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Posts Tagged ‘knowing your limits’

Shortly after the election, my coworkers and I had a meeting to talk about the election results and how we imagined THOTUS¹ and his masters and minions administration would impact our work. One of my colleagues talked about the need for us to write down our values, to make a written list of what we hold most dear as citizens … and then to rank that list. At the bottom of the list would be the things that were the “nice to haves,” things that were important to us, but which we could imagine allowing to fall by the wayside in dire times. The middle of the list were the “necessary” things, the values we felt strongly about and would be willing to stand up for. The top of the list, of course, would be for the “MUST haves,” the things on which we would never negotiate, the things for which we would fight. He said we’d need that list, that THOTUS would begin cutting away at everything on the list, and we needed to know where we stood, how far we were willing to go, what we were ready to battle for.

I didn’t make my list then. I thought about it a lot, but didn’t write. I sat down to write it out today, using some of my unexpected snow/ice-day time to focus on it. Because, on practically every one of the last 50 days, I have seen the flame-throwers of THOTUS’ scorched earth policy coming for every single thing I hold dear, everything that means anything about being a citizen of this country.

Earlier today, my mom sent me an article about Customs and Border Patrol agents demanding passwords so they can search travelers’ electronic devices. I told her to be prepared to have me call her from jail after I refuse to give up my passwords.

Let me be clear: There is not one thing on my phone that’s so special and important that only I should be able to see it. I could easily hand over my phone if asked, easily give up my password because I — like every single person who is being searched these days — have nothing at all to hide.  But none of that is anywhere near the point.

As I said to her, this is only the first pass. The first swing of the sledgehammer against the wall of what we think is our personal sovereignty. Once we’ve all gotten past this, gotten used to — if not entirely comfortable with — giving up our passwords on the regular, there will come the next thing. And that next thing will be worse. And suddenly giving up our passwords won’t seem like all that much because now we have to travel with letters from our employers vouching for our legitimacy or some such. And we’ll fight against the insanity of that, but then we’ll get used to it and it will stop seeming so bad because suddenly we’re being strip-searched.

It isn’t surprising that the people facing the worst harassment are people who are visibly Muslim or who have Muslim names. It isn’t surprising, but it’s no less awful. And it didn’t start with Muslims. And it certainly isn’t going to stop with Muslims. You know that, right?

So I took a break today, put other things (like remembering that I had a slice to post) on pause so I could think long and hard about the line I will draw in the sand, think about what I hold most dear, about where I’m not willing to give an inch, about what I’m prepared to stand up for, to fight for. I should have done this in November, when my coworker first said it. I didn’t write my list then because I thought it wasn’t necessary for me, figured I was clear, that I already knew all the items at the top of the list, that there weren’t any questions.

There are questions.

And am I really only talking about one line in the sand? Is it ever just one? When I start to think through all of the possible pieces, all the things that may or may not be hard and fast, I come up with something that’s feels more like this:

I’m still working on my list.

What lines will you draw in the sand? What does it mean if you stand up? What does it mean if you don’t?



In 2017, I’m on my #GriotGrind, committed to writing an essay a week.
I’m following the lead of Vanessa Mártir, who launched #52essays2017 after she wrote an essay a week for 2016 … and then invited other writers along for the ride!


It’s the 10th annual Slice of Life Story Challenge!
Head over to Two Writing Teachers to see all of today’s slices!

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¹ Titular Head oThese United States — Because yes, I’m one of those people. I won’t say that man’s name if I can help it, and certainly won’t ever put the office title that I respect in front of it. Punto.

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Yesterday I told myself that, if I could make it from midnight to 6am, I’d somehow find a way to get through the rest of my first 24 Hour Project. At this moment (7:22 pm), I’m not so sure.

I am sore and exhausted. All the walking I’ve been doing seems to have invited a recurrence of painful tendinitis in my hips. and the knee that’s scheduled to be replaced this summer is shouting all kinds of words my phone would have a hard time typing.

I thought midnight to 6 would be the roughest time because those late-night hours are the least familiar to me. Yes, in my often-doing-dangerous-and-unwise-things youth, I have stories about nights out on the street, but I floated through none of those adventures alone. Being alone on the street at 3am is a strange thing. And that means that — as much as you wish there were other people around — as soon as you see someone, you wonder what on earth they’re doing out at such an hour and what trouble they’re up to and if they’re going to sprinkle any of it on you. Irksome.

And midnight to 6 was hard — well, midnight to 5-ish because after that I was with a friend and his friends until 6. I left my house at 11:15 — already a serious weirdness — and was on my own until connecting with my friend at Times Square just before 5am. I had a hourly-on-the-half-hour safety check-in text plan with my street-photog friend, and that was nice. We weren’t crazy about adhering to it to the minute, but knowing he was keeping track of me from time to time helped a little with my nerves.

All that alone time was a challenge because a) we had a wet snow storm yesterday to celebrate the vernal equinox and by later evening the ground was an ice-and-slush mess and the snow had given over to sleet; b) I had a hard time finding people to take pictures of … New York may still be a city that doesn’t sleep but folks are clever enough to stay in when the weather is ridiculous (see item “a”); c) the number of easy super-late-night or all-night places for me to step out of the cold has dramatically decreased since I was more regularly out late-late at night. Found a coffee shop around 2:30 … a coffee shop with no seating (!!), no outlets for me to recharge my phone, and no bathroom. In other words, the worst coffee house ever. Found a diner an hour later, and that fed me, warmed me up, had a good restroom. Yes, my pancakes were a little soggy, but pancakes weren’t priority. At six I discovered a waiting room in Grand Central (train station) that had outlets. Perfect!

So I tackled the most problematic hours, and that feels like an accomplishment. I know that, in planning for next time, there are some important things to build into my strategy:

  • list of coffee shops and diners that are open and that have outlets or charging stations
  • list of hotels that will let random people off the street use their lobby rest rooms (found a great one around 5:30 near Times Square: beautiful place with beautiful bathrooms and the loveliest young man on concierge duty)
  • MUCH smaller, lighter bag — don’t want to tell you all the ish I packed with me yesterday. Happily, made a stop back home to feed my cats and ice my knee, and dumped more than half that stuff
  • more comfortable walking shoes — the boots I’m wearing are fine (especially with the great insoles I bought for them), but something better would be, well, better

I also want to plan for more paired or group late-night walking. That will be better for my peace of mind, and will surely also lead to better and more photos. I spent so much time being nervous on the street last night that I missed many, many shots.

All in all, I’ve done well so far. I’m completely exhausted — which would be true anyway, but is especially true because my big plan to work a half day Friday then go home and sleep went down in flames. My body wasn’t ready to sleep and just wouldn’t. In the end, after my grand plan, I managed about 90 minutes of sleep before it was time to walk out the door. Crazy.

For now, time to get back out there and finish strong: 4 more hours of photos to find!


It’s the annual Slice of Life Story Challenge, hosted by the wonderful people over at Two Writing Teachers! Every day this month, hundreds of writers will be posting their stories. Head on over and check out the other slices!

SOL image 2014

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