Snapshot Saturday: State of the 31 (7QT, Vol. 42)

(Everyday Bravery, Day 7)

Oh, no – I’m falling behind! I’m pretty sure that when you do the Write 31 Days challenge you’re supposed to actually, you know, publish a blog post on each of those 31 Days. I’m not too far off from that, but I’m not quite there either. (I missed two days last week, but I actually wrote all seven posts. One was published earlier today and the other will be published on Monday.)

I’ll get there. Or I won’t quite, but I’ll still have done much more blogging than I normally do, and I’ll have learned some good lessons along the way.

At least that’s my hope.

So far I’m having Lots of Dramatic and Gloomy Reactions to undertaking this little experiment, plus a few that aren’t so negative. They’ll probably only be of interest to, like, five of my blogging friends, but I’m going to list them anyway. (Along with a photo, because I’d planned to show you a photo every Saturday and include a story about the bravery I was feeling when it was taken. This Saturday all I feel like writing are the Lots of Dramatic and Gloomy Reactions, so you’re getting a photo of my desk. Just imagine all my angst shoving my bravery right out of that space.)

Oh, and I’m linking up with Kelly for 7 Quick Takes, because my list happens to contain seven items. (Follow the link to check out all the other Quick Takers!)

these-walls-snapshot-saturday-state-of-the-31-1

—1—

I’m tired. I’ve been staying up late nearly every night to write and then getting up early to do the same. So I’ve only been getting five to six (interrupted, because kids) hours a night, and it’s wearing me thin. I need to do something about this before I get sick.

—2—

Few people are reading my posts. I haven’t been getting many views in the past several months because I’ve done so little blogging. Which is fine – that makes complete sense. But I was hoping that with this Write 31 Days project, I could build my numbers back up. I figured I could at least get to where I was a year or so ago and I was super hopeful that I could do better than that. Instead, so far I’ve been getting something like a third of the views I was back then. And I lost several followers on my Facebook page. Which is a big bummer, because . . .

—3—

This is hard work. My mind is constantly ‘on,’ I’m jotting down notes wherever I can, and I’m sneaking up to my desk every chance I get. I push a post into existence, and then once I post it, I feel all angsty until I can determine how it’s received.

—4—

This has been a hard week. Lots of people I love are hurting or anxious or stressed or just dealing with a lot these days. They’ve had hard times of it lately and will continue to for the foreseeable future. I’m here at home, hurting for them. And wishing I could do something more concrete.

—5—

I can be an insufferable know-it-all. I don’t know why this realization (which is always kind of in the back of my mind) has become so prominent to me all of a sudden, but it’s there. It’s there telling me to put my nose down, be quiet, and just leave everybody and everything the heck alone. Hmpf.

—6—

Maybe I should just give up the blog. Maybe I shouldn’t even finish this #write31days thing. Maybe I should just throw in the towel and go clean my house and read to my kids and bake a pie or something. Because this is hard work and life is hard enough already and I’m not getting enough sleep and nobody’s reading what I write anyway.

—7—

But all that drama and doubt aside, I think I’m starting to learn some practical, constructive lessons here. I’m starting to learn to write a little faster, to be a little less of a perfectionist, to take more risks. I’m discerning my most productive times for and methods of writing. I’m learning that I don’t need to step away from social media entirely, but I do need more screen-free periods in my day for peace and productivity. I’m learning to focus more on my writing while I write, more on my house while I do its work, and more on my kids while I’m caring for them.

