Finding my shovel and digging in

Clever Manka, · Categories: Manka's Posts

So. Best Lives! How’s everyone doing with that? Yeah. Me, too.

My inclination and ability to put together thoughts and essays for this site were already damaged by my general health for the past few months. The U.S. election results threw what was left of them completely out the window. It’s difficult enough to even consider topics but, once I find something that I might pull together into a cohesive essay, my brain shuts down. It felt like a physical switch flipping to OFF. I allowed despair to silence me.

My hopes of modifying my life (changing my job, working less, allowing my body the rest it needs) aren’t just on the back burner — they’ve been moved off the stove. I am not comfortable leaving a well-paying gig (before it’s eliminated from the state budget, anyway) when I fear a nation-wide financial crisis because our federal government will soon be modeling itself on my state’s disastrous tax policies. I might have ideals, but I’m still a realist.

I created this place in the spirit of living my best life, and it’s a good thing to be reminded that one’s best life isn’t always motivated or influenced solely by internal factors. The outside world has an enormous impact on the reality of structuring my best life. I have privilege as a white, non-disabled, cis person who can be taken for straight if I keep my mouth shut. I currently have a well-paying job. My partner is a white man with all the perks attached to that (in which I share significantly, thanks, hon). I cannot live my life in a vacuum, though, so it is necessary for me to revise my options for a Best Life.

I was already frustrated by the required patience of waiting on my body to respond to treatment. Then I was presented with the obstacle of how I can possibly live a Best Life under the circumstances of the current political climate. After a two-week-long pity party, I ran across this Open Letter to White Liberal Feminists.

By all means, use whatever mechanism you require to move through the stages of grief as you bury your false idol of faux feminist solidarity. You must now do the intensive work to heal your troubled soul. And after you have come to terms with your own guilt, embarrassment, and pain, I encourage you to run with your newfound perspective. There is a terrifyingly beautiful lineage of black resilience—seasoned by black suffering—that you might turn to for hope.

It helped me comprehend something I had only vaguely realized the day after the U.S. presidential election. I am feeling the sudden impact of this horrifying event because I’ve been sheltered. There are so many people who’ve been living an enormously oppressed existence their entire lives and have thrived, excelled, and overcome despite the system designed to kill them and their spirit. I am resolved to listen to them and learn from them. And I refuse to be incapacitated by despair.

Instead of allowing a vague notion of My Someday Best Life to motivate me, I am structuring my thoughts and actions on what I can do now. What can I do today, in spite of my physical limitations and emotional exhaustion?

I’m donating money to local groups, people, and places (exceptions are the ACLU, SPLC, Standing Rock Water Protectors, and Planned Parenthood). This is my alternative to the instinct of indulging in retail therapy (I did do a bit of that, too, though, with a giant bottle of only moderately-ridiculously-expensive vanilla because supposedly prices are going up soon and also fuck yeah Penzey’s). I’m also working with a local contact to find at least four disadvantaged teens who are interested in subscriptions to Teen Vogue because Teen Vogue has been tearing it the fuck up lately and if I can help spread that sort of journalism with a side dose of fashion, count me in.

I’ve been more aggressive about finding and posting  “how to help” stuff on Tumblr. The tag goes back to the early days of Ferguson, so there’s some outdated stuff near the end. I’ll be adding to it liberally (ha ha ha) in the coming months. It’s a small thing, and smacks of armchair activism, but sedentary activism is all I’ve got right now.

I renewed my personal goal of pissing off at least one white man every day. This might seem to be in conflict with my recent commitment to the Bridge part of Defend-Resist-Bridge, but I think they mesh quite nicely. I am fed up with the notion of civility being rooted in silence, and my vow of acting as a bridge doesn’t mean I must suffer people rudely stomping on me.

I’m serious about re-learning Spanish and I contacted a faculty member here for options. If you have suggestions, please share them. I’m very good at learning by rote and repetition. If I still had my old textbooks and flashcards, I’d be digging those out. Since I don’t, I’m open to alternatives.

I’m making one phone call a day to various offices, mostly to businesses and local law enforcement or public offices. I’ve stopped contacting national legislative offices. Either they’ve already heard my opinion, or they aren’t going to change their stance, or (in the case of most of my state’s legislators and representatives) both. Some people have the stamina to continue badgering those people, and I am grateful they exist and are continuing those fights. If you don’t have a resource for whom to call about what, check out Pantsuit Nation. My local group posts regular updates on issues, some of them with phone scripts to make it even easier.

They’re small things, yes, but better for me than inaction born of fear and hopelessness.

