(professional)

I consider myself a fairly private, relatively reserved, and sometimes quiet person depending on the context, so I’m just as surprised as some of you may be that I’m finding comfort by sharing my thoughts, sometimes vulnerable and quite personal thoughts, with you online. You’re of course getting a filtered view, but as I’m learning to listen and follow where I feel I’m being called, I’m noticing a developing pattern that after I write some very deep and heavy thoughts in my personal journal, a part of my brain and spirit awakens and says “alright great, glad you got that out in the raw form first. Now go share”.

So here we are again, sharing this particular digital space as I’m sure we will be for some time. Maybe I want to feel seen. Maybe I’m wanting to feel heard by those beyond my immediate circle. Maybe I’m wanting to give a more accurate, robust, and in some ways more honest answer to the “how are you doing?”s that I’ve been receiving over the past few days. Maybe I just have too many thoughts than my poor little, tired hand can write out, so typing gives me a quicker outlet, and a link that I can just send out the next time someone asks how things are.

I don’t know where exactly I’m wanting to start, so let’s start there. Thank you to those of you who have reached out, though I notice I feel quite complicated about the reaching out I receive. Checking in with loved ones is important and necessary work, so I’m glad that you’re doing that and grateful that you’re working on your check in skills directly with me. I feel complicated about it for a number of reasons:

  1. I’m really bad at being on the receiving end of emotional care. I’m working on this with my therapist so don’t worry, this is something I’m fully aware of and actively working to address. I’m extraordinarily bad at being on the receiving end of emotional care, especially for someone who cries quite a bit and very easily at times, and this for me goes well beyond the particular emotional support people are trying to offer right now. So while I’ve called for people to check in several times on my Facebook, Instagram, and other platforms, when people then… you know… reach out, I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do with that. Oh, you expect me to be open? You’re in some way thinking I’ll be fully honest? Ha. Cute. I might have thought so, too. I’m likely projecting here, as I do so often, so don’t take offense if you’re reading this because I’m not directing this at “you” (but even then, I’m trying to care for you now by letting you know that this shoe isn’t necessarily meant to fit. Funny how that always works out). I don’t know if I expect myself to be fully honest to be quite honest with you. A good indicator of my telling the truth about what I’m saying about what how I feel is if there are tears involved, then you might be getting some where. Or at the very least, you may be seeing the tears that are a product of the words that my throat and essence of being are choking back, desperately grasping out of fear that I might actually be somehow held and seen.
  2. (This could probably be lumped into point #1, but I like making lists so we’ll make it its own) Second point is that I’m not sure if I have the energy to respond to your questions at times. Or if I have the energy to even respond to your brief comments, which is why if I post this on Facebook it’s likely that I’ll turn the comments off if possible to avoid the interaction altogether. I’m not sure at times if I have the energy to respond for a variety of reasons, one of them being that my impulse is to flip the question and check in on you instead, with a case-in-point included for your convenience in point #1. With my non-Black friends, I’ve made a recent effort to not reverse the question and accept, however uncomfortably, that they are in fact trying to center me. It’s all a tricky web and a work in progress, and by this point even though it’s only point #2 you might be wondering why I’m thinking so hard about this at all times. Or maybe I’m wondering that of myself. I have no answers for the overthinking and potential over-consideration, so here we are (again).
  3. Third point (and as I’m writing this, I’m losing track of why I started making a list in the first place. This is why I don’t often follow my impulses publicly, but in asking you to stick with me I first need to learn and commit to sticking with myself). Third point! Is that as you’re checking in with me I’m evaluating how I’ve checked in with others. Should I have let them know that it’s ok if they don’t have the energy to respond? Should I start out with a content warning that I’m Checking In, or just let it be? How does the environment we interact in shape how I should reach out — Are we co-workers? “Sort of” friends? Were we good friends for a while and fell off for one reason or another? Somewhat acquainted from a shared past? Besties but we don’t always dig into the heavy stuff? The list is endless. Today after a particularly challenging work call, these types of questions blocked me from reaching out to some, and this block was probably my main impulse to write this even though this seems that it’s not the main point. But there isn’t always a clear main point so here we are, and you guessed it, again. Whether or not I have since reached out or will reach out in some capacity is not the point. But I did write a note to myself that reads: “If your compassion feels radical, uncomfortable, ask if that’s something you’re able to lean into or need to step away from. Are you worried about seeming unprofessional? Fuck professionalism if it stops you from making people feel seen and loved.” I can’t necessarily fully fuck professionalism because, well, I’m in a place right now where I do in fact need this check. But someday, maybe, I’ll get there. Someday, maybe, I’ll realize that if I feel the extensions of my compassion are blocked in a certain space, I might need to find or create somewhere better to be. Someday, maybe, I’ll find an alternative to the compulsive and consuming (consumer) capitalism that’s creeping on and curtailing my compassion, but today is clearly not that day.

I sense that I have digressed. These times are unprecedented in some ways (if you’re playing a Covid drinking game where you take a shot every time someone says “unprecedented”, cheers) and not at all in many others even though they might seem amplified right now. It’s a weird place to be in. It’s a weird and complicated and extremely contradictory place to sit in, where from around 9:30-5pm today I was on a fancy other laptop doing things that only matter in a particular box, depending on which angle you’re looking from. A place where I feel like I have to be neutral when some leaders in that particular box can’t bring themselves to say that “Black people”, not just “some people”, “might be having a harder time than others” and thus addressing yet dodging the always present elephant in the Hangouts meeting room. A place where we’re all struggling and searching for “the right things to say”. A place where I want someone to say something but feel like I might throw up if and when they do, and spinning around about it in the aftermath. I’m not looking to offer advice really in this post, but I will share that I’m trying to learn to just say things. To just put things out there. To just build things in some way or another without blocking momentum for a particular solution by worrying about if it’s the best way and iterating on it from there to make sure it gets to that good place.

A place where in the afternoon I’m hearing “1 Thing” by Amerie playing through my window from a neighbor’s backyard (or fire escape), while the evening before I stared for hours at the helicopters that I could view clearly from my window, likely surveilling the activists demonstrating at Barclay’s Center less than a mile away. A place where I feel stuck in more ways than one, and made in many ways uncomfortable by the things I’m feeling called to do, the things I’ve felt called to share, the conversations I have had, and those I have yet to have. A place where I walked by a graduation ceremony in the park yesterday, where I was given a bright flower as a welcoming gift, where I’m sad that I can’t pick up books off the street anymore for fear of disease spread, where I’m trying to keep my head up even while walking in spaces I’m not sure that I should go. Spaces figurative and literal. Places both on this plane of reality and those we’re not fully awakened to yet.

Here we are, again, and this is apparently what I needed to say about that today. If you reach out to me, thank you, I’m sure I love you to some capacity or in some way, I see you, but don’t be offended if I don’t respond. I’ll respect your space and energy in the same way, too.

I thought I would leave it there, but I want to leave you with the follow-up questions I wrote in my journal to the excerpt on professionalism included in point #3:

“Do you trust that the people you can interact with can hold what you have to say? [If you don’t trust them, is it useful for you to identify why?] What is your biggest fear when it comes to your compassion crossing the line?”

At the end of the day, for the people that look like me and might be asking the same questions, trust that you are and will go where needed, when needed, when you have the capacity to do so. Right now, you are already doing all that you need to do. Drink some water, find some way to rest, facilitate joy where you can, and trust that those callings will come to you and be fulfilled by you, in your beautiful, powerful, thoughtful, unique, and necessary ways.

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