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Posts Tagged ‘Community’

Been on a bit of Jesus thing lately. Thinking about religion, considering the role it plays in our understandings of the world, its function as an ethical code, a yearning for something more, a mark of community boundaries and so on. And generally considering the importance that religious symbols and religious communities have had at various time in my life. (more…)

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I haven’t posted here for some time – not because there is nothing to say, but simply because I’ve been busy and mostly concentrating my energies on local community-building projects. I’ve said nothing here about police repression at the G20/ G8, about the latest from Israel, the attacks on Libby Davies for her comments and the entirely-expected-but-no-less-infuriating-for-that response of the New Democrats. And even now, I don’t really feel like writing anything. But I have to, because I’m feeling pretty frustrated and concerned at the moment with a tendency I’m seeing more and more in local activism.

Last Friday, we were at Rhizome for a report-back on the G20, an event put on by Resist! Communications, Upping the Anti, the Vancouver Media Co-op. This was billed as both a G/20 reportback and an alt-media/legal defense fundraiser.

I like Resist!. I like Upping the Anti. And I am all about generating support for the G20/ G8 arrestees. I gotta say though, it’ll be a long time before you get me out to any event associated with the Media Co-op again. Not because a co-operatively run media isn’t a great fucking idea, not because there aren’t good people working with the media co-op, but because it has increasingly become a venue for hostile and hateful attacks upon some long-time and committed activists and upon anyone who questions the tactics and strategies  of the ‘black bloc’.

Now, I have my own thoughts on the black bloc and the diversity of tactics debate. I always have felt there is a role for that kind of political engagement, but not without recognizing that it is wide open to criticism because it too often devolves into vandalism for vandalism’s sake and too rarely comes out of any coherent strategy to support and engage with other movements and the broader public. But I’m not getting into that at the moment. Today I’m thinking about something that has emerged from that debate – a censorious and a quite vicious attack from a small group of people on anyone and everyone who puts forward a critique of the black bloc.  Derisive and offensive, this response has become all too common in recent months and is entirely incompatible with any meaningful resistance or community-building.

The Rhizome event opened with a film, available here for anyone who wants to watch it. I won’t bother with a deep analysis of the film because it’s a pretty juvenile piece of work with no real analytical content. Not to mention its having nothing whatsoever to do with movement-building. Watch it through. There’s a whole lot of excitement about the smashy-smash, a claim that the windows falling is “the sound of capitalism smashing”, and a string of attacks on other activists who expressed various levels of concern with the tactics of the black bloc or impact of those tactics on the protests more generally.

In the film, Derrick O’Keefe, a long-time Vancouver activist, is ridiculed for his outspoken position on black bloc tactics, even though he has spent the weeks since the G/20 garnering support for arrestees. Judy Rebick – one of the country’s leading feminists – is subjected to demeaning and sexist ridicule. And Naomi Klein, who stood up forcefully and publicly to defend No One Is Illegal organizer Harsha Walia in the face of criminal charges, was accused of having finally drunk the cop kool-aid.

At this point in the film, I should have just walked out of the room. Not because there isn’t criticism to be made – particularly of Rebick’s suggestion that the police should have arrested vandals early and let the rest of the protest go on. But because the tone of the whole film was one of disrespect, snitch-jacketing, and just plain abuse. This was no analysis of the protests, of the interaction between mainstream labour and non-governmental organizations, radicals within those movements, and the black bloc, of how they inform and very often rely on and benefit from one another. This was no engagement with those who did frame their criticism of police repression with a nod to order – whether due to real conviction, or rhetorical or political reasons. This was no call to those on the mainstream left to understand diversity of tactics with a parallel recognition and respect for the tactics others employ due to their own personal, organizational or logistical boundaries.

It was little more than a screed intended to send the message that critics of the black bloc are sell-outs, traitors, class enemies and – in keeping with the bullshit machismo of the film – pussies. And while much of the crowd seemed distinctly uneasy, those this sophomoric chest-pounding played to took only one thing away – encouragement to further dismiss other activists and a general indication that snitch-jacketing, slander, and perhaps even assault are good’ol revolutionary traditions and the mark of real radicals.

