Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Chasing Feet

As a little girl I remember so many nights, staring up at the high ceilings of the bedroom where I grew up, wondering what other kinds of beds I could be sleeping in. My bed had a wooden head board with a carved design and I would run my hands across it. I had a heavy, white embroidered quilt that was my Great Grandma's. I liked it but I liked to have my feet stick out because I got hot and I liked to rub my feet together as I fell asleep. My friends told me that even after I'd fallen asleep my feet would keep moving. They would say my feet liked to chase each other all night. I'd lay there and try to imagine where everyone else in the world was sleeping and what their feet were doing. I lived in Sebastopol, a small town in Northern California, where I think most people were sleeping in a situation similar to mine- in their own beds with lots of covers. I knew of one guy who didn't have a home – but I knew where he slept and I'd seen how he set up his bed on the porch of a church down the street. I worried about him sometimes but his bed actually looked alright. I just worried he didn't have anyone to say goodnight to.

I knew some people slept in hammocks, others with their whole families in one bed. I imagined people slept in canoes, tree houses, igloos and I wanted to know so much more. All those places sounded alright to me, some of them really fun. I wondered though, if there was a really scary place in one of the corners of the earth where I wouldn't be able to sleep because I'd be scared. I couldn't imagine it. Maybe somewhere where there were lots of guns, but I knew some people with guns were really nice so I thought I'd be okay there. I guess I thought if there was someone nice to say good night to- nothing could be that scary.

I've been stuck with this wonder for twenty five or so years, trying to understand why this is my bed and I'm not in another bed, with another family. What if I woke up tomorrow piled in a bed with a new Mom and Dad and sister- would I learn to love them as much as my family?

Last October I had a feeling that I knew the answer was yes. I woke up before my alarm on the couch in my office. I could see the Oakland Tribune clock tower- it was 4:25am. I opened my laptop, it was late afternoon in Asia. It was 10/10/10 – a day I had been waiting for. I had helped to organize an international day of action on climate change. 7,700 event in 188 countries were planned. At this point many of those had already happened and now it was about getting the photos uploaded for the world to see. I signed on to see if anyone needed help uploading the photos or videos. I opened a new tab and typed in - one by one photos from around the world popped up in our flickr feed, they just kept coming. Whoa.

This photo of an old man riding a rickshaw with a visor and a woman in the back popped up and something inside me clicked. In my pajamas, at work, sitting alone before sunrise I starred at this photo. How is this possible? Who is this person? How did he hear about the event? Look how sweet that lady looks? Where'd he get that hat? I want one. At that moment the answer to my childhood question was clear. I could picture exactly where he slept and I knew I'd be fine if he was the one I said goodnight to.

The photos came flooding in – East Timor, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Iraq. The corners of the earth had the flickr game down, no one needed my help.

I closed my laptop, reset my alarm for 6:30am and pulled my blanket back up over me. The green office couch was a good bed for me and my chasing feet for now.

This blog was published the day after the 2011 day of action, the Moving Planet. Check out highlights from the day here:

Saturday, May 14, 2011

“Keep going, what else?”

When I woke up this morning I couldn't decide what to wear. I didn't want to wear the same thing I wore to her wedding, but I didn't really have anything else to wear. I felt so morbid thinking, what would I want my friends to wear if today was my memorial? How would I want them to feel? I could see each one of us standing in front of our mirrors putting on our mascara, thinking about what a waste of time it was.

It was that day for Maggie. That day when her friends all woke up to get dressed for her memorial. It's always the same for me. My heart drops, my stomach turns and I think, POOR Maggie. Immediately I then think, poor us...

You know that sort of righteous kind of nervous you get sometimes when you are like, yeah, I'm nervous but if they don't accept me for me then forget it, I can't be anyone but me. I wrestled that feeling all the way home from Sri Lanka, all 16 hours. I would land, Julian, who I had been with for 5 years but barely talked to in the past 3 months, would be at the airport. Whenever I haven't seen him for a while he always looks so different to me and his face feels weirdly soft. It can take me a while to get used to him again.

It was Wednesday when he picked me up and we drove straight to Tahoe to go to Maggie and Man Ryan's wedding that weekend. I felt that kind of nervous. I donno, Maggie just always seems so normal, so together. I was worried everyone would think I was a weirdo for going off alone and going to a silent meditation course for 10 days. What if they thought I had problems? What if I did have problems? I took a few deep breaths to try to get rid of that righteous kind of nervous. I just didn't want to feel like a weirdo at the wedding. I didn't want to feel like the only one in the room that was maybe a little uncomfortable with the world.

