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Life is like a box of Goldfish
Welcoming my new tenants with a radical housewarming gift.
I officially rented my house last week.
After two months of moving stuff and rehabbing the place, I put it on the market and, fairly quickly, connected with a family of three with one on the way.
All those days when I was up to my elbows in paint, putty and IKEA cabinets, I was hoping that I could find a family who would enjoy living amid these parchment colored walls.
Long-term renters who bring something special to the neighborhood.
Reliable tenants with whom I could build a trusting, mutually beneficial relationship that defied some of the negative power dynamics at play when someone has the word “lord” in their title.
I was once a new mom with a baby on the way looking for a place to rent. I remember the trauma of not knowing where my kids and I were going to live or how I was going to pay for it.
But now I was the one with the house, the mortgage and the risk/reward tango that comes with “doing the right thing.”
Could I open my heart to being transformed by this landlord experience, no matter what the outcome?
Could I use what I’ve learned about being in healthy relationship (clear communication, detachment, boundaries, watching my own over-functioning) with this family who wanted to live in my house?
Could I uphold my end of the deal — to provide them a safe, stable, steady place to land — while also taking care of my own needs of feeling stable, steady and safe?
I tried to slow myself down and think about the situation from my God-centered self, that high eye/low eye thing Matthew McConaughey talks about.
I thought about what my sister-in-law, Cary, always says: “Love is a choice.”
I remembered something my dad would say: “It’s always about the money, and it’s never about the money.”
I felt a “yes” in my body and decided I was ready to make this leap of faith.
They were so grateful, and to be honest, so was I.
“You’re a dream come true,” she told me.
“You’re a dream come true,” I told her. And I meant it.
I don’t have any assumptions about perfection, on my part or theirs. I know I’ll make mistakes. I know I’ll miscommunicate. I know we’ll have conflict, and I’m OK with that.
What if I enter this relationship thinking of it as a precious opportunity to create more possibilities and exercise interdependence and participate in transformative justice and all these other principles of Emergent Strategy that guide my life?
After we signed the lease and I finished cleaning out the garage, I went to H-E-B to buy them a few housewarming gifts. An orchid. Fancy Coca-Colas. Sidewalk chalk. Cupcakes for the oldest daughter’s birthday the following day. Frozen pizzas. Beef jerky.
The biggest box of Goldfish they had.
One that might give those girls a sense that there would always be enough Goldfish.
The next day, she texted me this photo, emoji tears on the screen transforming into actual tears in my eyes.
She got the gift and she got the message.
The very week I put transformative justice, pleasure activism and emergent strategy to use in one of the biggest decisions I’ve made in a long time, I got to sit in the same Zoom room with the author whose ideas, along with 12-Step work, have sparked this journey into practicing these principles in all my affairs.
Adrienne Maree Brown has teamed up with another favorite, Sonya Renee Taylor, author of “The Body Is Not An Apology,” to create a four-month course that is my spiritual classroom this fall. (The authors are going to repeat it, so sign up for the waitlist if you’re interested.)
I love that both of these teachers also practice somatics, ancestral healing work and tarot. If I didn’t already feel like I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be right now, I do now.
They asked for questions during the first Q&A session, and I was surprised — and nerve-wrecked — when mine was the first to get picked.
My question: “As we go on this journey of giving ourselves radical permission, how can we maintain a sense of what connects us?”
AMB pointed out that radical in the context of emergent strategy, “radical” means going to the root. Getting to the heart of your joy, your trauma, your satisfiability.
Even though in political parlance it means “extreme” or “unwilling to compromise,” “radical” comes from the Latin word for root — think “radish.”
It’s used as a slur by both the left and the right to refer to the edges of the sword that is cutting this country in half.
“Everyone has a root system that is feeding their needs,” she said. “At the surface, we are shapes fighting each other, but the thing that causes harms harms everyone. To deny permission to another, you strip something from yourself. It’s a cycle. If I go to the root system and give myself permission, it creates more common ground for other people who want to find that permission for themselves.”
So, rather than fight people on politics, dig into your own root. Share that growth experience with others. Find another plane to meet someone on rather than the floor occupied by dirty on-the-ground politics. Let grief be part of the story. Explore the idea of satisfiability. Find something you can surrender. Get curious. Have grace.
You can see why AMB has built a following of people like me who find her work indispensable during this difficult era in American history.
Thanks for reading this week’s newsletter!
It’s going to be a hot month, and I have a slew of newsletters planned for coming weeks, including a story about one of the oldest houses in Austin (that’s in my new neighborhood!), a day in the life of a little plant stand and a glimpse into what is happening with local farms in the face of this drought.
I appreciate your subscriptions, your shares and your support!
Until next week,
Previously on The Feminist Kitchen: Billie Eilish and the art of radical care, Household archaeology and the science of stuff, ‘I don’t want to go back to the butchery again’, Spending Juneteenth with the one and only George Washington Carver, Title IX and a tale of two tomboys