tips, round 5

Two more weeks have passed since the last compilation. Here we go.

June 15, 2020

Lift your beautiful heart. That’s the phrase the yoga teacher I love uses when she directs listeners to go into cobra. That’s a pose where you lay tummy down and peel your chest off the ground, curling upward. It’s a soft backbend. Your hands are positioned near your shoulders, and the temptation is to push yourself up rather than lift your heart. Lifting your heart creates a very different sensation than pushing yourself back into the pose. It becomes gentler; there’s less strain on the spine. By lifting the heart, you attend to where it is as you stretch. During Mass, we pray something similar during the eucharistic prayer. The priest tells us to “Lift our hearts,” and we respond, “We lift them up to the Lord.” I’m not sure I’ve really thought much about these words. They’re at the beginning of the eucharistic prayer. This little dialogue between priest and congregation is moving us from Liturgy of the Word to Liturgy of the Eucharist. The table has been set, and now we get ready for offering and communing. There are some who say that yoga and Christianity cannot coexist. The more I practice both, the more firmly I believe this separation is nonsensical. Matthew Fox has written that there is one river but many wells. In other words, there is one God, but there are many ways to understand, pray to, and reach toward that God. It takes great bravery to lift your heart to God. We often stand in positions of supplication. We bow our heads for blessing. We kneel or genuflect in front of the Eucharist. At times, we prostrate before holiness. There is, indeed, a natural inclination to take a position of humility when confronted with the divine. But we are also called to lift those beautiful hearts of ours and stand firmly within the divine presence, to let it surround us, to be awed by our participation in the divine. Yes, let us lift these beautiful hearts.

June 17, 2020

Acknowledge when you aren’t at your best. If only to yourself. I’m snarky today. We slept poorly at our house. The nightly—why do they have to be nightly?—fireworks are taking a toll on Buddy, which means he’s on edge for a good portion of the night, which means he scratches at the walls or furniture, which means sleep is disturbed. It’s fun. See: snarky. I find that these are the days I want to lash out at everyone. I’ve already been a smart ass to one person on Facebook. I could be to a few others. I’m not proud of it. So, starting now, I’m noting my unwillingness to put up with crud, backing away because it does no one any good for me to be bitchy, and keeping myself to myself. Maybe I’ll listen to some Alanis or Sinead later. Maybe I’ll take a nap. Definitely I’ll focus on work that needs doing, because it’s always nice to accomplish something. Later today or tomorrow, I’ll be a better me. But for now, I’ll just sit in my corner so as not to light the world on fire. Though, maybe that wouldn’t be so bad . . .

June 18, 2020

Stay where you are or . . . I know. You’re probably tired of hearing my yoga talk. But, well, it’s how I start my mornings now, so it tends to settle into my head and heart. One of the things that Clara says when moving through different poses is: “Stay where you are or lift up your back leg.” Or: “Stay where you are or spread your wings.” Or: “Stay where you are or do this other crazy thing.” In other words, she provides modifications. She invites the practicer to honor their body by staying put or going deeper. Some days, I can go deeper. Some days, I need to stay put. As I build strength, I notice myself being more and more willing to step into that “or” space. When I began this daily practice weeks ago, I didn’t even consider the “or.” I marveled at it. I was in awe that anyone would or could go deeper. Globally, we are being called into an “or” space now. Multiple “or” spaces. Once the history books get written about this time, I don’t think we’ll be able to separate the pandemic from the protests from the political. All of this has been tied together, and people with more intelligence and better articulation than I will explain how. But I sense it: Trump has unleashed great political unrest. And without the pandemic, I don’t know that we as a society would have had the room to think about how very unbalanced we have been; the economic and racial disparities have been on stark display. And then the murder of Floyd and continuing murders of black men and women gave us very concrete views of what this unbalanced way of being has made us. We are not okay with it. We can stay where we are—or we can change this. We can go deeper into this imbalance and right it. We can wobble our way through, building strength and integrity. Some of us might need to take a little longer to get to the “or.” Clearly. But perhaps if enough of us step into the “or” space, if enough of us go a little deeper, stretch a little longer, become braver and more aware, we’ll show those who are hesitant that it’s possible to move differently. Stay where you are or . . .