If it’s not clear yet, I was fucking disgusted.

Today I woke up, checked my email, and came across a blog post by Franklin Lopez, aka the Stimulator, maker of the fine piece of cinematography we were treated to at Rhizome and increasingly a spokesperson of the Vancouver Media Co-op. The post is here.

To be fair, this post is not nearly as offensive in tone as the film. It begins with a personal story, which though it doesn’t contribute much to the critical analysis of the piece, does speak to motivation and why issues of prisons and policing are so important- on a personal as well as a political level. And it does make arguments, some of which we can and should engage with seriously. Ultimately, though, its purpose is the same – to identify as ‘enemies’ activists who are critical of the black bloc, to discredit as irrelevant anyone working with organizations of the traditional left, and to implicitly threaten those who have publicly disagreed with the author –  even where Lopez needs to distort the truth in order to do so. (In the case of Derrick O’Keefe, for example, Lopez accuses him of publicly calling for people to identify members of the black bloc who may have been engaged in some smashy-smash and cop-car burnings. The tweet he refers to is in fact an in-joke that circulated among a small group of activists. Nowhere and at no time, that I am aware of, has Derrick ever called for arrests. He’s been pretty damn clear that he thinks BB tactics are at best unhelpful and at worst actually destructive to movement building, but that ain’t the same as working with the cops.)

You can read the piece for yourself and make what conclusions you will. You can watch the video above and do the same. But I could not let it all pass without saying something. So let me say it, and I’ll be sure to give plenty of reasons to attack me for those who are looking.

I’m a white-bread, straight Canadian male. with too much education for his own good. I’m also employed as a union rep, and get paid well for it,  for about the most liberal kind of organization you’ll ever come across. So, I’m prime for the pickings if you’re looking to dismiss all this as bullshit liberal leftism.

I’m also an anarchist and a Marxist, and I’ve been around workers’ organizations and the left my entire life. Let me define that a bit more clearly – I’ve been around multiple lefts my entire life. From at-first-glance-apolitical neighbourhood gardening groups to at-best-social-democratic trade unions to socialist organizations and anarchist networks. And because of that, I think resistance and community and struggle and anti-capitalism are pretty broad and complex things that almost-always contain within them some of the best and worst of what makes us human. And because of that, because our struggle is one of people in relationship against machines of discipline and control, I think those broad and complex movements always and everywhere contain, as well, pieces of the revolution and pieces of reaction.

My neighbourhood gardens group is made of random people who happen to live in the several blocks around me. Some renters, some home-owners. Families, couples, single folks. Professors, psychologists, gardeners, tradespeople, parents and home-keepers. Radicals, social democrats, liberals, and perhaps in the mix we’ve even got a Tory voter or two. I know for certain we have some non-voters – not conscientious objectors, but just people who don’t think the political has anything to do with their lives and want nothing more than to go to work, come home and have a safe park to take their kids. I wouldn’t be surprised if many of these neighbours condemn any disruptive protest, black bloc or not, and pretty much of all of them would almost certainly encourage the arrest of someone who threw a brick through a window or spray-painted a car.

These are the folks who live in neighbourhoods across the city. And they don’t want nothing to do with what we call resistance.  But there’s a whole lot more to it than that. These are also people who want to tear up our concrete streets to grow food and flowers. They voted, unanimously, to work collectively to build streetside gardens, and to make those gardens explicitly a public good, a commons, open to anyone and everyone who passes by. They watch out for each other. Across lines of race or ethnicity, income or occupation, political or religious belief, they watch out for each other. They want to know their neighbours. They want their kids to play together. They want to develop common places to gather. They want to share food and eat together. My neighbourhood gardening group is an apolitical and pretty random assortment of what calls itself Canada’s middle class. My neighbourhood gardening group is also in its own way, a little Bolivarian circle. A small example of what stateless organizing looks like. A reminder the world is way bigger than the left I know so well and that the revolution is not getting made anywhere anytime anyhow without average folks like this.

