I Can See Godzilla

My whole life I could see the destruction caused by Godzilla. I felt pain when it maimed and killed people who looked like me. I saw the hatred it pulled out of people who didn’t look like me. I can see those faces yelling and crying. I can see the faces mourning lost loved ones in the wake of a powerful force.

It has only been within recent years that I started to see Godzilla itself. At first, I thought I was crazy. For many years a Godzilla sighting would make me feel this way. “No, no Eichelle. Don’t be crazy.” It’s the magic of this powerful being. There are too many people who benefit from not seeing it.

Now I see Godzilla. I see this giant green monster destroying the country I live in. Killing mothers and babies. Disappearing and murdering women. Taking lives on a regular basis with no recourse. People get upset for a while, but it’s too crazy to believe that a monster caused all the chaos. So, we just pretend that everything is fine. Anyone who dares admit that we as a people are sick with poison and being killed by a monster, we write them off. Just people angry for no reason. Or people trying to scapegoat their problems instead of taking responsibility for themselves.

At first it was hard to truly see Godzilla. I didn’t want it to be true. Now I see it and I must decide what to do about it. What am I going to do about the systems of injustice, white supremacy and patriarchy that affect me? Systems I am complicit in, systems I benefit from. What am I going to do?






 

The analogy of Godzilla as a representation for systems of injustice fueled by white supremacy and patriarchy came to me on a hike with my husband. I was angry. This is not an emotion I allow myself to feel often, but I am getting better at it. Godzilla is perfect, because for those of us who see these systems a monster is what we see. There are piles and piles of data that show racism is taking lives. It’s happening right now, but to say that is as radical as to say a large green monster has invaded downtown Tokyo.

It doesn’t change however that it’s the truth. A truth I have to come to terms with. I see the monster and now I must decide what I am going to do about it.

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“Have we not learned?”

 

“There is no need for temples, no need for complicated philosophies. My brain and my heart are my temples; my philosophy is kindness.”  – Dalai Lama

“Kindness and faithfulness keep a king safe, through kindness his throne is made secure.” – King Solomon

Over the last few days, I have had some lovely conversations, but a few of them have been tainted by troubling generalized statements.

In a conversation with my husband, I recently stated that angry Atheists and Christian zealots deserved each other. That we should send them off on an island to duke it out. What I see in these two groups is a similar blindness. They are only focused on their perspective and lack empathy.

For Christians it is easy to make arguments for why this perspective is at the very least not in line with Biblical teachings. While on Earth, Jesus chose to spend his time chastising the religious leaders of the day and hanging out with those deemed undesirable or unclean by the religious leaders. I often wonder what Jesus would say to current religious leaders. How would he chastise his current followers?

For Atheist I have never truly known how to engage them around their Christian bashing. If we have a relationship I know from experience I will usually get the great chestnut response “Oh, but not you.”

I wish we as a society could understand the damage we are doing when we use generalizations. Our lack of specific language makes room for offense. If I say “All rabbits are sex fiends.” my statement includes everyone. Any rabbit within my presence could be offended, and rightly so.

No one likes to be told who they are and this is what generalizations do. They seek to name in simplistic terms a key part of who large groups of people are. Hate speech and any kind of identity bashing are full of generalizations. These statements make no room for nuance or outliers or exceptions. They state only a rule that of course applies to everyone equally.

In that same conversation with my husband he said something that stuck out to me, “Have we not learned?” Generalizations are a hallmark of them vs. us thinking. Many have stated how this kind of thinking contributed greatly to the current state of American politics and the growing polarization of Americans.

“As citizens of this great nation, it is kindness, love, and compassion for each other that will bring us together – and keep us together.”  – Melania Trump

I don’t know that we can move forward as a society if we continue to classify each other using generalized statements. It is not only important that we stop thinking in them vs. us terms but also that we shift our language. No group is monolithic.

Generalizations can be useful, but not when stated alone. The only thing I have seen these statements create on their own is offense and distrust. We need more than these statements. This post is an example of this. If I had left it at “…angry Atheists and Christian zealots deserved each other…” I don’t know that I would be doing much more than pissing off two large groups of people. I had to keep going to expand on why I felt this way, to move past the emotion of frustration.