Those are good lessons. So for now, I’m just going to keep pushing ahead, keep working with what I’m learning. I think good things will come of this project even if those good things don’t include higher viewing stats. And if I get to the end of it and decide I need a blogging break, well then . . . I’ll go bake some pies. November will be a nice month for that anyway.

these-walls-snapshot-saturday-state-of-the-31

~~~

This post is the seventh in a series called Everyday Bravery: A Write 31 Days Challenge. Every day this month I’m publishing a blog post on Everyday bravery – not the heroic kind, not the kind that involves running into a burning building or overcoming some incredible hardship. Rather, the kinds of bravery that you and I can undertake in our real, regular lives. To see the full list of posts in the series, please check out its introduction.

These Walls - Everyday Bravery

~~~

Interested in coming along with me as I share stories about my family and chew on the topics of motherhood, politics, and society? Like These Walls on Facebook or follow the blog via email. (Click the link on the sidebar to the right.) You can also follow me on Twitter and Instagram and you can find me at my politics blog at the Catholic Review, called The Space Between.

 

Tipping Point

(Everyday Bravery, Day 6)

Within a span of just a few minutes the other evening, I read George Matysek’s excellent article in the Catholic Review (“When the choice is Clinton or Trump, what’s a Catholic to do?”) and I looked at the stack of mail my husband had dropped on the kitchen table.

It contained my sample ballot for the presidential election.

Normally I get a little thrill of anticipation when I receive my ballot. I open it up and see my preferences listed there in black and white, and I’m satisfied at the thought that I’ll get to cast a vote for my guy. That I’ll get to have a say.

As a conservative on many issues, I’m used to feeling politically lonely in Maryland. I know that most elections aren’t going to go the way I want them to. But when I look at that ballot, somehow I always have a little hope. I guess it’s the egalitarianism of paper and ink: those two (or more) names sit right there on the page together, listed as equals.

For a moment, the polls and commentary and lopsided campaign treasuries fade away. There are simply a couple of names on a piece of paper, and I get to choose between them.

This year when I opened the ballot, however, I didn’t so much experience the thrill of anticipation as I did a funny kind of curiosity . . .

Read the rest (including how I’ll be voting for an idea this year, not a candidate) at the Catholic Review.

the-space-between-tipping-point

~~~

This post is the sixth in a series called Everyday Bravery: A Write 31 Days Challenge. Every day this month I’m publishing a blog post on Everyday bravery – not the heroic kind, not the kind that involves running into a burning building or overcoming some incredible hardship. Rather, the kinds of bravery that you and I can undertake in our real, regular lives. To see the full list of posts in the series, please check out its introduction.

These Walls - Everyday Bravery

~~~

Interested in coming along with me as I share stories about my family and chew on the topics of motherhood, politics, and society? Like These Walls on Facebook or follow the blog via email. (Click the link on the sidebar to the right.) You can also follow me on Twitter and Instagram and you can find me at my politics blog at the Catholic Review, called The Space Between.

The Post I’ve Been Wanting to Write on Race

(Everyday Bravery, Day 5)

Lately I feel like every time my mind turns outwards, away from the joys and the responsibilities of life at home, it lands on race.

Sometimes it’s all I can think of.

The news, social media, encounters at church and school and the grocery store – they prompt this whirlwind of thought and memory and anxiety and love and (I hate to be dramatic, but) fear for the future of our society.

The thing that most gets under my skin about this preoccupation with race is that it should strike me now, when I’m living in the least diverse place I ever have. These days I look around at church and at school and in the grocery store, and the crowds are so white that I actually notice the few African Americans among them. I never used to notice, because I never used to run in such white crowds.

I never would have expected it, but being so surrounded by (my fellow) white people has made me feel untethered. Untethered from my past, from my previous viewpoint on the world, and, I fear, from reality.

I grew up in a pretty diverse community. (Or at least one that had a pretty decent mix of blacks and whites.) I always had black classmates. I always had black friends. I always respected and admired my black teachers and neighbors. I’ll probably guess wrong, but my best guess is that growing up, about 30-40% of the students at my schools were black.

Afterward, with the exception of the four years I spent at my small, Catholic, overwhelmingly-white liberal arts college, all the communities I lived in were at least as diverse as the one I grew up in.

Until now.

