It’s the little things, maybe

I’m not gonna mince words. This week has sucked in many, many ways. And it has proven horrific for some of our fellow Americans in yet another outburst of violence.

And honestly, I just couldn’t do a Fangirl Friday because it seemed banal, given the tenor of this week overall. And sometimes, I just don’t have it in me to talk about things that normally give me joy and help me escape.

So I’ve been sitting with the weight of this week, thinking about how those of us who are marginalized in whatever ways are being stripped of the small gains we’ve made over the past few decades. And I’ve been thinking about the historical expanse of this country, and how our past has been both light of liberty and bloodbath, and how we as a people continue to carry the cancer of systemic racism, xenophobia, nativism, and dangerous nationalism, that we haven’t faced it and dealt with it. Instead, we’ve fed it with fear-mongering masquerading as news, with rampant, empty, soulless commercialism, and hypocrisy that parades around in a flag and carries a Bible.

I’ve been thinking about all these things, and about how I’m so goddamn tired and so goddamn sad. I’ve spent most of my life working to make space at the table for myself, for my peers, younger people, and everybody else who didn’t have it. I’ve worked to try do my part to dismantle the institutions that were built on the backs, blood, and bones of the marginalized, and spent a lot of time putting myself into uncomfortable situations to learn and recognize my own biases, and to learn how to be a better ally to POC, people with disabilities, people unlike me who are marginalized in all kinds of ways.

And in spite of that, in spite of all the work, I feel like ultimately, I failed.

Because here we are.

Here we fucking are.

And I spent a lot of yesterday not knowing what the hell to do or how to help because everything is too much when it’s a constant drumbeat of godawful toxicity and vile, venal outbursts and violence.

It’s overwhelming when it’s everything.

So I did something that I’ve done many times in the past when I simply couldn’t grasp the enormity of everything. I noticed that someone I follow on Twitter had mentioned that they were having a hard time, dealing with some depression and anxiety, no doubt made worse by these times.

And I did something that I automatically do when I see a comment like that, because I know what it feels like to be in those spaces, because I, too, deal with chronic depression.

I reached out and offered a space to talk.

Most of the time, people don’t take me up on it, but they always appreciate that someone noticed, that someone checked in and offered. I’ve been in those dark places, and I make the offer because I’m good for it, and there have been a few times when I spent a few hours online with someone who just really needed to talk, who needed someone to listen.

I think, on top of everything else, that these times are also really lonely, because everybody’s in survival mode and running scared and tired and who the hell can you trust?

After I offered an empathetic ear yesterday, I felt a little calmer, a little more grounded. Maybe it was because it was one person and it’s a lot easier to focus on one thing at a time, on one person at a time, even in the midst of utter chaos.

And it made me think about all the other people throughout history who have worked to uplift rather than tear down, who have seen and experienced unimaginable brutality and violence and maintained their humanity; or dealt with the every day experience of living while a POC, and I remembered something Bishop Desmond Tutu said: “It means a great deal to those who are oppressed to know that they are not alone. Never let anyone tell you that what you are doing is insignificant.”

We ARE stronger together. Human rights activist and congresswoman Cynthia McKinney said that, too. She said, “We are way more powerful when we turn to each other and not on each other, when we celebrate our diversity…and together tear down the mighty walls of injustice.”

I thought about that, and about how I calmed down a little when I focused on one thing I COULD do in that moment of feeling at a loss — reaching out to one other person.

I’m a firm believer in building community where you are, in acts of kindness no matter how difficult it is, and in creative forms of resistance and incivility, often that involve art and humor. So in my attempt to re-ground myself in the midst of the shit, here are 5 things you can do in your own community that I find have helped ground me:

1. Reach out to friends and family and, hell, acquaintances. Plan something like a potluck or a dance party (I’m a huge fan of dance parties — especially if it’s like a block party or something). Or maybe a Taco Tuesday outing or something. Be creative. Things like this help build solidarity and break down barriers.