I think that is what has to be done. On the micro level, each human being on the planet must try to move past the particular emotion driving their generalized thoughts and speech. This is where the conversation starts. “Immigrants are taking our jobs.” “Christians hate gay people.” “Native Americans are drunks.” “Millennials are all lazy.” “Gay people were molested as children.” “Californians are so smug and self-righteous. They think they know everything.” “White people are ignorant.”

“It is only after one is in trouble that one realizes how little sympathy and kindness there are in the world.” –  Nellie Bly

Each of the statements are things I have heard people say in conversation. All of them are wrong.  The last one is something I said. I’m glad my husband was there to call me out and encourage me to push past the momentary feeling. He helped me to get to what was really going on.

After 2016, I heard many people talk about the need for Americans to come together. This might be one way of doing so. Or maybe like my husband stated we haven’t learned our lesson yet. I just worry about the cost we will pay to learn it.

“We need more kindness, more compassion, more joy, more laughter. I definitely want to contribute to that.”  -Ellen DeGeneres

“First and foremost, we need to be the adults we want our children to be. We should watch our own gossiping and anger. We should model the kindness we want to see.” – Brene Brown

“The level of our success is limited only by our imagination and no act of kindness, however small, is ever wasted.” – Aesop

We Are All Complicit

Lately I have found myself becoming more and more unreasonable about the recycling in my home. I can feel the annoyance rising in my husband. I have banished plastic bags from our house. We just spent twenty dollars on a beeswax bread bag. I am pushing us to move toward getting a food co-op membership, in the hopes that the co-op will offer products with less packaging. I am also looking into doing composting to reduce our trash. I can see that he doesn’t get it fully.

On a recent trip to Target, I explained to him that where others might see shiny new fun things, I see something different. I see products made off the exploitative labor of people who live very far from me. I see systems that make things built to breakdown so that they must be replaced. I see single-use products that lead to pounds and pounds of waste in land-fills.

When I see our trash and recycle piles, all I see is my part in destructive, dangerous systems. More and more I see my part in systems of oppression and greed.

I am getting obsessed about my recycle and trash I think because these are systems I can potentially remove myself from. If I can get us down to 0% trash, I wouldn’t be contributing anymore.

My obsession is mostly driven by the systems I don’t see a way out of. I don’t know how to remove myself from the system of racial injustice and white supremacy. I don’t know how to remove myself from patriarchy. I don’t know how to remove myself from the systems, my privilege blinds me from seeing I am a beneficiary of. Within these systems it is hard to see a way out. More and more I see the ways I am complicit within them. I see the ways that I benefit from their existence.

It feels like every day I am getting paid in blood money. I don’t know what to do with it so I put it in the bank. It’s guilt filled money that feels more like debt than profit. A debt that keeps growing. It grows so high that I can’t see a way out. It has been accumulating since I was born.

Even if I worked every day to acknowledge my privilege and de-colonize my everything, it wouldn’t change that I still receive those privileges or that the poison of colonization runs deep. The only true way I see out is for radical community change. The system has to be dismantled in order for the payments in privilege to stop.

We are all complicit. The question is what are we going to do about it?

She was so upset.

“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”

                 Martin Niemöller

Protestant Pastor and survivor of Nazi concentration camps in WWII

 

My wonderful writing partner reached out to me early this week. She heard the story of a man who was being deported. She was extremely upset by the story. I did my best to console her and remind her that the democracy of our country isn’t promised. Democracy is something we have to work at. Over the last year and half, she has reached out to me a few times. She sees a troubling world that seems to be narrowing its sights on her. As a Latina woman, what ifs cloud her mind when stories like the mans’ come her way. She understands the reality of the quote listed above and is working hard to never be complicit in systems of hate and oppression. Our conversation sent me on a mission for more information.

Someone I care about deeply was feeling scared and worried and hopeless. I wanted to understand better what was so upsetting. I am not a Latina and wanted to try to better understand why this strangers’ story so effected my close friend.

