Sunday, November 13, 2016

Three years... Dear Nanny

Today marks three years since my Nanny, my grandma, my person, the original Dixie moved on to whatever comes after this life. Three years since I had to tell her it was time to go- that I had to go teach and she had to go be with Poppy and Aunt Lil. Three years since I held her hand for the last time and heard her tell me she loves me and to "just be happy dear." Three years since my best friends in the world wrapped their arms around me when I thought I would fall to pieces.

God I miss her so much. I miss her every day.

I can't even begin to recap what has transpired these past three years- can't even begin to write her a note to send out into the universe to catch her up on my life. Would she even believe it if I could?

I knew her death was transforming for her but I could never have imagined how it would transform me. Walking through those last moments of her life so closely with her, she taught me- taught me about being strong, taught me about loving the hell out of the people around me, taught me about connecting into my spirituality, taught me about being true to myself, taught me even more about the unbelievable love and strength of my family.

Dear Nanny,

I miss you- I feel like shouting that at the top of my lungs but the grief makes it hard for sound to come out. I miss you.

I hate and love that every day makes it feel like you are simultaneously slipping further from my memory and yet somehow you are also becoming so much more a part of who I am.

I'm writing more. You always said I should be a writer. I think the events of my life have forced the words from me and been at times the only tangible thread keeping me from floating off this earth.

Nanny, I'm divorced now- it was insanely painful. I even had to give up the pugs. That was unimaginable to me the last time we were together and frankly at each step along the way. A twist in the road I never could have seen coming but even on the days I wake up and wonder why I completely dismantled my life, I see that each step was a step aligned with my heart and my integrity and that I got here by just trying to do the next right thing.

It isn't where I thought I'd end up but I think that's okay.

I got that tenure track job I always wanted and this week will have my last teaching observation before being granted tenure! Seriously an academic tenure track job in the same area my ex-wife and I wanted to live and that was perfect for the babies we thought we would have- we were all ready to go right before you got sick. So grateful we never did get pregnant.

Yup- no wife, no puppies, no babies, but I do have the job! Of course it was touch and go there for a bit with our entire faculty going on strike last year and a board and president of the college so contested we are now starting over completely- new president, board, Vice President of instruction. You would have enjoyed watching the union at work fighting for a college they believed in.  Oh and I did get offered that dream job last year- tenure track at my alma mater- everything I thought I wanted except for not a living wage for that area and I turned it down. Who could have predicted that one either- but my heart called and you taught me how to listen.

I think you'd be proud of me Nanny. I think you would delight in how I inspire and show up for my students. How less and less I want to hide from them because I'm nervous I don't know enough and more and more the person I am is evident in all aspects of my life- how I am no longer trying to be professorial but just trying to be who I am and teach what I have learned while learning with them. My students inspire me Nan. You'd be entertained and amazed by them.

I fell in love again after the divorce. I didn't think that was possible - I loved her and her puppy fiercely. She broke my heart. And now I've learned I can survive that too and I don't regret one minute I spent loving her. The dust is still settling on that one. I guess I just keep praying my person will find me- please feel free to give them a nudge my way.

I had another knee surgery- a total knee replacement at 34 years old. It was hell- I will never forget seeing mom's face so horrified to see her kid in pain that the doctors couldn't control. It was a long hard road back but it really did transform me. I skied again and even learned to snowboard! I even got to ski with dad and all of your great grandkids! Yup there's another one we never saw coming. Last Christmas we were all together in Tahoe- God did we miss you! You would have loved the chaos and fun and craziness of the band all together. But I know you were there.

I need another knee surgery now. Another ligament is torn and it is a complicated surgery because of the knee replacement and having had 7 previous surgeries. I'm scared. I've been in pain since last spring and that has taken me down another rabbit hole of messy confusion. But I'm doing my best to just keep moving forward- what else is there to do and thank god pot is legal in Washington or i don't think i could survive this pain.