All this is to say, I feel like I’m witnessing our society’s current unrest over racial issues from a strange place:

I am white. I am privileged. (Not trying to be PC here – just telling it like it is.) I am a descendent of slaveholders. I grew up in a southern-ish place where talk of race was routinely hushed with a “we don’t talk about that.” I married a Midwesterner who has absolutely no sense of sensitivity to such things. I live in a mostly-white, middle-class, semi-rural community.

Yet I was formed in communities that were far more black than most white, middle-class, semi-rural people experience. My husband and I both come from modest-to-poor backgrounds. (i.e. It is not natural to us to feel privileged.) And through the miracle of social media, I have maintained at least slight connections to people from all phases of my life. My black childhood friends and young adult friends and work friends are thrown right in there with my white mom friends (online and in person), many of whom seem to have never had many black people in their lives.

(So: untethered. I feel untethered.)

These days people seem to misunderstand one another and mistrust one another. We don’t want to talk about it. Or we do want to talk about it, but only with those who look and think like us. We want to pit people who side with the police against those who side with the black community, as though we can escape the full weight of our country’s legacy of racial inequality and discrimination by boiling it all down to one horribly divisive issue.

My mind swirls. It is a cacophony of thoughts. I have written on this issue for hours upon hours in the last three years. I have written thousands upon thousands of words. Yet none of it adequately captures my thinking.

I can’t get it right. So here’s me not trying to get it right. Here’s me starting somewhere – throwing out a few thoughts in order to start a conversation. If you’re a friend and you want to contact me privately, if you’re a reader and you want to comment here or on Facebook – or heck, if you’re a fellow blogger and you want to post back and forth on the subject – I’m game. I’ll talk. I’ll listen.

— One —

  • I never used to see the point in encouraging diverse schools and workplaces and communities – but now I see that that’s because I was already living it. I took it for granted.
  • These days I am grateful for the diversity in which I was raised. I am grateful to have some sense of what life and history have been like for people who look different from me. I am grateful that when I encounter young African American men, I see in them glimpses of my childhood friends, my former classmates, and (now) my friends’ precious sons.

— Two —

  • It may sound hokey, but I’ve realized since moving to a less diverse area that to me, encountering black people can sometimes feel like home. I sit next to an older black woman at the store and we chat kids and discipline and recipes – and I feel the warmth of home.
  • I had the same feeling – stronger, sadder – when Dylann Roof attacked the good people of Emanuel AME Church in Charleston last year. In the photos of the dead, I saw my friends’ moms and grandmoms, my former teachers and colleagues. It was hard to bear.

— Three —

  • I bear no responsibility for slavery. I bear no responsibility for Jim Crow laws. I cannot claim responsibility for things that happened before I was born. I feel like that is increasingly asked of me as a white person and I resent it.
  • I can and do, however, mourn those things. I am ashamed of those injustices and the roles my ancestors played in them. I mourn the injustices that persist to this day. I think more white people should reflect on the past and its horrors and really let them sink in.

— Four —

  • I think that the inequality, injustice, prejudice, and racism experienced by the black community today is greater than most whites can imagine – greater than I can imagine.
  • Yet I think the main critiques bubbling up today will be ineffective in changing the situation. I think we need to find new, honest, humble ways to move forward.

— Five —

  • “Institutional racism” is a difficult term. It comes across to me as something outside myself – this large, faceless, clunking thing that can take the blame for millions of individual people and their millions of individual interactions. I fear it will succeed in offending many while holding few to account.

— Six —

  • I think the term “racist” itself is increasingly misused, to the detriment of those who would advance racial equality. Many who work towards racial justice attribute the term to whites wholesale, which is both unfair and unwise.
  • Racism has an incredibly negative connotation to whites – it is a term that to us requires an element of hate. Equating one’s skin color with racism is as maddeningly unfair (and racist) as equating one’s skin color with crime. It will only turn people off, push people away, and feed angst and mistrust on issues of race.
  • Calling all white people racist also minimizes the effect of calling particular white people racist. There are plenty of people out there who truly do harbor hate towards those who look different from them. There are white people who avoid or discriminate against or even physically harm people because they are black. Ascribing “racist” to all white people lets those individuals off the hook. It makes them out to be racist because they’re white, not because they’re hateful.

