Sunday, July 10, 2016

Stripped naked

I'm not sure who I am right now. Or who we are, collectively.

What if you scream and nobody hears? 
Yesterday, I dropped Forrest off at the airport, where he caught a plane to Singapore to meet a ship for an as-yet undetermined amount of time. He'll see ports in China, Korea, Sri Lanka and Pakistan. So that's one thing. He's my rock, my partner, my confidant, my playmate, my buddy. The good news is he's working. The bad news is he's away for a long period to do it. He's been home for over a year and right now, I feel like part of me is missing. This, too, will pass, but right now it's a void and I don't know which way is up. This is his career choice, we have shared goals, we've done this before, and I know I'll find my groove, but this is the first time he's left when I haven't had a place to go each weekday.

...feeling vulnerable

This morning, when I signed in to Washington Unemployment to make my weekly claim, I saw I missed last week with the newness of Forrest's pending departure, and I'll have to re-open my claim. Going to that site every week is hard enough; while I am grateful for benefits, anxiety takes hold each time I sign on. Re-opening my claim, with the possibility of having to contact them, raises that anxiety up a notch or three. And, those benefits? They don't last long in the big scheme of things, and I'm getting closer to my cut-off date, with not many job prospects. To say I'm a little uncomfortable might be an understatement. I have savings, but I'd rather not tap into them, a little bit of debt from both of us not working for a while, and frankly, I don't want to settle for just any job.

I'm not sure where I fit. I've never been your average corporate ladder-climber. Yet I have paid my dues in non-profit and I'm not sure that's where I want to be right now. I have laid the groundwork for good work: I have multiple resumes, tailored for companies, industries and job type, a cover letter that lands me interviews, solid references and people who say great things about me and my work, had coffee meetings and lunches, reached out by way of LinkedIn to people I know and countless people I don't but who do interesting work, attended networking and association meetings, sat with the unknown for internal guidance (not sure how this is working for me), and applied for jobs online.

That's a coupl'a things.

Then there's the rest of the world. It feels like it's falling apart. Do things have to fall apart to get better? There are schools of thought that say so.

...and yet, privilege... 

This morning, while scrolling through Facebook on the micro-screen of my phone, I read a post by our former county executive (a long-time elected official) and high-ranking national HUD representative, about what it means to be black, even here.

Despite my personal quandaries, I know I benefit from privilege, purely by luck of the draw. I am white, was born in a largely white city, live in a somewhat middle-class neighborhood, in the mostly progressive bubble of Cascadia. His post reminded me how vastly different my experience is. I have worked with people of varying ethnicities, many who are first generation immigrants from different countries, and I have befriended people who are culturally and racially different from me my entire life. So while I hear their stories, I am always astounded. If life sometimes feels hard for me, I can't imagine what it must be like to leave home every day wondering what fate -- or our failed processes and systems -- may have in store for you. Most white people don't understand privilege (some even deny it), or how they benefit. I'm not sure I do, either, because I can't walk in the shoes of those whose experience is so different -- but I do know it exists, and I understand that I benefit and it's not even a choice. I know I can say things like, "I don't want to settle for just any job" when so many don't have that option.

...still, there's bias... 

And, I am a woman. A blog post in my in-box this morning brought the recent Stanford rape case back to the foreground. The swimmer who got his hand slapped after being convicted makes me gag. I keep hoping things will change. There is so much more awareness now, and women are speaking out and banding together like never before against rape, assault, misogyny, and more, free to own their sexuality in ways I couldn't as a teen and young adult, and yet, this. Patriarchal culture is still alive and well.

Feeling small, but hopeful. 
I don't have answers. Our former police chief, Norm Stamper, has a new book that speaks to possibilities (read about it in this Crosscut article). Empathy and compassion are essential to changing who we are, individually and collectively. But do we have the will, the desire, to change? The willingness to own our fear? To acknowledge our perceptions might be wrong? To forfeit privilege and power? Even at work, at a micro-level, I witnessed how hard it was for people to let go of or even share privilege and power, to even acknowledge it exists. Brene Brown talks about 'hope' in Daring Greatly. I have hope. And I'm lucky to have that. Many don't.

But right now, I feel naked. Alone. Vulnerable. Unsure of next steps to help myself and to help the collective "us".  I want to be part of the solution. To make a difference for people and the planet. But I'm not sure what that is. How to bring more awareness and understanding to those who are afraid, feel powerless, when I feel afraid and powerless to even help myself some days. What I I know is I'm resilient, creative, and resourceful, and I'll find my way.

I just wish I had answers. For me, and for us.

In our differences we grow, in our sameness we connect.