roughly 2015 when it had became de rigueur for women to celebrate their 50th birthday by getting a lower back tattoo.

In a world filled with sleeve tattoos my tiny wrist bracelet doesn’t even register.

With our current 24/7 social media access it now seems nearly impossible for anyone to separate the “personal” from the “professional”, let alone hide a tattoo that probably hits Insta while its still raw.

We caution students from the moment they own a phone that everything online is permanent. So savvy students and adults alike learn to block photo tags, or try to scrub all evidence of red solo cups, vape pens or too much skin from their various accounts. But as we see in the news every day a screen shot by a friend (or enemy), a comment on a post, a snarky retweet – nothing ever gets completely deleted.

This is one reason I’ve never made any attempt to hide my blog. My rants and ramblings range wide and far: from my work with clients, to my family relationships, to politics, my childhood and all sorts of general frustrations & irritations.

Folks don’t need to dig too deep to find out about me. I want them to know up front the kind of person I am. The flaws I have (that I’m currently aware of), and the feelings that I am not interested in hiding. That way everyone knows what to expect when they hire me – enthusiasm, strong opinions, living out loud and living in color.

Those folks out there who engage in doxxing can unveil and excerpt and drive all kinds of outrage both online and in real life. I’m not sure what the desired outcome really is for the doxxers when they “out” someone, I just know when I see one of these incidents play out it always seems like a perfect opportunity for conversation.

But conversation often becomes irrelevant in the face of the outrage machine where everything is right or wrong, you’re either with us or against us. Nuance has become elitist, changing your mind is selling out and every hill is the hill to die on.

This is another of those rambly posts that may or may not enhance my reputation, but writing serves its purpose as I mull over whistle blowers and folks being asked to resign over a tweet, and those who humbly apologize when their “blackface photo” is revealed, and those retreat into their white fragility.

Way back in 1992 – the same year I got that tattoo & wore my hair in braids for a while – I used this song as an anthem to open (and close) a show I directed. The question “What’s Going On?” is just as relevant today even if the fashion now look quaint.

amanda with braids 1992
dressed to MC a Battle of the Bands

For the first time since the slaughter of the children at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, hearing news made me cry.

Make no mistake there has been a nonstop parade of horrifying and repugnant behavior since 2012, but for whatever reason, the mass shooting in El Paso brought me to tears.

Later that same day I was having a discussion with a prospective client about how I facilitate discussions about diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). They wanted implicit bias training but were worried about “blame and shame” – that I would be “too angry” or make their participants feel bad about racism.

This is a legitimate fear. Most discussions of “isms” will feel risky to somebody in the room.

In this case, talking about bias felt so risky to the client that they put off hiring a DEI consultant for two years following their decision to “offer education on the topic”.

As I explained how I work, I realized that I should probably need to include some description of my values and belief system on my website and in my proposals.

I need to be explicit about the change theories I ascribe to, and the evidence based research I utilize. These are the bits and pieces that help folks see the rigorous underpinnings that support my DEI work.

In the meantime, I told this prospective client that I don’t believe in “blame and shame”. My workshops, facilitation and coaching are always centered on individual growth. People shut down and dig their heels in when they are attacked. I don’t like when it’s done to me so I don’t make a habit of doing it to others.

That said, what I do instead is invite folks to be uncomfortable.

Think of it like when you go to the beach, or to the pool on a cool day. Some folks creep into the water slowly, some dive in and get it over with quickly, and others stop when the water reaches their ankles.

But they are all in the water.

Getting in that water – those discussions of racism, sexism, xenophobia and so on – is a choice for most people. And if you don’t know how to swim it can be scary, even life-threatening.

What I do when I facilitate is invite you to be uncomfortable.

I invite you to be brave and get in the water with me. To be cold, to flail and to tread water. To hold your breath and go all the way under.

To learn to swim.

I never throw anyone in the deep end by themselves. That’s not my style. I am right there with you in the deep or the shallow. You can trust me. I won’t let you drown.

Now more than ever we need to understand our role in shaping the society we live in.

