Hush: Summer of Love, the Fourth of July and the “N” Word

There is a thing I do, make white people comfortable. Survival techniques my parents taught me.  Be well-mannered and respectful as not be perceived as an uppity negro. It does not matter if you are better educated, better read and more economically advantaged, just make sure ‘they”don’t feel it. Over the years, I learned, be passive and demure so I would not be perceived as the angry black woman. The  past few years, I stay quiet and soft spoken as not labeled “one of those black lives matter people” to avoid an all lives matter debate. I do this well. I was with five friends in South Carolina touring at a polo field and one of the guys commented, “Wow, this looks like the plantation days, they even have a niggers mowing the lawns.” Stunned, I could barely breathe and froze. To have the word yelled at you in hatred stings less than when you hear it used in a conversation that you are a part of. Who and what taught him to use that word in the context and what made the others accept it? Yes, I do a very good job of making white people comfortable.

But, I’m tired. I confess, I am part of the problem.  I let my fear that I will sound angry, militant and accusatory keep me silent and I have not respected the character and integrity of my friends enough to have some transparency of emotion.  Once I described an incident at a pool and the response was, “well we didn’t have this in California.” Exhausted,   I replied,” you’e not a person of color, how would you know?” The immediate thought that raced through my mind, oh no, now you’ve made her uncomfortable. The reality is, It’s human nature to want to isolate a bad experience. We don’t sit and constantly think a plane can crash into a building, an airliner can crash into the ocean or a ship can sink. Understand,as an African-American woman, experiences some  people can isolate, treat and one offs are my every day world. I’m embarrassed to admit I wouldn’t go to the community pool covered by my homeowners dues alone because I fear racial slurs and I’d only go with friends.

Watching the NBA play-offs, for the third time in a week, someone commented about the hair of the African-American players. Things like, “look at that crazy hair”, “that is too much hair” and “shouldn’t there be a restriction on the height of a player’s hair, you can’t see over it. ” These seemingly benign comments, for me, showed a culturally narrow view of reality. I pushed myself and commented, “our hair grows out, not down.”  Interactions like this don’t require an extended conversation.  A response such as “message received” or “thanks for the insight,” for me is preferable over awkward silence. In June, I thought I was making progress in being a bit uncomfortable until this week.

I saw the dash-cam video from the Philandro Castile. ¹ It is 1 minute and 8 seconds; you see the officer approach Mr Castile’s vehicle, you hear the conversation and see the officer draw his weapon and shoot. The last 8 seconds show  Phlandro’s 4 year old daughter exiting the car crying. In the audio, Mr Castile was respectful, he narrated him movements and the officer shot him 4 times. To quote Trevor Noah, that broke me. As a black woman who has had the police stop me outside my home as I was getting my mail, the idea that as polite as I was in the moment and when I followed the “protocol” and said here is my license with my address, I am reminded the incident could have gone horribly. That is gut wrenching.  I’m not here to debate the trial and outcome.  I just ask, how did a stop for a burnt out brake light end like this?  I really wanted hear about this from a white perspective.  After viewing the dash-cam video, does this interaction seem ok?  I want to ask, but, I don’t want to make anyone uncomfortable. It occurs to me, people may think the things they  hear in the news on the treatment of African-Americans doesn’t  bother me because I don’t speak of it and that’s on me.

On Saturday, I was in San Francisco for an art exhibit celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love.It fascinated me that the adjoining wing featured an exhibit of African-American Art of the South. There were photographs; during the same time period as the summer of love, there were  civil rights protests, police turning dogs into the crowds, African-Americans being kicked and beaten, and a sign I wish could be a relic of the past. As painful of a past as it represents, it is even more angst ridden when I think the only thing that dates this photo from over 50 years ago is the car.

Screen Shot 2017-07-02 at 10.38.42 PM.png

In the final weeks of the NBA playoffs in June, LeBron James; house was vandalized with the “n” word.  A portion of his response said:

“No matter how much money you have, no matter how famous you are, no matter how many people admire you, being black in America is tough. And we’ve got a long way to go for us as a society and for us as African-Americans until we feel equal in America.”

