I want to write about the blooming peonies, bursting and brazen.
I want to write about the morning song of birds out my window.
I want to write about the spotted fawn hiding in the trees and the smell of wet cedar.
All these things that help me let go of fear, help me be present with myself, help me come to ground. Nature is the best medicine in my book.
Yet, I am sitting here, asking myself to sit with my discomfort instead.
I have spent the past four weeks listening - to the Black voices speaking of injustice, privilege, racism. My media feeds are full of White voices speaking these things as well. But I am choosing to listen most closely to my fellow humans who have brown skin.
There is a lot for me to learn.
If we have always lived with rain falling, we have to learn what it means to be wet - a powerful metaphor from Ibram X. Kendi.
I am reading, I am listening, I am talking to my kids. I am learning what it means to be wet. It is a beginning.
The more I dive in to discussing racism and white supremacy, the less uncomfortable I feel with being a novice. I understand that we have to start where we are. So here I am.
In 2016, I spoke up about what seemed like insensitivity on the part of the town I lived in to allow the town common to be decked out in blue ribbons - ribbons circling trees, fence posts, all eight sides of the gazebo - as a tribute to law enforcement amidst a backdrop of racial tension and backlash to the Black Lives Matter movement.
I threw a pebble in the water, just a pebble. I did not stand up and speak with conviction; I did not name white supremacy or racism; I did not say Black Lives Matter. But my words splashed into the still water of my suburban, white community as if I had thrown a boulder.
I named something uncomfortable and the response was immediate. I experienced first-hand the brutality of a society that is comfortable with the status quo. Sure, friends, acquaintances and even a few strangers reached out privately to express their support. But it was a whisper compared to the onslaught of vitriol being aimed my way.
So, I ducked out. I chose not to speak, not to engage. I hid behind my privilege and turned away. I wasn’t prepared to be the ally I wanted to be, so I retreated. It was a conscious choice and one I am not particularly proud of.
It left its mark on me - getting a taste of the viciousness of white supremacy, not just as an insidious force but one that is brutal and ruthless and in your face.
It’s hard to be with - that brutality - and it’s hard to be with my own collusion with it.
I remind myself that sitting with this discomfort is okay. I don’t have to fix anything I am experiencing. There is room for it all. Discomfort, grief, turmoil - even the part of me that wants to run away and hide.
I sit with it all. I can’t do this work in the world if I can’t do this work in myself. I can’t offer compassion or show up courageously out there if I don’t show up with compassion and courage within.
This is not a call to be self-focused. It’s a call to start close in. To be with the oppressed and the oppressor in myself, so that I can show up more courageously in the face of pain and oppression in our world.
I recognize that I am not leading any charge. But I can take small steps - such as providing young adult books on race for my teenagers to read, asking the coaching community I love to showcase more diverse voices in their professional development offerings, sharing resources with colleagues who want to be better allies and better coaches.
I am hopeful that my small steps will become more confident strides. I am hoping that yours will, too. It is a powerful image: all of us walking together into a future we have created, a future of equal opportunity, compassionate leadership and racial justice.
What would it look like to sit with your discomfort? What would it look like to start close in?
Jessica Curtis is a professional life coach who helps people cultivate intention and live from a place of meaning and authenticity. If you think you could benefit from working with Jessica or want to invite her to work with your group, reach out to start a conversation.