We need to commit to the actions and behaviors that will make our “good intentions” reality.

We can do better.

If you work with me for more than five minutes you’ll know that’s one of my signature phrases. I use it to remind myself to start where people are to help them move forward. It keeps me in a place of hope and out of that cozy place of judgement.

“We can do better. We are all good people doing the best we can, and we can do better.”

Watching the students who survived the school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School become activists has both been beautiful and heartening. Seeing their grief and outrage evolve into a national movement that is shifting thinking and promoting action makes me feel hopeful for the future of our democracy.

Last week I read a blog post about those students that shook me up. It wasn’t the nasty vitriol accusing the students of being crisis actors or “deep state operatives”, whatever that means. It was a point of view that I hadn’t even considered. And it made me feel ashamed of myself.

Ashamed that I was guilty of exactly what the writer described.

Ashamed because I could see I had a blindspot.

Shame is something that we not only generally avoid experiencing, but we try not to talk about it either.  But shame is a really useful feeling that helps us to understand when we are wrong, or when we act wrong.

I mulled over this vague feeling of shame in the days after I  read the blog post. I might still be mulling except I happened to have a conversation this week that helped me put my finger on it. We were talking about how blindspots are part of implicit bias which reminded me that my discomfort – my shame at my behavior – meant learning.

I am glad to now have perspective that I was previously blind to. I’ll try to keep shining a light on my blind spot in the future as well as trying to remember to dig around occasionally and see what I’m missing. We are all only human.

I invite you to read the blog here.

Why It Hurts When the World Loves Everyone but Us

 

When I tell the story of my career path I often use the image of a mosaic.

I sometimes use the words “Once upon a time…” to help bridge the distance between the idea of “job” and “career path” for audiences who may be more comfortable with one word and not the other.

At one point in my life I had jobs in what is now called “the gig economy”, scraping by in the nonprofit world doing what I loved. To make that possible I also worked cash registers, served fast food, cleaned houses, sold advertising and hustled for free lance.

When I was a child I loved books, and school, and my teachers so I thought I would also be a teacher.

As a young adult I imagined my life would always include the arts (Once upon a time I was an actor & director…), or arts management (I spent years at Cleveland Public Theatre & then founded and ran Red Hen Productions, Feminist Theatre…), or some creativity (play and story writing…), outside of this peripatetic blog.

Then I imagined I would spend my life in the academy reading, writing, discussing and teaching philosophy. (That’s a longer story…)

I was lucky to find my true vocation (coaching & facilitating change) and now devote most of my time and energy to working with people and organizations who do good in the world.

Because I was a citizen of the USA and worked at liberal (or tolerant) organizations, I always had the freedom (within reason) to be politically active without fearing repercussions or retaliation.

Now, as someone who is self-employed, my job is my career.

That means I have thought long and hard about what repercussions my opinions and political activity will have on my ability to get work. I know that I am a small fish in a small pond, and maybe (hopefully!) I am being paranoid, but the world seems to be titling toward those who take names and make lists.

Years ago, while canvassing for domestic partner registration, I spoke with an elderly Jewish man who said “I will never vote for this! It is a terrible idea! Lists make it too easy for them to find you.”

Thinking of this Jewish man, and with conscious choice, I have decided to resume writing about my politics on this blog. It is part of the mosaic of who I am and will only become more so if we continue our drift toward despotism. (Please watch this crystal clear 10 minute explanation of despotism if you think my use of that phrase is hyperbolic.)

And, as an American citizen, I believe political engagement really is my job.

mommy

 

I started this blog as an outlet for my musings, insights and irritations. Using the old adage that you should be willing to see everything you write on the front page of the New York Times, I am usually circumspect about how I present my opinions.

This blog is linked on my business website so I have slowly reduced my political rants so as not to alienate any potential clients.

Given that I have woken to the disturbing development of a Trump presidency I have decided to make a few things clear.

I am an extremely progressive liberal person. I believe in protecting the constitution and all the rights it affords American citizens.