I think we were in Gabe's Ford Explorer. Maggie and I crawled in the back with all the 24 packs of Budweiser. It was the night before her wedding and we had just finished the rehearsal dinner.

Maggie put both her hands on my knee and in the dark I could see the white of her eyes searching for mine, “Sooooo, tell me about the meditation.”

I coached myself into telling her the truth, and why not just start with the crazy stuff? “It was insane Mags, it was like the most intense thing I have ever done by far. I didn't know what to do because some days sitting with my eyes shut for 13 hours a day made me feel such unfathomable pain that I felt like someone had taken an axe to my leg, but it wasn't real pain, it was like pain my mind was making up because as soon as I'd open my eyes it'd go away.”

Before I could finish my sentence, before I could back track and try to normalize the whole thing, she squeezed my knee, “Heather, I am so proud of you. Seriously Heather, I am so proud and inspired by you for doing that.” Proud and inspired by me feeling like my leg got chopped off??? She continued and said something to the effect of whatever drew me to do that, drew me there for reason and way to go for just going through it. She told me I was brave. Then she said with excitement, “Keep going, what else?”

Gosh, thanks Mags. Thanks for seeing me as me and not as the weirdo I am sometimes afraid I am.

I didn't want to sit at the park today without you there. I didn't want to watch each person go up one by one and fight to tame their shaking hands and lay their broken heart out for us. Humans can control anything, wasn't there anything we could do to bring you back?

I closed my eyes and I listened to the words of your Godfather, of Brody, of Em, of your Ryan, of Scott, I listened to the words of Henry's song. They weren't words coming out of broken hearts. They were words coming out of hearts that have let a crazy powerful spirit inside. They were words coming from people who have all been brave enough to open their hearts to someone willing to see them for all of who they are. It's special Maggie, really really special.

Since you died my world has been turned on its head and back a few times. I can't understand where you are and I can't understand why it is so sad to think about you being gone but why you also don't really feel gone at all. It's crazy Maggie. I get this overwhelming sense that you are fine out there, that you are good, and that we all have something so deep to learn from that. From the idea that you are you no matter where you are, no matter how hard it is for us to comprehend. I guess I want say thanks to you, for sending me that feeling that you are there. Sometimes when I close my eyes I can feel your two hands on my knee and from my knee I can sense the assurance that your spirit puts out in the world that it's okay, totally okay, to just be me.

I'm braver because of you Mags. Thank you.

Friday, December 31, 2010

Christmas as a Bootleg Catholic

Honestly my religious background consists of this: my Grandma telling me not to use the Lord’s name in vain and to say Geez instead, and……no, that’s it. I’ve sat here for the past half hour trying to think of other examples of times when my family discussed religion with me growing up but that’s the only example I can remember. All to say I don’t come from a very religious background. But when I got to high school I got slightly interested in religion. My interest was sparked mostly because my friends were starting to drink and smoke weed and the church kids were still playing hide n’ go seek and having sleepovers on the weekends which was more my speed at 14 years old. So I started to hang with the church group kids. I didn’t agree with most of what they said. I didn’t believe I was going to hell, or gay people were, or that God was going to judge us when we died. But I did believe the parts when they talked about loving all beings and having compassion for everybody on earth no matter their situation. So I basically stuck to that and was just thankful to have a group of kids who wanted to build forts and tell ghost stories with me on Saturday night.

But hanging with those kids and going to church with them in the morning opened my eyes to a part of society that continues to mystify me. For years I used to sit in the pews of church, listening to the priests amplified voice drone on and wonder what everybody was sitting there thinking about. Every once in a while I would get this wave of panic. As I stared at the backs of every bodies heads and listened to them say their prayers in unison or sing something I would feel like yelling – IT’S NOT TRUE YOU GUYS!! There are people like you all over the world doing the same thing you are but to a different god with a different set of rules. I couldn’t reckon with that. Sometimes when I would leave church it would take me an hour to recover. I would just feel like, Shit! Those are adults in there and they are just letting that random weird dude at the front of the room tell them how to live their lives. And some of it wasn’t good. I mean, the part that has always had me the most up in arms is people thinking being gay is a sin. I mean, come on Christian, you sound like such an asshole when you say gays will burn in hell. Like a real bigot, not like a loving open minded role model for the next generation. Okay and just to vent, this is the part that really got my blood boiling back then and still does (even as a newly baptized Catholic), you will throw out the parts of the bible that aren’t convenient for YOU, like the fact that it is a sin to wear two types of fabric (Deut 22:11)but you are clinging to that gays being a sinner thing for dear life. Let it go and be a good god loving person okay? So that was my main point in Sunday school and it didn’t make me too popular on a religious front but I was too fun of friend to have that once we got out of Sunday school people just forgot about the ruckus I had created inside the church and still hung out with me.