Oh and I did finally get my name on a research grant- I am the Co-PI (principal investigator) of a National Science Foundation grant! There was a 90% rejection rate when we applied but we were awarded funding. Finally- my name on the grant- ready to step forward into even more leadership at the site!!! That was an achievement hard earned and so sweet. The high of it lasted a month until violence in El Salvador erupted and we realized we could not go back. My entire research program, what I have been working for since the beginning of my graduate career, is now marked with a giant sign reading "do not enter!" My second home on this earth now a place I can't go and my worries are amplified for my friends there.

We got to work in Costa Rica instead- you'd love that i got to go to the NASA/ university of Alabama Huntsville facility to analyze satellite imagery with one of the world's best! Now that was an inspiring place - I wished I could have had Dad there with me to talk with such big thinkers- I think he would have loved it.  I get to go back in a few months- though these days I'm not sure where my research is taking me. We found ancient footpaths in Costa Rica and a house this past summer and we be back in the field this coming summer. I wonder if this will be the end of my field research but honestly don't know. I think the loss of Ceren research has left me uncertain of what direction to go next. But I will be giving a lecture at the University of Washington in the spring- can you imagine? Me the kid who dropped out of college! So I know enough to say- who's to know and to just keep showing up.

Oh and this last week I cast my vote for the first woman president of the United States. I wore your mom's pearls that day and your ring that I always wear and white for suffragettes. She didn't win. Donald Trump- ya that guy- ya he did. The election was horrific mixes is sexism, rape culture, homophobia, transphobia, racism, xenophobia, and ableism run a muck. Honestly I don't think any of us could even process the vile and horrific things said on our TVs, radios, and even more so from our fellow citizens. The country has erupted in hate but also activism... People are rising up and declaring they will not tolerate such hate and injustice. I'm rising up Nanny. I'm not censoring and quieting my voice in the same ways. I am not sure what the people in my life make if it, but mostly I'm not sure I care. My voice is powerful and loud and I'm using it in the name of love, peace, and equity. I'll be at a rally for inclusion today using my voice. I hope I make you proud. And you should see how amazing your great-grandkids are doing, and your grandkids, and your kids. They are all growing so much and making this world a better place everyday. I know how proud you would be of all of them!

So things have not been dull these past three years and those are just the major events (though honestly I'm probably forgetting a few along the way). I know you know already about the losses- Uncle Billy, Kenzie's baby Faith, Katie's Sam and Rachel.... So many losses. Happy additions too- Errin and Jeff's Ashe, Galen and Chelsie's Aliena, my cousins' babies.. Billy's, Jame's, Kenz's, new family, and new friends and colleagues and students.  So goes life...the ever coming and going of those we love.

You would love how my family- biological and chosen- have rallied around me every step I have taken. My divorce party was a blast and I am grateful beyond words to my community who have held me steady in the wake of losing you and so much in the years since- My community who have continued steering me on in the direction of my own soul.

I miss you Nanny. I wish I could see you, talk to you, cry and laugh with you, know what your experiences have been these past three years- know what form you are in these days. But for today it is enough to send my words out into the abyss of the Internet hoping they can find you through my heart.

I love you my beautiful grandmother. Thank you for being so much a part of who I am and for always encouraging me to follow my dreams and my heart. I am Nan- it is taking all my courage but I am listening and following and could never have imagined where it has taken me, which hopefully means I cannot imagine what might come next.

Missing you today and always,
Your Christine - the next generation of Dixie

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Dear America (Yes that includes you Trump voters)

Dear America (yes that includes you Trump voters)

I spent time in a writing group in one of the most liberal cities in our country recently with so many on the very far left and a similar theme I am seeing elsewhere emerged- namely the need to remember we are all human - that voting for trump doesn't make you a racist or sexist or a bigot, and in many cases might be a protest vote for the way things are- that there is probably plenty of common ground amongst us. 

