When my son was three years old, we spent a week at the beach with my parents, and (to put it mildly) our Little Man was having a bit of a problem managing "big feelings." Everything was worthy of a screaming fit: missing our dog, turning off screens, sand between his butt cheeks. It was a vacation, but the reality was far from relaxing.
My dad was fighting pancreatic cancer too, a brutal diagnosis with a five year survival rate of 7%. We are now six years on, and he has miraculously beat the odds. But at the time, we were wrecked with the news. At one point, during a particularly ridiculous fit Little Man was throwing, Grampa turned to him and said, "What if I acted like that when I didn't get everything I want?" And then, in grand fashion, he threw his head back on the couch and howled. He pounded his fists and kicked his feet. It was both spectacular and heartbreaking to watch—a stunt that turned into a catharsis, at least in my eyes.
I feel like Grampa on the couch right now. As the sun sets each day, I want to throw my head back and howl. How can this be happening? How do we defend and fund the Postal Service and mail-in voting DURING A PANDEMIC? How are some districts sending kids and teachers back to school in unsafe conditions? How have 150 days passed with no accountability for Breonna Taylor's killers while, just this week, traffic stops have resulted in Black children at gunpoint in Colorado and Georgia?
Enough. I know you know. I don't need to list the problems we face to you. I write a lot about "habits" in this letter, about the reinforcements we need to keep our heads above water and to thrive as all of this swirls around us. But why bother with all that? What's the point, and what is a habit anyway? According to Dictionary.com, a habit is "an acquired behavior pattern regularly followed until it has become almost involuntary." It's a routine that becomes second nature.
You know what's routine to me? Second nature? VOTING. This is the most important habit we can lean on in coming months. Other things that are second nature? Hugging my son, weeding my garden, eating oranges, snugging with the dogs, making chocolate chip oat bars, walking, writing, and coaching a diverse, beautiful cohort of people everyday, who are steadily, relentlessly finding their way.
Our daily routines collect to create our daily experience. They nurture and fuel us. The unhelpful ones get in our way too. So that's my laser focus this fall. The news will continue to spiral, as it always does. And we will carry on fighting for everything we care about, as we always do. And we'll struggle in plenty of ways—maybe even throw a justified, cathartic temper tantrum now and then. But we have solid reinforcements on hand, as well. So as summer inches toward fall, and it looks like we're on a bumpy road for the next few months...
How are fueling yourself? What comes second nature to you that keeps your head above water?
For those who might not have an eye on Tennessee politics, Marquita Bradshaw pulled off an upset victory last week in the Democratic primary to replace retiring U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander. She shellacked four competitors, coming out nine points ahead. The establishment candidate raised $2 million dollars for his campaign while Ms. Bradshaw, a Memphis-based environmentalist and social justice organizer, raised only $8,400. Tennessee hasn't elected a Democratic senator since Al Gore, 30 years ago. Her odds of winning the seat are slim, but based on her performance in recent weeks, she is a force to be reckoned with. As Rachel Maddow would say, "Watch this space."
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