June 19, 2020

Acknowledge the good. Today we celebrate Juneteenth, the end of slavery. If we’ve learned anything in recent weeks (if not years), it’s that slavery as an institution may have come to an end, but white people have devised creative and cruel ways to keep black people bound. When it comes to keeping the status quo afloat, we’re rather imaginative. What would happen if we turned that imagination toward achieving freedom, equality, acceptance, and peace? We might actually achieve it. I digress a bit. These weeks have been heavy ones. They should be. The list of men and women who should still be alive is long. We need to confront and mourn that loss. But today, honor the good. I am astounded by the changes that are occurring. Companies are coming out strongly against racism and are making commitments to be better and do better. Sure, they’re motivated by money and they’ve taken their sweet time making this statement, but I also think they’re seeing what role they play in shaping cultural conversations. This is a big deal. White people, like myself, who have considered themselves nonracist and therefore good to go, are evaluating how maybe that’s not enough. Maybe we need to take it a step further and be antiracist. It’s long past time to speak out when friends or family members make racist comments. It’s long past time to take our business away from companies that don’t support people of color. It’s long past time to vote out people who enable modern-day enslavement. The status quo is changing. How many times can we say that in our lives? Slavery ended. We have work to do. We have people and companies to hold accountable. But today, let’s consider what good has occurred and is occurring. Not to forget or ignore the work yet to do, but to gain strength to keep fighting, keep hoping, keep going.

June 22, 2020

Honor who they were. I have culled my friends list a fair bit since 2015. In recent years, I haven’t hesitated to hit that unfriend button if someone displays racist, misogynistic, xenophobic, homophobic, or hateful tendencies. Yes, my Facebook is an echo chamber. I’m okay with that. There are other, more fruitful ways to get outside my bubble. But here’s the deal: I’ve unfriended people I was quite close to at one time. They have shown me who they are, though, and I am okay with letting that go. There can be sadness in this process. We can feel betrayed, let down, disappointed, astounded. These people we thought we knew are not what we expected. We might not be to them who they expected either. This shifting is uncomfortable, and it unleashes a grieving. As I let people go, I find it helpful to keep in mind some words of my mother: “They have a little light of Christ in them too.” She often says this as Southerners say, “Bless her heart.” Occasionally she acknowledges that it might be a very dim light. But this little saying of hers has been with me a very long time. And I find it a very grounding reminder. All of us have that little light of Christ—even the people I most struggle to love, tolerate, or understand. People come into our lives at various times. Some stay forever; others drift in and out; still others are bright flames that, for whatever reason, sputter and go out for us. There are people I miss. But I can honor who they were at that time. We needed each other then; we might not need each other now. I trust that somewhere that little light of Christ is shining in them, and maybe it’ll flare up to enlighten toward love.