Flash forward 15 years later and I am still struggling with some of the same problems. But something has changed in me. When I am in the pews, instead of staring at the backs of peoples’ heads and feeling worried for them I feel a little bit jealous. It just seems comforting to have a faith that you are devoted to and you share with a whole group of people. It’s just nice to have somewhere to go where everybody has agreed to love each other and take care of each other based on a common philosophy and a shared understanding of why we are all here. I try to think of places I feel like that. I guess with my best friend Arley I feel like that, I think she is the only person I share an almost identical world/life philosophy with. Though most the time our philosophy is inconvenient and doesn’t fit into conventional society or relationships. Our philosophy is that each persons’ heart has enough love inside of it to truly love and understand each being and we should all strive to acknowledge that love and share it. Of course most of the time what that gets us is some stalker guy who we shared car share with or a guy friend that our boyfriends feel jealous of, but as a philosophy I believe in it 100%. And I guess I just think a lot about how comforting it would be if every week I got together with a bunch of Arley’s and discussed it for a couple hours and it could be a public part of my identity. Like, I’m Heather, I’m from California, I’m the religion where I believe I can love everybody with all my heart and find a common understanding with you and that is why I am being nice to you (Not because today is your lucky day and after 50 years of no girls ever giving you the time of day a pretty good looking 29 year old has fallen for you). I would like to have a word for it: Christian, Buddhist, Muslim but those just don’t feel right.

But since I sort of involuntarily became a Catholic last September I have noticed something strange, I like being Catholic! Minus all the wars fought in the name of my God, the pervy priests and the amount of times my church has damned gays to hell I feel great about saying I’m a Catholic. No but seriously, being baptized has been a interesting process for me. I’ll tell you the story.

My Grandpa Bill, who died September 2009, was one of my favorite people to ever exist and he was a good Catholic. He was a Eucharistic Minister, meaning he could give communion to people and sometimes he baptized people. He always went to church and always pushed the Catholic Church to do the right thing. Late in life he really started to get a little far out for a Eucharistic Minister. Last summer he said to me, "You gotta admit when things are changing and I really think gays should be able to adopt in the Catholic religion – I mean, who wants a bunch of old men in Rome who have never had sex with anyone telling them how to live their lives." Good point Grandpa.

So anyway, when my grandpa suggested that he baptize me last August, (“just in case us Catholics end up being right”) I agreed. Both my parents are baptized and he and my Granny had baptized my sister in the kitchen sink when she was one year old while my parents were at the grocery store (Mom and Dad were not too happy about that). Anyway, for my whole life he sorta worried about me because he didn’t want me to end up burning in Hell because he never got the chance to baptize me as a baby (parents were keeping a closer eye on Gramps and his holy water by the time I came around).
So anyway, he decided to baptize me. He rolled himself over to the sink of his nursing home and filled up his thick, pastel pink cup with water. We rolled down the hallway to go find another Catholic to witness my baptism (You need a witness present at baptism). I walked into Nat Cole’s room first and my Grandpa wheeled in behind me. From behind my Grandpa ordered very loudly, “Nat, I’m going to baptize my granddaughter and you are going to be the witness.” Nat was a frail little man and was lying in his bed, with his legs elevated. He reached out his hand and I gave him mine. “So happy to be. Welcome, welcome.” He was bowing his head. My grandpa dipped his fingers in his plastic cup and was ready to get to business. Nat stopped the affair, “I have a couple of questions for you before we go through with this. Where will you visit a priest to be confirmed? Will you have a ceremony at a later date?” Grandpa Bill was not happy with the questions. With an over exaggerated roll of his eyes, and his fingers still tipped in the cup, he said loudly and with a very annoyed tone, “No, no, no Nat she won’t do all this. We are just going to baptize her here and that’s it.” Under his breath I heard him say so only I could hear, “Just in case.” To Nat, those were fighting words and the sweet old man all cooped up in his nursing home room began to yell and scream. The fight went something like this.

Nat: Not in the Lords name will I witness a baptism that isn’t real?

Bill: Come on Nat, you are the only Catholic I know on this floor.

