Tag Archives: truth

Checking my Privilege

This is the second time I’ve been prompted to “check my privilege” in an official way. Living in Seattle, I feel my privilege almost every day because it’s hard not to notice the gaping disparity in this cruel city. And yet I hadn’t read my privilege list in months. The list started in March 2017, inspired by an article I read about birth rights and outcomes, and how radically they differ based on your race.

That first round of inspecting and acknowledging the privileges in my life yielded about 30 things I could clearly see. Now I’m reading Ijeoma Oluo’s book “So you want to talk about race.” In it, she encourages a regular checking of one’s privilege. It’s important to maintain a realistic sense of privileges, to not let them fade into shadow, to identify and acknowledge new ones as they come into view.

“When somebody asks you to “check your privilege” they are asking you to pause and consider how the advantages you’ve had in life are contributing to your opinions and actions, and how the lack of disadvantages in certain areas is keeping you from fully understanding the struggles others are facing and may in fact be contributing to those struggles. It is a big ask, to check your privilege. It is hard and often painful, but it’s not nearly as painful as living with the pain caused by the unexamined privilege of others. You may right now be saying “but it’s not my privilege that is hurting someone, it’s their lack of privilege. Don’t blame me, blame the people telling them that what they have isn’t as good as what I have.” And in a way, that is true, but know this, a privilege has to come with somebody else’s disadvantage—otherwise, it’s not a privilege.”

And so, in that spirit, I updated my privilege list.

  1. White
  2. Cisgender (passing)
  3. Neurotypical (passing)
  4. Native English speaker
  5. Documented citizen of the country I live in
  6. Raised Protestant
  7. No physical disabilities
  8. No mental illness
  9. Grew up in relatively stable home environment
  10. Had a room of my own as a child
  11. Parents supported and were interested in my success/happiness (as much as they knew how to be)
  12. Consistent access to books and music since childhood
  13. Reliable access to medical and dental care/insurance since childhood
  14. Reliable access to food since childhood
  15. Never had to use public assistance
  16. Have lived in predominantly white, lower/middle-class neighborhoods/cities
  17. My fitness/eligibility to be a parent has never been questioned
  18. Got to choose where/how I birthed my son
  19. Had multiple people supporting and advocating for me during birth
  20. Was not forced to have a cesarean section
  21. Have access to healing modalities and communities that support my ongoing trauma recovery
  22. Stable housing
  23. Reliable transportation
  24. Tall
  25. Height-weight proportionate
  26. Conventionally attractive
  27. College educated
  28. Teachers supported and encouraged me
  29. Never suspended or expelled because of my race
  30. Employed my whole adult life
  31. Employed in tech in Seattle
  32. Never been denied a job/promotion because of my race
  33. Excellent credit score
  34. Reliable access to clean, affordable water
  35. Most people in my communities are a part of my racial group
  36. Most people in the books/movies look like me
  37. Never been threatened or harassed by police
  38. No family member has been imprisoned
  39. No family member has been lynched
  40. No family member has been killed by police
  41. I don’t have to teach my son to be afraid of the police
  42. Haven’t been forced to leave ancestral land
  43. Ancestors acquired plentiful farmland cheaply (because it was stolen), affording them wealth to pass on
  44. Have been able to choose where I want to live
  45. Majority of my family members mortgage/own their homes
  46. Qualified for down-payment assistance when I mortgaged my home
  47. When I enter an upscale store, no one questions my “right” to be there
  48. When I speak at work, no one questions my intelligence or threatens to have me fired because of my race
  49. No one has labeled my physically large, emotionally exuberant, opinionated young son as “aggressive” due to his behavior at school
  50. I can choose to ignore the realities of race-based violence, oppression, imprisonment, and genocide because it doesn’t directly impact “people like me”

I keep re-reading that last one. Cuz it’s really the crux of the issue, isn’t it? And yet it’s no longer my reality because that cat is already out of the bag. Once I started looking, everything changed. Reality changed. The lies I was told, the propaganda I was fed began to fall away.

It hurts, waking up to a reality where my “nice life” is built on centuries of dead bodies, crushed potential, conceit, and cruelty wrought by the hands of “people like me.” And I can guaranfuckingtee you my pain is small potatoes compared to how much it hurts to live as a racial minority in a white supremacist death cult bent on consuming everything and everyone it sees. So yeah, I’m going to keep checking my privilege because it feels like an important step on the only path that really matters right now.

Listening to My Body’s Songs

The truth about our childhood is stored up in our body and although we can repress it, we can never alter it. Our intellect can be deceived, our feelings manipulated, our conceptions confused, and our body tricked with medication. But someday our body will present its bill, for it is as incorruptible as a child who—still whole in spirit—will accept no compromises or excuses. And it will not stop tormenting us until we stop evading the truth. –Alice Miller

A few nights ago, Brendan and I were discussing how I feel whenever I’m given the chance to discuss my childhood wounding with my mother. As you might imagine, my feelings are complex and it hasn’t always been easy for me to distinguish which of those feelings are for ME and which are for HER. Which ones are about how I’m currently feeling and which are about how she will feel in the future as a reaction to what I might say or do. Because, as a co-dependent child, it was often important to my safety and well-being that I consider her feelings before mine. In the hierarchy of emotions, hers were more important because she controlled the resources.

