Seeing what there is to see

I’d love to tell you, after my last post, that we had a great, big, old-fashioned, raucuos, throwback Halloween.

Alas, we did not.

Our door got knocked on twice: we were visited by a small group of littles and their parents, as well as a pair of middle-school aged boys. Everyone was sweet, and we enjoyed a quiet evening eating soup and visiting with our friend, but at the end of the night we had a large bowlful of candy that no one wanted and I regretted spending money on.

I’d like to blame it on the weather, but I can’t do that, either. Unlike those of you who had snow (snow!), we had perfect trick-or-treating weather–dry and cool but not too cold.

“Probably would’ve been better to spend that money on some personal hygiene products to donate to the homeless village,” Cane said. Last year our neighborhood became home to a “micro-village” of transitional housing for some of Portland’s most vulnerable unsheltered adults. We are big fans of this project and the organization behind it, and we’re glad to see this so close to our home. I agreed, knowing that giving resources there would have been a much better way of serving our community.

His comment got me thinking about what I did and didn’t do and why, and I can see that I did the kind of thing that is typical of people like me who are full of good intentions but don’t take the time to really learn about the community they want to serve and/or be a part of. I did what would’ve been nice for me, thinking that what would work for me will work for everyone. Thanks to my years of work in diverse schools, I know better, but some ways of being are deeply ingrained. I see now that I didn’t pay enough attention to changes in our neighborhood to realize that what worked in the past probably doesn’t now.

If being a good member of my community was the goal (and it was), I’ve realized that I’m going to need to figure out some other ways of doing that. I’m going to have to stretch, probably outside of my comfort zone. Doing Halloween the same old way I’ve always done it was not that.

I know that letting go of traditions is easier said than done. It’s hard to let go of practices we once valued and saw value in–why I decided I needed to participate in trick-or-treating even though some part of me already knew that the payoff wasn’t worth the effort it takes–and that’s why I’m not beating myself up for not figuring out more quickly or easily that showing up at my door once a year with a bowlful of candy is not what my community needs from me.

All of this is coming at just the right time, too, with the holiday season now bearing down upon us. So much of what can make this time of year tough for me is trying to hang onto things from the past that no longer serve myself and those I care for. No matter how much I cling to the things we’ve always done, the holidays are not going to feel the same way they did when my grandparents were alive and my cousins and I all gathered at their house, or even when my children were young. That house is gone. So are those earlier versions of my family. So are important things I once believed about Thanksgiving and Christmas and my culture and the world. It’s a good time for thinking about what still works and what we might let go of, to make room for some new things that will be better for all the lives we want to nurture.

None of this is particularly new or revelatory. I know that letting go and revising and creating (a holiday, a family, a community, a world) is something that we are all doing all the time. It was nice, though, to have that knowledge brought to the surface this week. Learning is so often like ascending a spiraling path; you go past the same places again and again, but each time a little bit higher, so you can see things from a different vantage point.

In related news…

I saw Kari mention that she is taking a month off from social media, and the same day this post (A Permanent Good-bye to Social Media) came across my path and both felt like nudges to do something I’d been thinking about doing. I deactivated FB and Instagram and removed their apps from my phone. Messenger is still active if you want to reach me, or you can email me. I’m thinking about stepping back from this space for awhile, too. I’m not sure about that, but don’t worry if it’s quiet here.

Although this post is about letting go of old ways, I’m feeling curious about reclaiming some. I’m wondering how it will be–how I might be–with more quiet, more privacy, more time spent offline. Will I do more writing? More reading? About what? Will I take as many photos? Will they be of the same things? Why will I take them, if not to share? Will I make more things with my hands? Will I feel lonely? More peaceful? Restless? Bored? All of the above? Will I learn something about why and how to connect with others through some disconnection?

It feels good to take a break from a place of curiosity, rather than rage or fear or burn-out. (Although, those are all perfectly valid reasons to walk away from anything.) I’m looking forward to seeing what I can see.

Would love to know what you hold onto and what you’ve let go of, and why.

6 thoughts on “Seeing what there is to see

  1. Ally Bean says:

    That house is gone. So are those earlier versions of my family.

    Those are the thoughts that resonate with me. I feel the same way. I used to feel melancholic reflecting on those loses but now I frame them as being part of a different version of myself, an earlier iteration that guided me to this version that I like very much. We have to change as we grow older or risk becoming a broken shell of who we once were.

