creating new traditions

The true story behind the holiday most people call “Thanksgiving” involves a very rare moment of peace between (eventually to be called white) Europeans and Indigenous people. In our family over the last few years, it has felt really strange to celebrate what was an exception to the rule of the day; the rule of the day was my ancestors betraying and murdering Native people.

Last year, we celebrated Thanksgiving, but talked a lot about how complicated it was. Our 11 year old announced a few months ago that she was going to boycott Thanksgiving because of the harms white Europeans perpetrated against Indigenous people. Our family had some conversations about it and we have decided that we will no longer celebrate Thanksgiving.

We will, however, create our own new celebration. We are not simply re-naming the day. We will celebrate, and we will probably enjoy foods that we have shared over our lifetimes around this time of year. Our days of celebration will also include moments of solemnity and honor for all of the lives lost, the cultures crushed, and the overtaking of the land by greedy capitalists. We will live in the truth as best we can.

White supremacy culture is all we’ve known in our family, so far. What that means is we don’t have a “culture” that doesn’t relate to oppression of others. But, we white people can tease out of our family traditions, shared experiences, and other aspects of community those elements that may form a new culture or new cultures.

For us, we are trying out “Anticipating the Solstice” as our celebration. It will last two days (the last Wednesday and Thursday of November), so the kiddos can celebrate in both of their homes. The foods may vary from year to year, but there are sure to be many of the old standards we’ve grown up with. How we honor the true story of the first “Thanksgiving” will surely develop over time, too. We will start by using this as a reference. I know we will involved candles somehow, and silence. The rest we will work out as a family.

This is not going to be a “cheat.” This is not a way to celebrate Thanksgiving and still feeling good about it. We will not celebrate Thanksgiving as we have done before. We will join with our wider community in mourning the horrors our country was built on. And, on the same days, we will celebrate the bounty of our lives in joyful gratitude. Add to all of this the complexity that we know we are very lucky in our bounty, that too many people will be going without shelter, food, or family. We will recognize that, too.

As I was writing the last sentences to this post, a friend from our Quaker Meeting, Beth Bussiere, sent me an email about this very topic. I will leave you with her words: “What I found myself finally with was how interconnected lamentations and gratitude are. That without lamentations, without acknowledging the grief and the grievous, our gratitude can be misplaced or superficial. On the other hand, without gratitude, our lamentations can just pull us under.”

sharing everyday joys

Like everyone I know, the reality that Tr*mp may continue to encourage violence, that COVID-19 will continue to rage, that people will have to risk their lives if they want to vote, that Biden/Harris might not change things all that much and… and… and…

…the list is too, too long and massive to do it justice.

I am scared. Some of that fear has to do with my children, some has to do with feelings of helplessness, but most of it has to do with all of the people whose lives are directly at risk. I say “directly at risk” because I believe the system of racial capitalism and white supremacy is killing all of us in different ways. But Black, Latinx, Indigenous, and all people of color, plus LGBTQ people, immigrants, refugees, asylum seekers, disabled people… this list also goes on… have already faced violence in this country. All poor people, even those who are white and even those who are Tr*mp supporters, are being killed directly by the current systems and can expect to have harder lives in the coming years. No healthcare, poverty, underfunded schools, the criminalization of everyday life… All of it.

On twitter, I’ve seen many Black and Indigenous people (white people, too) talking about having plans for surviving these times. Plans include staying away from the Internet, or sticking to joyful content.

As a white woman from a background of socioeconomic privilege, sharing photos of joyful moments risks seeming oblivious to what’s going on. As I sit here, I’ve decided that letting the pain and despair I’m feeling on behalf of all of us overwhelm me doesn’t help anyone. For this moment, I’m thinking that being of service might sometimes mean sharing small joys. What I want is for everyone to have joys like this (I mean the kinds of joys you want). Everyone deserves to be so lucky. And those of us who already are so lucky need to keep working to make sure the luck is shared.

From the mountains of Maine: this morning there were lovely tiny snowflakes over the garden I tried to capture (I can’t see them in the photo). A cast iron stove warming the room. (Not seen: butternut squash roasting, piles of papers finally sorted, a cup of Earl Grey tea with a splash of heavy cream, a full bird feeder with frequent Goldfinch and Pine Siskin visitors.)

cast iron stove with fire inside next to stacks of cut woodview of mountains, leafless trees, garden of soil, blue sky with grey clouds

Alleluia!

