some reflections11/14/2020 - Personal, Politics
I've noticed over the last couple of months that my dreams feel very frantic, very anxious, very stressed. I'm not necessarily the type of person that thinks that you can pull all the meaning in the world from your dreams, but, I do think they can be a window into the world of your subconcious. I try to listen to the overall message my dreams send me rather than looking into the particulars. Anyway. I've noticed this feeling of anxiety that's been permeating the time right before I wake up. Overall, I have this feeling of wobbly-ness. That's the best adjective for it, clearly. I've been breaking out like a sixteen year-old. I have boatloads of guilt about setting relational and emotional boundaries. I have the feeling of not enough-ness when I look at my anti-racist work.
Anxiety. Guilt. Not-enough. And breakouts. I'm tired.
My therapist has helped me a lot over the last couple years to remember that I've been through trauma in my life. It's a hard thing for me to wrap my head around. But, when I remember that it's true, I am able to cut myself a little slack around the heaviness I've felt this year. It's all been a lot.
I've been spending time on Instagram. Even after my Very Major & Serious Departure From Social Media. I don't feel bad about it (which is big for me). Covid is still very much a thing and I like to connect with all the people (and see all the post-election JOY) I'm not seeing irl on Instagram. I'll probably log off again once we can all have a drink together, but, honestly, who cares about my IG habits? Yeah, so, I came across a post from @alittlebrittoffun and I wanted to reflect on it here because I just think it's so good, so, here we go.
Action Items to End 2020 & Bring In 2021
WHAT DID YOU LEARN THIS YEAR?
- Deep breaths.
- That little girl inside me needs to be validated & cared for even though adult me thinks she's a little fragile sometimes. She's really doing the best she can.
- Headspace App.
- History doesn't repeat itself but, damn, it rhymes and maybe I can learn from it.
- Ebb & flow. Remember the flow during the ebb because the flow always comes back.
As an amusing anecdote, my soulmate Megan & I created a shared iPhone Note in the Spring of Covid (for future generations to have while preparing for a pandemic) and it's pure gold. Please enjoy.
"Shit's Gonna Get Weird - Pandemic 101, by Alissa & Megan"
- You have no idea what the word 'boundaries' means anymore.
- Emotional boundaries? GONE. Physical boundaries? EXTREME.
- You are going to have so much f**king flour in your home because everyone in America is going to become a baker of bread for some unknown reason. (Don't worry, the grocery stores are still open and selling bread... you may be confused by this.)
- Your toddler is going to ask you if you're sad on a daily basis. You might be.
- Emotions will no longer make any sense to you at all. They all exist in a giant pandemic sized pressure cooker.
- Remember that trauma from childhood that you've been suppressing your whole life?! She will show up at 2am when you're trying to fall asleep.
- Oh sleep???! Lol you thought you would be sleeping more?! Good luck getting over the pandemic insomnia that will keep you up all night! Well, that and your old repressed trauma!
- You might have to go to Home Depot for a bucket.
- Didn't want to hear from that person? Too bad!!! Three page letter with postal tracking in your mailbox!
- You're gonna watch a parade on the Disneyland YouTube channel & you will cry. It's okay. There's a glass-worth of chardonnay left in the fridge.
- You're lucky enough to work remote? Set that ish up in the garage for optimal creativity.
- Another crying moment! You will watch the Parks & Rec digital reunion and you will feel a mixture of deep nostalgia, unreasonable happiness, and the wetness of tears on your face.
- Download an app called 'Zoom.' Just do it. You'll understand later.
- Even though you have 100 things to do on your to-do list, you will somehow find the excuse to cross none of them off... even though you didn't "technically" do anything today...
- You're gonna be tempted to check in on your ex-friend's horrible blog to see how she's spending quarantine. DONT DO IT. BE STRONG.
- Read a book about letting s**t go. It'll be helpful.
- Is quarantine a weird long extended therapy session? Maybe!
- Honestly, just #17 again.
- Unlearning. All day every day.
CAN YOU BE A BETTER ALLY IN 2021?
I can ALWAYS be a better ally. For me, it's about finding the that sweet spot between "I can always be doing more" & "I am never enough." There will always be injustices & inequities and if I attempt to take them all on, I will incapacitated with the weight. AND, as a white woman, I have to be doing the work to unravel my own biases and the systemic oppression of Black & brown folks in this place I call home. I can be a better ally by centering their voices and not my own, by always reminding myself of the power I hold in a room simply because I am white.
FIND JOY, SPREAD JOY - find joy in the small moments, dive into the joy in the big moments, seek joy, hunt it down when it seems like it's hiding.
2020 has been such a reminder that the little joys truly are the big joys. A backyard gathering with actual humans. A warm hug. A solo drive with the windows down. A long kiss. Dancing in the living room. Skin on skin. A new novel. Really, what else do we have than these simple joys, moment to moment?
UNDERSTAND & ACCEPT THAT YOU CAUSE HARM - In order to evaluate the harm you cause and try to be better, you must first accept that no matter what you do, you will cause harm. That is part of life.
