A lot of us are learning more about our history in response to recent events, protests and having a little more time on our hands. I confess that before this year, I knew very little about Juneteenth. I am an introvert and I do not gravitate toward large events.
This year, because it has become abundantly clear that people who identify as Black or African American have never been truly free in this country. We swim in history that is informed by a philosophy of white body supremacy.
I found a virtual Juneteenth event in Saint Paul that was co-sponsored by the Saint Paul Library. On the home page (linked above) are some beautiful read-aloud videos from staff there, children’s stories that have wonderful lessons for adults. Check them out. They can be resources to help teach children about inclusion versus racism.
I will be tuning in this Friday. It is time to learn and grow, time to come together as human beings “alone together” on this tiny planet.
What does it take for a marriage to last 50 years?
I have asked a few people that, and what I usually hear is this:
Patience. Lots and lots of patience. Also, the ability to let go of the need to be right about everything.
I think it was Frida Kahlo’s father who told her that the secret to a good marriage is a short memory.
Ten years ago (in 2010) I met the man who would become my husband in 2017. He proposed in 2015. It took me many years of therapy, personal coaching, spiritual growth and a leap of faith for me to enter back into such a contract for a second time.
I read books like “All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation” by Rebecca Traister and “Committed: A Love Story” by Elizabeth Gilbert. The first time around, I had known I could get out of it. That marriage was borne of familial rebellion and personal stubbornness.
The second time around, I waited to be sure I could outlast my tendency to get bored and move on every 4-8 years. I already knew living with other people (anyone really) can be difficult for me. Solitude is precious. Personal space is one of my highest values. It’s why the era of COVID-19 has held blessings in disguise for me. I realized this reflects a lot of privilege. It also reflects the personal choice I made not to become a parent.
My parents love my sister and me fiercely and protectively. Their division of labor is not what I would choose, but it seems to work for them. They taught my sister and me that all people are worthy of respect. They contributed to their community in so many ways, especially to their students and neighbors. They focused their attention on us, our educations and our futures. We have never doubted their commitment to us. I am forever grateful for those gifts.
I find myself celebrating the past year for my birthday but feeling quieter and more reflective than in past years. When I read that George Floyd was also 46 years old I realized we shared an age, but are separated by a yawning gap of white body privilege. His life was cut short, and my life continues.
I spent the past week re-reading portions of “My Grandmother’s Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending Our Hearts and Bodies” by Resmaa Menakem. I downloaded the audio book so I could listen to it as well. Coincidentally, Krista Tippett had a conversation with Resmaa on her podcast On Being just before the pandemic, but it aired only within the last week. If you have not heard it, I recommend a listen.
There is also a simple body practice that is about 4-5 minutes that Krista released yesterday that I really love. It helps us engage the vagus nerve and the psoas muscle in a way that is calming. Resmaa describes how “bodies of culture” must orient when they feel in danger.
One of my loyal yoga practitioners (Jackie) told me last week that Resmaa’s book is sold out right now, since she had looked for it online. I find that wonderful and hopeful. Maybe we white folks are ready to grow up and out of our privilege in a way that can support “bodies of culture” (I love Resmaa’s terminology) to achieve their dreams as well.
We must do the work, and we must begin now, no matter how uncomfortable it may feel at first. One thing that yoga teaches us is that we can stay with discomfort, a moment longer, to hear what it has to say. I love it that we have the tools to do that. It is our practice off the mat, and it is why we can succeed in this effort.
As a white woman from a multi-cultural (Swedish Mexican) heritage, I have struggled with knowing what my role can or should be in this effort. I have to admit I don’t have a complete answer right now, except to highlight voices that may not otherwise be heard. I also hope to hold space for other “white bodies” that know we must be part of the solution here.
Resmaa recommends we do our own work, with each other, to educate and get over our “fragility” around race discussions. In my 46 years of life I have never worried about being killed by a police officer. My level of discomfort is a tiny sliver compared to a daily stress of someone who’s life has been cut short by a police officer. While police bodies also need to do their own work, we can and must begin in our own bodies.
I close this reflection by saying all of this begins in our bodies. We unwind our stories and social conditioning by exploring their origins, questioning the protective habits that our “primitive lizard” brains developed, and by learning better ways to sharing the bounty we all have. When all do better, all do better (a phrase Paul Wellstone used to use frequently).
P.S. Resmaa’s Cultural Somatics Institute offers a free 5-day e-course which summarizes the principles in his book. The videos are short and they are helpful. They will make you want to get the book.
It has been a challenging week, but I know that grief and sadness need to be processed, need to be felt in the body, in order to release them. I hope you are finding safe places to do that as well.
I know I was planning to start a series on clinical trials, and I intend to start that next week. But this week, I think it is more important to hear from people of color on their perspective, to highlight voices that are often unheard. I love the poignancy of this 3-minute Tyler Merritt YouTube video, so I encourage you to watch.
I am committed to help end racism and also to help us unwind the “traumas” that black bodies, white bodies and police bodies have suffered. This is why I practice yoga. This is why I dance. This is why I take time each day to breathe and pay attention to my emotions.
Sometimes the situation in our country can feel hopeless, like there are so many forces pushing against justice. And other times, like when one of my yoga students told me today that the book I recommended, My Grandmother’s Hands by Resma Menakem is actually sold out in all the places she tried to find it, I have great hope.
Here’s to learning more about each other, and teaching ourselves to love all, and extend justice to all.