In the Quaker Meeting where I’m a member, we practice what is sometimes called “waiting worship,” or unprogrammed meeting. That means we mostly sit in silence together. Sometimes, people are led by Spirit (or God or however you want to describe it) to share something out loud with the rest of us. Today, a hymn came to me during worship. It didn’t “rise to the level of vocal ministry,” so I remained on mute (while I hum-sang!). This hymn from my childhood church came to me so strongly this morning that I would have (maybe?) sung it in Meeting if I could’ve remembered more than the Alleluias! I *almost* sang with the idea that I would hum the non-Alleluia parts.

If you are curious, with my Dad’s help (he’s retired minister of the ELCA), I found it — there are so many versions out there! — in the way I was hearing it in my head: https://youtu.be/FrDXw-8QtK0 was one from a Missouri Synod church (with the words), and another of just one person singing: https://youtu.be/tP9DfcMHVnk.

It will take some time for me to understand why this particular message came to me, though thoughts of hope and love (hope in action) following despair and acceptance come immediately to mind…

Might be a flurry… (of posts on this blog)

This week I am up in the mountains of Maine all by myself. No children, no parents, no pets. Just me. For many reasons, and the worldwide crises (googling “crisis plural”) is definitely among them, I may post a lot of small posts on this here web log. Just a head’s up, especially for those of you who get my posts by email!

Here’s where I am (heart emoji x a thousand):

24 years ago, one day at a time

24 years ago today (tonight) I was wondering how I’d gotten drunk and high again after telling myself I was going to quit. In fact, I had quit drinking! for three months! It’s just that I celebrated how easy it was to quit by drinking a lot of vodka lemonades and getting stoned. (It made sense at the time?)

24 years ago, I didn’t know I was allergic to alcohol. I didn’t know my brain worked in some very specific mixed up ways. First, putting alcohol into my system sets off a phenomenon of craving that I can’t resist. I don’t just want more. It feels like I *need* more. I MUST have more! It’s an allergic reaction (abnormal reaction) beyond my control. (Just like people allergic to peanuts have a reaction they can’t control.) This inability to control how much I drink leads to all the kinds of ugliness that getting too wasted can bring (to put it mildly).

The second way my brain is mixed up is that I’m not able to hold on to the truth that I can’t drink alcohol safely. There’s a gap there that never goes away if I rely entirely on education, intellect, or personal will power. If I TRY with all of my might to remember that drinking alcohol leads to bad, bad consequences, I’ll eventually forget and I’ll drink again.

As a part of a community of people with the same problem, I used what is commonly known as a “twelve step program” to clear away the wreckage of my past and start growing spiritually. Through that work, I found freedom. Life still has its ups and downs, of course, but I’m able to hold on to the truth that I can’t drink alcohol safely. That truth stays in my brain because I’ve developed a spiritual life, a connection to a power greater than myself. I call it god, but that’s really a shortcut for “whatever is just beyond human understanding” so what it actually *is* changes all the time.

Living a life without alcohol and drugs is my normal now. It’s simply not an issue. Because I need to keep enlarging my spiritual life, I stay connected to that fellowship of recovering alcoholics. I share my experience, strength, and hope with other people with substance use disorder. I mentor people who want to know “how I did it,” in the same way I was mentored over the last 24 years. The people who remind me what it was like give me so many gifts! And I get to say, hey, it doesn’t have to be a struggle to live without drugs and alcohol. :-)

The other day I was talking with my daughters about being in long-term recovery, how I was trying to remember what it was like to hear someone say they were sober for as long as I’ve been now. I think early on I would’ve both been awestruck and also terrified and horrified. There’s a reason we talk about taking things one day at a time. If I would’ve tried to commit to never drinking again, I surely would’ve lost it. I was able to take it one day at a time (sometimes 10 minutes at a time) and not drink. As the time free from alcohol began adding up, I was able to work on my spiritual life and find a way to know peace.

24 years ago tomorrow was my first 24 hours on the journey of recovery. It’s a good life.