For those reading this who have been subjected to lifetimes of hatred and torture in the form of racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, biases against your religious beliefs or politics, etc... Please know I don't mean to diminish in any way your outrage at what is justifiably outrageous. I get why people feel a vote for Trump ignored and dismissed their importance / right to safety and dignity- I also understand why so many voting their own conscious felt they needed to vote for him (or rather I'm understanding this more and more). Furthermore, I am becoming acutely aware of the places I have been comfortably resting in my privilege and will work to stand more powerfully with you as an engaged citizen and activist. 

I simply ask everyone who reads this to:
1) remember we are human and
2) please recognize that people are very, very scared for their lives (and children and students and family and friend's lives) because they are in many cases being directly threatened and harassed - with people citing Trump as justification for their hate. 

Before anyone says this is buying into fear and overreacting please know that I have way more stories in just my immediate community where violence has been directly threatened against them since Tuesday night- way too many and those are just my family and friends (not from the stories read in the media that no one trusts). And these are usually directed at groups that have long been the victims of targeted violent attacks that already worry for their safety for good reason. 

Again to be very clear in an atmosphere of major misunderstanding... I am not at all saying being for Trump means you do or support these things. What I am saying in the things Trump said during the campaign seem to have created a platform where people who do believe in hatred of women and gender non-conforming people, people of color, immigrants, Muslims, people with disabilities, lgbtqai people, liberals in general now feel justified in attacking these groups outright and we need ALL of us to stand up to that hate. As we also need to stand up to the hate directed at people for who they voted for. 

I don't believe your vote for any candidate makes you a good or bad human- you exist in a context and as an anthropologist I work to understand that context. I do believe we ALL carry responsibility for our divided country and ALL have a responsibility to stand up to hate. There are lots of policy fights and fights for civil and human rights ahead I know, but here I just address one aspect of this complex shit storm we are now all engaged in... 

I am pretty sure our digital age isn't helping with how much we dehumanize each other... So maybe I can make it a little more human if you happen to be someone who currently hates those who voted for Hillary: 

I'm a pretty likable human (I hope), I have a good heart, care very much for those around me and want to do good in the world-
the words of hate against gays are against me-
mocking of people with disabilities against me-
misogyny against me-
calls to kill liberals - yup that's me too. 

And the groups I don't identify with that are targeted - those are my students, my friends, my teachers, my family, my heroes, and my fellow citizens. The hate targeted at Trump voters- ya that's directed at my people too- family members and friends I love dearly. 

Also please know that so many of us are experiencing a feeling of outrage and violation as someone who openly discussed harming women is now being put in our highest office - if you think that is just us whining please have more conversations with survivors of sexual assault and rape and please listen to them- they will tell you how these violations stay with a person long after the events of abuse (I might add these are the people who are all too familiar with being told they are making it all up and are overreacting). 

I am standing up against hate, dehumanization, and violence directed at all of us. It is not okay that since this election hate had been unleashed on so many. 

The group with arguably one of the biggest reason to hate all of us Americans, many of them are currently camped out in the cold in North Dakota at Standing Rock, calling for prayers and peace to protect our environment. Native American groups are actively leading prays for the police forces, the pipeline company, and all in our society as they try to stand up for what they know to be right. 

Imagine if we all stand up with as much power, respect, and love. Whether we agree or not on what we stand up for, I think that love and respect for each other could be the revolution we all want. 

I hope you can hear me on the other side from my very liberal city and my very gay, feminist self! I love you my country, I am grateful for voices and views that are different from my own because they challenge me to think critically, and I hope we can agree our country is better than these hateful attacks from either side.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Veterans Day Reflections

Please read this from my heart to yours on Veterans Day!

Happy Veterans Day and my deepest gratitude to all of the people and their families who have served our country.  As always the heroes at the very top of my list are the Vietnam veterans- particularly the Dust Off pilots and medics. They never ignored a call, never abandoned a mission. They flew into the depths of war, over and over and over again, to save life after life. They risked their own lives more times than any of us can imagine SO OTHERS MIGHT LIVE. These heroes were harassed, spit on, ignored, attacked, and horrifically disrespected by a nation divided over politics. Here our history stands as a powerful reminder- whatever our political views might be I hope we can respect and honor the heroes, continue to see each other as human, and to stand together in the face of hate.