Next April will mark the  50 year anniversary  since the assassination of Martin Luther King. Many things have changed, but there is still a long way to go. This fourth of July, as we celebrate independence and the sacrifices it took to get here, let’s all make small sacrifices of our own and have the conversations needed to move us forward even if it is a little uncomfortable.

 

 

¹http://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2017/06/trevor-noah-philando-castile-dash-cam

Balance, Sustainabilty and Exhaustion

A proper handstand is an inversion you can enter, hold and exit with control. I cannot do a handstand. Do not be fooled by this picture which depicts a point in time of one try out of eight. Trust and believe, I wouldn’t try this on the balcony of a confined space because I can’t sustain it. I can run fast, if it’s only going to be for 10 seconds. I’m good for a burst, not for a long run. Physically, I know a lot of my limits. I can distinguish between things I can sustain and things that will lead to exhaustion. At work, it is a different story, This week, I realized, there are times when I have mistaken a burst, a moment in time when things came into alignment as sustainable.

I worked on a project to identify every process impacted by HIPPA. I was in “the zone” and for three days with little sleep, I cranked out 105 pages of process maps, tables, risks and recommendations required for compliance. It was 6 months worth of work done in 3 days. While that was a great triumph lauded by my peers, it messed me up for 4 years. I unconsciously kept looking for the “this was incredible, no one else could have done this, wow what a success” exhilaration. As a result, I took on too much work at times, under estimated  scope for others, because I didn’t recognize that one event was a perfect alignment. I chased something as sustainable, something as normal when that project was a rare instance when the needs of the client were tailored to my expertise.

Have you mistaken intermittent balance and burst of strengths for sustainability? You were in the right place at the right time, you got a great assignment, you knew someone who knew someone. This is all great. The frustration starts when you try to pursue the magical, extraordinary times as normal without acknowledgement of the components that made it possible. This leads to a whisper of subtle frustration; until one day you find yourself in search of something seven years from your past instead of assessing what’s in your present that will make your future.

The lesson here, we can all have moments of greatness, but understand sustainable and attainable. You can exhaust yourself with anything, trying to get that good project, cook that wonderful meal, do that solid handstand, have that great relationship. You have to understand what went into it, to get repeatability and sustainability. Observe where you “chase the magic.” What was it that made it a success? Can begin to see how you can sustain or where you may need to build strength as not to exhaust yourself? Do a quick inventory your strengths.  Where did you excel in the last 6 months? Does this match your pursuits? If not, do you need to build strength or reevaluate goals? How will you attain sustainability? The power is knowing whether that great round of golf, good hair day or surplus of cash is the result of magical alignment at a point in time or the result of work.

 

 

 

The trained eye can see my back has to much of an arch and my hips are not aligned with my shoulder, hence, I can not sustain this handstand. The work is to use a  wall and hold proper alignment for minute or more daily.   Check back with me in 6 months, because right now, 30 seconds is all I can sustain.

Part Two: Room for Wrong? Room to Grow & Open to Possibility

So the bus passes by this woman waiting at the bus stop. OK, maybe the driver didn’t see her, but still, it is a bus stop. I think the bus driver should have stopped. The woman takes off and runs after the bus. She catches is when the bus is at a stop light and knocks on the door. The bus continues. OK, maybe it is against policy to board riders anywhere other than the stop. The woman continues to run and miraculously makes it to the next bus stop and boards the bus with three other passengers.When she gets on, she asks the driver, “Why didn’t you stop for me?”The bus driver said, ‘We don’t have to stop. You have to flag us down.” The woman with a confused look took a seat in exhaustion. By now, the passengers who witnessed the incident commented with indignation, sarcasm and humor.  “I’ve been riding for years, I’ve never flagged the bus down.” “Well, how soon do we need to start flagging you down?” “Excuse me miss, but I’d like to get off at the next stop.”

