Fearless Friday: When Power Fails, Rise Up

It’s been awhile since I wrote a Fearless Friday post. I’ve been waking night after night, plagued by insomnia and have decided to no longer fight it. So here I am, at 3am, trying to figure out a positive, encouraging post to write in the face of what seems a damning political and cultural scene. But life goes on and no matter what happens, so must we.

Welcome to Fearless Friday.

Feacanstockphoto13410470rless Fridays are about lives lived in spite of our fears, living a life that is about curiosity, compassion, and courage. If you just got published, something wonderful happened to you, you witnessed an act of kindness or bravery, or you have someone in your life who amazes you, drop your story into my contact page or email it to TheGreenStudy (at) comcast (dot) net and I’ll run it on a Fearless Friday. If you’re a blogger, it’s an opportunity to advertise your blog, but this is open to anyone who would like to share.  These will be 100-300 word stories, subject to editing for clarity and space.

Earlier this week, I wrote about becoming radicalized as a moderate woman. In another forum someone suggested that it should have happened much sooner. Once I got over my bristling at the comment, I put some thought into it.

When my daughter was little, she seemed like the slowest person on the planet. I was always the last parent waiting to pick my child up from school. She’d wander about talking to her friends, visiting other teachers, watching other kids putting on their boots and coats instead of putting on her own. We’d need an hour of lead time to leave the house, just so she could finish her conversation with the cat or change her socks. Again. It was often a source of irritation.

It hit me one day, that I’d been very much like her, but in a different way. I was always careful, trying to be prepared and when I was rushed, I would become clumsy and forgetful. And no amount of cajoling, badgering, or yelling would change that. I learned patience. I am still very much like that as an adult. You can’t hurry me along. I am very resistant to external influence and I insist on doing my own research. People arrive when they arrive – just keep the door open for them.

Put a Little Kindness in Your Life

A Year of Living Kindly: Choices That Will Change Your Life and the World Around YouI want to give a shout out to Donna Cameron, whose first book was released this month. A Year of Living Kindly: Choices that Will Change Your Life and the World Around You is a culmination of Donna’s personal experiment to live more kindly. I have enjoyed reading Donna’s blog over the years – it’s one of those online places where you come away with substance. For all my kvetching about social media, it’s important to remember the writers and sites that actually bring something positive to the table. Congrats, Donna – your book is at the top of my reading stack!

Look Away from Power, Nourish Love

Today, I’m finding comfort, as I often do, in the words of James Baldwin. His words strike through me with clarity and precision.

One must say Yes to life, and embrace it wherever it is found – and it is found in terrible places. … For nothing is fixed, forever and forever, it is not fixed; the earth is always shifting, the light is always changing, the sea does not cease to grind down rock. Generations do not cease to be born, and we are responsible to them because we are the only witnesses they have.

The sea rises, the light fails, lovers cling to each other and children cling to us. The moment we cease to hold each other, the moment we break faith with one another, the sea engulfs us and the light goes out.

James Baldwin, Nothing Personal, 1964

For me, this is a reminder of the impermanence of all things, except for love. No matter what is happening politically or culturally, we must continue to nurture the connections around us in earnest, to find meaning in the mundane. We should not neglect these things in payment to a bigger cause.

Lift Others Up and Be Lifted Up

A couple of days ago I listened to Betty Folliard, founder of ERA Minnesota, speak about the renewed interest in passing the ERA. A large percentage of the population believes it actually passed years ago. It did not. It requires ratification by one more state (Come on Georgia or Virginia – you can do it!). She talked about the history of the ERA and about her experiences working on The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in the United Nations.

She was full of energy and optimism and I sat in the back of the room and thought How canstockphoto19523496do you maintain that in the face of everything happening now? She’s been working for decades on these issues. And there I was, feeling all depressed and grumpy about the whole two years I’d been actively engaged in local politics and voting rights. What a dilettante! I realized that I’d been seeing too many of the schmucks in the news and not paying attention to the leaders and fighters among us right now.