The union I work for is a union of the most highly-privileged workers you can imagine. Most of them don’t consider themselves workers at all, in fact. But at the end of the day, they are a union like any other, for the good and the bad. Unions, like my gardening group, represent a cross-section of the population, folks from a wide range of places who are brought together only by the fact that they work for the same employer. Some may make 5 or 6 times what others do for work that you might find it hard to tell apart. There is no political consensus. There is no fundamental unity of purpose. A union is a collection of people who happen to share some employment characteristics in common and who every now and then find common purposes to overcome their differences. But mostly it is an organization, a business, to collect dues in exchange for some legal and professional services. An insurance-scheme, if you like. In one part of my life, I devote my time to pretty harsh critiques of the model, to exploding the myth that the union as an organization has anything whatsoever to do with the relationship we call the working class or the struggles that emerge from that relationship. In another I represent that organization, I write its agreements, I defend its decisions, I shuttle its grievances through the legal process, I limit the expectations of its members to what is feasible and practical within the confines of the system. Contradictory? You bet. But as different as these two positions vis a vis the union are, they are also both critically important. The union is just another business, and sometimes just another boss. The union is also counselor, friend, convener of social gatherings, educator, and defender. Sometimes I can’t stand it, the bureaucracy, realpolitik, the mealy-mouthed fence-sitting. Other times I see workers walk out, sit down, fight like hell to defend a co-worker from discipline. Sometimes I see the unions get 20,000 people on the streets. And I know that matters.

And then there’s socialists and the left as we broadly understand the term. Anti-capitalists of different varieties, mostly vested in the creation of a better state rather than the abolition of such. Sometimes they stand on corners and flog crappy newspapers no one but their friends will ever read. They fight and bicker among themselves one day and show up to protest together the next. But sometimes, too, they pick up a gun to take on the paramilitaries that enforce corporate rule in their communities, or endure torture in jail cells because they formed a collective of peasant women or organized a strike of Coca-Cola workers. Or they go on the news to call for inquiries into police repression, trying to walk the line between the always-required distancing from violent protest while keeping the focus on the cops in some small hope that an inquiry will keep real issues on the agenda for another day or week, just long enough for a few more people to pay attention. Or they steal time and resources from the employer to print up leaflets for a rally against homelessness or keep their email networks informed about the latest police intrusion onto native land. Or they go bankrupt defending themselves in the courts against charges of hate speech or libel or god knows what because they won’t shut up about Israel’s apartheid machine.

And the anarchists are equally diverse. Defenders or disavowers of the black bloc, brick-throwers and extreme pacificsts who deem even property damage violence.  Some wage war on developers who tear up what remains of the forest, some hide underground to strike back quiet and silent in the only way they can think to do it. Some work standard office gigs and keep their opinions to themselves for fear of losing their jobs, some work for unions or NGOs and don’t mind talking about the strange dynamics of it all. Some come out of years in jail and just want a place to live, a job to pay the bills, and friends to laugh and talk with. Mostly they organize in their communities alongside neighbourhood groups, unions, socialists of all stripes. Mostly they build community gardens, form radical tech collectives, organize their workplaces, volunteer in prisons or youth detention centres. Above all else, they organize, struggle, and demand – a world beyond capitalism, a world beyond the state, communities of care and respect and mutual aid where we grow our own food and make our own beer and spend far less time working and far more time becoming human.

So here’s the thing I ask myself. Where do these kinds of videos and blog posts fit into all this? Where do the derision, threats and posturing of the film find a home? Nowhere. Because this kind of abusive attack has nothing in common with community building, solidarity or with relationships of kindness and mutual aid. It has nothing in common, period. It is anti-commons. It is arrogant and divisive and has no interest in talking about ideas, in finding out where the points of shared experience or shared interest are, in learning new things and changing one’s opinion. It cannot build any alternative to capital or the state because it cannot build the relationships of trust on which any alternative must be based. Anti-commons, anti-people, anti-revolutionary. Well, that ain’t any kind of resistance movement I want to be part of.

