Physical support like hugging can sustain us through the long haul – but touch can be very tricky and sometimes oppressive. We are learning this in our society more and more. I can’t shake the image of that creepy young guy in the Access Hollywood tapes telling the young actress “How about a hug for the Donald?” Hugs aren’t always innocent.
This talk that I gave at Jubilee last Sunday outlines three principles for keeping them sweet and safe.
Primary election May 8!
On Monday night, the Progressive Democrats of Buncombe County interviewed all four candidates for the U.S. House in the NC 10th and 11th districts
- David Wilson Brown – no primary vote, running uncontested as the Democratic candidate in the 10th district
- Phillip Price – 11th district
- Scott Donaldson – 11
- Steve Woodsmall – 11
The meeting was very well attended – maybe 200 people. For me that evening, rather than celebrating the big crowd I got kind of intimidated by it. The building – headquarters for the Buncombe County Democratic Party – was not new to me: I had been there several times during Barack’s last campaign. But I had never been to a meeting of either the Democratic Party or the Progressive Democrats and I suspected, correctly, that I would mostly be among strangers. It turned out, though, that I very much enjoyed the meeting and have penciled the regular monthly meetings (second Monday) in my book – and plan to go back.
Here are my take-aways from the evening.
- The Progressive Dems run a pretty tight ship.
- The meeting started on time and was well run.
- They videotaped the meeting, live streamed it, and had the video up on their web page by the time I got home. The video guy had told me that the visuals were really choppy for the first half of the session (a “bandwidth problem”) – and they must have decided that the technical quality was too bad, because the video has been removed – replaced by really a pretty good article on the meeting from the Citizen Times.
- All four candidates are really very good: smart, articulate, good values and good politics. I would proudly work for any of them.
No matter what people say about these districts being hard for a Democrat to win, I think it’s a new day and those old bits of conventional wisdom no longer apply. I think that David Brown in going to beat Patrick McHenry in the 10th district and whoever from the other three wins the primary on May 8th is going to beat Mark Meadows in the 11th district.
- Gun Control
These four all have good positions about gun control. I think that in the November elections gun control and the NRA are going to weigh down Republicans across the country – and flush a lot of them out of the Congress.
- I don’t know yet who I am going to work for. I’m planning to go to two more Indivisible “vetting sessions”:
Whoever I work for, I intend to get to know them (I felt like I knew Barack, but we didn’t like hang out or anything) and work really hard for them. I’m totally jazzed about this whole thing.
In my page “Steve Woodsmall for Congress” I write about why Steve is my candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives NC District 11. Please read on even if this isn’t your district (it’s not mine) and you won’t get to vote for Steve (I won’t).
Until the last couple of weeks, I had been thinking that this blog and my proposed three other Releasing the Force programs (described in Pages 1-3 at the top of the blog) were plenty of political commitment and that – aside from voting and maybe posting some stuff on Facebook – I might not get involved in the electoral process this time around. I thought I might even keep this blog focused on the inner game of activism and not declare for any candidates. Silly boy.
Actually a number of factors have coincided to get me being more political – and more openly so.
- Releasing the Force programs are not unfolding the way I intended.
- This blog is the core Releasing the Force program and I remain fully committed to it. I hear from some of its readers that it is really valuable to them – maybe even that my posts make their day. I need to get it in front of more people, but there are tools for that like SEO (search engine optimization).
- The first face-to-face program I have launched – four weekly meetings of the Releasing the Force Conversation Series – has been poorly attended to say the least (three people, zero, one, one…for the last two meetings Kerry and I adjourned to the Jack of the Wood bar next door, which really worked great). I need to rethink this Conversation Series option, and the following three programs which would require more commitment than this one.
- One of the many ways that the Parkland school shooting survivors and their March for Our Lives movement
have reached me has been their insistence that, as they reach the age of 18, they are going to vote in vast numbers and change the electoral dynamic – and their loud, clear chant of “Vote them out!” All of this has touched and inspired me deeply and I am seeing this movement as the vanguard of our progressive agenda – so how could I, aside from voting, sit the electoral process out? I’ve got to be in there.