Yes, it got ugly. Why couldn’t the bus driver admit she was wrong? I checked the rules and the instructions are: Board the Shuttle wherever you see a sign with the green Broadway Shuttle bus icon. This was sooooo obvious, the driver could have said, oops, my bad, Sorry didn’t see you was trying to stay on schedule. Just saying nothing would have preferable to the falsehood that followed. The next day, I heard the perfect conclusion to this. Richard Friedlander in a perspective on the radio said:

I used to think that speaking in public was the one thing that was feared more than death, but after twenty years of trying to get people to resolve their problems by talking with each other, I’ve come to the conclusion that admitting one has made a mistake now occupies the top spot. 

The amount of creativity and time wasted by working around this simple act is enough to solve both our energy and employment problems in one swoop. The trust and fellowship that is lost would fill a black hole in space. “Hey, I screwed up” often is enough to put an end to a dispute, and when it isn’t, it’s a good start toward a resolution. Sometimes, it leads to an apology; sometimes, to creating an atmosphere where people are not afraid to give and receive helpful ideas. This applies to relationships across the board: whether it’s a presidential candidate speaking to the electorate, co-workers, marital partners, strangers or friends. You open up, people open up to you. 

¹ https://ww2.kqed.org/perspectives/2017/05/24/i-screwed-up-2/

Stuck? Empty Alleys, Wing Spans, & Self Limiting Thoughts

I look observant in the first few photos¹. Subdued for no particular reason; it was an open space and the alley was empty. Still, I just stood there for 35 frames until I extended my arms and smiled.A bird doesn’t fly without spreading its wings. It is much the same with people. Without stretching our selves, we’re going to stay in the same place. The only constraints in the photo were the ones I unconsciously put on myself. My photos clearly show unwarranted restrictive beliefs onto a progression of challenging myself. This episode made me ask where do I unconsciously limit myself?I found I limited the content for this blog, unconsciously. In my mind, the story is, it is  enough that I write every week and create a photo image. Is it? Or are my thoughts a shut off valve to creativity?

When was the last time you challenged yourself? This week, find the areas where you unconsciously invoke self-limiting beliefs, it may surprise you. Socially, physically, mentally, emotionally, etc., where are those beliefs lurking? Just notice without judgement. Of course, since it’s unconscious, it may be hard to find. Try this, pick an area of life and finish this thought, “for <insert area>, I’d like to have <insert what you want>.” Then dive in, most likely, there is the self-limiting belief around that want, you just have to keep asking yourself why. There may have been a time when these constraints served you, but are those reasons valid now? Do you have a shut off value that does to serve you?

Think about it and you may find you want to stretch. You might want to try something just a little bit different. You always have the option of staying in a holding pattern, but what happens if you stretch and  embrace the future with arms wide open.

 

¹Mural Artist Erica Group   Experience #delandwings    Read her story.  

 

Off Balance: Jet Lag, Decision Fatigue and Routine

For six years, I traveled weekly. One night, driving home from the airport, I repeatedly pressed a button trying to make a stop light change from red to green and I could not understand why it didn’t work. At least not until I go home and realized I tried to use the garage door opener to change the light. This was a bit beyond the normal stuff, waking up and being unsure of the day, hotel, or city, pressing the panic button the car keys to locate where you parked the rental and just wanting a night with room service, the remote and a good night’s sleep. I had extreme decision fatigue.*

Business travel can be rough; you are barraged with decisions. You are traveling in the first place because there is a meeting, a training, something that can’t be done virtually that requires your presence. You will make some key decisions or you will learn some important stuff. However, before you even get to that, there are travel decisions: airport, time of day to depart, window or aisle, king or queen, smoking or non smoking, compact or midsize to name a few.

Then there is packing. Please don’t leave a charger cord behind, the savvy traveler has device kit prepared and ready to go. But all this “stuff” means the brain gets fatigued, So, do a lot of business travelers look the same? Probably. Consider, it’s not because they are boring, lack imagination or creativity, they just do certain things routinely so their minds are fresh and ready to do big stuff. Former President, Obama told Vanity Fair:

“You’ll see I wear only gray or blue suits,” [Obama] said. “I’m trying to pare down decisions. I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make.