It’s important to identify real leaders. There is a tremendous difference between power and leadership and current events behoove us to know the difference. My goal is to get my ass back up, dig into stories and books that will inspire me, and get on with the business of justice for humans and for our planet. If the fight never ends, it never ends. I still want to be in it.

Who are the leaders that inspire you?

Do you have any blogs or books to recommend?

22 Comments on “Fearless Friday: When Power Fails, Rise Up

  1. Pingback: Pressure Relief Valves – Thoughts from the back

  2. This is so moving, Michelle. I have to admit I don’t read every entry of yours that comes to my inbox (so little time), but I have been reading more recently. Yes, it’s such a trying phase that we’re in, but I try to remember that two characters compose the Chinese written word for crisis: danger and opportunity. We may have in our hands the greatest chance ever to achieve a just society, if not at this moment, somewhere in the not-too-distant future.

    I have a story about my dad, who was the kindest and most honest person I ever expect to know. (And kindness and honesty are much in my mind as I feel their absence in our current government.) It’s 336 words. I can pare it down—it needs tweaking anyway, as I wrote it eleven years ago. It was published on the site cityofmemory.org (under The Leaves), but it’s never really received any attention there. I’ll email it to you, and if it doesn’t match your vision, no problem. This is not the time for hard feelings. Carry on!

    Liked by 1 person

    • First of all, thanks for reading when you can – I have a hard time keeping up as well. Secondly, I’ve heard a similar thing regarding the Chinese characters of danger and opportunity. There is always a flip side to a negative and we’re skilled when we can figure out what that is.

      It would be wonderful if you sent me the piece about your dad. If it’s a little longer than 300 words, that’s fine. I wanted to leave space if there were multiple submissions, but thus far the interest has been low (we’re all so busy!). At this point, my vision is to connect bloggers and readers, so it’s not a particularly stringent expectation. Looking forward to reading and sharing it!

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  3. All I know about Betty is the handful of words used up above, but I wonder if she feels like it’s a fight. Maybe she does, I don’t know. But I think that if we approach everything as a fight, then yes, it’s exhausting, and we’ll run out of energy and have to rest and recharge at some point at best, even after a win, or at worse, give up. The problem, in my opinion, is that right now most everyone is approaching all disagreements as a fight, and since everyone is convinced they’re right, there’s nothing to do but fight. Our leadership, whether it’s our own as individuals in the community or our President’s, has to come from a higher understanding. Our President doesn’t have this in his bones, he’s encouraging fighting, and it’s trickling down, so it won’t stop any time soon. But approaching everything as a fight is not the answer, in my opinion. Better to be centered and grounded in the heart, and work forward from there. That’s where the energy and optimism rises from. We may experience outrage, but we can’t fuel ourselves with rage.

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    • I think this might be an issue of semantics. We do have a habit in this country of framing everything as a battle, fight, war, etc. We’re a militant country in many respects. And yes, the current administration has further pushed that narrative – although it rings false, since so many of them seem like pampered, childish elitists who sacrifice very little.

      I could, I suppose, use softer, more conciliatory language, but I’m human and I am angry and sometimes that anger fires up my motivation. It doesn’t mean I’m punching people out on the street. It does mean I show up, I prod, I call, I email, and I do the grunt work. And I pick issues that serve long term outcomes. I’ve found little to no value in talking things through with people, only because that’s not really a strength for me. Then I do feel like punching people out, but only because I’m an introvert and I find them exhausting.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I totally understand, and have great respect for what you’re doing, both on the page and in the world. I’m just becoming increasingly concerned about the anger on all fronts rights now, and thinking out loud about where that’s going to take us. Sometimes I think the country is completely broken, and other times I think about the 60s, and I think, well we got through assassinations and riots, surely we can get through this. But I’m not always so sure. Whatever the case, no offense meant, Michelle, sorry to rub you the wrong way. Keep on fighting the good fight!