The Burgomaster occasionally muses what if we’re in the Matrix? what if this life isn’t real? what if we’re a program running for someone’s amusement or experiment? I’ve never found interest in that conversation because knowing the answer wouldn’t change my actions or beliefs. If I am a character in a story, I want to be a character that I like and respect. I might not live to see the happy ending of this story. There might not be what I would consider a happy ending. But I am resolved to be someone that I want to read about. And for now, that must be my way of living my best life. Living a life that might make me angry, frightened, uncomfortable, and tired. But never ashamed, never acquiescent, and never silent.


clevermankaClever Manka is your site host. She didn’t expect to be engaged in ditch-digging at this point in her life, but she refuses to drown in a hole.

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35 Responses to “Finding my shovel and digging in”

  1. ru_ri says:

    FUCK YES to all of this. Especially "I am resolved to be someone I would want to read about." Despite being physically and emotionally limited by exhaustion, you are doing a lot of truly meaningful stuff, and compounding the effect by using this site to inspire many of us to do the same. That ain't no small potatoes. Thank you and rock on!

    PS Please tell the Burgomeister that I'm pretty sure we are living in one of Warren Ellis's nightmares, and I really really want him to wake up soon.

    • CleverManka says:

      Thank you, bb. I try to avoid comparing myself to other people (or even my old, energetic self), but it's difficult. Having validation from people I respect and admire helps a lot.

      And I'll pass that message along to the Burgomaster. Ellis's novella Normal was released yesterday and tbh I'm not sure I'm up for it yet. Baby steps, right?

  2. Xolandra says:

    I saw your tweet about pissing one white dude off a day and thought "hunh. That sounds like an excellent idea". So ty, Manka. I'm doin it too 😉

    It is easy to feel crushed under capitalist systems. Up here in Canada, our government just approved a bunch of oil pipelines that no one but Big Oil wants. So I'm taking my $$ from the enormous bank I have banked with all of my adult life and moving it over to a credit union. I know that my meagre savings won't make a huge difference, especially to a HUGE International Bank, but it is A Thing I Can Do.

    I've been practicing talking about SJW stuff without getting all het up. It is hard – it is especially hard when three quarters of my sentences are "please let me finish", but I am, I think, slowly converting people. And then the universe dropped this beautiful gift today: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/a-tribe-calle… (full disclosure, I love Saul Williams, I would probably die if I ever breathed the same air as him, and a this collab with Tribe and the video… It is for meeeeeeee!)

    • CleverManka says:

      Bless you for the Tribe Called Red article! They're so great. Also, thank you for the reminder to ORDER THEIR CDs ALREADY. I meant to do that in, what, October? And completely spaced it.

      I know that my meagre savings won't make a huge difference, especially to a HUGE International Bank, but it is A Thing I Can Do.
      I am a huge advocate for boycotts, not because I believe (for the most part) that companies really pay that much attention, but because it is the right thing to do. And I think living our own lives by high standards is really, when it comes down to it, the best thing we can do.

    • vladazhael says:

      I met Saul Williams once and he is a delight. Super sweet and smiley, and he was charmed to have odd bits of name in common with the small white chick who is me.

      • Xolandra says:

        There is not enough keyboard smashing for me to convey the incredibly acute nature of my jealousy.

        It is my shame that i only discovered Saul Williams last year. But since them I have emailed _all_ of my music-y type friends to be like "how _could_ you keep such an amazingly glorious secret from me _all of these years_?" I… may still be mad at some of them.

  3. littleinfinity says:

    YES THANK YOU. Thank you for doing the work to articulate so many of the things I have been feeling. Thank you for donating and calling and pissing off white men.

    I was thinking about the simulation argument recently too. While that line of thought generally is existentially terrifying to me, in the wake of the election, it's kind of reassuring to think that maybe there are alternate universes where this didn't happen. When "none of this is real" becomes comforting, you know you've stumbled into the Pit of Despair. (I do really like your take about continuing to be a character you would want to read.)

    Spanish-wise, I was using the app Duolingo for a while, and I thought it was pretty helpful! It does ask you to speak, which is the reason I stopped (I was trying to do it on the metro and couldn't make myself be the girl muttering Spanish phrases into my phone), but the modules are set up nicely and they build on one another.

    Post-election and post-trauma-shock-recovery, one of the realizations that helped me was that, as you wrote, there are so many people who have been living with this feeling for their entire lives. It's humbling. So now I'm trying to figure out how I can be a woman who is white, and liberal, and a feminist, but somehow not be a WhiteLiberalFeministWoman ™. Is that even possible?

    • CleverManka says:

      I do really like your take about continuing to be a character you would want to read
      I was talking to the Burgomaster about that and how yes, ideally, it will be so great and wonderful if progressive mentalities and compassion eventually rule humanity. That said, I would rather live a story where it fails but I go down fighting than live a story where I am happy and comfortable while surrounded by misery. He told me I was the embodiment of Irish literature. Which, okay, I usually mostly claim my Spanish side because that side of the family's story is much more dramatic, but I guess the Irish blood came through, too!