“You need to focus your decision-making energy. You need to routinize yourself. You can’t be going through the day distracted by trivia.”

Notice what happens to you when decision fatigue sets in.  Typically, if people are doing a meeting, they will schedule 3 days, 8:00 to 5:00. I find, it’s more effective to meet from 8:00 until 2:00. You’re done for the day as far as meeting is concerned. But, when you do have a chance to answer emails and do your regular job, you have time to think about the impact of some of the key decisions you’re making in your meeting. It’s like when you can’t name a song and then maybe an hour or 2 later you remember. The brain will process, but you have to give it time. That way, when the meeting resumes the next day, you are better prepared for decision-making.

I’m traveling for business this week in Tampa. I declined a conference call  for 8:00 tonight . I’m glad I did as I spent a good 3 minutes trying to make the tv remote work only to realize I was trying to use y cell phone; don’t judge, it’s been a long day. Tonight, I’m routinizing myself, I’m washing my hair and watching the game 2 of the NBA playoffs. I know who I’m cheering for, so no deep decision-making required.

 

*In decision making and psychology, decision fatigue refers to the deteriorating quality of decisions made by an individual after a long session of decision making. It is now understood as one of the causes of irrational trade-offs in decision making.

Remembering Memorial Day

Memorial Day – at times it seems we are trying to hard to forget what the day is really about. Which is rather ironic for a holiday that is all about memory.

Memorial day is in honor of those who have died while serving in the country’s armed forces. Formerly known as decoration day, the holiday started after the American Civil War to commemorate all the soldiers who died in the war. The civil war, today – still remains the highest loss of lives in military action. That is nearly 2% of the total US population. A number that increased the probability, every single person was impacted, every single person knew someone who lost a life in service. Today, for as much media coverage as we have, the loss of life is tangible, but for many not personal.

Memorial Day –  so sure, have the day off, attend the art festivals, the fun runs and celebrate the start of summer. But stop and consider what it means to have lost a life in service of the country. It’s Memorial day so remember the reason we can have a day off to have the celebrations.

Back Down; Room for Wrong; Open for Possibility

Me, “It’s Marilyn Manson.

Bo, “No, it’s Depeche Mode”

Me, “It’s like one of the only two Marilyn Manson song I like, Your Own Personal Jesus.”

Bo, “No, it’s Depeche Mode, I first heard it when I was in Japan., it was nuts, whoa, what is that.

We’d walked by a bar where the song was playing. The next day, thinking,Bo is never wrong about music, I did a search. Depeche Mode wrote and related the song in 1999. Marilyn Manson did a cover in 2005. After listening to both, I couldn’t be sure that what I have heard thinking it was Marilyn Manson, hasn’t been Depeche Mode over the last decade.

What about you? How often are you convinced you are right? Do you leave room for wrong? It is easy to gets facts wrong, even if ever so slightly. While one could argue with the song, we were both right, I know I was wrong. The whole history I held was wrong. I had no ego here, no need to be right. I was wrong, period. However, far to often are opinions based on wrong facts. People “hold court” lauding opinions with absolute righteousness in the guise of a discussion when in reality, there is no room for debate, there is no room for wrong. As recently as this morning, I reversed my opinion when a good friend simply said, look at it this way.

This week, notice, do you leave room for wrong? How do you react to, “you’re wrong,” “did you think about this,” or “look at it this way.” What’s your reaction even as you read this? Leaving room for wrong doesn’t invalidate your opinion or reaction around an event.  It simply means you are open to transformation, you are open to things maybe you thought you wouldn’t do. It means you are open to a world of wonderful possibilities.

 

 

This photo represents the two friends mentioned in this blog post. While the photo shows Bo, what you can’t see is Jackie was in the background. She got us to the location, watched for safety and was general set director. In a world of chance meetings and random encounters, thank you my friends for having my back, softening my crash landings and proving room for wrong opens a world of possibilities.

%d bloggers like this:
%d bloggers like this:
%d bloggers like this:
%d bloggers like this:
%d bloggers like this:
%d bloggers like this:
%d bloggers like this:
%d bloggers like this: