Many of my fellow writers (and others) have shared that they feel lost for words- what do we add to the conversation this week, especially as we still feel a sense of shock? I really want to sit with that tension, especially to state that I don’t feel like I can give any wisdom or say anything inspiring like, “it’s going to be ok.” What does that mean, “it’s going to be ok”? I decided that sharing two things I learnedM specifically as a white person this week may be helpful. This post isn’t well-written or even logically in order, which reflects the sentiment.
Tuesday of course was a day of fatigue for me and pretty much everyone at work, most especially the students. My colleague did an amazing job of creating a space for the community to come dialogue and for many, this was the first space they could do that. I listened to my students, my beloved Muslim, Hindu, Jewish, Buddhist, unaffiliated students, share their emotions as well as they could. There were certainly tears. And there was love. There was an unabashed, boundless, courageous love that filled the room. I felt it in every hug, every handshake, even the way we looked at each other. As one of the dialogue facilitators, much of what was said echoed my emotions and fears, but I didn’t share.
That evening, I got a call from a really good friend who led the USC Interfaith Council with me. We threw out suggestions for what we could do on our campuses and how we knew folks were mobilizing already. It felt really good to talk to him. After we finished our call I went on a run and listened to Valarie Kaur speak dazzling beautiful and powerful words on our Revolutionary Love Conference Call. She echoed much of what I and many were feeling and told us to think about this moment as birth: first, there is darkness. Then, there is beginning, and creating, and building. One of the Revolutionary Love Fellows shared a heartbreaking reflection on feeling like a failure to our country, and I sobbed as I ran the last few steps to my door. The rest of my evening was pretty quiet- I tried to write something for National Novel Writing Month, to keep up my word count.
On Thursday at our Spiritual Advisors’ Meeting, I realized too late that I hadn’t processed my own feelings fully, especially not out loud. The idea that a man with a track record of normalizing sexual harassment and assault will control decisions and moreover, messages to people in our nation that say “women’s bodies are up for grabs” elicits a significant level of panic for me. I mention this for personal reasons, but also cannot forgive the messaging that has normalized homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, the fact that Black Lives don’t really Matter. Further, to lose my friends who are undocumented, DACA-mented, and/or are immigrants in the blink of an eye feels shattering- it’s as if what I wrote about in college, the rounding up of Japanese Americans and immigrants and physically removing them is coming back to haunt us. So, in a group of 20 people from different faith traditions, I sobbed. I told them that I was scared. That I had been ignorant for being critical of interfaith communities who practice a “basic” understanding of what interfaith is because clearly- we need to encourage any positive interfaith action in full force. I told them the students were my heroes this week. They fricking SHOWED UP for each other, despite their fear and anger. And I made it about me, which I shouldn’t have done. I cried white tears, and learned the necessity of self-care this week. It was an important lesson to learn.
This weekend I flew home to LA to run a 10K and half marathon at Disneyland. The theme of the weekend was Superheroes, which felt all too necessary. Home is strange for me right now- my family did not vote for the candidate I wanted to see in the Oval Office, and have been vocal about their dismissal of people who feel afraid and angry. I’ve worked on asking open questions about why they made their choice, and tried to push back with some counter ideas to their analysis. They are my family and I love them, and we don’t agree. I’m going to sit with that discomfort for some time.
This morning I finished my second half marathon race. This weekend was dedicated to self-care because, as noted above, I learned an important lesson. You ran 13.1 miles for self-care? Indeed, while excruciating at points and not what I love doing at 5:30 am every Sunday, the race was something to which I looked forward and for which I trained over the past 12 weeks. Running is a practice for me, it helps me stay focused and motivated. The race started in the dark and just before we sang the National Anthem, I thought: this is what an intentional community looks like.
Around me, there were people who looked like me and people who didn’t. There was a man next to me who told me he came from Japan for this race and donned a full Minnie Mouse dress and ears to run. “You look so great!” people told him. Four runners in wheelchairs started the entire race. There were people over the age of 70, people from Kansas and Oregon and Australia, people of size and people who were very slender, people who had never run a half marathon before. There was a man who had made the US Olympic Marathon Trials. The course was tough- not hilly, but all asphalt, and as the sun rose it got warmer. For the hour and forty five minutes I struggled through that darn course, people encouraged me unflaggingly. Even in the last 2 miles, we gave each other thumbs up and simple, “you got this!” greetings. It felt like a community. Not perfect, not all the same, just people sharing a goal.
I’m going to focus on simple relationship building in the next few weeks. Finishing this race and thinking about the necessity of building bridges, the dire, urgent necessity, is where I want to start. I’m going to keep reading, keep asking my friends and students how they are feeling, keep supporting. And I will make mistakes, and try my best to write about them in a way that encourages learning.