Practicing Praxis: Friday, Aug. 7, 2020

It’s one of those nights where I can’t sleep. The melatonin doesn’t help and my doc doesn’t want me to take sleeping pills. I don’t know if this is a blog or the preface to “my” memoir or another chapter in the memoir.

I have such a hard time with technology these days. I can’t keep up and I don’t remember things like websites, passwords, etc.

I hear the clock ticking every day now. It’s the clock of my life and I’m alone and often scared. I will have retina surgery in several days – Aug 11 th , 2020. We’re in the midst of the pandemic that has exploded around the world because the corona virus is so contagious. Here in the U.S., we have a federal government that is a mess, “led” by Orange Man Frump. I cannot say his name. More and more people are dying, especially from communities that have been historically marginalized. People of color, poor people, old people, disabled people. As an old and disabled person, I’m in one of those “historically marginalized communities,” though I still have enormous white privilege and class privilege. I’m a lesbian in a big city in the Midwest where people don’t kill lesbians openly, which makes me relatively safe. I’m not “fragile” nor do I support the concept of “white fragility.” I have a roof over my head, food in the fridge and I get my social security check and I have retirement money. I don’t ever want to be silent, especially in the face of racism right now in the U.S.

After the murder of Mr. Floyd by local police here in Minneapolis (May 25, 2020) there was incredible violence here, and all over the world. Much of Lake Street in Minneapolis, and parts of University Avenue in St Paul burned. There are still boards over storefronts that have not re- opened as well as empty spaces on city streets where buildings burned to the ground. Many of the plywood boards say, “BLM” or “This is a POC-owned business.” These words have been sprayed painted on the boards; there’s also incredible artwork, done, I assume, by local street artists. There’s beautiful paintings of Mr. Floyd, and there are indelible markers everywhere naming all the people (mostly African American men—but let’s not forget women of all colors and trans people of color) who have been killed by police around the U.S. When I went to the memorial site on Chicago Ave. and 38th St, I went to say a prayer, not to go to a demo. But I saw more white people who look like me taking pictures on that corner. Fuck, a black man was murdered by police there! And many of us white people want to post pictures telling friends on Facebook that “we were there.” That is not about social justice. I think of the concept that Jesse Villalobos and I have spoken and written about: white followership. Us white people need to learn how to follow and not be at the front of the line. It’s not a bad thing because not everyone is a leader. It’s time now for people of color in the U.S. to move us forward since we white folks are still embracing white supremacy (even though we deny this).

(I just stopped writing to try to shrink the size of my text here. And I fucking don’t know how to do that so I don’t see the ends of my lines of type. I hate fucking technology sometimes. I refuse during this pandemic to be on 10 zoom call meetings every day. But I wish I was better with this shit.)

I’m several days away from retina eye surgery and I’m scared. I’m alone, in the Becketwood Senior Cooperative and I don’t know many people here, since I moved in May during the pandemic. Everyone wears a mask so I can’t see people’s faces. Even before masks, I wasn’t very good remembering names and faces. Now it’s worse. I am going to get tested for alzheimer’s. I’m not going to obsess on it, but I do worry. I’ve watched Pat go downhill for over a decade. She is in what is called end-stage alzheimer’s. She is safe and well cared for in Cecilia’s Place and Grace Hospice manages coordinating her care. I wonder often if she’s going to outlive many of us since she doesn’t have pandemic stress. When I see her, she smiles, says random words and when I visit at meal time, I feed her as she sits up in her hospital bed in her diapers. Life is prolonged in this country by doctors who just want to keep us alive. ( Read Atul Gawande’s book – Being Mortal). Pat is 81 and she can’t feed herself, bathe herself or offer a full sentence that makes sense. But she is still smiling. I’m glad she didn’t turn into the alzheimer’s person who was my mother, always whining, crying, being nasty and miserable.
But it’s still so fucking hard. I don’t really have a partner anymore, and her adult children are not my children. We have relationships, but not ones that are deep and meaningful.

I am alone, no partner. I can wish all I want but I don’t see finding an old lesbian on my horizon as possible. I’ve had several crushes recently, but I haven’t acted on them. It’s not the right time for me now.

I’ve gotten to this surgery because a number of my former students (or people connected to them) have been taking care of me. I haven’t been driving and my apartment at Becketwood is less than 1,000 square feet and I have so much shit. Books from my professor days, tons of papers…endless. I’m paying for a storage locker close by, but I long for a simpler life. I just haven’t figured out how to make that happen. Am I a pack rat? The Becketwood social worker asked me that. Yes, a single woman retired professor, alone, except for her two cats, not in great health, dragging around too much crap. Since I don’t have children that I gave birth to, in many ways my former social justice students are the people I’ve nurtured over many different years in various settings. They bring tears to my eyes because so many of them are doing incredible things in the world, and they are willing to come and help me. That blows me away.

They are my heroes.

I’m no longer part of the Warriors for the Human Spirit community; I was dismissed by Meg Wheatley because I talked aloud about white supremacy, especially so white people who are Warriors could figure out how to listen to people of color and deal with white supremacy. I’m no longer on the Board of Project South. Thank you sister Rose Brewer who opened the door to the incredible education I got working with Project South. But they moved to working exclusively in the South with Southern people in leadership. I’m no longer work with SURJ: Showing up for Racial Justice, either nationally or locally. I left on my own terms but there were folks there who didn’t like my “style.” What does that mean? Being a NYC Jew in your face dyke? That’s some of it for sure. I learned so much about Buddhism when I was involved with Warriors for the Human Spirit. I believe I’ve become a much better listener and learner and teacher, and I’m enormously grateful.

I think I’m not quite so “in your face” as I used to be, though I still stand by the words – “Never be silent in the face of injustice.” Am I gentler? Maybe a little, but I still won’t let people or institutions off the hook. Again, isn’t it about time that more of us white folks learn to speak out for genuine racial equity, not simply including people of color, but really changing who runs institutions and who makes decisions.

I’m fearful about the upcoming election. I fear that Orange Man Fromp will manufacture a way to bypass elections or create new chaos here. And all we have is Biden. An older white man liberal who isn’t very radical. He’s yet to pick his vice president. Many hope he will pick a Black woman. We shall see. Again, the “system” is rigged. Just like there’s little hope for “police reform;” I’m now calling it police deform.

I was going to do a racial justice workshop through the St Paul community acupuncture network, organized by Trish Kanous, who is white and Muslim. I wrote up a description, Trish was getting a church to host us, it wasn’t going to be on zoom and it was going to be a small group. Guess what? We advertised it for over-55 white people who were struggling with how to build community with people of color, especially Black people. And no one signed up. No
one. What does this say? Are we white people not wanting to really deal with white supremacy? But we ARE willing to show up and take pictures of the memorial site where Mr.Floyd was murdered by cops.

It’s late now for me. Closing in on 2 am, and I need to continue to work on cleaning up and cleaning out my apartment before the surgery. This felt good to write. I don’t write much at all anymore. My eye has not hampered my ability to see this screen on my laptop. My phone is too small to do anything like this. That’s one reason why I hate text messages. People don’t
want to talk on the phone. They just want to punch out a few sentences. I’m not looking for a two hour conversation but I appreciate hearing someone’s voice. And thinking aloud spontaneously.

Enough for now. Virtually yours, Lisa

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