I did a long deep dive into many articles and went down a few rabbits holes. One of my efforts to be a better citizen has been to be more diligent about questioning where information comes from. So I try not to take things at face value and ask a few questions before I read something. Who is this author? What authority do they have to be sharing information with me? To help you as you may ask these questions, I have included links to all the articles I read below. To be fully transparent, I did not read the full Disappeared reports. The information was becoming painful.

After reading and searching through a random assortment of articles, videos and reports all I could see was gray. Immigration it seems, like many issues, is nuanced and complicated.

I think our issues as a country with immigration and migration speak to the heart of our current identity crisis. We want to be a country of immigrants and prosperity, but it would be better if all of those immigrants looked and acted just like us.

As I was reading the various accounts of people trying both legally and illegally to enter this country I kept thinking about a play I saw. It’s called “The Art of Bad Men” by Vincent Delaney. The play focuses on a time when German POW’s lived in the mid-west and helped local farmers. After the play, I was lucky enough to go to a Salon talk-back style event. One of the historians at the event talked about the motivations for treating the POW’s so well. He shared that this practice of taking care of the POW’s was done because that is who we wanted to be as a country.

His words kept ringing in my ears as I was reading today. We wanted to be a country who took care of people. Who shared our democracy freely. Who hoped that by doing this, these POW’s might be changed somehow. This was happening at the same time that we as a country were interning Japanese-American citizens.

Who are we going to be as a country? I wonder and after spending an afternoon on my day off diving into one of the hot button issues facing us, I truly don’t know. I don’t know that we can continue to spout the myths of Ellis Island while building an ineffectual wall with one of our friendly trade partners. I don’t know that we can continue to be a place where we treat POW’s better than we do citizens. I also don’t know that we can continue to live comfortably. I don’t know that we can continue to focus only on our localized problems, ignoring our national community.

“An injury to one is an injury to all”

I love this chant. As an extremely empathetic person it encapsulates how I see the world. Why I don’t understand how people can dismiss human life so easily. Why I spent my day off researching to try to better understand the pain of someone I love.

I don’t know that I will ever fully understand the fear of deportation. Or comprehend the everyday stress that comes from worrying about being rounded up and detained. I do think I understand just a little why my friend was so upset. I think she wants to believe in a country that cares for her, even when all the evidence doesn’t support this. When a story like the story of Jorge Garcia comes her way it’s a reminder. As much as she may want it, we are not fixed. We are broken. It is really only our brokenness that we can agree on, but maybe that’s a start.

 

https://www.salon.com/2018/01/16/man-who-lived-in-america-for-30-years-was-just-deported-from-the-country/

http://abcnews.go.com/US/nightmare-family-bids-goodbye-undocumented-father-deported-mexico/story?id=52367022

https://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10007392

https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2017/8/31/16226934/daca-trump-dreamers-immigration

https://www.vox.com/2015/8/19/9177419/border-fence-work

https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/immigration/news/2017/11/09/442502/thousands-daca-recipients-already-losing-protection-deportation/

http://foreignpolicy.com/2015/08/18/donald-trump-immigration-border/

http://www.newsweek.com/trump-administration-has-made-illegal-attempts-deport-daca-recipients-724842

https://medium.com/aclu/i-lost-my-daca-status-because-i-was-arrested-though-never-charged-with-a-crime-45561fd4a7fb

http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/369096-trump-homeland-security-chief-deporting-dreamers-wont-be-priority-if

http://www.newsweek.com/trump-administration-has-made-illegal-attempts-deport-daca-recipients-724842

https://www.facebook.com/NowThisPolitics/videos/1877266742304807/?hc_ref=ARR7HdUJriRLrA7n6iRRUXdowQ0WfLdvkXOrcmmywyHDL2FEGhmYB2zorHjC4It4m3E

http://www.tucsonnewsnow.com/story/37284543/no-more-deaths-to-release-findings-of-investigation

http://forms.nomoredeaths.org/demand-border-patrol-stop-destroying-humanitarian-aid/

http://www.thedisappearedreport.org/reports.html

https://www.aclu.org/other/aclu-factsheet-customs-and-border-protections-100-mile-zone?redirect=aclu-factsheet-customs-and-border-protections-100-mile-zone

GM’s and the Modern Day Campfire Story

Last night, I sat around a table with friends and we took an adventure. I played my first ever horror role playing game and loved it. I don’t like horror. I respect its contributions to film, writing and culture in general. I also have a hard time leaving the monsters at the movie theatre. So this is a genre of content I tend to stay away from.

