It’s OK to be OK.

My core belief is fairly obscure.
I never supposed anyone would attack it directly.

The headline gave me a jolt:

Your Black Friends Are Exhausted Right Now, So Stop Centering Yourself

I surmised that Rachel Garlinghouse either knows nothing about centeredness, or has some very mistaken ideas. Or, we may just profoundly disagree. It now appears to me to be all three.

I suppose she ran into a white person who spoke of herself or himself as being “centered,” and she just didn’t like that person’s attitude, and came to her own conclusions.

Here’s what she says — about centeredness:

Perhaps you’ve noticed that some of your Black friends have gone quiet on social media lately. Maybe there’s fewer text exchanges between you and them, too. Your white guilt and white fragility might be amplified because of it. You might be wondering if you’re doing something wrong, or not doing something right. Whiteness does that. It tells you that you need to centralize your feelings and shed some white tears.

Here’s the deal. It’s not about you. The Black Lives Matter resurgence, this movement, this necessary uprising, is about justice, awareness, and change. Activism is difficult, emotionally draining, mentally exhausting, relentless work. Your Black friends may very well be exhausted. They don’t have the time and energy to coddle your feelings—nor should they.

I know that sounds harsh. Allow me to explain. White people, including myself, are used to being believed, trusted, and catered to. Even when we should be focusing on others right now, our white privilege tells us that we need to bring the focus to ourselves—our feelings, our opinions, our experiences, our assessments. Some don’t do this intentionally. Centering ourselves is a reflex—one we’ve been conditioned to manifest since birth. However, just because your instincts tell you to focus on yourself, doesn’t mean you have to do it.

I don’t know what “white tears” means, but it suggests a lack of empathy for white people. The underlined portion was a link to this other article, her June 8 “How It Feels When White Friends And Family Don’t Say ‘Black Lives Matter’.” I read that, supposing it might tell me more about centeredness, or about why she seems to think centeredness is white. It doesn’t. That article is basically a carbon copy of this one, just with the sentences in different order.

Centeredness  IS NOT  normal in America today

Nor is it instinctive.

In recent years, I came across the term a few times in my reading, but it never became a firsthand experience until I found myself, on some occasions, in an emotional state for which I had no other word. I have posted about it a few times, but don’t presume to know how to tell you how to get there.

My acquaintance with the underlying principles goes back decades, however. For some years in the late 1980s, I had a domestic partner who was addicted to alcohol, heroin and cocaine. This person’s antics — Anyone who’s lived with an active addict needs no elaboration. I did everything I could according to the world of NORMAL to try to deal with this person. In the end, I came to feel unwelcome in my own home (She contributed nothing financially.); my life had become a living hell, and I had no idea why.

Al-Anon is a companion movement to A.A., meant for friends and loved ones of alcoholics. There, I learned first, “the three C’s:” you didn’t cause the addiction, you can’t control it, and you can’t cure it. I began to “keep the focus on me;” to “accept the things I cannot change,” for example, the way this person acted.

Or the way white folk act.

Or the way black folk act.

This way of living IS NOT NORMAL in America today.

What IS normal is for the world to tell the addict’s spouse, friend or loved one,

“It’s your job to fix that person.”

Or the way white folk act.

Or the way black folk act.

The common story typical of such thinking: the wife lies awake anxiously in bed until sometime after bars close, when she hears the drunken husband’s car approach. She looks out the bedroom window, and sees that, once again, he’s parked it on the neighbor’s lawn. So after he comes in, she takes the keys and goes out into the dark and moves the car into the couple’s own driveway.

The recovery movement would call that gesture “sick,” and exactly wrong. “Mind your own business:” it’s actually none of her business where he parked the car. It’s the mess he created; it’s his business, his mess, to clean up.

What makes the ghetto “ghetto”

Not long ago, I was housed for 4-6 weeks among the “clients” of a drug treatment program. From a previous post:

There are monitors throughout the building showing information people need to know. Sometimes they display a passage from the Big Book of A.A. or the corresponding text of N.A. I have been dumbfounded by the wisdom of these texts — and by their implication that the addict needs to completely change his or her understanding.

What struck me again and again were the passages equivalent to the slogans “Keep the focus on you” and “Mind your own business.” One is exhorted to stop blaming others for one’s problems, but rather engage in self-examination and own up to the messes one makes. I have lived in the ghetto now for fourteen years, and I can tell you, that is not the standard there. The law of the ghetto, instead, is to always blame others for one’s problems, and never examine oneself. These two together are largely what make the ghetto “ghetto.”

In the ghetto, one never minds one’s own business.

And so it’s key, also, for activists like Rachel Garlinghouse, to never mind one’s own business.

It’s OK to be OK.

I’m remembering the first time I said that. I was at work; and whatever it was I’d been all torn up over, but powerless to do anything about, I finally gave myself permission to let go of. I could be content being me. I could like myself for the same reasons others like me. I could conserve my emotional energies, and not be continually drained by grief over hurricanes, or earthquakes, or how white folk act, or how black folk act.

Being centered gave me the emotional wherewithal to deal the best I could with life’s inevitable difficulties — the broken shoelace, flat tire, toothache, cranky boss, wayward child, divorce, job loss, bereavement, cancer — all those things I guess Rachel Garlinghouse thinks white folk never face. But, in the real world, we do.

And I’m OK with it, thanks to being centered.

It’s OK to be OK.

1 thought on “It’s OK to be OK.

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