June 23, 2020

Let’s talk medication. I had been thinking about addressing this topic, but then George Floyd changed the world, and we all had other things to discuss. We still do. But in the midst of it, mental health exists. I’m not here to say whether you should or should not take medication for anxiety or depression. But I do want to say that, if you’re struggling, talk to your doctor about it. I present my experience, though, because we don’t talk much about what it’s like to decide medication is right. I do not have to take meds consistently. It seems like I can be off them for a year or two, and then things get a bit wonky. As I’ve learned to manage anxiety, I have gained a lot of tools to use before medication becomes necessary. When I notice myself getting anxious, I pay attention to what’s around me, what I’m thinking about, where in the year we are, and how I’m treating my brain and body. I talk to Patrick, my mom, some friends. I let people know there’s some unsettled-ness. I have developed a two-week rule: if I have several anxious spells, I become more intentional about meditating, walking, eating better, watching my sleep, and drinking water. I tell myself that if the anxiety persists for two weeks, then I need to talk to the doctor. Usually, within a day or two, things start to right themselves. I keep doing the good things, and generally it works. The two-week rule gives me breathing room. This year, in February, I knew it wasn’t working. Having been through this cycle a few times, I knew medication needed to be seriously considered again. And I resisted it. Because, despite knowing it helps, despite not judging other people for their need for medication, I can judge myself. Every single time I’ve gone on medication, I’ve felt weak and incapable. It is not a pleasant place to be. It is, perhaps, partly necessary. Because it helps me acknowledge the need for assistance, compassion, and gentleness. And it gives me a certain respect for the challenges everyone faces with their mental health. Mine is, to be quite honest, mild in comparison to many others out there. I have a medication that works. It’s a very low dose. I have not had to tweak it. The side effects I experience are generally sweaty hands, some intestinal discomfort, and fear that maybe this time it won’t work; these last for only a few days. Then the medication does indeed do its work, and I know I’m on the upswing. I am very fortunate. But every single time I have to fight it. Coming to terms with weakness is hard. And I don’t mean weakness as a negative or pejorative here. I mean it as an inability to do it all on our own. I mean weakness as that thing that forces us to reach out our hands and ask for someone to help us stand. We can’t do it all on our own. We do need help, and sometimes that help comes in the form of a little pill that rights our chemistry. Sometimes it’s walking in nature, or doing yoga, or just talking to other people. Sometimes it’s a cup of tea and a good night of sleep. There is no shame in doing what makes one healthy, and acknowledging that we feel shame can be the first step in moving it aside and getting on with the work of being well. Again, I share this to shed light on the process of medicating, not to say you should do all the meds or self-medicate. It is a process, and it takes work to figure out what’s best. Do the work.

June 24, 2020

Expect better. I’ve noticed a pattern in my thinking. The yoga I’m doing through this month is part of a challenge, 30 Opportunities for Yoga. Clara has curated the classes for the month, and all of them are available to see. Sometimes, if the class for the next day is one I’ve not done before, I’ll play the video and fast forward so I can see what to expect. Today’s class had some interesting boat pose playfulness in it, and as I glanced at the video last night in preparation for this morning, I thought, “Oh, hell no. I’m not going to be able to do that.” But this morning I got on the mat anyway. And guess what. I did it. Not perfectly. Not beautifully. But done. It happened. I know myself to be certain things, but the older I get, the more I wonder what I don’t know about myself. There is something to be said for “knowing yourself.” But there is also something to be said for “exploring yourself.” Who are you today? What is more, better, different than you anticipated? How have you shifted? Do you think you’re capable of only so much but realize you can, indeed, do more? We get into patterns of thinking that can be helpful but sometimes aren’t. The next time I see a class that intimidates me, I’m going to try to think in terms of capability, excitement, and play. I’m going to expect better of myself.

June 25, 2020

Be awed. Two years ago today, according to those handy FB memories, I stole a question from Muggsy: What historical moment(s) in your life filled you with awe? I suspect that I will forever be awed by 2020. Early in the year, we were adjusting to having an impeached president; then the pandemic hit; then people started protesting the murders of black men, women, and children; then the pandemic continued. We are witnessing history. Daily. It’s not always fun or pleasant or comfortable. But we are being moved from one way of being to another. The processing of this time will take a while to unpack. We’ve been confronted with our own mortality, that of those we love, blatant injustice, the very real consequences of climate change, and the apparently never-ending cesspool of hatred that exists in the world. But we also get to unpack what it’s like to stop everything, if only briefly, to attend to the weakest among us; the voices of all kinds of people shouting “I can’t breathe” and “Justice for [insert murdered black person’s name here]”; the clearer skies that resulted from fewer cars on the road; the different ways of understanding work as some folks adjusted to being home instead of at the office; and conversions or awakenings of heart as society said no to wallowing in that cesspool of hate. These events will continue to unfold for a long time. We can either be cynical and assume things will go back to the way they were or be in awe at the new creation becoming visible. And perhaps if we’re in that cynical space, we can have the grace to stand aside and let the awe-filled folks do the work of changing this world.