Nat: No chance, no chance, Bill you shouldn’t be just baptizing people for the heck of it.

Bill: (as he signaled to me to drop the old man’s hand and follow him out) “Nat, it is because of Catholics like you that our religion is shrinking, so by the book, so opposed to changing with the times.”

I pushed my Grandpa back to his room and I plopped down on his bed. He handed me the cup to set down on his bedside table. We were both quiet. Finally he said: “Next time you come up with your Dad or even your sister they can be the witness, okay Heather?” I agreed but felt a little disappointed. I just wanted so badly to be baptized by him. I mean, I loved him enough that I would have let him baptize me into anything if it was going to make him feel better and I was excited to share that part of his life with him. Okay, next time I thought. But in the back of my head I couldn’t help but think: what if there isn’t a next time - I mean, he was 91 years old and hadn’t been doing too well.

So when I landed down at SFO after a two week vacation in Europe and got the call that Grandpa had had a stroke and was sorta in a coma, my heart sank. Sitting on the floor in the baggage claim with my head in my hands, tears streaming down my face I prayed to Jesus Christ for the first time. I prayed he would hang on long enough for me to get myself up to the state of Washington, not to be baptized, but to give him one last hug. Actually I didn’t think of the baptism thing until the second day I visited my Grandpa in his coma like state.

My sister and I were standing on either side of his bed. I was giving him a thousand kisses on his face and telling him that if he wanted to fight through this we were rooting for him and that we’d be there for him. I had that same pink plastic cup in my hand filled half way with water and I was taking a little moisture swab and wetting his mouth. He had been opening his eyes a little but not moving. My sister was on her iphone talking to my Dad giving him a play by play of our two days by Grandpa’s side. I was shouting in Grandpa’s face about things I had done lately - telling him stories of me and Julian in Europe, and what was going on in politics when I felt his hand move. His eyes opened and he reached his left hand outside of the sheet it was under and at a glacial speed reached for the cup. My heart pounded, Carolynn said quietly into the phone. “He’s moving Dad, he’s moving.” My Grandpa reached for the cup and I helped him hold it. I was frantic. “You want a sip? You want to do the swab yourself? You thirsty?” He lowered his fingers over the edge of the cup and dipped them ever so slightly into the water. He reached his wet fingers up and placed them on top of my head and began brushing my face with his hand. I was laughing, “What are you doing Grandpa?? It’s Heather, you’re awake!!” Carolynn began to raise her voice as she continued to give the play by play to Dad. “He is grabbing Heather’s FACE!! He is touching her head. I don’t know what he is doing.” His hand stopped between my eyes and for almost a full minute he pressed his thumb into my forehead. I figured he was just trying to connect with me. He then dropped his arm back down. Carolynn looked at me with such intense seriousness, “WHAT was that?” I laughed, I felt sorta weird about it. I shrugged, “No clue.”

We had to go at that moment so we said our goodbyes to Grandpa and told him we’d be back in the evening to visit. We each squeezed his hand and told him we loved him sooooo much. We looked at each other with tears welling in our eyes both hoping that wasn’t goodbye goodbye.

As we were walking out to the parking lot my sister handed me her phone which my Dad was still on. I told my Dad what had happened and he said, “Heather, I think he baptized you.” He told me that my Grandpa had mentioned to him the week before that he hoped he got to baptize me soon. I sorta laughed and thought, long shot but maybe.
When we got back to my uncles house I took a nap on the couch. One of those weird daytime/something really sad is going on naps. I could hear my sister playing catch with my uncles golden retrievers in the back yard. I drifted in and out of sleep dreaming about my grandpa’s hand pressing between my eyes. I could feel his touch in the dream so vividly. His hands were so distinct and exactly like my Dad’s. To me there is such a comforting feeling when those hands patted me on the head or rubbed my back. In my dream I could feel that feeling all over my head and face and I woke up with a little bit of a startle.