My husband is a GM or Game Master. This is a magical person who creates a world for others to have adventures in. Over the last year and a half he has done a deep dive into table top role playing games. RPG ‘s or role playing games are fun interactive experiences. The most well-known RPG is Dungeons and Dragons or D & D.

Over the last year or so, I have seen my husband move past D & D to discover all kinds of different RPG systems. I have also seen the glimmer in his eye fade as people respond to his excitement with confusion and judgments. Last night I got to see him beaming.

He wore a red shirt, with a white tie and black vest. To top it all off he wore a black bowler hat. He was in his element. Crafting every turn, creating suspense and fear and guiding us through an hour and a half interactive adventure. It was magical to watch. Three friends and I sat around my round black table. All light save a few candles and battery powered tea lights was turned off or blocked out. Under the table my husband taped a string of lights providing a soft glow coming from underneath us all. In the center of the table, a Jenga tower. The crackle of a virtual campfire care of Youtube provided a sense of atmosphere and additional ominous music was provided from the laptop screen in front of my husband who sat near but not at the table.

For the next hour and a half, we went on a journey together. Each player contributed some part of the story and my husband guided us. Before we sat at the table, he spent hours creating a sandbox for us to move in. Thinking through possible events and monsters and deciding how our adventure would draw to a close.

As I sat watching my husband, it occurred to me that a GM is nothing short of a storyteller who has very old roots. Yes, games like D & D or the game we played, Dread, are newer, but the roots of what happened at that table are very old. As the virtual campfire crackled, I thought of my ancient ancestors telling the history of our people centuries ago.

Over time the voices of storytellers have shifted to different mediums. Technology created new opportunities for the campfire story experience. From the radio to the early days of television, we as a society have enjoyed the tradition of sitting together and taking in a story. Although the technologies have changed and continued to provide more individual experiences we still seek out the same feelings of communal fear, sadness or laughter. People live tweet events to be connected globally as they sit in their home alone. We choose to use the internet as a place of connection. I’m doing that right now. I’m sending my words in a virtual bottle so that they might reach your shore. RPG’s are another extension of the campfire story.

A GM creates an experience and like all great storytellers allows their audience to contribute to or simply change the story. The campfire has been replaced with a table and some additions such as dice or a Jenga tower have been added, but the magic of what happens is the same.

A good GM, creates a unique experience one part board game, one part live performance. This experience cannot be recreated, but it can be appreciated and so can the GM’s of the world. I am so proud of my husband. He creates magic and taps into the very old oral tradition of telling and creating story.

If anything I’ve said has sparked your curiosity, I challenge you to seek out RPG’s and gaming communities wherever you live. The game we played was Dread, but there are many more systems. Below I have included a few links to get you started on your next adventure.

To all the GM’s out there, thank you for continuing the oral tradition and creating story. Story is something I have committed my life to. I am so grateful for others who also make similar commitments and continue to deepen the well of story.

 

 

PS: Yes, the RPG world is very white and very male, but this is changing and the community as a whole is super welcoming.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TKejuEmQjMQ – A good video about where to start

https://dreadthegame.wordpress.com/about-dread-the-game/ – The game we played

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H0loSZFsyoQ – A play through of Dread – TableTop is a great channel to see fun play-throughs of both RPG’s and board games

https://roll20.net/ – A place to virtually play RPG’s if you don’t have a community where you live

If you are now inspired to become and GM (YAY!!) links for you below

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NjmkolUrrB4 – A wonderful female GM sharing her tips about being a wonderful GM

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLuGFF6RJgaMrlxVxEB7XsBerrIFgnqZIa –A good playlist with everything you need to know about being a GM

http://www.drivethrurpg.com/top_100.php – A place where you can purchase different systems

 

