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Photo by Subvertivo Lab on Unsplash

A nod to our (relative) luck that it was you among infinite possibilities

Hey, 2020: Before your time is up, I wanted to let you know that I know you are not the villain.

You are a container of time. A time begat from all past time.

You are the year that gets tossed the hot potato when the buzzer goes off. Not a malicious creator of chaotic crimes against humanity.

Your container is a cup repeatedly running over. It has sloshed, waterboarded, and drowned us to varying degrees in pandemic proportions. I am not making light of suffering and death. …


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Photo by Ian Cylkowski on Unsplash

The family fallout from identity politics, religion and massive manipulation

If you have one or several, you’re not alone. We can dress them up and call them ‘estrangements’ but it doesn’t change the pain that comes with a family member’s refusal to communicate, to block or belittle or even to harass us.

These rifts can seem surreal when the source is a loved one. I’ve been hurting for several weeks now. And I know that I’m not alone.

We might think that family has a leg up when it comes to understanding us, but as I wrote in Just Because You’re Related Doesn’t Mean You Can Relate that isn’t necessarily true. …


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Earworm by Author

Art’s Real Worth as a Meta Collectivist Perspective

I have always loved color. With no other perspective than my own, I’ve no idea, for example, how many people in this world would be out-of-their-minds happy to sit down with a Pantone color book for two hours, sipping coffee as sunshine streams through a picture window bouncing light onto each page.

That’s literally where I was a year ago at my cousin’s house in Indiana. Kelly O’Dell Stanley is an artist, as was her father, my uncle. As I remember, she was at church that morning, and so was I.

Whether this particular two-hour communion with color in her dining room led me to pick up my first brush and buy a small watercolor kit after Covid-19 hit, I don’t know. …


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Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

Shawshank Redemption beckons us; the Big Book gives us a path

“And if youve come this far, maybe you’re willing to come a little further.”

That one line Andy writes to Red at the end of Shawshank has a lot of resonance for me, right now, as a white person.

That line is my hope for many white people who now appear to acknowledge that racism is real, that Black Lives Matter, that we are all part of what happened to George Floyd and countless others since 1619.

Are we finally willing to come a little further, closer to accepting that these atrocities have to do with us? Because it’s our responsibility to dismantle structural racism. The racism that is really, truly, built into our institutions. …


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Photo by Austin Chan on Unsplash

Seek the questions. There is no right answer.

James Thurber once said, “It is better to know some of the questions than all of the answers.”

I believe in this 14-word philosophy as much as I believe in the Golden Rule, gravity, and, as Ram Dass said, “We’re all just walking each other home.”

Yet I keep looking for answers. Eureka ones. The ones that will strike me down on my private Road to Damascus. The answers to these questions:

Why can’t I write the things I want to?

Why am I stuck and what am I stuck on, exactly?

Seeking answers — I’m particularly fond of asking why — is a hard habit to break. A habit that has always had legs in my neurotic pacings, but has grown arms during shelter-in-place. Today I noticed that a skull has begun to form. …


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Photo by Jodi Barnes

Shaming and blaming are draining. They only gain us wider divides.

Pretend we could put politics aside. (I know, just stay with me here.) Is it possible that Americans agree on anything?

I think so. Even in a country that agrees we are living in an era of extreme political polarization, so extreme that the political has become personal. So extreme that more people are displeased by the thought that their child would marry someone of a different political party than of a different religion.

Some research suggests that it’s not the political polarization as much as our squabbling.

It might just be that most people really don’t like politics. Americans are open to people with all sorts of political and partisan opinions, our research shows — as long as they keep those opinions to themselves. …


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Photo by Ali Müftüoğulları on Unsplash

First, relinquish your role as Manager of the Universe

David called to say he and his wife were back from visiting our daughter and her family over the MLK weekend. Technically, David is my ex-husband; more accurately, he is my friend.

There was once a time when our true friendship, post divorce, didn’t exist. No animosity, just what I’d call our readjustment years. Getting past our past roles and creating new ones that worked better for us, for our daughters and our spouses.

Before the call ended, I asked how our 17-year-old granddaughter was doing. I knew she’d been accepted to two universities and was waiting to hear about Chapel Hill. …


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Photo by RaeAnna Stephens, with permission

an open letter from grandmother to granddaughter

Hello there, self of 1975:

1. You are lucky to be here. Sure, you’ve been through some sad stuff already. Money’s scarce. Your parents have a lot of flaws, but they love you. Not always the way you want them to. They’ll never be exactly who you want them to be. But you will find this is true of everyone you care about. Everyone. At every stage of your life. There is no perfect love. There are no perfect people.

2. Gossiping and criticizing others (in your head or out loud) is a waste of time. The worst thing is that criticism grows inward — you will become hypercritical of yourself, creating more damage than others’ gossip could ever do. …


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Photo by Jonathan Harrison on Unsplash

Why multiple perspectives, identities, and stories are worth fighting for

As I tuned into a podcast conversation between Elif Shafak and Chris Anderson, founder of TED, I was admittedly distracted.

Until I tuned in.

After some years of studying, teaching, and working on ways to live with and learn from conflict (“handling” or “managing” conflict isn’t helpful because conflict is inevitable and most of it necessary for human development) I fell in love with Shafak’s eloquent ideas, all of which can be implemented by me. And you. Not our tribes or political identities.

A Clash Between Two Certainties

Whether it’s politics, religion or any perspective we tend to call a belief, the ability to dismiss other beliefs is now easier and achieved more expeditiously than ever before. …


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Photo by Laura Vinck on Unsplash

We access more light when we don’t deny darkness

Forget causality. Forget deserved. Forget sin and karma.

I mean, if we really want to pick any of those back up — we can do that. But for now, let’s just imagine not asking ourselves why bad things happen to people. Especially the good ones we love. (How could we love them if they weren’t good?)

Put religion down — momentarily. Deities aside, there is one unifying response we humans have to death and pain and suffering:

This happened without my knowledge or consent; this terrible thing that’s happened is out of my control.

And this makes us mad. And sad. And anxious and scared. …

About

Jodi Barnes, PhD

Writer and Collaborator-in-Chief of https://www.14wordsforlove.com where small acts of writing, art and conversation create multicultural connections for good.

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