After the fires

I’ve been quiet on social media since the election. It’s some combination of how busy I am this time of year at my job, and the emotional overwhelm resulting from the collective trauma of living in California right now.

I used to line dance at that bar in Thousand Oaks where another mass shooting tragically and unnecessarily took more young, innocent lives. I keep having flashes of a particular, vivid image from my time there. It’s of my college boyfriend standing alone looking sexy and brooding by the big wooden bar. I see him from the dance floor and I’m willing him over to me with my mind. It was my friend Tracy’s birthday. There was so much joy and love in the room that night. I’m haunted by the thought that it was precisely that type of moment that was suddenly, irreparably, interrupted by the sound of gun fire, a disruption that would be life altering for every, single person inside.

I’ve been up close and personal with wildfires twice in my adult life. Once after college when I was evacuated from the San Bernardino mountains where I lived and worked in outdoor education. Again, ten years later, when I spent a few hours on the floor of the Santa Rosa lululemon, talking to all sorts of folks who had lost everything. I’ve been around plenty of heartache and grief in my life but theirs was uniquely devastating. Like they’d been completely emptied of the things that keep us hopeful and centered. Like they were floating around in bodies that didn’t belong to them in a broken life that couldn’t possibly be theirs.

Unthinkable tragedies always remind me of my core belief that all of us are good and generous and loving. That while sometimes the expression of those parts of our humanity are suppressed or confused or misrepresented, they remain intact inside of us.

At the same time, I find myself frustrated by our collective willingness to help those who have been devastated by a natural disaster, while many among us continue to subscribe to political ideologies and policy making that undermine our ability to be generous and compassionate for those impacted by: poverty, institutional racism, homelessness, homophobia, mental illness, addiction, and other systemic issues that cause serious, life-changing harm every, single day. Systemic issues whose victims are no more responsible for the devastation they cause than those who have lost their homes in a fire.

Related, if you’re horrified by the air quality in Northern California but are going to keep voting for Republicans because you’re worried about a tax increase, maybe you consider examining that value system before the next election cycle. If you’re concerned at all about the amount of taxes you pay, you probably have more than enough already.

I know I do.

Nothing makes it more clear that we’re in this together than when a wildfire that physically touches just a few of us, has an impact that is felt far and wide, forever.

The air we breathe, and the economy we collectively generate and the fear that our kids might get murdered by a shooter while dancing with their friends at a birthday party or sitting at their desk at school are shared parts of our collective experience. We are all connected, in all of it, and our only hope for bettering ourselves and our communities and the lives we are living is our recognition of that fact and action in accordance with it.

I’m indescribably proud of the work I did in this election cycle. It was energizing and hopeful and rewarding. It was challenging, confronting and exhausting. It was only a tiny piece of the work required and it’s only just begun. I am committed to working more and harder and in better collaboration right now and into the future.

I hope you will join me along the way.

Sending you lots of love tonight. Whatever air you’re breathing, I’m breathing with you.

We’re all breathing together.