Practices for a Pandemic: Tracking

All is not well, but today is a good day, good at the personal level and beyond. I even know the steps that led to me feeling good, that is, I can track what led to my current emotions. Treating tracking as a practice and doing it regularly — I feel good; how did I get here? I feel bad; how did I get here? — reduces the odds of getting blindsided.

1)I got an email from a woman in Oakland that read:

Thinking of you and hoping you are safe and feel safe with the awfulness going on in Portland.

Genius, her distinction between being safe and feeling safe.

Both matter, and I know where I stand with each. I grew up at a safe time (for white property owners like my family) and safe is my default setting. But mostly I feel safe because safety is a sensation I’ve cultivated for a long time. I rarely feel angry or upset anymore. Instead, I experience an unsettling surge of adrenalin — which is to say I’ve become a student of the chemicals that course through my body. When adrenalin tries to convince me that I’m angry or upset, I breathe. I track how long it takes to clear out. How long it takes me to return to independent thought and civil discourse.

Adrenalin’s responses are limited to flight, fight and rescue (the mother who lifts a car off her baby). Inquiry like mine, and questions like hers, invite me to know myself. At the moment, I am both well and sick at heart. My Republican parents revered the Constitution, as do I, which means I feel disoriented and endangered that federal soldiers have invaded my beautiful city. Yesterday I read a report by Robert Evans, a conflict journalist who has covered wars in Iraq and the Ukraine. He’s been in Portland since our BLM/Don’t Shoot Portland protests began. I’m a fan of the telling detail in any piece of writing and his includes information like:

On June 11th, a federal judge in Portland issued a two-week restraining order on the use of tear gas. This was a partial granting of the request of a local activist group, Don’t Shoot Portland. Under the terms of the “ban,” Portland police were only able to use gas as a “life-saving measure.” This ban came with a loophole, however. Riots are assumed to be life-threatening situations, and so the PPB increasingly started making riot declarations to justify their use of tear gas.
Robert Evans

I also got to read this report, by a Christian woman who marches weekly:

You can believe what you want about whether or not vandalism is an appropriate form of political protest, but that doesn’t change the fact that absolutely none of this is warranted. Absolutely none of this has been provoked. Absolutely none of the response is proportional to anything that has been done.

I never imagined that I would end up being asked to step in front of automatic weapons pointed at us by my own government… but here we are.

Getting answers to questions I didn’t know I had makes me happy.

2) My local co-op’s annual report arrived in today’s mail:

As the Board, we decided to disperse 100% of the eligible funds back to you. We know the check you receive may be small (mine was for $7.13), but we hope that in this moment it will help, and will serve as a reminder of our gratitude for your key role as owners of this business.

I like their decision and most of all, I like their framing: It’s not that some of us are jobless, it’s that all of us are participants. This is a stance that makes me happy.

The woman in Oakland wrote to me as my vulnerable everyday self. The Co-op Board wrote to me as a stakeholder. The first is a closeup, the second a wide shot.

3)This stair-step progression was capped by Conde Nast, which knows me as subscriber BXBHHGW.

Vanity Fair, one of the magazines they own, put Viola Davis on the cover of their August issue. For me? I’d coo except that everyone I know is a fan of her work. Davis can upgrade even weak material and when her role is a good one — as it was in Fences, Widows, and Doubt — she’s dizzying. What do you call it when a person checks out a streaming site by typing “viola davis” into their search engine? I’m one of those.

Storytellers delight me and the more accomplished the artist, the greater my enjoyment. It makes me happy to see good work recognized.

Social work school taught me to look at the micro, the personal or interactional, and the macro, the systemic. Today, my check-in with myself ranged from smaller to larger, from personal to impersonal, allowing me to feel particularly well oriented. At the moment I feel known to myself, a sensation I enjoy.