June 26, 2020

Be human. Have you noticed how often digressions, sinfulness, and bad behavior are excused with “We’re only human after all”? This is one of my least favorite sayings. It’s true; we are human. But being human doesn’t mean we can get away with being the least of ourselves. The Genesis creation myth, the story where God creates light and dark, sea and sky, earth and animals, the story where we begin—in this story, we are created in the “image and likeness” of God. Yes, we fall. Yes, we fail. But this image and likeness was never wiped away. The shine may have worn off a little when Adam and Eve bit into that apple, but they were still God’s creation. We are still God’s creation. We do ugly things. We eat metaphorical apples daily. But when we look in the mirror, that there is still the image and likeness of God. It can be hard to see this image and likeness in ourselves, much less in others. But in these days, when it’s tempting to see the worst in others, look for the divine. Look for that “little light of Christ.” Do not let yourself off the hook because you are human. Indeed, you are—but you are human in the divine image. Stand in that space for a bit because it’s revolutionary.

tips, round 4

When I started this in March, I didn’t realize it would just keep going. But here we are. Round 4.

May 25, 2020

Use supports. Years ago, when I first started doing yoga, I never used blocks or supports unless the teacher specified to use them. I was tough and could handle the poses without blocks. Blocks were for wimps! I suspect this made practicing harder than it needed to be. It’s taken me a while to learn just how essential these supports are in yoga practice. They are not signs of weakness. They are signs of knowing yourself. And sometimes using them makes you feel a pose differently than you would without. The blocks create something new. They give you a little more room to move your body where you want it to go. Ten years ago today my uncle Shaun took his own life. As this anniversary has approached, I’ve been amazed by how big it feels. Some years are like that. I haven’t felt oppressed by this anniversary, which can happen, but I’ve felt a sense of wonder at it. Anniversaries are days to honor the person who died, but they are also days to honor who we were and who we’ve become. I’m thinking about that more this year than I have before. Who was I before that phone call? Where was I headed? Who have I become, and do I like her? Who am I becoming? It feels a little selfish to be asking these questions rather than thinking solely about Shaun, his wife, his kids, his siblings, his parents. Shaun’s death was a shockwave through our family. It tore apart some things and knit others together. This year, I’m looking at where I am in the midst of it all. I keep circling back to this idea of support. I have grown into a different person because of this particular grief. It created something new. It is still creating. I am grateful for the grace of a network of love. Instead of powering through, I am learning to soften into. Sometimes I can stand on my own two feet and feel the strength that has built over these ten years; sometimes I lean on something or someone and feel that strength differently. No, I am not who I was or who I will be, but I have become someone new because of this grieving. And I love her.

May 26, 2020

Default to care. I don’t like masks. They make me nervous when I see people wearing them, and I don’t like how it feels to breathe through one. (And, no, I’m not worried about poisoning myself with carbon dioxide. I’ve just never liked things covering my face.) But right now, I wear a mask because it’s the caring thing to do. It gives the perception of awareness and kindness. Anxiety makes you turn in on yourself: everything becomes about how you can be safe and stable. As a world, we have come to be very protective: of ourselves, of our loved ones, of our livings. We have, in some ways, been living through a months-long panic attack. As idiotic as I think the protestors of restrictions are, they too are acting out of fear. When I remember that, I can feel compassion for them—even as I roll my eyes at their stupidity.* There have been great examples of selflessness, of course, but caution and wariness abound in the midst of it. As we move toward more interaction, I hope that we remember that care should be our baseline in any interaction. If that means I have to put on a mask, even though I might hate it, so be it. It’s how I care for those around me.

*Please note: These were the protestors wanting haircuts and open bars, not protestors responding to George Floyd’s death. A lot has happened in three weeks.