Intention vs. Impact has been such a huge theme for me this year. I have reflected back on the ways I have caused harm by perpetuating racism. How I've caused harm in relationships with my words and actions. It's been major for me to be able to own the harm, even when the harm was not intended, and to make an effort to do better in the future. A lesson over & over & over.
YOU MUST LET GO OF THE DESIRE TO BE LIKED.
Whoa. When I read this one, I was like... YIKES. As a people-pleaser, a codependent, a performer, this one is ROUGH. The older I get and the more I use my voice and set boundaries and call out harm being cause by others (or myself!), letting go of being liked goes hand in hand. And that's just hard. I'm so very aware of how others perceive me and my life, so, I know that letting this go will be a task that's lifelong. And that's alright.
WHAT DOES YOUR PERSONAL GROWTH JOURNEY LOOK LIKE FOR 2021? - Growth isn't magic. It doesn't just happen. It takes action. Planning. Real work. If you are making a commitment to allyship.
Personal growth in 2021 looks like letting go. Reading anti-racist works (I am currently still reading Stamped From the Beginning by Ibram X Kendi). More therapy. Asking myself "How can I do better?" before asking that of others. Always more yoga.
I have a lot of hope for the future. November could've gone either way for me and I am beyond relieved that, among other great things, our first Madam Vice President will be sworn in in just a couple of short months. Civic work, especially right before an election, is really freaking exhausting. Post-election and during this time when we all really really should be hunkering down in our homes, away from other humans (#wearamask), I am allowing myself to revel in this hope and to take a long exhale. I'm not going to feel guilty about that and I have spot treatment for these breakouts.
mindfulness and resiliency and little things like that9/20/2020 - Personal, Family
I started going to therapy last year for a plethora of reasons. It's expensive and I can't afford it right now and we need to overhaul our healthcare system but that's not what I'm here to talk about. There's a huge focus in therapy on being present in the moment and practicing gratitude, tenets of mindfulness and Buddhist practice that I resonate with deeply. 2020 has been a whole lot of really terrible things but it's also been a lesson in gratitude and mindfulness of this present moment, for me at least. When covid started and the thing I was most concerned about was if I could contract the virus from particles left on my clothing after a trip to Trader Joe's, I focused on the gratitude I felt in the safety of my home. When the BLM protests began, I grabbed my mask and my sign and kept social distance on the street, doing my very small part of bringing awareness to the systemic injustices and inequity our country was founded on. I was no longer thinking about contracting the virus via particles left on my sweatshirt or my can of garbanzo beans. Then the NorCal fires started and I could no longer take my morning walks or do yoga outside. Everything was confined to my house. I made an "IN CASE OF EVACUATION" list on my Notes App and practiced breathing deeply for ten minutes at a time in my own bedroom. Finally this week, I walked outside my back door and saw blue sky for the first time in weeks.
I'm usually what I like to call a Long Game type of person - I'm always thinking ahead. What's going to get me what I want in the long term? But, 2020 has taken that away from all of us. All I've been able to do is focus my mind and my body on each present moment. It's hard. I miss everything. I miss everything! But, look at how we've adapted. I was marveling at this the other night when I gathered with some friends in a backyard, a covid tradition we've had for months. I was thinking about how we've all adapted to our own boundaries of safety and care for ourselves and others. Some of us hug each other. Some of us do a little namaste or an elbow bump. We tune into each other's body language or simply ask if we can have some sort of physical interaction and it's become normal. No one is thrown by it or insulted. This has become our reality.
Look at how we've all adapted and have proven our resiliency. Those are the things that make me hopeful this year, knowing that we can and we will continue to expand and progress and adapt even when the future looks so fucking bleak. Even when the air is filled with smoke and the government is corrupt and our girl RBG is now an angel and the climate is shifting in front of our very eyes.
All we have is this present moment and if 2020 has taught me anything, it's to be here, now and enjoy.
Here's what's been getting me through this week.
new socks from KOTN
lunch at Urban Roots with these two
blue sky for the first time in weeks
I hope you're able to be mindful of the good and to recognize your own resiliency. Sending love.
why I'm done with Instagram9/13/2020 - Politics
I deleted my Instagram (more accurately, deactivated and downloaded all the data to my laptop), all ten+ years’ worth of content. I’m no Influencer but I liked my platform and my voice and the conversations I’d have on my little account. There are also so many parts of the platform that I really couldn’t stand. This pulling of the plug has been a long time coming and it feels like Decision with a Capital D for a Millenial that’s been on social media since she was 17. So, here’s where I’m coming from.