Today, I Choose Hope

Today, I choose hope. My beautiful writing partner grounds me. I work from home now and can curate, for the most part, my interactions with the world. North Dakotans are generally nice enough to keep their racism limited to a few looks or whispers on occasion. So I don’t have to see racism daily unless I choose to. I am privileged with being able to live in my bubble. My safe bubble, filled with people who love me. Wonderful white people who understand that our experiences of the world are different. Who respect it when I say something isn’t for them. Who never question when I wonder if a look, stare, attitude or bad costumer service is racially motivated. Although 95% of my neighbors who voted, voted for the current administration and 60% as recent as a few months ago still support that administrations destructive, hate-filled rhetoric, the people I let in my bubble understand. Even if they support the current administration, most are nice enough not to mention it around me. Those who are vehemently opposed to the current administration love and support me. This is my reality, my privilege.

My bright shiny Latina writing partner doesn’t have this privilege. She works with children and has seen how they are effected by the hate, anger and anguish of adults in response to the current administration. She calls me and we talk. Recently I told her something that has resounded in me since. I’ll paraphrase below for you.

Love is something that you have to choose. I have been married for almost four years and each day of marriage solidifies this belief for me. In this same way, I believe you have to choose hope. This is not to say that you stop feeling anything you might be feeling. Being sad is often not a choice and those who say so are wrong. But despair is a choice. Despair is an attitude and you can change your attitude. So you must choose hope.

I went on further explaining that as women of color, when we choose despair it is one more thing we are giving over to White Supremacy and the structures and institutions of racism/sexism/homophobia and so on. It gives these things a win. It is one more thing stolen from us. As a Native woman, these things and the people who support them or are complicit in them have already taken so much. Add to that the things stolen as a Black woman and things start to get heavy.

Today I chose hope. I hope to do so tomorrow too.

Self-Care Selfish? Wrong Question.

Recently I had the opportunity to talk to a group of strong, passionate women about self-care. I knew not to assume that all in the audience would believe like me that self-care is nothing short of a necessary part of life. It didn’t surprise me when the question of self-care being selfish came up. I shared with the group that for me the only way to get away from this line of thinking was to do the mental gymnastics that I am my best self when I practice self-care and that by being my best self I am able to help others more effectively. Later though, when I was having a walk and talk chat with my cousin a different answer emerged.

I realized that because I have been intentionally practicing self-care for going on a year and half I no longer feel a need to justify it. I do it because it is good for me and I don’t really care if anyone believes this act to be selfish. My cousin talked about how it is important that we as black women don’t give power to people who might question our actions. She’s right and not just for black women.

By allowing an outside perspective on my life and decisions to invade my little world I give over power to that outside perspective. Nothing says that I have to engage with this question.

For the longest time, I have felt a need to respond and engage, taking for granted that this was a choice. Nothing says I have to engage. Nothing says I have to respond. So before I start to answer a question or engage someone in a difficult conversation I think from here on out I will pause. I will take a weighted pause for myself. Is this something I have to do? Is this something I want to do? What are the outcomes of responding or engaging? If I don’t like the answers then I won’t engage.

Over the years, I have given too much of myself away. I have poured out my cup time and time again leaving nothing for myself. I have exposed myself to individuals who mean me harm, usually unintentionally but that doesn’t necessarily make it better or undo the harm they cause. This way of being is not sustainable. All renewable resources need to take in more than they put out. In farming, if you don’t put nutrients back into the soil the ground will cease producing nutrient rich plants. If you continue to pollute a water source without taking time to clean up the mess it will no longer serve as a resource.

I am no different and yet I have continued to drain my nutrients and not clean up the pollution in my life. I think I’m done with that. I value myself more than that.

There Are No Elves

there are no elves 1Last night I started reading a book called Scratch. It was the only book I could find at the library that explored the business of writing. The book dives into the tension between writing as a passion and writing as a profession. I have only read two of the essays included in the book thus far. Each one has hit notes in me and brought forth thoughts I have been chewing on for months.

For some time now, I have been struggling to understand the systems I see around me. I have never been a good capitalist or a good consumer. These modes of walking through life don’t make sense to me. Communal or barter based systems seem to be better. They are systems that encourage true community, foster respect for craft and bring people closer to one another.

I have observed dysfunctional nonprofit boards; and heard the horror stories from friends about their work lives in the for-profit sector. In both instances, I have stated with frustration that there must be a better way.