    • Rita says:

      I think I tend to feel both things, simultaneously: melancholic and grateful. And, I’ll throw in “accepting,” too. I attended a funeral for an extended family member yesterday, and we are down to a spare, core group in what was once a sprawling web. I miss those who are gone, which can include earlier versions of ourselves, but I also really like who we’ve become. The more I can accept who and what we are now, the better it is for me. (Because, my God: Though I do miss the body I once had, I am so, so glad not to be the me I was in my 20’s.)

  2. Marian says:

    I have to preface my comment by telling you that I am a person who would be ecstatic if trick-or-treating had never been invented. I know you haven’t said if you will, for sure, make a different decision regarding Halloween next year, but I just feel the need to speak for those two small groups you had at your door, children (and parents) who were probably very grateful to find a lit house, a welcoming face, and a bit of candy. I think it’s possible to do both: to be cognizant of what your community needs, and to also try to support the smaller things that bring a bit of fun and levity into the lives of children. (We never get as many children as I imagine we will; therefore, even though the excess packaging really bothers me, I always buy a box of small chocolate bars—because I know my husband and I will have no trouble eating the leftovers ourselves. 🙂 )

    That essay on a permanent good-bye to social media really resonated with me. I was never overly invested in FB, but I still felt relieved when I deactivated my account. As for IG, I’m really only a scroller—one who follows only a few accounts and rarely posts herself—but even that minimal usage will often cause me to feel bad in one way or another. I think social media may do some good, but on the whole it’s been a terrible thing for the world.

    This is pretty depressing, but I think what I’m letting go of is hope. We’re seeing the rise of the right wing here in Canada too, and polls tell us that if an election were held today, our current government would be replaced by one that seems to have no plan for dealing with climate change—and whose stated plans on other fronts are both overly simplistic and problematic. I used to believe facts would sway people, and that progress would always mean an increase in care for others, but now I recognize the naivetĂ© in that.

    • Rita says:

      Thank you for reminding me of the power of both/and. And of scale. Perhaps next year we will do the same, only we will buy not so much. And better. (Waiting until Oct. 30th to buy candy was not a smart move; we had little to choose from.)

      My feelings about social media are, as they’ve always been, mixed. Meeting with extended family yesterday, we talked about how Facebook is really how we keep in touch with each other. We talked also of how strange it is; two of my relatives had somehow never met Cane in person, but both felt as if they must have, just because of what I’ve shared online. There’s a value in that, but I also hate what those platforms have done to us in larger ways. I hate how they were designed to be addictive, and what they’ve done to adolescents, particularly. I hate how they’ve been politically weaponized. I appreciated how the essay I linked to discussed those things. I am not sure of how to reconcile the tension between personal benefit and societal harm. And, honestly, individual harm. Like you, I can often feel bad in one way or another. It’s all the ads and suggested posts; they just feel gross to me. And I will wonder: Why am I spending my life this way?

      As for hope, well. I am finding, with my young people, that trying to bolster some sense of hope in the future, in the ways I have typically done, is not helpful for us. What feels more useful is asking: If the worst things come to be, how might we be in them? What can we do now that might help us be OK later? You might find useful/helpful the work of Jeffrey Duncan-Andrade, and the distinctions he makes between hokey hope, mythical hope, deferred hope, and critical hope. His field is education and his specific focus is historically underserved urban youth, but I find his work very relevant to my life, too. Offering it here in case it is to you, too. Here’s a link:

      Take care, Marian. I always appreciate our conversations. I hope we get to have them in some form for a long time to come.

  3. Kari says:

    Wait until you read what I just published. I literally burst out laughing. Plans. Who needs them in the first place?

    My mom’s fall the other night impacted me in some way. She was terrified she was going to die, and I was as well. And now I’m getting a sinus infection. Mike will begin physical therapy today. I need happy cat TikToks right now. Since I broke the seal this morning, it has already made me smile. I must say that I am currently reading over 11 books, which is also a wonderful feeling.

    Allow yourself some time and space. If you decide to return to social media, I will send you cat videos.

    • Rita says:

      You can always send me cat videos here 🙂

      I’m so sorry to hear about your mom’s fall. And glad that it isn’t as bad as it might have been. I saw a piece this morning that talks about the difference between self-soothing and self-care. ( I can see how social media has the potential to be both, depending on how and why we’re using it. (And also, sometimes self-soothing is a kind of self-care.) So, get those cat videos! (I prefer dog videos, myself.)

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