  • I support free, nonjudgemental access to abortion.
  • I support equal rights,  safety and marriage equality for LGBT people.
  • I support and believe in safety net programs for healthcare, food, shelter and retirement for our vulnerable citizens.
  • I support free speech and a free press.
  • I support worker protections like EEO/AA, workers comp, unions,  and all other anti-discrimination laws.
  • I believe that sexism, racism, xenophobia, and other biases, institutional, cultural or implicit, need to be defeated through education.
  • I believe you should pay your taxes to support the collective good like schools, infrastructure, police & fire services, and trash removal.
  • I could go on but you get the idea.

Now. If you believe that my beliefs are incompatible with yours please do not hire me to consult or coach for you. I am perfectly capable of – and indeed enjoy – working with people whose opinions differ from mine but I am not willing to pretend that my beliefs are something they are not.

I work actively to make the world a better place according to my values and I hope you do to. Maybe we can do it together.

proud-liberal

I often write about free speech on this blog. It is one of my core values and its a gut-check reminder that civil liberties only work if they are guaranteed for all citizens. Once again a smart, thoughtful friend of mine has written something that I think it’s important to share.

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by Jason Jaffery

There is a pivotal moment in the Warren Beatty film “Bulworth” when the homeless man played by Amiri Baraka shouts at Beatty’s politician character, Sen. Jay Bulworth – “Bulworth! You got to be a spirit! You can’t be no ghost.”

Invariably when I find myself involved with a question where someone’s rights are being denied this quote pops into my head. This year, during this presidential election, more than any other time during my nearly 25-year career as a civil libertarian, an activist and a non-profit leader, this quote has become a guiding principle.

Much ink has been spilled on why this presidential election matters so distinctly. I agree with all the reasons articulated for why Donald Trump is so monumentally unfit for the presidency.  But I’ll add an additional reason why I believe Trump is a danger.

Trump either doesn’t understand the U.S Constitution, or doesn’t care about its meaning. Most likely both.

As we consider the ongoing experiment of participatory democracy, the success of that experiment is predicated on our civil society adhering to an articulated set of shared norms and values.

This means that, however much we might disagree on issues like abortion, LGBT rights, free speech or racial justice, we can at least agree that there is a process for deciding what laws apply, and a higher wisdom that we can refer to when the path towards those decisions gets muddled.

The Constitution is that guide, and for whatever murk might exist in its words that require interpretation by the judiciary, it is the glue that holds our democracy together.

Donald Trump has weakened that glue.

Trump’s casual disregard for the principles inherent in the Constitution strikes a deep chill in me.

His disregard for constitutional principles – that a free press should be protected from punishment and retribution; that a woman making reproductive health choices should be free from punishment and retribution; that free and fair elections are possible and should not be subject to manipulation – has and will continue to have far reaching consequences.

Trump’s disregard has caused tremendous damage to the country, and our collective confidence in the protections afforded by the Constitution. No matter the outcome of next week’s election, hard work and allegiance to core American values are what will help us survive as a republic.

Which leads me back to the quote with which I began.

In the face of a crisis like Trump, and the overwhelming shift that is occurring in our society, it is understandable to freeze. The level of stress induced by Trump’s behavior, and the behavior he has inspired in his countless supporters, is truly overwhelming. Many friends and associates have expressed a feeling of helplessness and despair.

But we are not helpless. We can act. In fact, we must. Because to act is to be a spirit, not a ghost.

This election and what it has wrought should be a national call to service. Each of us can and should be a spirit. Participate – be present, be visible.

Whatever action we take—calling on friends and family to make sure they have a plan to vote; knocking on a stranger’s door to provide early voting times and locations; serving as a legal, trained poll observer to ensure everyone’s voting rights are protected – is a spirited act.

As is making a contribution to the candidate who is committed to protecting to Constitution, and whom we can hold accountable if and when her administration makes choices with which we disagree.

I have done all of the above and hope you will too. It is our right, and our duty as Americans, to be a spirit not a ghost, at every opportunity—from this moment until the election, and every day afterwards.

Be a spirit, not a ghost.

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