- A week from now I will – if I have successfully negotiated a payment plan – be attending a two-day workshop in a psychotherapy approach called “Internal Family Systems” (IFS). I have some very close friends from my days back in Chicago who are advanced trainers in this stuff and one of them, Kay Gardner,
is now the lead IFS trainer and will be here in Asheville facilitating the workshop. I gotta get some time with her, but she just doesn’t have any time free while she’s here – so I’m planning to go to the workshop. There are potential snags in that plan, including the price tag and that I no longer am a psychotherapist, but maybe the biggest hazard surfaced in a different personal growth session this last Wednesday.
15 years ago, I went to the only other IFS workshop I have attended (I did see an IFS therapist for my own therapy every week for a year). I don’t have any memories of that Saturday-Sunday workshop, besides that it was facilitated by the guy himself – Dick Schwartz, the Chicagoan who developed IFS – and included Kay and a couple others of my friends.
And that I went home Sunday night and attempted to kill myself. I had actually been planning this for weeks, and had stockpiled the tools for this particular approach to suffocation. But for some reason I picked this particular moment to implement the plan – which obviously, miraculously, didn’t work.
For some reason or reasons, in the intervening 15 years I have never – before Wednesday – asked myself “Why then? What was it about that workshop that caused me to take this so-drastic action?” And Wednesday morning the answer seemed pretty clear – and still does.
I was totally desperate. In the throes of my bipolar depression, my work had totally slipped away from me. My organization development management consulting career had failed after a lot of success. I was receiving no more offers for diversity consulting or outplacement career coaching – and was too depressed to go looking for any of this work. For several of my friends, IFS was now the thing. It seemed to get them up in the morning and to give them a sense of meaning. Why not me too? I was desperate.
And it didn’t happen. I don’t remember what did happen at the workshop, but I’m pretty sure I came away with IFS not really hitting it for me. I don’t remember having critical judgments of that form of therapy, it just didn’t connect with me – I couldn’t picture myself being an IFS therapist. So my hopelessness just flowed up over the top.
I’ll be attending this IFS workshop – if it works for me to attend it – with once again a gaping hole in my work, the meaning I contribute in the world. I just don’t know – aside from this blog – what is the future of my Releasing the Force work. Three weeks ago I would have referred to the four programs I have outlined in the Pages of this blog as the direction of “my work”, but now I don’t know about any of that.
So Wednesday I was asking myself, “How do I even keep myself safe at this workshop?” (I haven’t been suicidal for about six years, but still even remembering it feels scary.) I came up with this guidance (actually along with some other threads of guidance): “Go to work on a campaign”. It wasn’t clear what campaign – no politician came immediately to mind (Hilary is gone, Oprah has not declared, but I also need a candidate for now, this November’s election).
So why Steve Woodsmall, who isn’t even in my district? Actually, because of the way our area has been gerrymandered by the Republicans to keep the liberal Democratic hub of Asheville from electing a representative, both of these districts have a lot of Asheville. But I haven’t even seen or heard from the two other candidates from Steve’s District 11 or the one guy for my District 10. So obviously this choice of Steve could change – but I don’t think so.
Steve thinks (in my head) right to me. He was more real than polished, though he actually was also quite poised. He did not say one thing in that hour-plus Q&A session that I didn’t like. He was clearly smart and very up-to-date and thoughtful with the issues. I trust him. He connected perfectly with my dog.
And two hours ago I explored his website a little and gave him $25 – that pretty well seals it. I’ll go to the other vetting sessions, but I can’t picture changing my mind. To read more about Steve click here.
Social activism is continual empowerment training. Said another way, we are continually encountering the hopelessness that has accumulated in us through the years.
- “The deck is stacked: the military-industrial complex has all the money and all the power.”
- “The Republicans have both houses of Congress and the Executive Branch – and they are packing the judiciary.”
- “The Republican congress is in the hip pocket of the NRA, which is too powerful and too rich for them to resist.”
So what do we do? Lay down and die?
We could line up the counter-arguments:
- The Marjorie Stoneman Douglas students and the gun control movement they are building
- All the Democrats who are winning in previously red districts (Conor Lamb yesterday in Philadelphia)
- In November we take back the House and impeach Trump.
- In 2020 more gains for Democrats
- The Mueller probe!
