Thursday, July 28, 2016

Invitation to My Dinner Party

I have learned, finally, that I do better when I pay attention to my heart. Not the emotional life of my figurative heart, although that's entirely true as well. I actually mean my Heart. The physical one in my chest. It beats faster sometimes, like all hearts do. But it has taken me a lifetime to sharpen my awareness surrounding my physical heart's increases in tempo.

My heart has been a freaking yo-yo for the past week. I've calmed it, then recalmed it... Then read facebook. Then  calmed it. Then watched the news, then clicked on links connecting me to articles. Then re-calmed it. Then re-calmed it again. Then, again.

And I sure as heck know better than to write when it's going gangbusters in there. My experience of a fastly beating heart is lower functioning reasoning skills.

It's finally even.

So here I go.

I think pontificating about sensitive topics in the absence of sharing personal experience with the charged topic is like shoving a plate of food in someone's face instead of inviting the individual to your home for dinner. It's an intrusive, abbreviated version of what could have been a meaningful experience. We are good at not-framing...and getting better. We post and tweet and like and blast and shove all sorts of dinner (often with fastly beating hearts) into recipients' faces, whether hunger is involved or not, without them having the slightest clue about what got us there. Of course, they return the favor with an equally large plate of food. As much as we care not to admit it - particularly when others arrive at places different than where we are standing - I would argue that folks come to conclusions for reasons that would resonate with anyone put in their shoes. Their history, their stories, their relationships, their family of origin, their city of origin, their baggage. Brene Brown is quoted saying, "Maybe stories are just data with a soul." If we separate the soulful data attached to our personal life stories from our talking points, we lose. It takes time, but I'm a believer in STARTING with the story.

I'm starting with my own. And it's going to be a dang long dinner party. Find a comfy chair.

The events in our country's post-Independence-Day-week meant a lot of soul searching for me (in-between fastly-beating-heart episodes), and I needed to go on a wild goose chase for both my deeper, difficult-to-retrieve and right-on-the-surface memories in order to trace the dusty footprints leading me to my beliefs about race in this country now.

NOTE 1: I feel very, very confident that I screwed this up. I am not a real writer or researcher. I have not read one academic book on Race In America. I'm just me. Little ole me. I feel certain that I made at least one inference that was unfair and formed at least one conclusion based on faulty connections and made at least one blanket statement based on lazy generalizations. At best (and what I'll hope for), this will come off as dumb and at worst, potentially offensive and insulting. Please forgive me ahead of time. Whatever this writing experience lacks in smartness, it makes up for in honesty. Focus on that. Honesty. Of the author. Not her stupidity.

NOTE 2: I am not expecting this to change the world. Telling this story to myself is, as it turns out, what mattered the most. So, I wrote it for me. I'm just inviting you along if you choose.

NOTE 3: Memories are crazy things, in that they are often all wrong. Or, at the least, not reliably accurate. I suppose my whole point in encouraging "the telling of the story" is to demonstrate how we all come to the place we are in because of our life-acquired perspectives. Memories are not short of those, either. I haven't filtered my memories through any sieves but the sieve of me. Sorry if you were there, and I got it wrong.

NOTE 4: The statistics about population and demographics almost all came from, so as to keep the numbers comparable. When a suburb was too small to be noted on that site, I turned to Wikipedia. I only included four race groups (White, Black, Latino, and Asian), only because those were the most prominent of all represented.

NOTE 5: I began this entry the week of July 12th, thinking I'd hammer out a thoughtful account in one night. When that night turned into the next morning (Sweet Jesus, was that day of parenting tough) and I hadn't scratched the surface, it became clear to me this was a long-term project. It has taken a few weeks, pecking away, to get to publishing.

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