2. If you’re planning an event or protest, join forces with other organizations, like churches, civic groups, schools, clubs — whatever. And of course, please invite them to your dance and taco parties.

3. Use your talents in creative ways to help locally. Maybe you have some graphic design experience. How about designing logos for little league teams that don’t have much money? Or use those skills to help create cool, funny, biting protest signs or T-shirts? Are you good with social media? Offer to be a point of contact and coordinator for a local event/protest. Are you a caterer? Can you help prepare snacks for an organization meeting? Think creatively.

4. Check on the olds! Are there older people in your community who might feel isolated but would like to help? Reach out and see what kinds of abilities and talents they have. Plus, intergenerational organizing opens doors to all kinds of knowledge-sharing and community-building. And that means, Check on the youngs, too! Everybody can do something.

5. Help people register to vote and get to the polls. Volunteer as a poll worker or as a driver to make sure as many people as possible participate.

Also, read this article in The Guardian about creative ways to resist on the day-to-day (the hologram protest — that was freaking brilliant!).

It’s helped me to focus when I operate locally (and that’s within your online communities, too) and pick specific things I can do and then do them. And sometimes it’s something that for me is just a matter of course — checking in on someone.

But it can mean the world to someone else.

No matter how small it may seem.

Please share ideas on navigating these times in the comments. Collective creativity is AWESOME.

And if you’re able to march, the Families Belong Together actions are taking place tomorrow (June 30) all over the country. If there’s one near you, grab a friend or two and head out. MoveOn.org has locations of local marches.

Participants have been asked to engage nonviolently and to wear white to show solidarity.

Collective creativity, friends. Share your thoughts and ideas, and much love to you all.

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15 comments

  1. Having taken you up on your offer to talk in a safe space after a previously appalling news week, I can personally vouch that it really can make a difference to someone just to know we’re not alone. Thanks, Andi, for continuing to offer that, because it’s easy to be buried under feelings of helplessness.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Discouraged, depressed, frustrated, angry….so many emotions and no where to put them…but the one thing that struck me yesterday more than anything else is how so many choose apathy. Choose not to band together and that was the most startling realization for me. The one that caused the toppling effect. I get to see my wife this weekend and thank God for that, because I sure as hell need it right now. Humor is no longer working….

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  3. Andi, thanks, it was a great feeling to wake up to this today. It has been a miserable week, and after the Court (I can’t bring myself to say supreme) showed with the Muslim ban that it was a puppet of the president already, then Kennedy resigned and showed the court will be opposed to every form of equality or justice for the rest of our lifetimes… I go to rallies and marches, normally to show unity and knowing we’ll be counted and our numbers reported in the news. But I also go just to be for a few hours with other sane people who can see what’s happening. And it kind of like that coming here, especially with your post today. Thanks to everyone who does whatever it is you can do, whether you demonstrate or write poems on the sidewalk…

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Andi, thank you so much for this post. You captured the only fallback survival mechanism I have that is still working at this point…one on one compassion. It’s frustrating as hell because it feels like it doesn’t build enough or fast enough. But it’s all I can do some days or moments. I have to believe it’s enough and it’s sure as hell better than nothing or apathy. One of the things I do and use in these times is music. Holly Near is a favorite. I use her protest music as a rallying cry, but I also listen to her song, “SIt with Me.” (Preferably off “Crushed: The Love Song Collection”) “Finding a friend to sit with me till the morning, finding a friend in you who will sit with me through the night…when I’m frightened by the work that I must do…please sit with me through the night and tell me it’s alright to fall apart with you….cause I’m so tired and I’m so scared… I’m so sad about the world tonight.” Later she comes down to the point where she says, “You know, tomorrow I’ll be back on my feet, it’s not in me, my friend, to accept defeat, but won’t you just sit with me through the night and tell me it’s alright to fall apart with you…” This…this…THIS is me…I get overwhelmed by the forces aligned against us but I turn to Audre Lorde and other spiritual foremothers for strength AFTER I fall apart with a friend or lover. After I fall apart, physically, emotionally, whatever I need, I put myself back together and get back to work. For me, it’s functional for now. And has been historically. I know history in my lifetime hasn’t seen this exact manifestation, but it’s what I have to offer. May it be useful to someone today!

