Leaning in hard

Alene has a way of leaning into things that bother/upset/frighten her.

In the late 1990s, it was the Y2K thing. After being alarmed by the Newsweek article in late 1998, she spent a lot of time researching it on the internet. At first, she immersed herself in the TEOTWAWKI (the end of the world as we know it) culture to get herself truly freaked out. Then when she was tired of sleepless nights she reached out to people she knew in the computer industry and business world and read every piece of information they forwarded to her. Her ex-husband, a software engineer, insisted it would be the non-event of the century — but Alene would not allow herself to be comforted. She considered the infrastructure of the small town where she lived — and read every piece of literature distributed by her bank, electric utility, the university she worked at. In the summer of 1999, she started receiving more sophisticated billing and banking statements as new systems were implemented. By the time I joined her life in September, she’d concluded that if the world was as prepared for Y2K as the backwater town she lived in, then there was probably little cause for alarm — although it would still be prudent to stock up with non-perishable foods and supplies and busy herself with the chain saw to build up the log pile.

At the same time, she’d been leaning into religion of one kind or another — from the Mormons at one end to the Hare Krishnas at the other — and watching the Trinity Broadcast Network on TV. Alene was basically agnostic and occasionally verging on atheist — but still open to the question – what if any of these people are right? When the Mormons knocked on her door, she asked them in. And when they declined on account of there being no man in the house, she let them talk on the doorstep. She read The Bhagavadgita As It Is (which lived on her end table for over a year) and corresponded with a mature Hare Krishna devotee. And she went to church for a while. That ended as soon as I came along. We are both very happy to believe in God now — although our manifestation of God might seem a bit too funny to most people — but we’re not afraid to laugh at His jokes.

Alene’s latest thing to be leaning into is the whole issue of racism and white privilege. We are both white — and not only that — we are English white — so we are probably even more fragile than your typical white American. Her workplace has an anti-racist component in its overall mission encourages discussion of race and facilitates it with monthly meetings which she attends pretty religiously. She tries to balance the workplace discussions by listening to podcasts which more broadly address aspects of race — such as Our National Conversation About Conversations About Race, Another Round, and For Colored Nerds — or podcast about more general topics which are hosted by non-white people with lots of non-white guests, such as Neil deGrasse-Tyson’s Star-Talk Radio. And then there was the Octavia’s Brood forum discussion at the library last week!

Anyway, Alene went to today’s meeting with a whole load of thoughts and ideas swimming around her head — and was unable to contain them all. It was partly my fault. I egged her on to tell the story about the sun and the wind competing to get a man to take off his coat — and a whole lot of other stuff came out with it.

Sometimes you can lean into something so hard that you just fall on your face!

– Mark

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