“When our ideas and plans collide with reality, reality generally wins….”
~ Mark Lesser
Anyone who knows me even just a little knows that I proudly live in the space of possibility. My sense that something beyond the situation I am in is possible has sustained me throughout my life. It is what my mother weaned us on when we lived in the projects and she wanted her daughters to know there was something more in life that was possible, that awaited them if they grabbed hold of it. And she so wanted us to grab hold of it. And so, from my earliest years possibility has been vital to my life: the source of my resilience, the wellspring of my creativity, and fuel for my joy.
Disappointment has also been quite real of course. Disappointment in people, in some things not turning out as I would have liked. Disappointment with racism and sexism with homophobia with capitalism. With discrimination and separation of all sorts. Recently I was disappointed (but unsurprised) when I read in The Atlantic about how difficult things are for Millennials, and of course, so much more difficult for Black Millennials like my sons.
And….and…. I realize that my disappointments, rooted in my fear of what is to come or what might not come, are so contracting. It narrows my scope of the world and feels like a prison of hopelessness.
I refuse that. Even as I also know how important it is to feel these things, to admit the truth of experience. Reality can never be ignored. We might try to bend and twist ourselves into all kinds of knots to avoid it, but it continues ever on. Mindfulness teacher Mark Lesser says, “…we may not want to admit that reality isn’t going to meet our expectations, but we create trouble for ourselves if we do not. We need to see what is, or what the military calls ‘ground truth.’ This is what’s actually happening, the reality of the battle or situation on the ground, as opposed to what intelligence reports and mission plans predicted would happen. The ground truth is what you say to yourself and closest friends about the reality of your experience, as opposed to what you want, or what you hoped or planned would happen, or how you’d like to appear to others.”
While not all ground truth is negative, sitting with ground truth when I am disappointed fuels my sense of living to make things better not only for myself but also for others beyond me and my family. To pursue justice and alternative ways of being and knowing. A chosen response that has been, for me, a saving grace, lifting me up from the depths and ditches to glimpse the light of an expansive horizon -- real or imagined -- that I might aim for. And that’s part of where possibility is for me these days. In the: “What else might be possible beyond what I or we know about things as they currently are?” Possibility as imagination.
What’s Sustaining Me (during LGBTQ History Month)
Reading: The Collected Poems of Audre Lorde. Nearly 500 pages of Lorde’s poems, reminding me of what a prolific and outstanding poet she was.
Watching: My Name is Pauli Murray. An incredible documentary about this Black non-gender binary legal trailblazer from Durham whose ideas influenced everyone from Thurgood Marshall to RBG. Available on Amazon Prime.
Listening to: Joy Oladukun, a singer-songwriter whose music spans the genres of folk, R&B, rock, and pop and is influenced by her identity as a queer woman of color.
Learning from: Rima Vesely-Flad & Aishah Shahidah Simmons, who are teaching a class I’ve been taking called “Buddhism and Black Feminism.” Exploring the dharma through the writings of Audre Lorde, Alice Walker, Toni Cade Bambara, and bell hooks.
Bringing me joy: The constant stream of photos my sister sends of my great-niece (2 years old) and nephew (1 month).