I really don’t know what else to do here. (Hence the style of this post.)

I see criticisms that white people shouldn’t just smile silently and move along – that we should engage. But what am I supposed to do? Should I have brought up Baton Rouge and Falcon Heights and Dallas with my black obgyn at my annual check-up a couple of months ago? Should I have stopped those guests at my cousin’s wedding to exchange more than pleasantries?

How do we make room for meaningful dialogue on race when we don’t find ourselves in the company of people who don’t look like us?

Next time I see a black person in the grocery store, should I greet him or her with an “I see that you’re black. Would you like to talk about race with me?” Of course not. I’m never going to do that. I will, however, smile warmly. And if the circumstances seem right (i.e. my children aren’t about to go berserk) I’ll strike up a friendly, if meaningless conversation.

When I find myself sitting next to another older black woman at the store, I’ll have another of those chats about kids and discipline and recipes — or whatever topics we happen to land on. I’ll be personable. I’ll be human.

If I get the opportunities, I’ll talk about more serious things too. I am willing to talk with and pray with — and heck, cook or clean or do some other kind of work alongside — people who don’t look like me.

I will try to write more on this topic.

I’ll try. I’ll try to talk, listen, pray, work, write – all to a better, more just end.

And this may be silly, but I’m going to throw a little hashtag up here to identify myself as someone who’s willing to talk and listen on issues of race. If you’re willing to do the same, maybe use this too and meet me out there on social media.

#iamwillingtotalk

these-walls-the-post-ive-been-wanting-to-write-on-race

~~~

This post is the fifth in a series called Everyday Bravery: A Write 31 Days Challenge. Every day this month I’m publishing a blog post on Everyday bravery – not the heroic kind, not the kind that involves running into a burning building or overcoming some incredible hardship. Rather, the kinds of bravery that you and I can undertake in our real, regular lives. To see the full list of posts in the series, please check out its introduction.

These Walls - Everyday Bravery

~~~

Interested in coming along with me as I share stories about my family and chew on the topics of motherhood, politics, and society? Like These Walls on Facebook or follow the blog via email. (Click the link on the sidebar to the right.) You can also follow me on Twitter and Instagram and you can find me at my politics blog at the Catholic Review, called The Space Between.

For God Did Not Give Us a Spirit of Cowardice

(Everyday Bravery, Day 2)

You know, I’m not sure I have ever quoted scripture on this blog. I spend a fair amount of time reading Catholic blogs, many of which consistently share beautiful, instructive, inspiring scripture passages. I guess I consider this blog to be Catholic too, yet I’ve written very little on the faith, let alone the sacred text that underpins it.

To be honest, the prospect of doing so kind of scares me. I feel ill-equipped to touch that most important of material. I’m afraid I’ll get something wrong.

But when I was considering this Everyday Bravery project, it occurred to me that perhaps I should try. (Perhaps I should be brave.) I didn’t quite know where to start, but I figured I might as well see what the Mass readings were for the four Sundays in October.

And what did I find on the very first Sunday of the month? “For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice.”

Boom.

Now as I said, I’m not equipped to tell you what this passage is meant to convey. But I can tell you what those words, and the other words in today’s second reading, stir in me. Here’s the reading:

2 TM 1:6-8, 13-14

Beloved:
I remind you, to stir into flame
the gift of God that you have through the imposition of my hands.
For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice
but rather of power and love and self-control.
So do not be ashamed of your testimony to our Lord,
nor of me, a prisoner for his sake;
but bear your share of hardship for the gospel
with the strength that comes from God.

Take as your norm the sound words that you heard from me,
in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.
Guard this rich trust with the help of the Holy Spirit
that dwells within us.

In these words I find a call to action.