But even more than comparing the pluses with the negatives, we can learn to not despair. We can practice holding on to hope in the face of difficulty.
It can really help to practice this hope process in some life area that is less heavy than gun violence. I pick swing dancing.
14 years ago, I took my first and only (before tonight) swing dance lesson. I came away in total despair: “I will never learn how to do this.” And that’s where I have stayed for 14 years. “I can do free-form improv dancing – with some grace and a lot of enthusiasm – but I cannot learn steps.”
So why am I out here tonight attempting again to learn swing dancing? Because my friend Whitney Moore – one of the very best vocalists in Asheville – has a new band that plays swing music, playing here tonight. Queen Bee (Whitney Moore) and the Honey Lovers – video of three sweet tracks. Because “here” is THE BLOCK off biltmore – the sweetest bar in town, owned by Cam MacQueen, one of the sweetest women in town, a long time fierce progressive who (with her club) supports all manner of progressive causes.
Oh, and something more: some part of me can no longer deny that I have always found (from the sidelines) swing dancing to be very sweet and have always really wished I knew how to do it.
At the club tonight, there are two one-hour swing lessons before the band plays. I put down my money for both lessons and the band. An hour later, I stagger out from the back room – where the dancing happens – having had a few magic moments at the first lesson where some basic moves fell into place… and many more moments where the inner sound track ran “I told you you can never learn this, fool – leave and never come back.”
I didn’t leave. I decided to sit out the second lesson, because my brain is spent. Out in the bar, Cam tells me that the first lesson – the one I just took – was actually an intermediate lesson, so I rush back into the back room to try the “beginners” lesson, but still can’t do it and quickly come back out.
Now the band is playing, Whitney is gorgeous and brilliant, her musicians are smokin’. The dancers are fabulous – some very accomplished, some beginners trying out their few new steps. They all look beautiful and very alive. I could almost be out there – someday. Right now I literally know nothing. But some day.
I will come back. I will take one and maybe some weeks two lessons. I will learn from YouTube in between Tuesday nights: the Lindy hop, apparently also called the 8-count swing. I will stare down my despair: for 14 years I have been telling myself I can’t do this, but maybe that’s been a cruel hoax – no longer true.
Oh, and I also want gun control. For so long it has looked like the NRA has all the power. But what if things have changed? What if this moment belongs to the Parkland kids – and high school kids all over the country, who are today walking out of their classes to protest for gun control?
And their parents and all of us who believe that something new can happen.
Maybe if we dance enough.
7 p.m. at Jubilee
If your road is snowy, stay safe and we’ll see you next week.
Majo – 828-582-9822
In times like this of great national chaos and crisis there is a tendency for thoughtful, responsible people to agonize about what they should do about all this. The Releasing the Force Conversation Series will shift the discussion from what you should do to what is the calling of your heart. The tone of the evenings will be tender and nurturing to respond to the trauma we are all experiencing. Come to one session or all four.
Four Wednesday evenings, 7-8:30, March 14-April 4, Jubilee downstairs. Majo hosts.
What’s your personal story around activism? What’s next for you? Contact Majo to register and get pre-work – or just show up for any evening. $10 or donation per evening. Each evening is self-contained – write Majo for detailed agenda. firstname.lastname@example.org, 828-582-9822
Last night I wrote a blog post about gun control, in which I listed three different actions you could take to push for gun control – none of which were swing dancing, or any kind of dancing. What an oversight! Alice Walker wrote “Hard Times Require Furious Dancing.”
Yesterday, in addition to my blog post, I put up two Facebook posts – one promoting the blog post and one promoting a weekly swing dance session at a local club. Why didn’t I put the two together? The swing dance will feature a much beloved local vocalist, in a much beloved local club that continually supports progressive causes (e.g. the after-party for the Women’s March). I, who have until yesterday compulsively said that I only can do free-form improv dancing (which I love), am acknowledging that I’ve in my heart always wanted to learn swing dancing. And I have an intuition that – especially by promoting this and bringing out a lot of my friends – this could be a magical weekly experience.
And if I want to stay alive as an activist I’ve got to have fun! I’ve got to dance!
Come on out on Tuesday nights! Queen Bee (Whitney Moore) and the Honey Lovers play this week.
Or find some other dance in Asheville or in your town!