Let me be clear: I say this not to blame her personally. If I’m leveling any blame at all, it’s at the violent patriarchal structure that created her and all the women who came before her. The oppressed and ultimately sadistic women who contributed to who she was as a woman and a parent.

Historically, one of the most prominent feelings I’ve had when thinking about my childhood and my mother’s role in it, is anxiety. Because I’m not sure if what I remember experiencing was true. I’m not confident in my ability to justify my position or powerfully back up what I’m saying. And if I can’t prove it, then I shouldn’t even say it in the first place, according to my patterns and programming.

Because I was thoroughly indoctrinated to not believe Me. My body was appropriated for the release and satisfaction of adult males. My mind was appropriated by the public schools that told me I should only learn what I’m instructed to, not what I’m driven to discover on my own. My spirit was appropriated by the church that told me, as a human—and especially as a female—I was born evil and could only find redemption by surrendering to male authority.

So how, exactly, was I going to prove my experience when I had difficulty believing it myself? How was I going to offer The Truth of my life when presented with the chance to plead my case to my mother? How could I stand up for my self and its experience when she couldn’t do that for her self? When she crumbled in front of me because my accusatory words hurt her? When she was herself a victim of the very same structures as I?

You can hear all the judgmental language in this, right? Proof. Truth. Blame. These are all concepts of oppression and minimization, meant to annihilate the inconvenience of personal experience and expression.

And then, on a Tuesday evening in February, my body finally Got It, to use that famous Landmark phrase. This isn’t about me telling The Truth. It’s about me telling My Truth.

I don’t have to *prove* anything. I’m not standing before God, offering up my life as evidence of my worthiness or rightness or blamelessness. This isn’t about me earning my way into Heaven or Harvard by getting all the right answers. This isn’t about me having to convince my mother that my feelings do, in fact, count just as much as hers.

It’s about me sharing my experience as I remember it. I’m telling my stories. I’m not telling The Truth because I can’t. I don’t have that omniscient perspective and never will.

This may seem straightforward and obvious to you, but it has never been obvious to me. Not ever. So, to suddenly find myself free of the expectation that everything I say must be the provable, incontrovertible truth was awesome in the literal sense of the word.

Excited and a little dizzy, I shared my new-found insight with Brendan, and he offered me a wonderful perspective about what a person’s stories are. He said “Those stories are your body’s songs, Baby; they are the sound of Life as it’s filtered through you. Your songs are beautiful and are worth hearing. As are everyone’s.”

As a person whose body has been locked down, tight, and armored for as long as I can remember, what he said struck me as rather revolutionary. Because I’ve spent my life ignoring my body, its signals, and its needs—either because someone else found them inconvenient or because I did. Until I gave birth to Avery and his head stretched me wide open, destroying everything I thought I knew about embodiment, I hadn’t been IN my body at all. Everything below-the-neck was something my brain found inconvenient or ugly, something that occasionally hijacked my experience because it needed immediate care or consideration.

I had internalized the message that my body was for other people, not for me; so why would I listen to what it was telling me if I couldn’t, wouldn’t, or didn’t want to listen anyway?

The more time I spent really listening to my body, decoding her strange yet beautiful language and signals, the more clearly I could hear her stories. After a while, I couldn’t hold those stories in any longer. Because as my bodily intuition developed, my voice also became more capable, stronger, more clear. My voice wanted to speak, to sing. I began to believe that my story was worth telling, that I had something worth sharing with other people who maybe had experienced some of the things I had.

These stories are my experience; my unique experience of the world as it’s played through me. They are my songs, my perspectives, my feelings. Which is why I started the blog: because my voice was ready to tell the stories that my body was sharing with me.

This started for me as a way to heal my wounds; to free myself from the oppressive ideology I was handed; to become a sovereign woman in a world that hates women, and seeks to keep them hobbled and in service. It has since evolved into an exercise in community healing. A community built of women who want to know both themselves and one another, intimately. Deeply. All the way down to the core. All the way back to the 4-year-olds. Because for many women living in this world, that’s when we were first wounded. Maybe even earlier.

The world we live in forces us to wound one another to survive. I want us to heal those wounds by loving one another and listening to the stories. By singing our songs.

I’m not trying to tell The Truth because that would be impossible. I’m telling My Truth because that’s the only perspective I have. I believe that by doing this I’m setting an example for other women. I believe that by sharing my experience I’m essentially giving you permission to know your body, to tell your stories, to sing your songs. You have a wonderfully beautiful body that’s dying to be heard. It’s time to let her sing.

Dedicated to Louise, Theresa, Gladys, Phyllis, Stella, Helen, Vicki, Lynnette, and Michelle.