I told my sister I needed to know if Grandpa baptized me or not, I was determined. That evening we quietly returned to his room, walked up to him so peacefully, stood on either side of him and began our interrogation. I held onto Grandpa’s right hand and said very loudly right in his face, “Grandpa. Hi, we are back, it’s Heather and Carolynn!! We want to know if you bootleg baptized me. Squeeze my hand if the answer is yes.” Nothing. We took turns. Carolynn was much gentler. Shaking his shoulder ever so gently as if he were a brand new baby she whispered in his ear, “Wake up Grandpa…we want to know if you baptized Heather earlier? Did you baptize her? Was that why you were touching her face like that?!” On Carolynn’s third of forth try his left eye opened and Carolynn and I both crowded our faces in front of the open eye. “Hi! It’s us!” The right eye fluttered a little and finally opened half way. I shouted my command to be heard down the halls of the nursing home, “GRANDPA – squeeze my hand if you baptized me earlier!” With exhaustion, “I gotta know if I am a bootleg Catholic…” His fingers began to move and he gripped my hand so tightly; the bones in my hand collapsed into each other. I flashed a look at Carolynn, “Feel it.” Carolynn tried to wedge her fingers between my Grandpa’s grip and my hand. “Oh my god, you’re a Catholic” Carolynn said. I smiled. I kissed his face all over and Carolynn rubbed his shoulder again very gently.

Grandpa Bill died two days later. When I found out I was driving in the car after a night of camping and on my way to go watch my sister do an Olympic distance triathlon. My Mom and Dad were both on the phone and they just said as simple as it gets, “Grandpa died last night.” I closed my eyes and took a deep breath and tried to remember how to do the catholic sign of the cross. I couldn’t remember if you go left to right or right to left when you say Holy Ghost so I decided not to do it. When I hung up I said a prayer under my breath. “Dear Lord, please welcome my so sweet, very very cute Grandpa to heaven. He can be gruff sometimes but he is a really good guy. Take care of him and know that he did a lot of good things for your religion while he was alive.” It was nice to have someone to pray to. I opened my eyes and thought: Hey, thanks for listening God.

My sister was a maniac that day. I didn’t get to the triathlon before the race started so I saw her running in her wetsuit after she completed the first leg, the mile swim. I screamed and cheered for her and she ran straight to me and threw her arms around me. Her embrace soaked the front of my dress. “Did you talk to Mom and Dad?” she asked gasping for breath. “Yeah” I said, “He died...poor Grandpa.” We both stuck out our bottom lips. She said she didn’t really want to do the race anymore. I told her to just go for it. She had got 12 of our friends signed up for the race and had really been training a lot. She stood there for a minute and then, with determination, pronounced, “Okay.” And ran off to complete her 26 mile bike ride and 6 mile run.
Julian and I were twiddling our thumbs at the finish line when we saw Carolynn approaching something like a half hour before we expected her. We hugged her at the end, “Good JOB sissy!! That was CRAZY fast.” She huffed, “I just thought about Grandpa the whole time and all the strength he had to use to even just open his eyes to let us know he knew we were there and that he loved us and I just felt like going as fast as I could.”

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

District 6 makes my heart pound.

Last week when I was at the League endorsement meeting I sat there for the majority of the meeting feeling so pleased. I was so excited about how much work people had put into researching the ballot initiatives and what an awesome job Beth and Alex did preparing it all. But as we wrapped up the ballot initiatives and started to move towards San Francisco candidate races, preparing mostly for the discussion of District 6 supervisors race, my heart began to pound. It was strange, was I nervous? Was I mad? I felt sorta scared. But I just took a deep breath and tried to just acknowledge my pounding heart. But why was it pounding? I hardly ever feel like that.

As I saw the page flip to District 6, I felt a lump in my throat, will I cry? District six: upper mission, tenderloin and SOMA. The most diverse district in the city. Chris Daly's district for the past couple terms. The place the Pissed Off Voter Guide is most recognized. And the hopeful future home to a very progressive woman supervisor. That is a big deal in San Francisco politics. There aren't very many progressive women in San Francisco who run for Supervisor positions, especially as the front running candidate. Well in District 6...we have two front runners. Jane Kim and Debra Walker. I really like them both, they are both incredibly dedicated, smart, passionate people and they each have always been supportive of me and of the League. I really trust them both to represent me in office and I am excited that they have both made the personal choice to run for office. But why in the same district? Why against each other? The heart pounding is coming back now as I type this. Why does this race make me feel like this?

Here's my story. Debra started running months ago, I was excited. She is sweet, smart, shows up for everything and is a good listener. I was ready to jump right into her campaign. I met with her, got a button and was ready to roll. District 6 is important to me. I had the time of my life working on Chris Daly's re-election campaign, got to know the district really well and really got an understanding of why it is important to have a progressive in that district who is able to pass nuanced policies and be a dynamic leader that will help build bridges in the district. A couple months after that meeting with Debra I started to hear rumors of Jane's candidacy in the district. Jane is one of my favorite elected officials in the world– she is young and sharp and isn't only a great person, but has proven to be an effective politician. I knew I would be supporting her one day for a supervisors race, but I didn't think she would declare her candidacy in this race. Basically, from my limited perspective, she seemed to have the same base as Debra, a lot of the same friends and surely similar political views. I knew they couldn't disagree on that much politically, so if Jane was going to jump in I trusted that the progressive movement agreed it was the right thing to do and we would make it into a golden opportunity to unite progressive San Franciscans around these two amazing women. It would be interesting, but because San Francisco has rank choice voting (a system where you can choose your top three candidates) if we worked it right, we would see a Progressive shoe in in that district and hopefully be part of the exciting and dynamic campaign that district deserves.