They remind me that we have each been given gifts by God and we are to use them. We are to be brave, to understand that God does not want us to hold back out of fear. We are to act, to move forward, to recognize our own power.

But not just any ol’ power – no, not one wound up in greed or the desire to dominate. Rather, the kind of power that comes from love and self-control. From service, from sacrifice. From pointing our talents and ambitions toward the end that we believe God has in mind for us.

We are not to be ashamed of undertaking this work. We are not to be deterred by hardships thrown in our way. We are to remember our course and the strength God gives us to complete it.

And in all of this – in the using of the gifts and the trying to be brave and the acting and the moving forward, in the loving and the serving and the persevering – in all of this, we are to rely on the Holy Spirit for help.

Like I said, I may not have this reading’s meaning quite right. I don’t know its context. But I know that to me it feels like a rallying cry – like a call to bravery.

These Walls - Everyday Bravery

This post is the second in a series called Everyday Bravery: A Write 31 Days Challenge. Every day this month I’m publishing a blog post on Everyday bravery – not the heroic kind, not the kind that involves running into a burning building or overcoming some incredible hardship. Rather, the kinds of bravery that you and I can undertake in our real, regular lives. To see the full list of posts in the series, please check out its introduction.

~~~

Interested in coming along with me as I share stories about my family and chew on the topics of motherhood, politics, and society? Like These Walls on Facebook or follow the blog via email. (Click the link on the sidebar to the right.) You can also follow me on Twitter and Instagram and you can find me at my politics blog at the Catholic Review, called The Space Between.

Everyday Bravery: A Write 31 Days Challenge

At the beginning of the year, I had this word floating around in my brain. It kept pushing and prodding me, calling me into account:

Brave.

At the time, my husband was experiencing what we think was a mild case of Guillain-Barré syndrome and I was weeks away from delivering our fourth child. So I was afraid that the word’s persistence meant that we were really in for it.

I had a feeling, though, that even if circumstances didn’t take a nosedive, I was being called to something. There was something I was supposed to face, something I was to work on within myself. Here’s what I wrote back then:

“A woman begs for money outside the grocery store. I hand her some cash but hardly look at her, aware as I am of how awkward the situation is. I should make eye contact. I should smile. I should stop being a wimp long enough to wish her a happy new year. I should be brave.

Touchy political and social situations rise to the forefront of the news and… I falter. I write a few paragraphs, I ponder the words and ideas as I go about my daily tasks, but I fail to commit to them. I worry more about causing trouble than I do about speaking (my small slice of) the truth. I should be brave.

I encounter the normal hardships of family life (and indeed human life) and I rebel. I act like things somehow aren’t supposed to be hard; I rail against the difficulties until I tire of doing so, and then I just cry. Instead, I should be brave. I should face my troubles, engage them, work through them, and keep my wits about me as I go.”

For several months, as my husband improved and my baby was born and we learned how to function as a family of six, I forgot that I needed to be brave. I was too busy with life to pay attention to that tug on my conscience.

But then a few weeks ago I remembered the Write 31 Days challenge.

For those of you who didn’t come to here from there, Write 31 Days is “an online writing challenge . . . where bloggers pick one topic and write a post on that topic every day in October.” (Follow the link to discover loads of great writers on a variety of subjects.)

Every. Day. Every day. Thousands of people commit to writing every single day in October, while I can generally only pull off one post a week. Normally I’d laugh at the suggestion that I participate in such a thing, but this time I felt something pushing me into it. Suddenly, one morning I woke with the understanding that I was supposed to use this opportunity to explore the concept of Everyday Bravery.

So here we are.

Every day in *October I’ll be publishing a blog post that has something to do with bravery. Everyday bravery – not the heroic kind, not the kind that involves running into a burning building or overcoming some incredible hardship. I want to explore the kinds of bravery that you and I can undertake in our real, regular lives: Standing up for our beliefs, sticking up for someone who has been treated unjustly, taking the big steps we feel we’re meant to take, pushing back feelings of discomfort and fear in order to help someone in need.

This is how I think it will go: On Saturdays I’ll post a picture from a time in my life when I was feeling brave. I’ll write about that moment, those turning-points where I went from fearing the unknown to looking forward in confidence and peace. On Sundays I’ll reflect on the day’s Mass readings, zeroing-in on the passages that feel to me like calls to bravery.

One day a week I’ll post an interview with a person I know or know of, whom I admire for their examples of everyday bravery. One day I’ll write about my attempts to raise my children to be brave. One day I’ll write a real everyday everyday kind of post, a humorous take on the bravery it takes to just keep on doing what we do as parents, neighbors, and friends.

One day a week I’ll post a link to The Space Between, my blog at the Catholic Review, where I’m trying to be brave in my analysis of this no-good, horrible presidential campaign.

And here’s the kicker: one day a week I’m going to close my eyes, take a deep breath, and hit “publish” on what is likely to be a controversial post — one I’ve been trying to write for years but have been too afraid to share. I won’t get it (them, rather) quite right and I’m sure they’ll make some of you unhappy. But they’ve been nagging me long enough; it’s time to send them off into the world.

Each day I’ll update this post with a link to that day’s post. (See below.) So if you miss a day or few, just come back here to find the full list.

I have no idea how I’m going to manage this. I have three little kids and an infant and many days we seem to just barely make it through. But I feel like I need to try.

*[Edited to say: I could NOT manage it! I mostly made it in the first half of the month and fizzled out in the second. But I’m going to keep pushing through into November until I hit that 31-day mark.]

This Everyday Bravery thing is a lesson I need to learn. I’m occasionally brave; I can do bravery in spurts. But there are so many more times I wimp out. Things seem difficult or uncomfortable or embarrassing, and I recede.

I want to be the kind of person who steps forward. I want to be brave right here, right now, in my real, everyday life. And I’m hoping this project will help me get there. If you want to get there too, or if you want some company as you ponder the bravery you encounter in your everyday life, I hope you’ll come along with me.

These Walls - Everyday Bravery

