Thursday, January 26, 2017

Setting the Tempo: My Promise to You, World

Here’s a list of things I did today outside of work hours: (don’t worry boss, I also worked)
  • Screamed in frustration
  • Called my senators
  • Threw my shoe
  • Called my representative
  • Ranted at dinner
  • Ranted by text
  • Ranted by SnapChat
  • Signed 18 petitions
  • Wept
  • Sent an email to the White House
  • Tried to remember the good in the world with a wonderful friend on the phone
  • Started 4 different Facebook posts about how we are a better country because of the people who have immigrated here recently and the incredible witness of the refugees I have worked with and how frustrated I am.
  • Yawned 18,000 times because I haven’t slept well since he took office.

I did a few useful things for the cause of justice and love; throwing my shoe on the other hand: not the most helpful.

There’s a post getting shared all over my Facebook feed that I am SO grateful is being shared. It’s a long list of all of the things that Trump has done, and another version sharing what he’s done the past 6 days. It’s devastatingly important to read, get enraged, and engage with. But also, it’s overwhelming. It’s exhausting. And it’s terrifying.

I sort of think that this is his tactic: just completely overwhelm people with all these horrendously unjust and immoral executive orders. When we are overwhelmed, we move into response mode: fight or flight. And now, many of us are showing up to fight, and that is AWESOME. I am so glad we are fighting together here.

However, if we are only on the defensive, he wins. Eventually, he may just run us down, trying to normalize this horrendous oppression to the masses, and exhausting the rest of us who are sprinting everywhere trying to put out blazing fires with an eye-dropper.

But we do know (because of SCIENCE!), when we become only defensive, we lose our sense of creativity, of humor, of wonder, of joy, and, the very worst, our sense of compassion. We need to find a way to not let Trump set the tempo, to work together, and to take care of ourselves so we can keep our senses about us. At least that's what I need.

I love Valarie Kaur’s Sikh prayer for America; and I completely agree. She tells us to remember the wisdom of the midwife: Breathe, then push. And I also know that a baby is not born the first time you push. We have to breathe again, and push again. Over and over.

I see us working together like a choir. Collectively holding a long note in a choir, the note can last longer than a human can hold her breath. In order to make the sound consistent and strong, as a choir, as a team, you stagger your breathing. If you need to breathe, you quietly fade out, breathe, and starting softly, crescendo back in again. If you are wanting to breathe but hear the person next to you fade out, you hold on a little longer. This way, everyone can take a breath, and it does not sacrifice the beauty, strength, or profound influence of a really intense musical piece.

We just have to make sure as we fade out, that we always remember to fade back in, and find that same note.

There’s a lot of questioning going around as to whether we can sustain a movement. "There are so many diverse interests, it’s sure to fall apart!"

I refuse to believe that. We are tripping over ourselves a little, making mistakes, and getting frustrated. But I honestly believe we are in this for the right reasons. And to stay in it for the right reasons, it means I have to find out what that note means to me. And you find out what it means to you. And I believe we will sing in a beautiful harmony.

To me, holding that note means that I am passionately working for integral ecology, ubuntu, solidarity, intersectional justice. Whatever words you want to use, it means the same thing: We Belong to Each Other. Whenever something unjust affects you, it impacts me too, and I have to do something about that. We are all interconnected, and yes, some people absolutely have a harder lot in life. And, our wide variety of life experiences make our song more beautiful.

To take this analogy one step farther, researchers in Sweden wanted to find out about the calming effect of singing, so they studied high school choirs. What surprised them most in their findings? “It took almost no time at all for the singers' heart rates to become synchronized. The readout from the pulse monitors starts as a jumble of jagged lines, but quickly becomes a series of uniform peaks. The heart rates fall into a shared rhythm guided by the song's tempo… ‘It's a beautiful way to feel. You are not alone but with others who feel the same way.’” So, friends, let’s set the tempo. Trump is going to keep throwing things at us as crazily as he can, but we don’t have to play his game. We set this tempo, and we are together in this.  

These next four years are going to be long, LONG years. As a friend said on the phone today, “It gets worse every hour!” And that’s exactly why we need to practice self-care: why we need to breathe. What that looks like for each of us may be different, but we need to remember to do it. Just like breathing, we're going to need it.

So, here is my promise to all of you, to all my sisters and brothers on the margins, and to the whole world: I promise to stand with you and keep singing. This beautiful choir of people: people of all races, creeds, abilities, cultures, immigration stories, histories, experiences, and identities: I am honored to stand in this choir, and I will hold this note. I will keep holding the note for not only 4 years, but beyond, because this fight for intersectional justice will likely last longer than 4 years. While I’m holding this note, I will show up for #BlackLivesMatter and #NoDAPL marches and protests for Immigration Reform and Climate Justice. I will read and listen to podcasts and learn as much as I can from people who have different backgrounds and life experiences than myself. I will keep calling my elected officials and speaking truth to power. I promise that I will keep singing while you need to breathe.

And then, at times, I will also fade out and take a breath, but I promise, I promise I will always crescendo right back in and find our note.

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