So yeah, if we were going to run two of the most viable progressive women in the whole city in the same district against each other it was important to me that something amazing came of it. This is what I pictured: a shared office space where our resources were shared and maximized. Each candidate doing a first place vote for themselves and a second place vote for the each other. A coordinated campaign with all the progressive candidates to talk about why it's important for District 6 to be led by a progressive and the opportunities we have in the district going forward. I pictured Saturday volunteer days where both candidates volunteers would do district clean up's in the streets or mural projects together or bike rides around the district and campaign in coordination. Yeah, I know it would get a little confusing because some of us would be for Jane, some of us for Debra and some of us for the list of other impressive progressives running in District 6, but I trust we could figure out a way to explain it simply and maybe even start up some great discussions about true democracy and rank choice voting. Our hearts are all in the same place, I'm sure we could make our materials and campaign slogans reflect that.

I pictured the election night party where we all stood in the same room and watched the largest progressive margin of victory in history of San Francisco politics. I pictured Debra and Jane both speaking at the event. I saw a few down faces in the crowd and a couple awkward congratulatory hugs, but come on SF look at who we got, isn't she wonderful?? And I pictured a speech that night by someone we all look up to, talking about how politics can be tough on a personal level but that we don't do this for ourselves or to support our friends, we do this because we believe in something bigger, we believe a world based in love and compassion and caring for each other is possible, where policies reflect that and where we all live in community and peace. And then the person would go on to remind us how lucky we are to live in a place where people like you and me can get elected, where we can pass innovative policies that try to solve some of the most tragic problems that we all care so deeply about: homelessness, unaffordable housing, violence, drug abuse, failing school systems. Then they would bow off the stage and thank us, thank the people of San Francisco for being able to run such a dynamic campaign, look past the challenges of this candidate or that and work together to not only elect someone to carry out our vision but to start realizing that vision during the campaign, cleaning up our streets, talking to our neighbors and holding the truth high that together we are always more powerful. I was so excited to hug Julian after that speech, snuggle into him and tell him that this is why I love San Francisco so much. Then I would walk around the party looking for Jeremy, Andy and the League to give them a big hug and get that feeling I have had so many Novembers when it just feels like...'awwww group hug, we've done it again.'

So that is why my hands were shaking when I saw the sheet come up, because for me it wasn't about which candidate would get our endorsement, it was that paper staring straight into my eyes mockingly questioning if my vision could ever be realized in politics. That's why that paper made me feel sick, because instead of coming home from Asia to start sweeping the sidewalks with my friends, I came home to my computer to see my facebook friends split on the issue, to the clunky, horrible noise of the rumor mills churning and to a barrage of questions of who I am supporting?

Who am I supporting?? BOTH of them, they are fabulous and it's a knife in my vision of a united San Francisco every time I hear one bad thing said about one or the other by people who should be supporting them. It's hard enough to reconcile that there is no dynamic coordinated campaign to work on, but it's actually heart pounding infuriating to me to know we are this far away from it.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Okay okay Billy - I'll Zen campaign

So I was REALLY looking forward to Billy Wimsatt coming out with his new book and I couldn't wait to go to his reading in Berkeley. I had been waiting. I have worked closely with Billy for years and he has taught me almost everything I know about politics and organizing, so I wouldn't miss an opportunity to support him.

But three days before his reading I found out my friend, Maggie, who is 29 years old, was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer. Needless to say I was a total wreck. Between sobs and compulsive google searching for stage four survivor stories I made it to Berkeley. As I sat there and watched Billy try to pump the crowd up about the super movement that will save politics in America I was overcome with the sense that we all just needed to go home and take care of our friends and families, cozy up in our houses and just try to enjoy life while we have it. I didn't want to talk about spending long nights in a campaign office to fight against tea partiers, I mean why does it really matter if any one of us can wake up in the morning with stage 4 breast cancer? I felt so sad and discouraged but this intense feeling of fear and 'we are all screwed anyway, let's just enjoy life' fit perfectly into my plan to sit out the 2010 election cycle.