May 27, 2020

There is always a new day. Getting through birthdays or death anniversaries of loved ones can be really hard. Some years it can be a total slog to wake up and go through a day that marks something you’d rather not remember. But what gives me comfort is that there’s another day after what might be a crappy one. There’s a February 17, March 8, May 16, 21, 26. No matter how stuck you might feel in a given day, it moves along, as time always does, and becomes a new day. When my anxiety was really bad, before I had the tools to manage it, a whole day could be given over to anxious thoughts and feelings. I’d give up on trying to make it not anxious. Now, it’s very rare for that to happen. I might have an anxious hour or five minutes, but it doesn’t often derail the day. But when it was that bad, I relied on that “new day” concept through the anxious fits too. I’d get to the night, have some tea, try to put down the phone, read a book or listen to something soothing, and get to sleep. Healing work happens in sleep. The world restores at night. We wake up fresh. The earth does too. A new day always comes. Always.

May 28, 2020

Slow it down. There is a lot of rightful rage out there these days. From the mask/no-mask controversies to the wrongful killings of black men. From 100,000 Americans dead from a pandemic that could have been mitigated to whatever norms Trump decides to violate today. So much is outrageous. So much demands response or action or thought. It’s exhausting. I’m tired of having to be angry. I’m tired of lamenting. I’m tired of having to process hatred and injustice. I’m tired of having to explain why these modern-day lynchings and caging children are wrong. The reasons should be self-evident. The reasons are self-evident. We are moving from one outrage to another very quickly right now. It takes a toll. So if you feel a bit worn out, slow it down. Adjust the way you take it in. I know I’m saying this from a privileged position. I have the luxury of turning off FB or avoiding news sites. I’m not being deprived of my breath or showered with tear gas. I am safe at home, comfortably able to limit my intake. But I know this too: by turning away, I can more strongly turn toward. By backing off, I can more deeply enter into. So many have been deprived of the gift of breathing. We cannot take it for granted. We need to catch our breath, take it in deeply, allow it to refresh and restore. Then we can roar it out with power, steadiness, determination. Then we can demand with full voice that justice be granted.

May 29, 2020

Stand up. I had horrible posture growing up. It’s not stellar now, but I try. I remember Uncle Shaun giving Aunt Shannon a hard time about standing up straight; she turned that around on me. Standing is instinctive. We assume that it just happens: babies pull themselves up and, voila! Standing! But I had to be taught to stand as I grew up. Not explicitly. I learned it through Barb, who chiropracted my back and hips into a more normal position. I learned it through a yoga class that focused on feet and how they ground and steady us. I’ve learned how defiant standing can be when you’ve been knocked down by grief and anxiety. The Twin Cities are burning. There is pain and fear everywhere. The man who lives in the White House is inciting violence. Some people are more worked up about looting and rioting than about a man who cried for breath and was denied it. I want to curl up in a ball and let it all happen elsewhere, let myself forget that it’s happening an hour away from me. But I can’t. We are called to unfurl into this crisis. We are being called to stand up in the midst of the ugliness, fear, lament, passion, cries for justice and be present to it. We—white people—have to stand in this. We’ve been stepping away from it for far too long. I don’t know how best to be an ally. I’m learning another lesson in standing right now: how to stand with. Together, we are being called to square our shoulders against hatred, injustice, and racism. I wish we didn’t have to. I wish we lived in a world where this wasn’t an issue. But it is—and my friends of color have known that their whole lives. It’s about damn time I join their laments and cries and demands for justice. It’s about damn time I stand up with them.

May 31, 2020, Pentecost Sunday

“I can’t breathe.” —George Floyd
“Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.'”—John 20:21-22
Pentecost: The day the Church moved from an upper room, with locked doors and fear, to the streets, proclaiming in all the languages the works of God. Pentecost: The day we were set on fire. Pentecost: The day breath became more than simply the in-and-out of life. It became participation in the movement of God. Pentecost is rupture. It’s before and after. It’s courage in the midst of fear. It’s moving forward into a hurting, uncomfortable world and bringing the balm of love. George Floyd breathed his last a week ago, and in so doing, he moved us. He has broken us open. He has lit us on fire, the kind that ravages and then restores. George Floyd has unleashed the Holy Spirit anew. Are we attending to where it is calling us?