Working at a union for some time opened my eyes to the fact that in many industries there is no one looking out for the worker. How can this be when there are more workers than owners? Also why as an owner wouldn’t you want to look out for your workers? Not only is it the right thing to do, it’s also looking out for your bottom line.

When I first started work at a small nonprofit theatre in town, my knowledge about business grew exponentially. One of the biggest things I realized is that there are no elves. The theatre was a small business with only my boss and I working full time and two other staff helping out a few hours a week. This meant that everything that happened in that space had to be done by one of the four of us, usually my boss or I. We were there every day so we had the clearest grasp on the work that needed to be done. If the lobby was a mess when I left, it was going to be a mess when I returned unless my boss had cleaned it. Day by day I realized the fact that there are no magic elves who come and finish your work for you.there-are-no-elves-2.jpg

This revelation opened my eyes. No longer could I look at anything without thinking of the people behind it. Take for instance the cup I am drinking hot water from as I write this. In order for it to get to me someone had to sell it, shelve it, ship it, package it, make it, gather materials, ensure it met safety regulations, design it, create a company to make cups. I’ll stop there, but that’s a lot of work for a simple cup.

Now when I look at something all I can see are the many hands who made it possible. Whether I’m attending an event, receiving a service or purchasing an item. My experience in each of these instances has been created and crafted by someone and most likely by several someones.

How would things shift if we thought not just about the joy we have at receiving something good but also about who helped make that happen? How would things change if we accepted that there are no magic elves?

Endings

Endings are difficult for me. I love potential. This deep rooted love guides many of my feelings. Potential means that anything is possible. As a person who has committed her life to story, creating something from nothing is what I do. It’s a magic I believe in, and anything being possible is the heart of this magic. This makes endings complicated. Endings are the death of potential. Not always, of course there are certain times when it’s only a partial death, but still, death. Death is a word that makes my heart slow with sadness and fear. Death to potential is something that makes me feel deep sorrow. Within a project or at the end of a show, I will and have done anything to delay the end. I also love to focus on the ways those things aren’t ending. A theater performance is only done if you stop working on that character, or so I say. Any mental back-flip I can use to avoid admitting the end will do.

For the last while, I have been spending much time focusing on myself and how I work. Part of this work was realizing that I had many, many almost done projects. They just needed to be filed away so that I could reference them again if I wished. These almost done projects weighed on me. They took up brain space and I needed a way to clear some of that space out. I needed to finish the projects, but that meant embracing the end. So I created a form, trying to encourage myself to celebrate the end. I love definitions, so I looked up the word eulogy, below is what I found.

 

Definition of eulogy

  1. :  a commendatory (compliment, praise, recommend as worthy) oration or writing especially in honor of one deceased she delivered the eulogy at his funeral
  2. :  high praise

 

That didn’t sound so bad, “honor” and “high praise,” I could do that. So I began the process of finishing my almost done projects. It felt amazing. I still have several to go, but I have begun to embrace endings. They are healthy and good. A good story is so much about its’ ending, how it leaves you.

I was on the road to acceptance and then a different kind of death came to visit my life. A distant aunt passed away and then my husband’s grandfather also passed away. I was forced to look at the leftover items from others I had lost in recent years. Gifts sent after their passing, by those that remained and unopened cards of condolence.

The death of a person is the ultimate end of potential. Even if you believe in an afterlife, the potential for that person as they were on this plane of existence is done forever. As a lover of potential, this is hard for me, forever done.

As I have comforted my husband these past months, a thought occurred to me. I was reminded of the feeling I had as I finished the almost done projects. Finishing them changed how I felt about them. Yes, they were done and the potential for them was done, but something shifted in my feelings about those projects. They didn’t weigh on me anymore, leaving room for the projects I am actively working on. I started to wonder if I needed to do something for those I had lost. As it is now, all that exists when I think about them is sorrow.

That eulogy definition came to my mind. There is no sorrow there. The perspective is one of hope and honor. It’s almost forward thinking. Maybe there is something in the process of taking time to honor them and their memory that shifts feelings from sorrow to something else.