When I am feeling overwhelmed, anxious, depressed, one of the first things I typically do is delete the Instagram app off my phone. I deleted my Facebook account three years ago after the Vegas shooting sent me into a mental tailspin. I’ve never once missed it. I have a Twitter account but I barely touch it anymore. All of my social media time is devoted to Instagram. I’ve taken breaks here and there, for a few days at a time, a few weeks at a time, a couple of months at a time. I’ve always felt a bit of relief when I can hear myself think a little better without the notifications and the messages and the wondering what everyone’s up to. I’ve also learned that when I’ve un-addicted myself from the dopamine hits of the likes and the dm’s and the posts and I start using the app again after some “time off,” it’s really not actually that enjoyable. But, then the inevitable happens - I start engaging with the app and the incessant scrolling begins again. I find myself grabbing my phone habitually and opening the app for no good reason. Am I bored? Am I anxious? What am I doing?
I don’t think that social media is all bad. Nothing is all bad. Even the president used to be an innocent child needing love before he turned into a racist, sexist, lying, autocratic sociopath. Social media can bring connection and community, it can lead to new opportunities, massive social change, promote great restaurants and new small businesses, connect people who wouldn’t otherwise be connected. I love that about social media. But, Facebook (the enterprise that owns Instagram) is a terrible company. Individuals promoting mass disinformation (Q!, “Plandemic,” #pizzagate, etc) congregate on Facebook and perpetuate harm that has turned into physical violence and election fraud. Innocent bystanders that are baited into believing garbage information not only consume it but validate and perpetuate it at a scale and speed humanity has never known before. Fake news is six times more likely to spread than real news on social media. And of course, this happens on both the Left and the Right, to myself and the ones I love. Social media has been a major resource of connection during Covid, that’s undeniable. It’s also been a source of disinformation causing further distrust in health experts, scientists, and each other.
I have always enjoyed Instagram much more than I ever enjoyed Facebook. I love the pretty pictures, the quick or even blog-like captions, the fun stories and filters. I’ve noticed that what I actually miss when I’m off Instragram is seeing photos and videos of my friends’ kids and seeing posts from local flower farmers and restaurants. I like seeing all my pictures from over the years in one pretty place. I wish that we had a better platform than Instragram for these things. I don’t want to turn my time and data over to a company that promotes bad info because the algorithm says that a particular user will click the bait and spend more time on the app, further entrenching themselves in disinformation. I don’t want to turn my time and data over to a company that lets hate, violence, and disinformation have a voice in the name of “free speech” and ultimately, ad revenue. It’s driving us away from each other, not closer. (Think about it.) If we can’t trust the truth and we can’t trust each other, what do we have?
If my daughter were to ask me in the future about my opinion of her getting a social media account as they exist now, I would absolutely discourage it. So, why should I be participating in something I wouldn’t want my own daughter to participate in? Shouldn’t I be pushing for something different? Shouldn’t the most rich, powerful companies in the history of humanity be able to offer us something better?
I watched "the social dilemma" on Netflix recently and, honestly, that was the final nail in my “should I finally pull the plug on Instagram” coffin. (If you’re wary of this blog post, please watch the film.) Founders, designers, engineers of every social media platform on the planet expressed their sincere and urgent concern for the well-being of our society and the world as a whole because of these massive platforms. One engineer said, basically, if you’re using an online platform for free, YOU are the product. Do we need to hear this from anyone else to believe it?
Taking a stand is not always straightforward or clear. Will I miss social media? Sure. I’ll miss seeing my friend’s posts of their babies and kids (but, what is texting for??), I’ll miss seeing my favorite local flower farmer’s posts, I’ll miss seeing the local NorCal food updates, I’ll miss having conversations with friends about skincare and politics. But, I don’t want to be attached to the idea that being unplugged from social media means being unplugged from life. I want to be more present, more engaged, more active in my community and in my democracy. I will continue to support local journalism and local businesses, volunteering my time for campaigns and causes I care about. I can, personally, do all of these things better and more effectively without being engaged on Instragram. I want to know what it’s like to be an adult without social media. I want my daughter to learn from me what an engaged, active, and informed citizen looks like apart from our current forms of social media. Also, I just like myself more when I’m focused on the present moment, taking time to pause and consider before I proclaim my opinion to the masses, and am not looking for validation in the forms of emojis and numbers. Those reasons, alone, are enough for me to call it quits but, you know I love a Cause.
We are the most technologically savvy society of all time and I believe in the power and good that can come from technology. But, we should demand better from these companies, from our democracy, and ultimately, from each other. We will never be a part of better solutions if we accept the status quo. And that goes for social media, racial justice, healthcare, government, climate change, on and on and on. A push for better is ultimately an act of optimism.
No judgement to anyone who stays on social media (though I think that if enough of us ditched it, that could be a cause for change). If I haven’t made this clear enough yet, I believe in the good that can come from these platforms.
What will we do to better social media and, ultimately, our planet? Let’s figure it out together.
Some further reading and listening if you're interested:
- A Founder of Facebook Says It's Time to Break Up - The Daily from the NYT
- Be a Pioneer, Delete Facebook - The Guardian
- A VOX conversation with Jaron Lanier about going off socials (the privilege and politics around it)
- Also, VSCO is a pretty place for your photos.