This time of year, we’re surrounded by New Year’s resolutions, challenges, contests, etc. all with the aim to improve ourselves. This year I reject that notion. I am not here to change me, but instead to be me for once. I reject what the world expects of me in regards to my body, my personality, my presence, my silence. Instead, I choose to embrace the love, the community, the joy that surrounds me. I am doing this all for me, but keeping in mind how my daughter will see this. Watching tv with commercials, I cringe wondering what she’s internalizing watching diet commercials, work out jokes, and ads for “healthy eating.”
So this year, I reject resolutions and instead I am stepping towards the world I want to be in. I must admit that I am inspired in this direction from several places. First and foremost, my kid shows me every day how to prioritize joy and laughter. When she can be her whole self, in an environment where she can be filled with reckless joy, persistent independence, and space to stretch, her laughter fills the room. Her smile fills my heart. Her joy shifts the energy in my body and in those around her.
Secondly, I want to acknowledge the people in my shared community of Evolutionary Leadership. In a time where the world continuously disappoints us, I watch them maintain a steady focus. Certainly, I see pain, anger, but I also see resolve. I see transformation. I see steps towards justice which include love, joy, and dancing. They go dancing all the time. I regret that I am not able to attend in this stage of my pregnancy, so instead I dance whenever I can. Gibrán Rivera reminded me last June that dancing is a religion. It’s a connection to your spirit, to our ancestors; it’s connection to the power and energy of the space and our bodies. So even though I don’t dance with them most Saturdays, I dance with them in other ways, ensuring that I am sharing love in all the ways I can from a distance.
I also must name inspiration by adrienne maree brown. I was blessed to meet her when I was part of a group of people who hosted a series of workshops by her back in November. She is a pleasure activist, writer, facilitator, doula, and general badass who speaks the language of our hearts. If you have not read her blog, or her book “Emergent Strategy,” do it. Right now. She has taught me so many things, but most importantly that the world in front of me has all the answers that I need and that if we pay close enough attention, we will learn how to be, how to love, how to co-exist. One of my most favorite quotes from her book is:
“My favorite life forms right now are dandelions and mushrooms—the resilience in these structures, which we think of as weeds and fungi, the incomprehensible scale, the clarity of identity, excites me. I love to see the way mushrooms can take substances we think of as toxic, and process them as food, or that dandelions spread not only themselves but their community structure, manifesting their essential qualities (which include healing and detoxifying the human body) to proliferate and thrive in a new environment. The resilience of these life forms is that they evolve while maintaining core practices that ensure their survival.
A mushroom is a toxin-transformer, a dandelion is a community of healers waiting to spread… What are we as humans, what is our function in the universe?”
— adrienne maree brown, “Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds.”
I read this to my partner over the summer and we committed ourselves to dandelions. We committed ourselves to allowing them to grow, to be prolific, and to love each and every one. I know that this likely frustrates my neighbor as he maintains a beautiful lawn, but we are committed. By allowing them to thrive, we are also acting in resistance, in resistance to the capitalism of a well maintained lawn. If we let our yards grow without intervention, imagine what they would be…wild…but organized, strategic, in co-existence.
adrienne also recently shared her plans for 2018 and they included turning towards joy and acting only in transformative justice. She starts by saying, “What you pay attention to grows.” From this, I heard her tell me that this year I need to turn towards the sun. I am turning towards what warms my heart, what fills me, and what opens me. I will not forget the pain, the trauma, the terror of this world we live in. It’s not about ignoring it, it’s simply about an approach that allows me to see the light. To acknowledge that feeling angry about things I cannot control is of no use to me. Instead, I choose to take that anger and turn it towards more than just resistance, but instead towards transformative justice. adrienne spoke about transformative justice and helped me understand the following:
- Punitive justice is the world we live in. We punish people for mistakes and then throw them away. Our prison system houses more than 2.3 million people. 1 in 5 people are there for a drug offense. And I’d be remiss not to mention that Black folks make up 13% of the general population but 40% of the prison population. (source: Prison Policy Initiative)
- Restorative justice is what many believe is what we need. In this case, it’s about apologies, getting along, promising to never do it again, giving folks a break for first offenses, etc. This is our interpersonal approach – I believe you’re a good human so I am going to forgive you and give you another chance.
- Transformative justice works towards making the system better so there is not a need for either above. Think of this example – If someone stole something from me, 1) punitive justice would be punishing that person, 2) restorative justice would be them apologizing to me and me forgiving them, but 3) transformative justice would be changing the system that made the person steal in the first place. Do they not have a job? Do they need to feed their family? Do they live in housing that doesn’t meet the basic standards of humanity? Do they experience racism and oppression that daily impacts their lives, their bodies?
See transformative justice is working towards erasure of all of the pain, anger, and trauma in today’s society. It means that our president would never have been crafted into the person he currently is. It also means that government wouldn’t be run by white rich men, that we wouldn’t debate right and wrong based on religion or opinion, but instead we’d live in co-existence based on our natural driven love and humanity. This is the sun I choose to turn to.
So you’re probably wondering, how does this fit into my parenting? Why put this on this blog? Well it has everything to do with my parenting. Since I have chosen transformative justice, since I have chosen to uplift love and joy, the relationship I have with my family is dramatically different. One small and simple example is my experience at the grocery store. At one of the stores, they have little carts for kids to push. I have heard all sorts of parenting groans about this and I was one of them. I used to try to talk her out of them before we got there, offering whatever I could think of. I hated those things. I especially hated how she regularly rammed them into my feet and that they are perfectly aligned to hit my ankle bone, re-issuing a weekly bruise. When I instead thought about how important it is to have kids in our everyday experience, that our energy needed it, that our lives depended on it, my experience changed. I now watch her skip down the aisle, pick out food based on her likes, she helps more, she is learning how to say excuse me and practice awareness of others. And she participates because it’s fun. Even more importantly, I enjoy her boundless energy and I have fun. I no longer have bruises and it’s not because she’s gotten better control of the cart. I have gotten better control of me. My once negative energy is no longer attracting her to ram into me. Life was literally ramming me, asking me to pay attention to a different way to be and instead I just groaned, rubbed my ankle and cursed under my breath.
Turning towards the sun means turning towards the inherent joy in my child, the inherent joy in me. It means that yes there are times to be still, but in general life is about dancing, loving, and using this power to make change towards the world we want to share with others. When is the last time you can remember laughing fully? Dancing with zero awareness of your body? Walking outside and smelling the scent of life in the air? This year, I am turning towards the sun.