I wrote a little piece up after the Olympics, after the February Heart Attack action, on this site. I was a little dismissive myself, in that piece, I confess. But I was frustrated the snitch-jacketing and attacks on critical activists that had already begun at that time, because I did want to talk about these issues, to engage in the conversation. I wanted to do so because I think radicalism is necessary. Voices that push us further and push the cops and force the issue and refuse to settle for less than everything – these are abso-fucking-lutely critical, and I value them. But at the same time, that doesn’t mean anything goes. And it certainly doesn’t mean it’s acceptable to mount verbal or physical assaults on those who disagree or raise questions. We need those radical voices to recognize there is something just as precious, just as inspiring, in the block party to plant gardens and share seeds. We need those radical voices to show up when hotel workers strike and say all they want is a fair collective agreement even though we all know there’s no such thing. We need those radical voices in spaces of welcoming and respect.

I know that the vast majority of the anarchist and communist communities do all this, and work hard to maintain links to real people in their day to day struggles and to small-scale efforts at community-building. I see it every single day. But I also know that, for the past several months, we on the left – whatever left that is – have allowed a few voices to dominate our conversations, to set the terms of debate, to turn us from resistance-building to name-calling. And I know that folks across the spectrum are getting pretty fucking tired of it. There is nothing revolutionary about personal attacks on other activists. There is nothing revolutionary about deriding the women and men who go to work, do their jobs, pay their union dues and just want a fair deal. The revolution is made in social relationships, in hands together and meals shared. Yeah, we argue. Yeah, we bicker and fight. And our tactics are diverse. Sometimes we write letters to politicians cause our allies ask us to write letters to politicians and sometimes we blow up pipelines that are carrying poisons to our communities. But whatever we do and whenever we do it,  we ain’t making any revolution by ourselves. We’re making it with every relationship we build, and by demonstrating that the opposite of an alienating and hateful capitalism is not an alienating and hateful rage but a respectful, caring, and welcoming community of resistance.

All I know is that I want my radical movement to be about all the best of anarchism. Sadly, what I’m seeing of late is reminiscent of all the worst of Stalinism.

Oh, I should note that there are other voices also speaking in defense of black bloc tactics, but with far greater sophistication, far more of a critical eye, and a tone that combines solid argument with respect. For an example of this, see another Media Co-op blogger’s March piece here.  Yes, it is possible to take a position forcefully without denigrating all those who disagree. Thanks, Oshipeya, for the contribution to the discussion. A conversation much worth carrying on.

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Indulging

Off to the island for a visit with Meg’s family this weekend, so no more posting for me til next week, and no time for much of anything substantial right now. But that’s just as well. Been thinking so much about political debates these last few days that I am happy for a weekend away and an excuse to leave it all behind for a bit.

Siding all up on the new building in the yard – a little studio in place of the old falling-down garage. Roof still needs to be dropped on, and then we have to get the interior done, but it makes a hell of a difference and we are at the point now that we can envison what the whole yard will look like when complete.

Inside the studio – a storage shed at the back, accessed by the lane. From the patio in the yard, french doors into a space that will hold a sauna, many bookshelves for our ever-growing library, and a sofabed for guests. We’ve found some bamboo flooring for a decent price, which is exciting. A ladder will lead up to a loft area under vaulted ceilings at the back, another sleeping space for those times we have more people around.

Outside the studio is our brick patio, which we’ll extend to hold a hot-tub (softub) and more gathering, socializing space. Planter boxes and an outdoor kitchen around it, with a hand-painted sink I brought from Mexico a few years back and – if I can get it built – a brick or cob oven so we can bake our bread fresh out there. Then the existing odds and ends – our little outdoor fireplace, our garden bar, and the outdoor living area will be complete.