It feels horrible thinking of releasing the sorrow to make room for those still alive in my life. I don’t want to forget those who have died. They mattered to me. Their lives mattered.

I have to believe however that there must be a way of somehow honoring them and letting go of the pain. Letting go I think is the important phrase in that last sentence. I have to learn to let go and embrace the something else that awaits me when I do.

So I think from time to time I will write eulogies for the things and people I lose and post them here. One small step in letting go and accepting the death of potential.

I Am Not Ok

                           I am not ok.

These words generally signal the start of a crisis. For many people it’s the sign of someone who needs help instantly. It sends friends and family into a state of panic and worry. This means that many don’t want to voice these words until they truly are in a state of panic. I am beginning to wonder however, with all of the talk recently about mental health and self-care, how we might change this.

Listening to him speak to a group on a different continent, it felt as though he was in my living room speaking directly to me. Sangu Delle talked about taking the shame out of self-care. I watched his TED talk and instantly felt moved by this idea. Why is there shame in the first place? On social media and in life we celebrate with each other and when something really bad happens we mourn with each other. We can laugh with each other. So, why is it only a brave few who seek a pick me up if they need it?

                        I am not one of the brave few.

A friend of mine recently posted to Facebook that she wasn’t feeling strong. The tone of her post was almost apologetic. She was apologizing for feeling a few moments of insecurity, but she was brave enough to put it out there.

I have, like my friend, felt at times that because of who people see me to be I can’t be who I am. People see a person who is strong and organized and on top of things. Some may even look up to me and by showing something different, maybe I would hurt them in some way. I have to wonder if this is one reason why there is shame in self-care.

If this is true, it’s a flawed logic and it doesn’t give enough credit to people. My friend who posted that she wasn’t feeling strong received a flood of comments filled with love and care. By opening up, she allowed others the opportunity to serve and support her.

This give and take is what true friendship looks like. So, how on earth can we create spaces on the internet and in life where this kind of friendship is normalized? The solution is that we have to normalize needing and seeking help. That was my big take away from the TED talk. Mental health is a subject that I have seen cause unease in many people. The idea of making this issue smaller seems to be what the TED talk was getting at. If we can remove the shame from self-care, normalize seeking help, and create space for people to not be ok, maybe mental health wouldn’t seem so scary.

After all when a friend is feeling down, helping them is usually not about addressing a mental health crisis or having to know exactly the right words to say. Generally it’s just about creating spaces for people to be open and honest about where they truly are. Rather than forcing the idea that we’re all “fine.”

I’ve started in the smallest ways trying to create this space for people in my life to be not ok. When I have a meeting and someone pauses before they say they’re fine, I make a joke. “What good liars we are.” I say. It’s not a huge step, but it is a start. If as a society we could just start creating little spaces for people to be honest about where they are, even if that’s not in a good place, things might change.

Maybe then, saying you don’t feel strong today could be received similarly to saying you’re having a great day. Because waiting until a person is in crisis is not the best way to go about things.

Most people I know have mastered feeling horrible and continuing to function. Sadly the working world and commitments of life don’t truly care about feelings. The dog still has to get walked, the clothes have to get cleaned, and for most people if you want to keep your job you have to be in by 8am. So generally with my close friends if they say they are not ok my first response is not panic, but just a simple commitment to listen and support in whatever way I can.

If it became possible to normalize being not ok, I wonder how many emotional barriers and walls would come down. How would it change how we viewed our mentors and heroes?

Ultimately I believe this to be important because I think in the long run it could save relationships and lives. If in every workplace, organization and relationship there was space for people to not be ok, when a true moment of emotional crisis happened it wouldn’t be a shock. And leaders would know that they didn’t have to “keep it all together” for appearances. They would know they could lean on their teams and families for support because they had practiced many times before the crisis happened.

Because no matter what, the crisis will happen. Eventually there will be a death in the family or an illness or a car crash or a bad breakup.  Something will happen that isn’t a regular “I am not ok” moment. But by then not only will the person experiencing the low or sad or angry moment have practice in expressing what they need, so will their community. With practice people get better.

And why wouldn’t we as a society want to commit to getting better at supporting one another when we need each other most?