While hate and politics have created great divisions, perhaps respect and gratitude can bridge a gap today as we all reflect on the service of our veterans. They have helped to uphold the ideals of our country-  particularly our freedoms- where we can stand and declare out loud whatever it is we believe in. Where we can speak out when we don't agree with decisions and policies of our government- where we can actively work to create a society we want to live in. Please continue to work to keep these ideals- even when you disagree with the beliefs or views of others.

So many have already begun the journey across the aisles that have divided us- while I must stand with all of my power and force against the hate that is spreading I absolutely stand with you my fellow citizens committed to making this country and our world a safer, more equitable society.

Thank you to our heroes who answered their call of duty to their country. And an enormous debt and respect is owed to the service people who served this country even when their country hasn't always upheld their rights- Native Americans, African Americans, women, LGBTQ people.

We can all continue to work to make sure we take care of our veterans after what they have sacrificed for our country. We need to step up for them as they have for us.

A special thank you to all the veterans in my life- you inspire me!!!

Happy Veterans Day! I am forever proud to be the daughter of Flatbush- a truly amazing leader who decades ago learned how to fly the hell out of a helicopter so that other might live! I love you dad and will always work to make you proud.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Recognize our humanity in each other

After the initial shock that we could allow such hatred to flourish, I have had great faith restored by the beautiful and most important people in my life tonight. I have watched us comfort and console, challenge and support each other in raw, difficult, and real ways.

Here's what I know- we all recognize change is needed- we all believe we can do better- as a country, as a world, but also as individual humans. So let's do that- let's do better. "When they go low, we go high"... And not just high cause pot is legal in more places but high where we continue to stand proudly in who we are, where we continue to use all of our voices in the name of good. Where we protect and honor each other more - because clearly we have already too often failed at that.

So stand for what you believe in, stand for justice, stand for hope, and equality.

If you wanted to completely flip American politics- congratulations you have succeeded- so now what will you do?

Now what will we as a county stand for? Will we really continue to decide our government should have a say in our bodies (I thought that small government idea was a thing- so why are there laws about my body)?
Will we really allow people to starve in front of our eyes?
Will we return to when our elders were left with even less than they have now? Will we take away healthcare from the most vulnerable?
Will we really take away the rights of loving couples to be married?
Do we sleep well at night turning away immigrants who pursue the American Dream?
Are we really okay with so many young black kids being killed?
Are we really okay with corporations as people?
Or that so many of our civil liberties are not being supported or upheld?
What will we stand for as a country?

Or as my internal optimist cling to the little shreds of hope- might we start to unravel the complexities of social issues and economic decisions we have tied together as if they are the same thing, might we begin to see how interdependent we truly are, might the insanity of how divided our nation has become allow us to unify around the central tenants for which we all stand?

If I let this election silence me, then I have surely weakened the causes I most believe in. If I let this election enliven the passion and commitment of my values, and so do you, then maybe we can be one step closer to a better world.
 Trumps's messages have been against everything I believe in- against diversity on all levels, bigoted, racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, ableism bullshit - that is exactly what I as an anthropologist and a human reject. But maybe we can prove ourselves far better than that hate. Maybe when given the potential to destroy so many lives, maybe we can all decide on some basic decency and respect that we could share in common. My greatest hope is that we can recognize the humanity in each other once again- that's my mission as an anthropologist- that's why I teach. I want us to recognize our humanity in each other.

We have the power to do that- no government can take that from us or decide that for us. We the people create the world in which we want to live. So whoever is in office- maybe we can all search our hearts for compassion and maybe that can help unite us.

All I really know is that the people in my life are amazing- they are beautiful, intelligent, inspiring humans who are unbelievable forces of good in this world. I can sleep now- thinking of all of you out there working for a better world.