On the other side of the yard are garden boxes for many growing things – fruits and vegetables and flowers growing together, good to feed us and many friends throughout the summer and fall. Megan has planned and detailed and started seeds inside, and I am super-excited to see how it all unfolds.

This little house is becoming quite a special place for us, a place to retreat from the battles of everyday, the tensions and stresses of work, the demands of unions. A place to rejuvenate, a place to gather with friends. A little oasis for east van radicals, we hope, with plans to share keys to the spa with a number of folks who might use such a space.

The garden and studio feel to me like the physical manifestation of so much more – our emphasis these days on our local community, on trading dinners with friends, on building networks of folks in these few blocks to increase public space and develop economies of barter, to keep bees, brew beer, bake bread and can our own food, to find bikeways and walkways across the city.

Live well. Grow food. Plant flowers. Drink wine. Share meals. Read books. Sing songs. Discuss, rant, laugh long into the night.

Indulgent? Hell, yes. And no apologies for that.

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For as long as I can remember, I have been surrounded by activism. My folks were radical catholics, tied close to social movements in Latin America and the Philippines that based their anti-capitalist ethos in Christian ideals of equality, service, love. Christian, yes. But radical, no doubt. Indeed, though here in the North American context we tend to associate the Churches with conservatism if anything, in much of the world a whole lot of Church people organized, struggled, took up arms, built alternative communities. And radical Christians – Catholics mostly – were often a greater threat to the state, and therefore even more fiercely targeted than their Marxist allies. Anyway. There were some fucking radical activists around that scene, and often a little scraping of the surface of your local church solidarity group would reveal long-standing and close solidarities with people and groups our governments called terrorists.

As a kid, that was all pretty normal to me. Activism was everywhere and everything, and I recognized early on the spectrum of the movement from letter-writing to silent vigils to sabotage to full-blown war. It was all part of one struggle. It all arose from what I saw as one community. Some of it was spoken, much of it was left unsaid, but damn those links were close and strong. They were rooted in some deep friendships and deep loves. And they endured, and in many cases still endure.

So it felt pretty natural for me to seek my own activist place once I hit about 15 years old, and I sought it out in various communities and various struggles. From my time in southern Africa, I connected with South African resistance movements like the Pan-Africanist Congress, folks who articulated a more radical anti-apartheid struggle than we saw in the ANC at that time, who connected anti-capitalism to powerful anti-racism and anti-colonialism in a way that quite frankly scared much of the anti-apartheid movement. I raised some money, I wrote some articles for the Industrial Worker and other such radical publications, I spoke at events and did educationals for youth groups.  I maintained my close ties to the local Central America refugee community, and the Guatemalans in particular, who had been so much of my upbringing. We organized rallies and vigils, we spoke to Churches and unions, we found ways to get money and supplies into the hands of folks on the front-lines who needed them most. Then came my union work, first with the Farm Workers in south central LA, then back here with a few different unions, as rank and file organizer and as elected executive, and for many of those years also with the IWW, my radical home. By the mid to late 1990s, with the anti-globalization movement was in full swing,  I spent all day every day engaging labour to step up and take notice, to ally with rather than isolate and marginalize the movement that was growing – fiercer, less heirarchical, more democractic, more celebratory, more willing to engage in direct action. And through all this, and up to the early 2000s, it was Cuba solidarity and organizing networks to confront and break the blockade, and working with a large, cross-sectoral and multi-generational group to identify paths toward a new left alternative to break from the piss-ass social democracy that had taken hold after the fall of the socialist bloc and the great lie of  ‘There is no alternative’.

And then, all of a sudden, I was done. I stopped. I was working as a professional union staffer, so had that to pay the bills and make me feel I was still somewhat connected. I remained around the discussions and debates on the Left, but mostly on the margins. I stopped organizing. I stopped going to protests and actions. I simply couldn’t keep up the interest or engagement.