~~~

Everyday Bravery: A Write 31 Days Challenge

Day 1 — Introduction (See above.)
Day 2 — For God Did Not Give Us a Spirit of Cowardice
Day 3 — The Kids Are Alright (And the Parents Are Too)
Day 4 — Talking About Hard Things (With Kids)
Day 5 — The Post I’ve Been Wanting to Write on Race
Day 6 — Tipping Point
Day 7 — Snapshot Saturday: State of the 31
Day 8 — Dare I Approach?
Day 9 — The Everyday Brave: James Yamakawa
Day 10 — Loyally Yours: A Letter to the Republican Party from Pro-life America
Day 11 — Snapshot (Not) Saturday: Fits and Spurts
Day 12 — Don’t Turn Away: Attempt the Politics You Really Want
Day 13 — The Everyday Brave: Abigail Benjamin
Day 14 — I Want My Kid to Be the One Who Sticks Up For Your Kid: Empowering Children to Stand Up to Bullies
Day 15 — November 8 is Not the End: Sympathy Leading Me Forward
Day 16 — Why You Should Vote — Even When It Feels Like It Doesn’t Make a Difference
Day 17 — A Prayer For Our Country
Day 18 — An Insufficient Response to the Election

~~~

New here? I’m glad to have you! My name is Julie Walsh. I’m an outgoing introvert, a procrastinating perfectionist, a disorganized overachiever, and a stay-at-home mother to four children ages six and under. Before having kids I was a lobbyist for the Catholic Church; now I scratch that itch by offering my political thoughts right alongside my cute kid stories and musings on motherhood.

Interested in coming along with me as I share stories about my family and chew on the topics of motherhood, politics, and society? Like These Walls on Facebook or follow the blog via email. (Click the link on the sidebar to the right.) You can also follow me on Twitter and Instagram and you can find me at my politics blog at the Catholic Review, called The Space Between.