June 1, 2020

Listen. The Rule of Benedict opens with these words: “Listen with the ear of your heart.” I am a writer. I process through words. There is much to process right now. Sometimes it’s hard to still myself and listen because I want to respond to what I’m hearing. Not to shut down but to gnaw on and digest. That’s what words allow me to do. My mother does this through her photographs. Musicians do this through their instruments. I chew on words. We are hearing many things, and as a white woman, I am being called to listen. (Yes, I recognize the irony of writing about listening…putting my words out there while advocating that I shut my mouth for a bit.) In the gospels, Jesus says, “Those who have ears ought to hear.” We have ears. We ought to be hearing. We might not like what we hear; it might be uncomfortable. Maybe it’s calling us to conversion. Maybe it’s calling us to see our complicity in injustice, be it subtle or overt. We are being called to listen to black people right now. They are crying out to us. There is need for action, for doing, for fixing. But there is great need for listening and holding. In grief and anxiety, one of the best things you can do is speak your pain. Just get the words or cry of anguish out there. One of the greatest things someone accompanying a grieving person can do is just hear the words or cry. The lament needs to be released. It is not easy to hear that emotion, to let it wash over you, to sit still in that pain. But that is precisely where we are called to be right now. The ears of our heart will be pierced by this cry. Let us listen to it.

June 2, 2020

Move your body. Yes, we’ve been over this before. But I think we should address it again. There’s new stress settling in us. I’ve seen friends posting about nonstop news watching and/or not sleeping. These are recipes for disaster. So for five minutes today, at least, turn off the television or radio. Close the laptop. Turn your phone screen-side down. And move your body. In the yoga class I did today, the teacher started by having us shake our hands, then arms, one foot and leg, then the other, then the whole body. It was silly and refreshing and warming and soothing. It loosened stuff up and has allowed me to feel freer so far today. Grief, fear, stress—these calcify, paralyze, tense. We can’t get rid of it all, but we can sure move it around a bit. So shake your body. Or turn on your favorite song and dance. Yeah, like nobody’s watching. But if they are, who cares? Ask them to join you. Flail those arms. Move those hips. Let some joy settle in you along with all the other stuff. It’ll help.

June 3, 2020

Embrace silence. I don’t really have words today. I’m that bundle of fine and edgy, grounded and wobbly, that I think most people are these days. So today, rather than a long-winded tip, I invite you to sit in silence for a bit. Ponder George Floyd and all that has been happening. Ponder those you love and haven’t hugged lately. Ponder where we’ve been and where we can go. Ponder love and action.

June 4, 2020

What if 2020 isn’t cancelled? What if 2020 is the year we’ve been waiting for? A year so uncomfortable, so painful, so scary, so raw—that it finally forces us to grow. A year that screams so loud, finally awakening us from our ignorant slumber. A year we finally accept the need for change. Declare change. Work for change. Become the change. A year we finally band together, instead of pushing each other further apart. 2020 isn’t cancelled, but rather the most important year of them all.

—Leslie Dwight

Do not wish this year away. Yes, it’s been a difficult one. Yes, there are challenges ahead. Yes, bits of it suck a lot. But we are doing hard work here. We are being called to hard work. Sometimes we might need to lay down and let the world pass us by. Sometimes time just needs to keep going while we rest a bit. But we also have to step into this rushing stream and swim like mad. There is grace here too. It isn’t pretty, flowy, soft grace. It is gritty, edgy, hard grace. It’s a little black girl being held on a man’s shoulders saying, “Daddy changed the world,” with the biggest most brilliant smile you’ve ever seen. This girl whose dad was murdered last week has hope. She’s pointing the way while the adults argue about protesting versus rioting versus looting. She knows what matters. Her dad made this world different. It breaks my heart and makes it stronger all at the same time. We have got to step into the sacred space of this hard time. If we walk around it yet again, God have mercy.