What happened? Well, a couple of things I think. For one, I had just separated, and threw everything I had into being a single dad, and being the best possible dad I could be. That, it seemed to me, was not only far more worthwhile, it was far more satisfying, too. Also, I was just fucking tired. After a childhood in and out of war, and ten years of my own activism, I was really fucking tired. Tired of fighting with Zionists among the Left. Tired of fighting with union people about the value and importance of direct action. Tired of fighting with anti-oppression activists about the need to remember capitalism. Tired of fighting with communists about the need to recognize oppressions beyond class. Tired of fighting with Leninists about democracy. Tired of fighting with anarchists about the need to respect and connect with church people, union people, NGO people. I was really tired. And I couldn’t understand why I knew so many good folks in so many different movements, from so many different places, and yet they couldn’t seem to come together for anything beyond a single rally.  Lots of protests, lots of organizing, lots of educationals, lots of friends, and still I felt profoundly alone in it all. Baking cookies, dancing with five and six year olds, making up silly songs – it all was so much much life-affirming, so much more nourishing, so much more strenghtening to me.

Thinking about this today because Megan has for the last while being going through the same kind of process – feeling demoralized, tired, looking more to the community-building that sustains rather than the resistance than can be so draining and so fraught with conflict – not the conflict of the struggle, but conflict internally among allies and those who should be allies. It’s a hard fucking place to be, but, I think, something most of us go through a few times in such lives. And keeps bringing me back to the question, why is it so fucking difficult? Why is it so hard to find a place to organize, to fight back, that is both radical and life-affirming?

Union, NGOs and the like are hard for radicals to stay in for long, because there is so much compromise, so much that is tentative, so much replication of shitty liberal processes. And yet in the communities that do resonate with us, there is a never-ending cycle of internal antagonism and accusation and aggression that just kills our enthusiasm to engage. Feels sometimes like there is nowhere we belong. Feels sometimes like all we can do is retreat into the small communities of family and friends and gardens and potlucks and music-making. Life is so much better, so much more joyous and hopeful when we do that. And yet we know there is something missing, because we are activists, and we miss that activism.

Me, after a ten-year retreat into parenting and work and academic musings, I have over the last couple of years felt ready to get back to some more concrete political work. I’ve tried out a few organizations, started tentatively playing at the margins of a few different issues-based networks. But I’m gun-shy about jumping back in until I find something that satisfies the radical in me while providing some sense of community-building and some real human decency.  Meg’s feeling ready to give up and retreat for a while. I’m trying to keep my eyes open for the place that works, but so far not seeing it.

You can be active with the activists or sleeping with the sleepers, Billy Bragg sang to us. If only it were that easy.

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It is no secret that Meg and I are big on books, and that we try to make it a regular practice to read to one another. In the past, it’s been poems shared, as we take turns picking randomly from the many poetry books on the shelf. Lately, we’ve moved onto fiction, with Meg reading to me from Tess of the D’Urbervilles, something that happened mainly as a result of my near-blindness over the summer and my inability to read for myself.

Anyway, we’ve been reading Tess. And recently, while out with some co-workers, Meg mentioned our little reading-aloud ritual, and noticed that it felt oddly confessional to share this with them – like the sharing of a deep intimacy. Which then led us into a lengthy discussion about the place of reading aloud in relationships, and how quickly commodification can fundamentally transform social practices that have been hundreds if not thousands of years in the making.

Yeah, we’re nerds. We know.

But it is something that I find quite striking, now that I reflect upon it.

As reading of Tess has reminded us, the reading aloud of novels and poems was a major source of entertainment up until very recently, a practice that itself hearkens back to the age-old practice of story-telling around the fire. Human societies have always told stories collectively, publicly, as performance, so that art is a community act, the commonality of our myths arising not only from the fact that we all know them but equally from that fact that we make and share them as a social group. And the public readings and family gatherings to hear stories read aloud lasted far past the development of print media and the rise of literacy, suggesting that even when it became possible to individualize the story, human society nonetheless kept a performative, collective practice around this kind of art. So it is incredible that a practice so common up until so recently now seems to us something confessional, something we whisper intimately.

