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Fighting Violence with Kindness

Updated: 5 days ago

I know I promised to discuss how to implement some of the new habits you brainstormed last week. We'll get to that, for sure, but there's no way to wrap our heads around our own individual next steps without acknowledging the world we are living in and the madness that erupted in Washington D.C. last week. The upshot of what happened at the Capitol is that some bodies are safer than others and some bodies are allowed more agency than others: specifically white ones.


Standing up for equality requires honoring and supporting the inherent value of every human body equally, and, in my work, that evolution is rooted in kindness.


Most of you know me as a progressive peacenik, so you might be surprised, in the final chapter of The Habit Trip, I found myself quoting George W. Bush who said, "'Some folks look at me and see a certain swagger, which, in Texas, is called walking." In fairness, we should all have the right to feel "like a Texas oil man with Western boots, a cowboy hat, and a leathery tan—the whole rich, old, white dude package. You have the absolute right to be here, and no one can tell you otherwise... This life is an Equal Swagger Opportunity: everybody gets to matter, and everybody gets to be whole."


Clearly the world has a long way to go to catch up to this idea. The insurgents who stormed the capitol last week were met with a fraction of the force that faced the Black Lives Matter protesters over the summer. They were permitted to desecrate the seat of government and walk off the Capitol grounds of their own accord. Meanwhile, the economy lost 140,000 jobs last month all of which were held by women, as the "fairer sex" continues to bear the brunt of care-taking and economic losses through this pandemic.


Most of us have established in our own minds and the organizations we run that things will not be "returning to normal" post-pandemic. There is no going back old expectations in the workplace or in society at large. And most of us wouldn't want to go back, even if we could. "Normal" was deeply flawed and so easy to perpetuate. So here we are: We know things will be different, but we have no consensus on how.


So I propose one essential guideline going forward: Kindness.


Writer, feminist, and civil rights activist Audre Lorde wrote:


“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”


Source: JSTOR Daily via Flickr


Someone sends me this quote at least once a month. Caring for yourself is, indeed, an act of political warfare. It is also an act of kindness. Belittling your body—black, brown, white; large or small; male, female, or fluid—is an act of submission. Feeding, nurturing, exercising, stretching, resting your body, and commanding respect is a mandate for decency and equality. Kindness makes space for growth. It offers everybody the right to their own unique swagger, as long as they are making room for everyone else.


The Habit Trip is an invitation to practice that swagger through kindness toward yourself and others. We are rife with micro- and macro-aggressions against ourselves and each other, but we are perfectly capable of rooting them out and shedding them one-by-one. A habit is just a norm, a standard practice that has gotten us where we are today for better or worse. Many norms have been uprooted this past year. What is next for you or your organization? Only you know for sure, so let's start with this:


What is one act of kindness you can adopt for yourself and one for someone else?


These can be big, singular gestures or small, repetitive ones—and don't just think about it. Write it down! Share your idea with me by filling out this this form, and you'll get a record of what you wrote echoed back in your email so you can reference it any time.


This is the first step in making a change: an act of kindness, one for you and one for somebody else.


In the meantime, see if you can find a little more swagger in your step. Texas oil men shouldn't get to have all the fun. Invite a friend to swagger right along side you, forward this email to whoever you want! We're in this together and not leaving anyone behind.


Sarah

For a smile today, I give you this little one with her beloved Brunhilde...




Also, an invitation to the men in our midst to join the body positive conversation through Anthony Patrick Manieri's beautiful photography series, Arrested Movement. When we flex in our vision of ourselves, we are better able to make space for others to flex alongside us. Everybody gets to matter.


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Past posts can be found HERE.

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SARAH HAYS COOMER

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