June 5, 2020

Consider nonviolence. Wrestle with it. This is not a plea to protestors to play nice. It’s not an attempt to shut down the raw and justified emotions that occur when we see videos of black people, journalists, or protestors harmed by police. It is, however, a request that each of us consider where violence resides in ourselves. I hope to be a nonviolent person. But we live in a violent culture: Our police have become more and more brutal. Guns are everywhere and glorified. Television shows and movies are gritty and dark. Our nation has been at war for almost twenty years. Nuclear weapons tests are being discussed as possible again. How can we help but have this violence seep into ourselves? And how do we resist it when it does? Nonviolence isn’t a commitment we make once and be done with. It’s something we need to consider again and again. And I can make this commitment pretty easily as I sit here at my nice desk writing on Facebook. I’m not getting shot at with rubber or real bullets or tear gassed. My breath isn’t being forced from me. I am not threatened. Maybe I would respond in violence or self-protection in those situations. Maybe I would escalate rather than deescalate. But here, in this safe world, am I choosing nonviolence? We hold up Gandhi and MLK as heroes of nonviolence, as we should. But they worked hard at that calling. If we want to be nonviolent people, we need to work at this too. Again, not because I want everyone to just love each other so the hate melts away. It’s not that easy. But if I look at the violence in myself, if I reckon with the ways in which I bring harm to others—not necessarily physical, but emotional or mental—maybe I can work that violence out of myself. I can’t demand or expect nonviolence of others without working on it myself. No, I don’t think violence is ever the answer, but I need to start looking at where I harbor it despite this belief. Then I need to let go of that violence if I truly want to be a nonviolent person. Over and over again.

June 8, 2020

Do not apologize for boundaries you are creating. For the past few years, we’ve been walking tightropes. If you own a business or are a public figure, you might have kept quieter than you wanted about political situations. If you live in an area where most people don’t share your beliefs, you might have become very quiet. If you fear for your job if you speak out on any issues, you have gotten very good at disguise. If you’ve learned that your friends support things you find abhorrent or horrifying, the ground has shifted under you as you navigate these relationships and figure out who you are and who they are. Tightropes. Balancing. Dare I say: equivocating. I gave up on this when children were put in cages. I have no patience for people who are okay with this. Family, friends, acquaintances, businesses? They don’t get my support for that. They don’t get my time or attention either. We are experiencing another boundary-setting event. People are telling us who they are, and we get to choose if we let them in our lives or support them with our money. The flip side is also true: we are discovering who we are, and we are proclaiming it. Relationships may shift or change or disappear as a result. New ones will take root. In a moral theology class I took in graduate school, the professor said on the first day of class, “We’re all fundamentalists about something.” It was a revelatory statement. My fundamentalist issue has long been gun control. But I’m discovering that I’ve got a fundamentalist streak when it comes to believing that the people crying out for breath or an uncaged existence deserve to be heard. I refuse to apologize for that.