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        • Walt, you didn’t offend me at all. You shared your point of view and I shared mine. That’s the way it’s supposed to work – which is likely what much of your point was. I know it’s easy to misinterpret exchanges on the internet, but you and I are strong enough writers to convey our points in a respectful manner. It’s much appreciated!

          Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks for the book recommendation. I’m not familiar with Donna or her blog but I love the premise. I used to tell my college students that the very least we can offer our fellow human beings is kindness. Because for some people kindness may be the very thing that changes everything.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thus far, I’m really enjoying the book – it’s come along when a lot of us are feeling pretty raw. She advocates not just kindness towards others, but ourselves as well. It’s one of those books you can pick up, read a chapter, and walk away with something to ponder that is applicable in one’s own life. We could all use a little more kindness these days.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Another powerful post, Michelle. I admit to having been pretty depressed over the last 24 hours—the churn of anger, disillusion, and disbelief clouding hope. But I can feel it coming back. Resolve is stronger and it lights a path. Regardless of the outcome, the events of this week will surely lead to some much-needed change.
    Thank you so much for sharing information about YOLK. When I started writing about kindness 4 years ago, it was a very different world. I didn’t realize its full strength then; perhaps I still don’t. But I’m sure kindness will be essential to achieving the change we need to see.
    Loved the James Baldwin quote and also your final line: “If the fight never ends, it never ends. I still want to be in it.” Yes!
    Thanks, Michelle.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re so welcome, Donna. I really like how your book is organized. I’ve bounced around to the chapters that are calling out to me. Chapter 41 was much needed today! I’m exhausted from all the insomnia lately (suspect hormones more than the news), but I’m heartened by the grit and determination I hear from so many quarters. As a commenter above pointed out, danger/crisis is the underside of opportunity/challenge.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Our Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern inspires me. Our electoral system did strange convolutions and she ended up as leader of the opposition, then, very unexpectedly, Prime minister a year ago. She and her partner put aside their efforts with assisted fertility to become pregnant while she dealt with this situation and unexpectedly, unintentionally, she became pregnant. She has still managed to do her job as Prime Minister over the last eleven months, and at the same time love this totally unplanned baby who arrived on our shortest day in June. I also find her partner inspiring, giving up his own career for the time being, to be a stay at home parent for their baby. A lot of men would find this situation very difficult. All power to the two of them.

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    • She, Jo Swinson (UK), and Tammy Duckworth (US) are the bellwethers, one would hope – for the balance between being an effective employee and a new parent. While they have some advantages that women with a lower socioeconomic status do not have, this is how it begins – from the top down. The world’s workplaces have been designed to accommodate men with families, relying completely on women at home to carry their water. It’s hopeful to see some of that changing.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Maybe a start has been made at the UN building. Her partner Clarke Gayford had to do a nappy change, and there were no parent rooms handy. So he had to make do with a table in a meeting room. He wrote on Instagram that a very startled Japanese delegation walked in when he was in the middle of this necessary task and he wished he could have captured the moment on camera. But maybe this is how the message spreads.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. I really enjoyed reading this post, Michelle, and I think I know what you mean about being a person whose motivation comes from within and not from external provocations (at least not entirely). I find that I need a kind of internal order that seems to emerge when I create external organization and also when I have time to sort out my thoughts, and lately I have not had the time due to a series of things, each one a crisis of one type or another. The “danger and opportunity” idea brought up in this discussion is encouraging to me! Thanks for your interesting post.

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    • I missed this last comment, Carla, so sorry for the late reply. You’ve touched on something that I struggle with continuously – how to maintain that centered sense of self in the middle of engagement and just the chaos of life. My body tends to come up with solutions if I don’t take care it – I end up injured or sick, so that I’m forced to withdraw, rest, and get my brain sorted. I’m trying to prevent that from happening, but as it sounds like you know, life just keeps trucking along.

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