      Is that even possible?
      I believe so, yes. If you're interested in reading about intersectionality, there are lots of lists with book recommendations. Does working toward intersectionality and declaring myself an ally mean I'm no longer racist and can divorce myself from benefiting from white supremacy? NOPE. But I can do my damnedest to avoid being a White Feminist while still being a feminist who is white.

      • littleinfinity says:

        Thank you for the book recs! Yes, I have done some reading on intersectionality but more books are always a good thing. I guess a better way of asking "is that even possible" is sort of what you said: that it's never really possible to divorce yourself from benefiting from white privilege, and/or from the surface appearance of being a WLFW. But that is no reason not to keep working and reading and improving!

        I would rather live a story where it fails but I go down fighting than live a story where I am happy and comfortable while surrounded by misery

        <img src="https://media1.giphy.com/media/wog2xSk0v0LT2/200.gif#165"&gt;

        • CleverManka says:

          Just now saw this comment, sorry for the delayed response AND apologies if my comment sounded snooty. Ugh, work is just nuts today.

          • littleinfinity says:

            No you didn't sound snooty at all!  I was worried that I came off sounding oblivious actually. Sorry you're having a rough day at work 🙁  toasthugs!

  4. Exitpursuedbyaclaire says:

    What a fantastic post! I wanted to cheer at the last paragraph (but I'm at work, so I didn't). If you don't mind sharing, what are you contacting local businesses and officials about? I know I need to brush up on my local activism, but I'm not sure where to begin.

  5. vladazhael says:

    I love your choice of gifs. Hercules Mulligan was my first Hamilton favorite (since joined by Jefferson and Lafayette), specifically because of that part. I've been trying to keep it in mind a whole lot lately for a whole lot of things.

    I just want to scream "YES!" at so much of this post. It's easy to forget how sheltered we are as white liberal feminists when we're surrounded by people who think even that cushy level of awareness and activism is Just Too Much. But the least we can do is let the crushing disaster of the election teach us greater empathy for what less privileged people go through, and use it to work more productively outside of our burst bubbles.

    I have to admit, though -action has been hard for me so far. I'm making donations and speaking up where I can, but other life circumstances have made it hard to shift out of survival/comfort mode and figure out what action I *can* take, let alone take it. I applaud your organized effort and know I can always come here for shining examples of how to get the fuck back up again.

    • CleverManka says:

      Thank you for letting me know the post resonated with you! That's really good to hear.

      I think we need to be realistic with ourselves about our ability to take action. Yes, we've been incredibly sheltered and now we're stunned that someone dropped a bucket of freezing, filthy water on us. We first need to get out of our ruined clothes before putting on the new running shoes. To continue the metaphor, criticizing ourselves for not immediately taking action and being raring to go immediately is like expecting someone who's never even run around the block to complete a 5K in half an hour. It's just not gonna happen right away and you can't afford to burn yourself out and put yourself back on the couch. Baby steps!

  6. Frumiosa says:

    yes. YES to all of this. Fuck yes. I've had a serious wake-up call these past few weeks about much there is to be done and how much I should be doing. I'm doing the daily calls and actions and volunteering, and I'm also kind of flailing around and want to figure out how I can do the most good with what I have. I'm a grantwriter with lots of non-profit fundraising and marketing experience, so I've been trying to offer pro bono work, if anyone knows any orgs who might need it. And also just making connections and being there for people who are hurting.

    Other than that, it's been a constant battle of High Vigilance vs. Take Care of Yourself and Don't Die of Anxiety Your Family Needs You. It's not easy. I look back on not even a month ago when the world itself didn't seem so scary, and marvel at how I took everything for granted. Not anymore I hope.

  7. Heathered says:

    Wow, an embarrassment of riches today! This is so good and useful to see as I'm still in pull-head-out-of-butt mode and trying to turn my energy into useful action; you are a sound strategist, Manka.

  8. MsMitti says:

    I've been told the public library has software (for free!) that is similar to rosetta stone. http://mangolanguages.com/libraries/find-mango/

  9. sherwood21 says:

    A friend recommended listening to Spanish radio and podcasts to increase listening comprehension.

  10. julii_wolfe says:

    Duolingo is a decent language app, and I still have all of my Spanish textbooks from undergrad, plus the literature readers and books. I'm totally willing to share them with you!

    • CleverManka says:

      AWESOME, yes, please! This motivates me to come over and see your totally-not-new-anymore apartment sooner rather than later. Now that my energy levels are finally not completely in the toilet anymore, that can happen sooner rather than later.

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