Well, 2020 is coming to an end. As I look back on this year, it’s filled with strategies for coping. I consider myself lucky to be healthy and have the luxury of working from home. And within my small world here I, like many, have had bouts of anxiety, mild depression, boredom, sadness, and fear. I’ve tried various things to help calm my mind and my soul: walking, exercising, assembling puzzles, meditating, listening to podcasts, watching the Queen’s Gambit, signing up for Zoom events, donating to causes, creating a storytelling YouTube channel for kids, and writing a blog. Of all these things, one instance stands out that I want to share.
Several weeks ago, as my mind was in a flurry of agitation and I wasn’t able to quiet it down, I decided to listen to a guided loving-kindness meditation (metta meditation) that my sister had sent me. I laid down on my rug and followed the steps of sending love, wellbeing, and peace to myself, then to someone I love, then to someone I’m neutral about, and finally to someone for whom it’s hard for me to send good wishes, ending with sending wishes of wellbeing to all in our universe. When I got to the part about someone neutral, I chose my mailman. This human who touches my life daily, but whom I never thank or think about. I brought his face to mind, I sent him love, wellbeing, and peace. It felt a bit odd, yet I followed the instructive prompts.
At the end of my experience, my mind did feel calmer, my soul had settled. I was grateful for the teaching. I continued on about my day.
A few days later as I was on my daily walk, I passed the mailman. I looked in his direction. For the first time ever, he smiled and waved at me. I was struck by the change in his demeanor. I smiled. I waved back. I was jittery with what I experienced as magic.
Now we wave each time we see one another.
When I shared this story with my friend, a practicing Buddhist, she explained that the purpose of the mediation was to open my heart, implying that his sudden 180-degree change of demeanor was not the point. I was grateful for her wisdom while also holding onto my belief that by opening my heart I created the invisible conditions for him to receive my good wishes and respond in kind.
I’m ending the year by enjoying the simple possibility that I tapped into another plane by doing that guided mediation. That’s where I want to live more and learn from in 2021.
From my heart to yours, Happy New Year!
When I was a little girl, my grandma, an immigrant from Russia, cautioned me against using the word “hate.” Like many little ones, I’d toss the word around like a nerf ball: “I hate chicken livers; I hate it when my mother leaves us to go to work; I hate the boy in my class who pulled my long braid.” As a young person, the word seemed right. It captured strong emotion and had powerful energy behind it.
Last week, watching a video of a police officer smash his knee on George Floyd’s windpipe I gained a new understanding of my grandmother’s admonition. Seeing the ease and apparent comfort with which Derek Chauvin applied his body weight to a struggling black man’s neck, I saw what hate looks like. Hate is terrifying. Hate kills, Hate is intentional. Hate is persistent.
On the same day that George Floyd was killed, Christian Cooper was birdwatching in New York’s Central Park. Another video that went viral showed a white woman calling the police to report “a black man threatening my life.” As my mentors in anti-racism taught me years ago, racism is white skin privilege plus power. Amy Cooper understood thepower of those six words.
As I process two traumatic, albeit very different events, from Memorial Day 2020, I am not able to speak eloquently. I find word pairs just reeling around in my head:
Yet, I won’t spiral completely into the sadness and despair. I won’t because I’ve seen what love looks like. Love is when people take to the streets with their signs and their voices during a pandemic to protest the killing of black people and to let George Floyd’s family and friends know that he will not be forgotten.
For years we’ve used a myriad of nonviolent approaches in attempts change America’s heart and mind by:
Passing federal and state anti-discrimination laws against you
Premiering the first interracial kiss on Star Trek
Developing Diversity trainings
Writing books like The New Jim Crow
Working alongside you
Praying for you
Making movies like Get Out!
Marching on Washington
Coming to your weddings, funerals, baby showers
Sitting on your Boards
Enduring endless microaggressions
Watching the ACLU defending white supremacists on basis of the First Amendment
Letting you cry when we raise the issue of race and even getting you tissues
Dealing with your upset becoming the issue so we never address your racism
Partaking in endless hours of Diversity Equity and Inclusion Committee meetings
Becoming news anchors, CEOs, beauty queens, president
And the truth is, like a weed, a deadly virus, a guest that won’t leave, hate persists.
We are not okay. America is not okay. The protesters are here to tell you that. The looters are using a different form of protest. The people engaging in violence are communicating that hurt people sometimes hurt other people.
My grandma wanted me to take the word hate seriously, so I’m now warning you: institutional practices and policies that sanction hate, greed, violence, will not be tolerated. We’re wearing face masks, but our voices will not be silenced.
Love is in the streets (regardless of what it looks like to you) and it’s not going to shelter in place.
Photo by Renee Fisher www.unsplash.com