Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Sharing your Light is Kind of Complicated

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Over the week end, a close family member posted a caricature stick diagram explaining the problem of illegal immigration, pitting a stick figure of “John Legal” who is white (okay, light peach, if you want to literally translate the color in the picture), and “Juan Illegal” who is brown.  It then broke down the issue about how much money each of them made, with John paying taxes on his higher wage, with  Juan getting paid under the table for a lower wage and not paying any taxes, both having children who went public schools, a quick discussion of healthcare, and ended, ultimately, with Juan’s children’s excelling and going to the head of the class because of “minority” scholarships.  The takeaway is that John paid for everything and suffered for it, while Juan hasn’t paid a cent and is doing just great.

The one comment underneath this post was hand-clapping.  Eep.

Even at a quick glance, I realized the claims regarding wages and taxes were incorrect.  I didn’t even get to the end of the comic strip, because I knew there was something here that needed to be addressed and wasn’t sure how to address it.

My other family member, E, who is a legal, non-white immigrant family member began texting me—did you see “X’s” post?  I’m so upset!  I’m seeing red!  I can’t believe she’d post that!  E has a much longer history with the family as I do (having married into it just a few years ago), and her feelings were beyond hurt.  She and I discussed everything that was in error with the post, and I found myself, while just as upset and infuriated, strangely calm as I hunted for facts to put together a public response.  E said she was going to talk to the family member and spouse directly as she was going to see them soon—couldn’t deal with the hurtful implications just yet until she’d calmed down—all of which I understood and supported because I love E with all my heart.  For my sake, I felt it was time for me to say something, in a measured, and even loving way, but also in a way that could shed some light onto the situation.  I was hoping by appealing to our mutual love as a family she might listen.  (p.s. my husband was like, um, not going to change anyone’s minds).  And even with that lovely support, I thought, I have to try.  I have to say my peace and put it out there.

So this is what I wrote:

I love you, XXX, you're my family, and I can see how this explanation puts the immigration challenges in a way that many can read easily.

I'd like to share my thoughts as your sister and immigrant, and hope you can see I say these things from a place of love. There are numerous reports that show undocumented immigrants do not take native born jobs, and in fact do pay taxes, contributing 11.74 billion to state and local taxes each year, including personal income tax.  Also, the companies that hire them (construction, agriculture) who give them lower under the table wages, pay taxes for doing business. These same people who are paying taxes are not eligible for government programs that they are helping to pay for.

Re: wages, the wages for undocumented workers are much less than this diagram, instead of $15/hr, it’s more like $5/hr or a set amount for a job no matter how many hours (ie Texas reported $90/14 hour job). There are no protections, so those that hire them will use their status as a way to force them to accept deplorable conditions, and they are more vulnerable to exploitation.

I wish the challenge of illegal immigration, like many challenges that we face as parents who love our children and want to secure a future for them, had an easy answer.  Like this one and many others, tax reform, education, healthcare, it's not easy. Life is messy unfortunately.

I.e., I can't figure out how to fit my friend's story in the stick figure diagram: She has a patient that needs hospice, this patient is undocumented.  They are not here illegally, they were visiting family when this happened.  Now, there is no way to get them home.  And this person could have reasonably priced home hospice, but since they aren't an American citizen, they can't.  According to her, they will, however, spend the next month or so in the hospital until she dies.
I also realize I am a brown, legal immigrant, and that I have grown up with lots of privilege, for which has implications and is a wholly different conversation. I hope to reach out with love and kindness and use my privilege as much as I can to help others and I thank you for listening.

After I posted it, I sent X a text saying I had posted (because I didn’t want her to feel blindsided), that I had put a lot of thought into it and that I loved her.  And then…a few minutes later—she texted back, “I love you, too, I’m sorry if I upset you.  I understand your view!”

Wow!  Wow oh Wow!  That was not the response I had expected, in fact I had been bracing myself (along with E) for a backlash.  Later, when I went back to X’s page to say thank you for listening, I couldn’t find it—and E said I had changed the world a little bit because she’d removed the post.


I felt happy that X listened, that’s all I had hoped for.  I don’t know if it really changed her mind about anything, but I thought, hopefully, this is something I can remember about how I can be the light and use my voice.  That it’s okay to disagree.

As for E, she’s still very upset and hurt by how easily X could post something that is erroneous at best, ignorant and racist at worst, and I agree with her.  It makes me sad to know how many people think and feel this way.

There’s an interesting, food for thought article posted at _The Guardian_ that discusses structural racism.   

I see it that racism is a system, and that while we didn’t create this system, we inherited it, and privilege runs up and down the structure.  Whether you’re white or of color, there are privileges that you may have based on your experiences and upbringing and advantages and disadvantages that are also inherited and it's difficult to understand one or the other because of them.  But we can try.  So let’s be the light, let’s shine, let’s use our privilege to uplift and help others where we can, when we can.

p.s. upon later researching, I found that the stick figure diagram had been discussed and debunked, so apparently this has been around for a while.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

A little love

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Sometimes in the midst of personal problems and struggles, it’s nice to see some love in the world.

Like this small town in Georgia who embraces refugees.

Or recognizing that it’s okay to love who you love in a region of the world where it’s not always ok.

Or when a stranger rushes in to help people through a tragedy and suddenly he has a home.

Actually, searching for good news, led me here.

Today, I’m tiptoeing back to my sunnier side of myself.  Today, I’m looking for love and light and finding it.