I had decided I wasn't really going to participate in the 2010 election cycle. I was pondering the idea that politics might be too oppositional for me and I may just bow out completely. In the mean time, I figured I just needed to give myself some time to do joy filled work and focus on the positive in people and not think about the people who act like bigots and put up road blocks on election day. My plan for the Fall was this: work with on a global day of action (10/10/10) with amazing people across Asia who want to make a positive difference in their communities, meditate everyday to learn more about myself and how to react to all the moving parts of my life with more grace and joy, party with my friends and just continue to love being young and to be a good friend and girlfriend and not being too busy to listen. I like that plan and I am committed to it.

But on my BART ride to work this morning, while reading Billy's book Please Don't Bomb the Suburbs, something clicked, when I read the below excerpt, and I have had to add to my plan.

The Supreme Court's Citizen United ruling (saying corporations can spend with no limits in campaigns- ugh!) was a HORRIBLE decision. But it was a 5-4 decision split across partisan lines. The five Republicans justices voted for the decision. The four Democratic justices voted against it and wrote a blistering dissent. The real lesson of Citizen United is that we need to stop Republicans from taking over the U.S government and appointing right wing extremists to the Supreme Court.

There has rarely been a more clear-cut case of the need to stop Republicans at all costs. If a few hundred more of us had voted Democrat in Florida back in 2000, Bush wouldn't have become president in the first place. Alioto and Roberts wouldn't be in the Supreme Court. We would have a 6-3 majority on the Supreme Court against corporations buying elections.

Okay, so my core belief, what I guess I would call my religion, is that all people, if they are being their true selves, are good. So the whole Republicans are evil conversation doesn't sit well with me. I hate US vs THEM. Because truthfully I believe there is just us - people in the world who want to be happy, feel useful, free, loved and appreciated. But the above passage made me realize that holding that belief up as my ticket out of politics will not serve me or the vision I have for the world. I want to live in a world where people are more free, are happier, are more connected to their friends and neighbors, and where decisions that positively affect the people most in need are the ones prioritized by our government.

I can't think about it as Democrats vs Republicans, I think about it as people who support community building vs oppose it. I want to move towards a world where regular people, without a lot of money, have the same chance to organize for their vision of the world as a massive corporation or someone with a well stocked bank account. I believe a few basic things need to happen in order to make that possible: we need to be working together to create an accepting country where people have more or less equal access to good schools, good healthcare, good jobs, healthy environments, protection and acknowledgment under the law, fair elections and, by god, we must limit corporate control of our government and elections. I think we can all agree on that one. We are at a pretty uneasy moment in history where a lot of that is at stake this Fall. So no Billy, I guess won't sit out this 2010 cycle, because I refuse to watch candidates be elected who laugh at jokes like calling our President "Halfrican American", who support the tea party in denouncing Islam, and who campaign on doing away with medicare, privatizing vets healthcare and further privatizing everyone elses' healthcare. To me, those things aren't even Republican or Democrat, those are just bad ideas mixed with extreme ignorance and intolerance. I sat on the BART today and just realized these ideas aren't going to help me organize for the peaceful world I am determined to live in, they aren't going to help Maggie get the best healthcare she needs, they aren't going to help people with different religious views live side by side and they aren't going to help make our streets safer and our communities stronger. And at this moment in my life those things are the most important things to me.

So here is what I am going to do, when I finish this blog I am going to call Billy, ask him the closest races in the country where the extremists have the highest likelihood of winning and I will pool my resources, my time and both people connections and money, to help a better candidate win in that district.

Even writing this blog is hard for me because I don't like to get all worked up about how people can be so mean and say and do such wrong things. But deep breath Heather, they just need help getting in touch with the real them and tapping into that deep reservoir of love and unity every human is born with. Until they do that, I don't want them running our government. So I will do what I can this Fall to give them the opportunity to stay out of DC, so they can get to work finding their inner peace and return to the playing field as a candidate ready to support community and help build the beautiful, accepting country we all want to live in, where people thrive on and embrace our differences.