I won’t bother with the lengthy analysis here – mainly cause I’m just not in that mode right now, but do want to get something posted on this damn blog. But on occasions like this the efficacy of capital to destroy relationships and create its own simply boggles my mind. I mean, we are only a few generations into the individualized mass media that television provides, and so quickly – in the space of 50 years – that consumer culture has largely displaced long-standing practices and rituals of collective entertainment/ social cohesion – reading aloud being only one of them, but one of the most widespread and commonplace. It’s not unlike the speed with which a big box store or shopping mall can displace a whole neighbourhood and a long history of local, community based traders and producers. And, as with that situation, what is lost is not just the practice itself, or the small shops in the case of the other example, but the network of social relationships, the daily interactions among neighbours, the active public life, the community, that our long-standing practices engendered, and which ultimately arise from and help to reproduce all that makes us human.

Have I mentioned yet today that I hate capitalism?

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Positivity

I’ve had a couple of days of anxiety. Well, more like a couple of weeks. It’s the house stuff, largely, but periodically, too I get waves of images and thoughts in my head that I’d rather not have, and that can bring me down. Not obsessive, which is good. Not overwhelming, which is good. More just like my brain takes a while to go, ‘huh, that’s something to process….’ and then devotes considerable energy to it for a short while making me feel just drained emotionally and mentally.

So, when those moments lift, it is so fucking good to feel like myself again.

Funny. As I think of this, I realize how different my life is now than it was a couple of years ago. I actually spent a good portion of my adult life in constant anxiety, and that sense of weight and emotional exhaustion was so prevalent, so permanent, that I presumed that it was something inherent to my core being – that I was a melancholy type by nature, simply unprepared to live in a world so full of madness.

It’s only now, after over a year of positivity and hope, that I realize how situational that was, how much that was about the places I put myself, the stuff I lived with but never addressed, the questions I never asked myself, the hope I never allowed myself. How different a place this earth is when one simply turns one’s face to the light, and says, ‘I want more. And I can have it. And I deserve it.’ How different a place this earth is when one stops worrying about managing people and begins to accept relationships for what they are, with good and bad and ups and downs. How different a place this earth is when one begins to live intentionally.

I began this process some time ago, before meeting Meg and beginning this wonderful love affair that just keeps getting better. But certainly she has been a huge part of it. Not because love fixes all, as it clearly doesn’t, but rather because that intentional living, that emphasis on hope, is so much easier when it is shared.

Some months back, a friend of Meg’s came up to spend a weekend with us. He does emotional and psychological health work that I will never really understand, but from that he brings to a conversation ideas and reminders that are so core, so intuitive, and yet so absent in our day to day lives. We talked politics and love, and how all of our actions have effects – rarely the effects we intend, but the effects we need nonetheless. And we talked about relationships, and the central role positivity plays in determining relationship success. That is, it is less important the specific things we agree on, the specific personalities of the individuals, and more important how those individuals approach their interaction – is it from a place of hope and security that things are good, or is it from a place of work and struggle to make things good? Too often we live in the latter place – indeed, this is what the whole relationship therapy industry is based on. But what a difference to begin from somewhere else, somewhere that just takes for granted the goodwill and hope in the other. Seems pretty simple. Seems pretty common sense. And yet I have been aware, since that conversation, how often I have started from that other place, and how amazingly freeing it is to be in a relationships that simply drips with hope and positivity.

Yeah, I’m feeling good today. I’m realizing how I have grown, how I have become a better and stronger person these last couple of years. Oh, I’ve made my mistakes, I’ve make presumptions and assumptions and fallen into old habits far more than I’d like. But mostly I have been pretty successful in looking to the light, in moving towards it both on my own and with the girl I love. And the shift from melancholy and doubt to positivity and hope has, I think, really taken root, and really shifted my sense of who I am, what I and the world have to offer, and what magic is right there all the time. Nice.

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