Some days, it's okay to admit the healing is not there just yet.  Some days, it's okay to embrace the darkness and the sadness and the anxiety.  Some days, it's okay to take a deep breath and give yourself a hug.  Be gentle with you, keep striving, don't give up, even if you feel like it.  Those dark moments will pass.

My anxiety is a marathon.  I hit a ditch earlier this week, it’s true, not going to lie.  That damn little black hole is there.

But I’m looking forward to sharing time and my home with the girl scouts tonight, I’ve drafted two older sister scouts to help the little ones with their bridging ceremony, and then we all get to eat brownies that I baked last night, yum.  The non-crafty-mother that I am managed to make flowers out of pipe cleaners (which is kind of a miracle in it of itself) and decorated an exercise bench to make the bridge.  (For people who know me, this type of work is not in my comfort zone, so am hoping to pull this off, lol.)  I’m looking forward to sharing laughter with some moms, we’ve made it through another year of shepherding our girls along the daisy scout trail, and that’s kind of a big deal if we think about it.  I’m looking forward to going to sleep in my bed later knowing my daughters are tucked into their bunk beds in the next room, home and safe.  A little light and love in my home.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Black hole heart--is this healing?

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Dear World,

I haven’t been writing because I’m freaking out.  (And, I’m freaking out for freaking out--guilt, embarrassment, shame, all of it).  Please excuse the cuss words that follow.

As much as I’ve encircled myself with the “healing journey” and “it’s a marathon not a race” phrases, lately I’ve been feeling like they’re just a whole lot of bullshit hallmark card gimmicks (even though I know they’re not, on some level fluttering around my brain).

I’ve been telling myself, if I take the high road, if I put the love for my kids and my family and my friends first, everything else will fall into place.  Don’t give in to pain and doubt and fear and anxiety.  Because all those things are “bad” and love and reaching for the light is good.

And that’s noble and wonderful and lovely, except I feel myself crumbling along the way.  The anxiety creeps in no matter how hard I struggle to believe in the good in this world.  My ex still makes my kids feel like they can’t talk to me when they’re over there.  He’s still charming the pants off the other parents at girl scouts or school or whatever.  I still worry that I seem like the crazy one, even though I know what happened and I know what he did, but I’m supposed to move on and be the bigger person and be happy.  For the kids’ sakes, for my sake, for all of our sakes.

Some days, I just don’t feel like a bigger person.  Some days, I feel small and unsure and dissolving into little bits and pieces.

Some days, I wonder if all I know how to do is to feel shitty, how to survive, not thrive.  How to raise myself out from emotional rubble, that my world is just a cycle of repeating emotional trauma.  Build up a new world on a belief in love and good in the world, then see it crumble into ashes all over again.  It’s okay, I tell myself, because I can rebuild out of the fire, I am the fire. 

Some days, I feel like I’m so screwed up, that I don’t know how to be happy.  Not going to lie—my heart has a deep black hole in it that I’ve been working on forever, it’s always there, and it’s probably how I ended up in my unhealthy relationships in the first place.  I cover it up with overachieving at work and loving my girls fiercely and being the happy networker and fill in the blank.  I cover it up by being remarried and trusting my hubby will be there for us, always and forever, and that’s a big step, too.  I cover it up by reaching consistently for this “good” future, and I’m terrified it will fall apart, because inside, I feel like I’m falling apart.

So, this is why I haven’t been writing too much, the internal rollercoaster has been rocketing ahead full speed and I’m managing my anxiety as best as I can—with therapy, exercise, and that stupid belief that if I believe in the good in the world, goodness will follow.  If my purpose here is to add a little light (instead of my black hole heart), light will follow.  Stupid hope.  Okay, sorry for calling you stupid.  I guess it’s still there after all, even if I’m fraying at the edges.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Percolating Life

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I’m settling back into the swing of things having just returned from my work trip this past week end.  Lots of thoughts percolating:

1) Use your privilege to uplift others—some may have more privilege than others, just by the color of your skin, the tone of your voice, the gender you walk in, and that’s a system we inherited when we were born into this world.  If we feel guilty or enraged at the system, that’s a by-product of being aware of the system itself.  Use whatever means you have to uplift yourself, uplift others, in whatever state of privilege you may exist (this is assuming a lot).  Remember, shining your light, and sharing your light with others does not diminish your individual flame, it means we all burn brighter and together we can make a positive difference in this world.

2)  The projects that I shared relate somewhat to number 1, in that whatever capacity that I can, my job is to help where I can.  To listen where I can, to move forward together where we can.  (how did I get this job again?  LOL).

3)  Coparenting with my ex is a marathon, not a race.

4)  My PTSD and anxiety is also a marathon, not a race. 

5)  My oldest daughter acts like a surly tweenage monster one moment, and is sweet and mushy and loving the next.

6)  Still mulling over how to deal with the braces issues for my older daughter.  Do I schedule the next appointment on the Ex’s time since he’s so eager to be part of the discussion (but has yet to take the girls to a dentist appointment ever in his life)?  Or do I schedule it on mine, knowing that my hubby will be there for support.

7)  The school year is winding down, I’m soon to have a second grader and a sixth grader on my hands, how did that happen, time?

8)  I’d love to take my girls to see my mom in July, but I have no idea how to pay for it.  Still, surly tweenager is showing her sweetheart caring as she continually follows up and asks if we are going.  So I think I have to make that happen.

9)  I’m grateful for the love in my life, and at other times, I feel so overwhelmed by working, mommy-ing, co-parenting, spouse-ing, adult-ing, healing, that I want to hide under the covers from the world.

10)  Breathe.