Don't be afraid to feel when you talk about race

 
Photo credit: AOP Photography

Photo credit: AOP Photography

 

There are conversations in our culture that occupy special pockets. You know, those conversations that are reserved for special occasions when we’re prepared to hash out a perfect solution in one fell swoop (or limit ourselves tip-toeing around the edges). The race conversation is one of those conversations.

We head into conversations about race filled with dread, worry, fear, and heightened stress. Then we judge ourselves (and each other) for feeling what we’re feeling, presume that there’s something wrong with us for feeling what we’re feeling, and then try to find the words to communicate what we need to communicate in the midst of all of the feelings we’re ashamed about.

We often try to cope with this by pretending that there’s no place for feelings in conversations about race. We intellectualize human stories so much that the realities of the ways we experience race become abstract and seemingly detached from the everyday lives we lead.

And in the process, we sacrifice our ability to connect.

Productive conversations about race don’t happen because we’ve parsed out feeling from fact, history, context, research, and personal experience.

Productive conversations about race happen as we learn how to make room for feeling as we awkwardly stumble through unrehearsed dialogue about fact, history, context, research, and personal experience.

That’s how we begin to see each other.

Having feelings doesn’t mean you’re incapable of learning how to talk about race. Having feelings is part of being human. And real dialogue about race inevitably involves palpable and nuanced discussions about real human experiences.

So don’t be afraid to feel when you talk about race. Pay attention to your feelings. Take care of your own feelings. Feeling is part of the process of learning how to move through the dialogue with honesty and openness instead of putting on the show that we think is supposed to transpire.

And that’s a big part of how we inch a little bit closer to creating connection in everyday dialogue about race - instead of treating the conversation like it belongs in a special pocket.

 
 
 

Difference is an invitation to look closer

 
Photo credit: AOP Photography

Photo credit: AOP Photography

 

Difference is an invitation to look closer. To get curious. To make the choice to see before we decide.

And seeing takes work. It takes stepping outside of our expectations so we can begin to grapple with stories that are not our own. It means taking time to think about how to create meaningful connection that expands the the circle of belonging instead of shrinking it.

Before we can see one another, we need to be willing to hear one another. To listen. To ask questions rooted in reality - questions that lead us to look for answers we might not otherwise discover.

Difference doesn’t have to function as a barrier. Difference can lead us down paths that lead to real and growing connection.

 
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Make everyday choices that create belonging

 
Photo credit: AOP Photography

Photo credit: AOP Photography

 
 

One of the things we crave most in conversations about race is the sense that we’re engaging in meaningful dialogue that builds belonging - that instead of creating scenarios where humans are forced to remain on the outside of our circle of care and concern, we’re creating real, open conversations where human stories, pain, and perspectives are valued.

We don’t have to wait for a holiday or special event to create belonging. And every choice that helps us create belonging doesn’t have to be grand or flashy.

Choices like:

Getting off of our phones to listen & look someone in the eye.

Spending our hard-earned cash with organizations that value human lives and experiences in concrete ways (not just in the hypothetical).

Looking around our circle of friends and getting curious - How did we become friends? Who’s in and who’s out? Which stories are valued and which are cast to the side? Do we see people we wish we shared deeper understanding with as fellow human beings or projects we need to fix?

Reaching for entertainment that helps us discover more about the stories we’ve missed.

Responding to difficult questions with openness and honesty instead of reaching for defensiveness.

Creating belonging in conversations about race demands real tools, practical strategies, and clear intention.

But we can start right where we are, today.

Let’s be open. Stay curious. Choose to see the stories we’ve missed.

 
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Please hear me: You are not the only one

 
Photo credit: AOP Photography

Photo credit: AOP Photography

 
 

You’re not the only one who’s worried you’ll say the wrong thing in a conversation about race.

You’re not the only one who feels convinced that having productive conversations about race is something we’re all supposed to already know how to do without ever having given ourselves the opportunity to practice.

You’re not the only one who’s struggling to figure out how to put words to the pain that it seems you can never escape.

Please hear me: You are not the only one.

What if we gave ourselves the support we needed to make conscious choices in conversations about race? 

Would we:

Become more aware of the impact of our words?

Take the time to ask: And then what? 

Could we slowly and steadily end up cultivating more connection and less division in conversations about race??

It takes time to build new skills. So let’s intentionally set carve out time, space, support, and practice to learn how to have meaningful conversations about race.

Maybe on your commute you listen to a podcast you haven’t heard before. Perhaps tonight you’ll watch an interview you’ve never seen. Or maybe you’ll pick up a book that shares perspective you’ve always wondered about.

Because the truth is that in between believing we’re already supposed to know how to have productive conversations about race and having productive conversations about race is giving ourselves the support we need to learn how to do it.

 
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Are you feeling lost?

 
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Sometimes, getting lost helps remind us that life is not a performance.  

It's discovery, it's not knowing, it's falling down and finding a way to stand up yet again, it's the journey of discovering that our choices have way more power than we ever thought. 

Life invites us show up as ourselves. Gives us opportunities to choose to connect and be ourselves in the middle of the struggle.

When you feel lost, remember that you might just be in the process of finding your way through

And even though we don't always remember this, the truth is that beginning to find our way is what comes before finding our next step.

You’re not the only one who’s finding your way through.

 
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Don't hide your tired

 
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We live in a culture that promotes endless effervescence. We turn on social media, and there’s an endless stream of energized, happy faces ready to conquer the next mountain.

But the truth is that sometimes, we get tired.

