I hope this finds you well. I am fresh off a three-day workshop with one of my mentors, Katie Hendricks and I want to share my biggest a-ha discoveries with you in case maybe you’ve been struggling with something similar.
My intention for the workshop was to explore how I might experience joy in my life given all that is going on in the world. How can I feel joy when I know that our government still hasn’t returned hundreds of children to their parents? How can I feel joy when every other time I log onto facebook I read a post from Shaun King about another innocent black man who has been shot by the police. How can I feel joy when the current administration is giving the green light to corporations to pollute our water and our air? How can I feel joy when every week or two I learn about another mass shooting? Please feel free to add your own concerns about current events here, the point is there is no shortage of injustice and suffering in our own backyard, not to mention the rest of the world.
I want to acknowledge that the injustice and suffering that I’m noticing is not necessarily new. It just seems to be pervasive and occurring on an accelerated timeline right now.
These injustices are not ok by me. And. And. AND. I am married to my favorite person in the whole world aka my “hot wife.” We have two radiantly beautiful and healthy children. We live in a our dream house in a vibrant medium-sized college town with mountain views out our windows. I just took a yoga class (in the middle of the work day). So on this whole other level, my immediate day-to-day life is incredibly good. I feel so grateful for all that I am so blessed to enjoy in my life, and I find it increasingly difficult to reconcile my privilege and good fortune with the unfairness and suffering that I see all around me.
Perhaps you’ve wondered this, too.
Let me break it down for you in slow motion how this pattern unfolds for me.
I read or listen to the news or scroll my facebook feed and discover some new injustice or tragedy that has taken place. This has been a daily occurrence for me for a long time.
I feel angry. An injustice has occurred. A boundary has been crossed. “This is not ok!” I say to myself. And anger is the appropriate response to an injustice or a boundary incursion. It’s biologically adaptive and it serves the purpose of producing the energy to restore that boundary.
Unfortunately, in this case, I don’t have the power to personally right the wrong or restore the boundary. Which catapults me into a second cycle where I then get stuck: I recognize that I’m not “big enough” or “powerful enough” to right the wrong, and then I feel scared. That takes me onto the drama triangle that we teach about in the Skid Row School. I start off in the victim position where I’m “at the effect of” forces more powerful than me. Then I might head on over to the villain position where I can go into a blame and criticism spiral and get that adrenaline hit from being right and self-righteous. And it is satisfying for a minute because I’m actually pretty good at diagnosing exactly what’s wrong and who is to blame (let me know if you ever need help with that). But it’s not deeply satisfying and for sure it doesn’t make things any better. Then I hop on over to the hero position where I figure out what I can do to make things a little bit better, and to be honest, it’s rarely more than a bandaid on a sucking chest wound. Then back to victim, then villain, then hero. I have spent more time in this triangle cycle than I’d like to admit for the past year or two.
When I was exploring this at the Hendricks workshop last weekend, we played a game where we drew a random card from this Integrity Card Deck (they’re inspiring works of art that I encourage you to check out for yourself). The particular card I drew said, “I listen to others accurately, appreciatively, and to invite wonder. In what ways can I learn to speak that are free of blame and invite wonder?”
That’s when the lightbulb went off for me. Authentic communication is my reliable pathway off the drama triangle and back into creativity. I consider it an area of genius, if I do say so myself. Think about all the life energy I’ve been wasting on that drama triangle when I could have been creating authentic connection toward supporting the “us” that will grow in momentum and power to be able to right these injustices afterall! That’s where I am choosing to put my energy going forward: authentic communications in support of growing the us that will transform the planet.
As I made this commitment to myself, another thing came to me: “Yes to authentic communications, WHEN YOU CHOOSE TO DO SO.” Which doesn’t have to be all the time. I have been vigilant on my social media feed making sure that no unconscious systemic racism slips by without comment or sharing the news of things I believe we should be collectively alarmed about. I watch and read the news to make sure I’m up to speed on the latest bad thing that’s happened. To be honest with you, I feel exhausted from it all.
One thing Katie Hendricks taught me years ago was how absolutely essential it is to consciously choose where to place my attention. I had forgotten that lesson. I have not been mindful about what inputs I have allowed. So over the past few days, I made some decisions to limit my information overload.
Last night I deactivated my Facebook account. I unsubscribed from Hulu Live. I deleted all the apps that are a source of upset from my iphone. I decided to leave my iphone to recharge in my home office each night so it doesn’t interfere with my quality time with my family. These are small tweaks but I believe they will free up a lot of creative energy for more important things! I will still listen to NPR but as my friend Nicki said, “Observe, don’t absorb.” I want to know what’s going on without triggering myself. And I commit to directing my energy toward the actions that are most likely to create the transformation I seek – authentic communications. I will focus on small and local knowing that will all add up.
There’s so much more redistributing of resources that will be necessary to create a more just world, and…attention is a resource. A big one at that.
I am excited to see where these new commitments take me. I look forward to many authentic conversations with you and I want you to know that I LOVE hearing from you when you respond to these letters so please keep that up!
Christine and I will be on staycation next week and I look forward to writing again the week of August 13th. Until then – be good to yourself and don’t be a stranger!
We are absolutely delighted to welcome Selena Liu Raphael to the Billions Institute team where she will be working as our Operations Coordinator. She comes to us with two decades of experience in the Child Welfare, specifically foster care, intensive treatment foster care and adoptions in Los Angeles and New York City. She was a supervisor at Five Acres and oversaw the social workers who supported the families who were fostering or adopting children.
In addition to being incredibly efficient and adaptable, she also has fantastic insights into human development and has a deeply compassionate approach to dealing with people.
It’s not on her official bio, but you should know that she was cast on a reality show that never aired called “When Women Rule the World.” Her natural leadership skills were so solid that she ended up being “Queen for a Very Long Time” and there was no drama (which is why it never aired). We are so thrilled to enjoy her calm and grounding leadership at the Billions Institute. She and her husband, Jordan, have three beautiful children and live just three blocks away from Becky in Claremont.