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  5. Thank you for your essay, Andi. It is ALWAYS the “little things” that make a difference in a life, a political movement, or a way of looking at the world. I’m reminded of a period during my teaching career when I felt overwhelmed and convinced I wasn’t accomplishing much. I listened to a speech delivered by a sister-educator, Dr. Gloria Gay. She spoke of “the power of one.” If we can reach one person/student/friend out of so many we encounter, we have succeeded. That one person will take our message and perhaps save herself and others. When you reflect upon the people to whom you’ve reached out and for whom you’ve been a sounding board, please realize the tremendous gift you have bestowed upon each one. Look at what you’ve accomplished here at Women and Words. Your initiative/efforts have touched so many of us.

    We must stay strong. We have no other choice.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Thanks for another vital reminder of our solidarity, Andi. We have got connection working in our favor!

    I’ll be protesting tomorrow to free immigrant children in hippie country, Woodstock, New York, and proudly wearing my pink pussy hat. (I’m not partial to pink, but the hat’s wearable herstory.)

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Andi, thanks. You wrote a post some months back, maybe it was on Facebook, not sure—is it me or are you just Everywhere—anyway, it was on depression. I didn’t think you could outdo or even match that one, but this post is now tied for first in the Andi chronicles in my opinion!

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  8. This is a great gift for my weekend. I have been fighting the lows for a bit. I don’t call it depression because I know there are others who really struggle. Anyway, just yesterday I told my wife that i just can’t follow the news for a bit. I am mentally and spiritually exhausted about just everything. It’s not where do I start but where do I stop. I truly got over the election much quicker than some of my friends but on the daily, it’s like I don’t recognise where I am in a country where I’m not certain where it is aiming. Our 3 legs of the Republic enabling insult to injury by allowing babies to be stolen, allies to be insulted, gaslighting at every turn, abuse after abuse. Sigh. One should not wake up thinking, “what stupidness happened while I was sleeping?” I know I am not alone in that. So it is somewhat uplifting to get an alternative viewpoint. My ability to express hope has diminished truly but it is pleasant to know others are out there still trying to resist. Blessings keep us all.

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  9. ‘Check on the olds’ … that made me smile. Yeah, check in with the ‘olds’ because, sadly, we’ve been through this before and we’re out there doing it again with another generation … and we will tell you that no matter what, do not give up.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. You did it. Because your blog touched on everything I was feeling. And had felt since Nov 2016. So, I went home, printed out “materials” for signs, grabbed my wife and BFF on Saturday morning and rallied with thousands for Families Belong Together in San Jose, CA. It was a moving event. Normally, we three talk about all the ills of the current administration, wallow in joined misery and rail against all things Fox News. But, we hardly take action. Saturday we did, because of your blog. So own it-you did it with your words. And we all thank you.

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  11. Hi! I rallied, too! And even if you don’t rally and you do something like have a beer on your patio with a couple of friends and build a connection that way, that’s taking action. Connecting with a supportive network — helping build that network — that’s taking action.

    Practicing radical kindness — that’s taking action.

    Dance parties! That’s action, too.

    I’m so glad you joined the rally and I hope other stuff up there I said gives you some other cool ideas. It’s really important to tap your creativity and stay engaged with your friends, family, and networks. You never know when you’ll need them.

    I’m thinking I’d like to learn to brew a beer for these times, but I’m trying to figure out what to call it… 😀

    Thanks for checking in and take care of yourself and others as you can. We all need each other in these times.

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