Write my way out

by Anne Moore

Ages ago, when I was stuck with my dissertation, I got a great piece of writing advice from a friend, and I still use it every time I sit down to write. Begin by making a list of five things you observe, one for each of your senses. It’s a great way to ground yourself before you get going, and I think that search for sensory detail makes me a better writer to boot.

What I noticed this morning was the smell of fear. I’ve had it upon awakening for two days now, and I fear that it will be my companion for much longer. The world looks different to me today, and the worst part is that I feel like I’m seeing more clearly than I was–and what I see is that things are much, much worse.

But I’m solution-oriented, if nothing else. And this whole process is as clear a reminder as I could get that my cozy suburban life is precarious at best, that I never stopped being seen as less than, both for the fact that I have a vagina and for what I do with it. So the upside (if you can call it that) is that solidarity is real right now, and I really, really felt it yesterday.

I also know that anti-racist solidarity is something I have to earn, that I haven’t yet. Because Trump is on us. White people overwhelmingly voted to elect Trump. Even nearly half of college-educated white women voted for him. I’m part of this group, and I’ve done the same thing of deprioritizing the concerns of POC because other concerns seemed more pressing. If this election has made anything clear to me, it’s that this is my struggle, and that we, the dispossessed, are all in this shit together.

Here’s what I’ve been telling my students, and what I’m trying to tell myself. Ages ago, when Izzy was having a lot of behavior problems, Ariel and I went to a child psychologist for advice on how to deal with it, and how to keep our own reactions from clouding our behavior with her. She told us to sit down and determine what the central values of our family were, in clear terms that Izzy could understand, and then bring the conversation back to those ideas when she was acting out. So if she hits Teddy, we say “you can’t hit your brother because he’s just a baby and he’s powerless. Our family protects people who are powerless–that’s part of who we are.” So here’s my set of family values (take that, Mike Pence):

Be kind. Help others. Say thanks. Protect the powerless. Share. Listen. Have fun. Make art.

I can do that no matter where I am. If the economy falls apart, if my family is no longer recognized by the state, if I’m threatened by violence–I can still find people to help, I can still share, I can still say thanks, I can still be kind, I can still stick up for those who have less power than I do, I can still connect with other people, I can still dance. And I can still write. So here goes.