Maybe that sense of feeling weary and needing a break isn’t something to run from. Sometimes, our weariness is calling us towards the very growth we’re craving.

Telling us to trust the process and not race to get to the end destination. Encouraging us to pay closer attention to our surroundings instead of living in a state of perpetual distraction. Helping us carve out space to listen to our own voice and the voices around us so we can build relationships grounded in everyday reality instead of assumption.

Our weariness is trying to get us to pay attention.

So instead of hiding your tired, ask, What is my weariness asking me to pay closer attention to?

 
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Want to build stronger relationships? Start here.

 
Photo credit: AOP Photography

Photo credit: AOP Photography

 
 

We all want stronger relationships. Relationships that feel solid and strong, where it’s safe to make a mistake.

But we sometimes we forget that safe and meaningful relationships take time to build. These relationships demand that we come to the table with clarity of purpose. We don’t need to know everything, but we do need to cultivate a growing understanding inside of ourselves about what we need, why we need it, what we want to give, and what we’re willing to receive from the relationships that we’re in.

Ask these 3 questions:

What does this relationship mean to me?

Why am I in this relationship?

What am I willing to pour into this relationship?

When we aren’t willing to explore these questions within ourselves, we risk building relationships that rest upon a cloudy sense of uncertainty. We end up looking to the people around us to tell us how we should feel instead of making decisions that reflect what we value.

These may not be the easiest questions to sit with, but the honesty we’re willing to give ourselves directly influences our ability to make the conscious choice to invest in relationships that generate stability and safety, or to make different choices in our relationships so that we can open the door to the growth and connection we crave.

 
 
 
 

Stuck in gear? Remember that you have needs.

 
 
 

You have needs. Needs like:

Connection.
Encouragement.
Joy.
Rest.


When we ignore our needs we get stuck in gear. Not because we need to try harder.

When we ignore our needs, we end up sacrificing ourselves. Literally.

And when we demand more (and more) from ourselves without giving ourselves what we need, we end up - you guessed it - frustrated.

So what in the world are we supposed to do about our frustration?

Give ourselves tiny booster shots of love.

Here's how this works.

Instead of saving up rest for that long-awaited vacation, start by heading to bed five minutes earlier than usual.

Instead of waiting until you having all of the answers before you begin, start by spending one minute (I mean it, set a timer) focusing on one thing you love about yourself.

Instead of running from thing to thing, focusing on trying to make everyone happy, listen to an audio book chapter or podcast episode you love.

Instead of waiting for that person to change before you can be happy, start by doing one small thing today that brings you joy (e.g. sing like you're onstage at Coachella, walk around your bedroom like you're on a runway, dance in your kitchen like you're auditioning for Broadway, read that book, see that movie...).

Sometimes when we're frustrated, the best thing we can do for anyone - including ourselves - is one small thing to meet our own needs.

 
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You have permission to pause

 
Photo credit: AOP Photography

Photo credit: AOP Photography

 
 

There’s something about feeling like we’ve got to say something witty, quick, and sharp (like, now) that lowers our ability to give consideration to the impact of our words.

Here’s a simple tool that I’ve found to be really helpful when I feel pressured to speak without giving myself an opportunity to catch my breath in a difficult conversation. It’s a 3 word question: And then what?

What happens next if I say this?

How will I impact our relationship if I choose to say this?

Am I willing to stay in the conversation if I’m responded to in the same way I’m about to speak?

There are times when immediate response is appropriate and imperative. But there are many, many moments where pausing to give ourselves space to breathe, think, connect, and then make a conscious choice can be the difference between a conversation about race that increases mutual understanding and dignity, and a conversation about race that leads to increased confusion and division.

When we pause, we build in space to listen. And as we begin to listen, we begin to relate as we understand realities we might have otherwise missed.

 
 
 
 

Exhaustion isn't failure - it's an invitation

 
Photo credit: AOP Photography

Photo credit: AOP Photography

 
 
 

There is a tiredness that seeps through bones and into the soul. The kind we carry in each breath, feel with every step.

When we get this tired, it's difficult to see the light. To remember that what we feel in this moment will not be what we feel in every moment to come.

Perhaps it's the cold or warmth of this particular season. Maybe it has something to do with managing daily responsibilities, and tending to relationships, while leaning into the unknown.

Whatever it may be, this exhaustion is clearly calling us towards something. Because here’s the thing:

Exhaustion isn't failure, it's an invitation.

Rather than being hard on ourselves for feeling weary, maybe together we can lean into this invitation and discover a moment of rest and connection. Uncover a truth we couldn’t have seen walking down any other path. Reach out and connect new in ways.

Perhaps in this moment, the exhaustion is an invitation for us to rest, to feel, to process, to trust, to let go for a bit and be right here, in this present moment, so we can consciously choose what we want to create next.

 
 
 
 

Permission to create real connection

 
Photo credit: AOP Photography

Photo credit: AOP Photography

 
 

Permission. Permission to begin. Permission to fail. Permission to discover. Permission to learn. Permission to change. Permission to say no. Permission to say yes. Permission to pause. Permission to ask for what we need. Permission to become. Permission to just be.

Permission to permit ourselves to be present in the journey of our own lives as we carve our own path.

Permission to peel back the curtain, walk through the door, and begin.

I’ve been thinking a lot about permission. And slowly, I’ve begun to see that the permission we crave resides inside of our own bones. In our minds, in our beings.

The permission we lack is a gift we begin giving to ourselves the moment we recognize we can take that first step towards connection and away from fear. And we can take it right now…