So this election cycle I will be zen campaigning - staying committed to my own inner peace, being a good friend, girlfriend and listener and having fun while I'm doing it!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Me and my friends can move mountains, fighting cancer shouldn’t be too big of deal

I sat on my bed today, notebook in hand. I was writing a note to my friend Maggie who was diagnosed last week with breast cancer. I stared down at the page: Get better Maggie, okay? That is all I had, and I had doodled it all over the page. Tears streaming down my face, I felt sick, I laid back and furiously refreshed her website, waiting for the next post that said the doctors were wrong and it was just cat scratch fever after all. I couldn’t wait to get together with everyone and talk about how stupid the doctors were for freaking us out so bad with their misdiagnosis. I pictured our friends sitting around with Maggie celebrating, laughing, hugging and all recommitting to live life to the fullest together.

And with something about that picture of all of our friends together, I felt something click in my head. ‘Hey Heather – stop hoping for something else and get to work at the problem at hand. Maggie has just jumped into the ring for a big fight–she needs us.’ I sat back up, that’s right. I mean, we happen to have one hell of a group of friends that specializes in GIANT undertakings that require immense amount of energy, focus, commitment, love and dedication. I mean, some have criticized us for being clicky, traveling in packs, being loud and yes, even some have called us obnoxious. I won’t spend any time defending ourselves against these allegations but I will just say, ‘Fine, to all of the above AND we are an amazing team of dynamic, creative friends with enough love and energy to move mountains.’

Okay, so we haven’t moved any mountains yet, but we know we can. Picture what we have done with the Christmas party - six years, total splendor, hours, days of our blood, sweat and tears just for one night of Christmas joy! Or close your eyes and feel the million mega watts of energy coming off the dance floor in Lake Tahoe at Maggie and Man Ryan’s wedding. Or think of all the times you have come home from a party limping or bruised from dancing your heart out (especially after the old man party with all those canes and walkers on the dance floor). Or imagine the insanity of renting a house boat and dressing and acting like pirates for days on end like some of our friends did for Jake’s bachelor party. What about going to a 9 hour wedding and then staying up all night at the after party (on a Sunday?!). We know how to go above and beyond, show up for each other and make the most out of the opportunities we have.

So here we go guys, task at hand a little more somber in nature, but the most important thing in the world we can do together. Mags, we got this with you. In the coming months and for as long as it takes to get rid of the cancer we are sending our love and energy for life, you and each other out into the universe to be collected in a reservoir that will be right above you at all times so you can draw from it whenever you need it.

We will all get through this, it will take some time and it’s okay if we can’t always do it with a smile. I have been to a many Christmas party decoration nights, 1:30am, three days before “Christmas”, exhausted, up to my knees in cardboard cut outs of unpainted trees, discouraged and staring at an undecorated hallway and kitchen, and had to stop and look at Julian and Dexter in their eyes and ask, ‘Is this really gonna happen this year?” Not turning away from their staple guns they both always murmur, “Yes, Heather.” And as the universe will have it, those are the moments Jake and Lauren walk in with 40 perfect, amazing life size, handmade penguins, or Crescent rolls up with a ten foot photo montage of all the Christmas pasts. So we can be sad, even discouraged at times but none of us will ever give up. Because we don’t give up until we get exactly what we want.

And we can ask for help. Like Bunny (Carmen), who was coordinating Maggie and Man Ryan’s wedding, did this summer. Twenty minutes to wedding time and Bunny, looking all cute and businessy with her notebook, wrangled us all together and looking between each one of us and her task list she put us to work right then and there to get the place looking PERFECT before the guests arrived.

And we can do it however we know how. Take Gabe on the dance floor for example. We have all seen him try to express himself on the dance floor and it just escalates. It goes something like this. Dancing around a bit feeling the music, to a major toe pointing session which looks like it requires like 100% of his energy, then just when we think he might collapse on the dance floor of exhaustion – he launches himself, sliding across the dance floor on his stomach – committed to being all he is out there and getting all that energy out. His break outs usually result is some escalation of somebody else’s dancing. Whether it is Maggie’s “her” version of toe pointing or Man Ryan’s military rolls in his wedding clothes, someone is always there to take it up a notch from what Gabe laid out on the floor.

So I think with all of us fighting this cancer it doesn’t stand a chance in hell. The cancer just doesn’t even have a clue about how badly it just messed with the wrong group of friends. Mess with Maggie, mess with the whole family.

So Maggie, don’t worry if you get tired, just close your eyes and pull some energy out of the amazingly decorated reservoir of energy and love above you where at all times either Journey or Michael Jackson are blasting. Take as much as you need Mags because we’ve got an endless supply. And if you need something specific you just ask us. We will be by your side in a sec, go to the doctors with you, scream from a mountain top with you – whatever you need girl. WE LOVE YOU SO MUCH AND HAVE GOT YOUR BACK HECKA HARD!