Several years ago during a guided meditation I was asked to take an aspect of my life that I saw as challenging and reimagine it as an asset rather than a deficiency. The first thing that came to mind then was the gap I feel regularly between the conservative religious world of my past and the far more liberal, areligious and nonreligious friends I've acquired over the past 15 years. I constantly felt squeezed between these two worlds as I saw in both spaces characteristics that I loved and appreciated and those that I found to be contrary to my own evolving values and perspective. In the midst of my onerous effort to find my own niche between these two disparate viewpoints that seemed to have an increasingly high and thick wall between them, I envisioned myself dancing on top of this wide wall. I was able to see and understand the forceful shouting taking place on both sides, and yet I saw goodness, beauty and truth in both perspectives amidst the dynamic and at times vicious yelling that both seemed capable of engaging in, especially when talking about "The Other."
Recently in an anti-racism workshop my desire to be a bridge in the midst of so much polarizing language was triggered and I found myself once again in a more middle-leaning space than the people around me. The specific comment made was about propaganda in The South during the Civil War, and while there was most certainly propaganda around the Civil War, according to this War History Online article, there was propaganda was used in both The South and The North during the Civil War for noble intentions such as patriotism, protecting the land of their birth, self-sacrifice, doing one's duty, fighting for fair trade tariffs and import/export laws, and the right to self-determination. Of course, there was propaganda that was far more sinister in its motivation - The North depicted the cruelty and abhorrent treatment of slaves while The South spread revolting propaganda that focused on miscegenation and the supposed unfitness of African American men to serve in the army.
To be clear, I am 100% in favor of Southern States taking ownership of past wrongs and making appropriate reparations to all African-American residents today; something like a carte-blanche tax break, free education for life, and/or public acknowledgment of acts of racially motivated acts of violence would go a long way toward showing good faith and attempting to right the wrongs of the past. I am equally in favor of the United States as a whole taking ownership of the repugnant treatment of Native People and the ways that our forefathers abused, mistreated, and otherwise dehumanized Native Americans and devalued their cultures, customs, and livelihood. We are all poorer today as a result of these misguided and abusive engagements, and we all have much to repair as we go forward toward creating the world in which we want to live.
Right alongside these thoughts is also the reality that I am a daughter of The South - the good, the bad, and the ugly. I am willing and able to look into the history, hold the conflicting perspectives, and do my own deeply personal work at deconstructing my experience as a white, Southern female. This is not easy work; this is painful work that touches on my identity as a Southerner and yet, much of that identity is rooted in concepts and ideology that are fraught with painfully dehumanizing consequences to fellow humxns. I want to learn, grow, and do my part to facilitate the change I want to see in the world. And that change always begins with looking at myself and the resistance I sense inside myself to the necessary work of change.
Thinking through all of this has led me to consider how I can judge behaviors of the past while not attacking the humanity of the people who perpetrated the behavior. From my vantage point today was that behavior highly problematic? Absolutely! Were the people engaging in those behaviors evil people? Probably not. Is all of it far more complex than any simplistic and reductionistic lens will ever reveal? Most certainly.
This led me to consider: how do I deal with my own past failings? Though very much a work in process, it is my goal to hold myself gently when considering my past (and present) shortcomings. I regularly harm myself and those I love best...not because I'm a malicious person but because I am a product of the thoughts, values, perspectives, and experiences I've had so far in my life. No matter how much progress I make toward becoming conscious and aware of how my behavior impacts myself and others, I still do harm that I deeply regret and wish I could avoid. I choose to practice self-compassion and kindness when I recognize in new ways how my actions have harmed others. I have done things that I would neither care to repeat or even endorse today:
What is the balance between accountability and restitution at an institutional level while speaking and acting in love at the personal level?
How can I demonstrate Love today?
If you're from The North and want to understand aspects of Southern culture, let's talk. If you're from The South and can't comprehend why people who live in other parts of the country think and feel as they do about The South, let's talk. I don't have any answers per se, but I am convinced that clear communication, an intention to understand, a willingness to face one's self, and a heart turned toward Love can go a long way toward building bridges and repairing relationships of all kinds...including the one with yourself. All that's necessary is people willing to do the work. Are you willing?
I've always loved to sing! As a child the majority of my singing was done congregationally in church and my family almost never had any music playing, so nearly all of the vocal music I was exposed to as a child was church music; as a teenager there were many messages around the evils of worldly music so to survive my very narrow environment, I stuck with "Christian" music where the lyrics and even the music, beat, and instrumentation were approved by the church. It wasn't until I was in college that I began to broaden my horizons and tentatively wade into other genres, and even then, simply listening to music had less appeal to me than singing along in groups via choirs, congregational hymns, or the occasional family sing-along at Christmas.
When I was introduced to Singing Circle as a style of singing in a group simply for the joy of delighting in song together, I was immediately hooked! THIS was something that resonated with me for a variety of reasons, and after 7 years of going deeper in discovering my own voice in new ways via singing circles, I recognize that sharing music I love is a place of vulnerability for me for several reasons:
If you're intrigued by the idea of singing but feel tentative about your own voice, Singing Circle is the perfect place for you to begin playing with sounds and using your voice in brand new ways! Perhaps, like so many people I've talked with, you received some very unhelpful messages about your voice as child that stick with you loudly today anytime you begin to sing? Maybe you, like most of us, don't enjoy hearing yourself sing and therefore assume that others won't want to hear you either? It could be that you've so internalized these harmful messages that you never even notice the childlike urge to sing loudly and with joy whenever you want? Or it may be that you love to sing and long for more opportunities to be part of a community that sings together?
Whatever your internal dialogue about singing or your desires related to finding, using, and enjoying your own voice, I assure you that you are not alone, and there is a place for you to sing with others in ways that inspire your own delight, discovery, and maybe even some dilemmas to confront and work through along the way.
I'd love to support you in finding your voice and growing your confidence to sing and speak your truth in ways that feel good and bring healing to various parts of you that have too long been silenced. Your voice matters and both you and the world will benefit from you bravely stepping into new ways of knowing and sharing your truth with others!
This Extrovert's Attempt to Use My Words to Make Sense of My Life