June 9, 2020

Life changes. Today is George Floyd’s funeral. That has me thinking about some words from the Catholic funeral liturgy: “Life has changed, not ended.” I believe there is an afterlife. I know nothing about it and think speculation about the afterlife is kind of silly. But I think it exists, and someday, I hope to be embraced by God in heaven, to be met with my dad and uncles and friends and pets. Someday. But these words, “Life has changed, not ended,” they’re interesting ones. And I’m going to totally take them out of context here. We have been handed a lot of changes this year. It seems like someone just upended the table and let everything fall to the ground. We’re picking up all the pieces. From pandemic to protest, from political disappointments to political hopes—constant change. This isn’t necessarily new, but it feels accelerated this year. It’s tempting to believe that life as we know it has ended. But it hasn’t. It’s changing. Those are two very different concepts. The pandemic has called us to view our relationships with others differently: with more tenderness, awareness, care. The murders of black men, women, and children and the resulting protests have called us to view our relationships with systems and assumed prejudices differently: with more skepticism, resistance, and outrage. We are changing. Benedictines make three promises, instead of taking vows, when they become monks and sisters. They promise stability, obedience, and conversion to the monastic way of life. Benedict was pretty smart: monastic life, communal life, isn’t easy. It requires a commitment day after day after day. You aren’t converted to it once; you are converted to it daily. You grow into the monastic way of life; it changes you. Many of us are being called to conversion this year. We’re changing how we think about our health and its connection to all those around us. We’re changing how we think of protest and rights and policing. We’re changing how we think of breath. The old ways of being are changing into new ways. Parts of the process may be scary; some of it we might want to avoid. It’s much easier to think I’ve been an ally all my life, but when I see that someone I know has been silencing herself since she can remember, which includes the time I spent with her almost daily, then my allyship needs changing. I may or may not have directly shushed her, but I participated in systems that did. This life needs changing. I hope there are endings in the midst of it: an end to selfishness, greed, prejudice, racism, hatred. That would be nice. But for those to end, there must be change, conversion to new ways of being: selflessness, gratitude, accompaniment, amplification, yes, love. I pray that my life does indeed change.

June 11, 2020

Tip for two days: Behold the new. We are witnessing some incredible moments this year. As the days unfold, more and more of what we have known is being dismantled. There have been protests throughout my life. I remember the LA riots vaguely. I remember protests about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. I watched the Women’s March in awe. I cried when I watched the March for Our Lives. This time feels very different. Perhaps it’s the unleashing of pent-up energy. Perhaps it’s years of injustice finally, finally being named and recognized—and heard. Perhaps it’s a bunch of people looking at that injustice and recognizing our own participation in it. Somehow, we seem ready to confront this. Statues are being torn down. Windows have been smashed. Great cries of lament and rage are being released. But all of this is creating space for something new. Look at those boarded windows: they have art on them. I know that the protests were peaceful overall and that crappy people were the majority of troublemakers burning, looting, and breaking. But within that destruction, beauty has taken root. Light is being shed on the ugliness of racism. I’d love to think we didn’t need this illumination, but apparently we did. So now we uproot it. This is a dismantling, destruction, deconstruction. Every so often, fields get burned so they become more fruitful. We are witnessing a burning time. It’s intimidating: fires can burn out of control. Flames leap and dance and envelop. The heat overwhelms. But we need this. We need this scorching. We need to be turned to ash, to have our essence changed. From this, our societies will grow into something new. I have great hope for what we are becoming.

June 12, 2020

Ponder stability. Apparently I’m feeling rather Benedictine this week, so let’s look at another promise, that of stability. Benedictines are committed to one particular monastery. They don’t move around a lot; their ministry might be outside the community, but their home base stays the same. That community is where they return for holidays or prayer or retirement. It’s where they profess and where they are buried. The particular community provides stability, consistency, support. This is a very concrete understanding of stability. But Benedictines also talk about stability of heart. This is a stability of knowing where you are grounded, where you stand. Over the past few years, as Trump campaigned and took office, it became very clear that he and his supporters/enablers wanted to sow chaos. Their goal is knocking us off center. If we’re not stable, then we can’t pay attention to the dismantling of human rights, the tanking of the economy, the illegal activity, the moral depravity. It takes stability of heart to remain balanced and strong. We might wobble as we adjust to the new and innovative ways chaos is sown, but wobbles don’t have to be dangerous. They might be scary, but they are also a signal that we’re trying, we’re working, we’re straining. This stability of heart is essential as we move through these days. It allows me to recognize that as black people cry out for their lives, I am called to cry with them. It allows me to continue calling, over and over again, for the unlocking of cages to free detained children. By refusing to give in to the distractions and chaos, we stand tall with those in need of allies. We can see where we’re needed and go there. In a time of swirling distraction and chaos, planting your feet in a spot and knowing where your heart resides is a radical act.