Nov. 6, 2006: Swim Swim Swim

Swim Swim Swim
Nov. 6, 2006

    Hi, there
    Since I know a lot of you don’t have time to read my big long emails right away, I’m going to start with the timely stuff and then you can read the rest of this some other day if you want.

    Tomorrow! Tuesday! If you live in the USA, please don’t forget to vote!
There are some really important issues on the ballot! I’ll post a progressive voters guide at the end of this email in case you don’t already know how you’re voting. If you’re in California, prop 85 is really important, it could hurt a lot of teenagers and families! If you have a bit of free time today or tomorrow, please consider volunteering a couple hours in your local no on 85 office, and if you’re in San Francisco call me (415-641-5722) and I’ll plug you in with that or the Chris Daly campaign, that’s what I’m up to these days.

    OK, now for the personal stuff. I’m doing a lot better than I was a week ago. What a week! Eek! Almost everything in my life came crashing down! Here’s part of an email I sent out last Wednesday:

    I had imagined that things would get easier as the week went on, but instead it seems like the opposite. I feel a bit like I’m in the twilight zone. Everyone around here has suffered some sort of serious trauma. David went under a van on his motorcycle, I took Kip in for emergency oral surgery today, two friends are potentially facing unwanted breakups, Eli finally contacted the community in Maine, and Jené was as close with Brad as I was. Huge, life-changing events all around, plus so many little things that are different than when I left for Europe that I can’t even mention them all. You should have seen our living room today, all of us on painkillers, Kip spitting up blood, David with his leg brace on the table. We joked that the apocalypse was starting. That’s how it feels. Maybe it is.

    I went into SF General today to get my stitches out, and they told me it was a 7 to 8 hour wait and I should just come back tomorrow. Ah, the joys of having no medical coverage. Maybe it’s for the best, I wasn’t really up for it anyway.

    I spoke today at the dedication of the restored mural on the side of Bound Together Books on Haight Street. It’s a mural of martyrs and people who dedicated their lives to social justice, and the artist added Brad into the mural, holding his camera. It was so weird to see his face there. I was asked to speak a bit about him, so I told some stories about how he was always there for me, about a few of the times he saved my ass in critical moments when we were on the front lines together at the Prague IMF demonstrations, and how he possibly kept me from getting deported after our banner hang at the UN Climate Conference by sneaking our ID’s out of the building. How we set up camp in front of the DC jail for a week together, day and night, until all of the IMF-WB demonstrators were set free. How he was always such a consistent friend over the seven years I knew him, no matter what was going on in either of our lives. How he lived his ideals in a way that so few people ever do. But the stories I really want to tell I probably never will, because some things just can’t be communicated with words, some things I doubt anyone else would really understand.

    I did a lot better than I did yesterday. Yesterday when I was asked to speak at the vigil in front of the Mexican consulate I didn’t get very far before I had to hand the microphone back, words failing me entirely. I spent most of the 2 hour vigil staring at his picture, arms wrapped around Jené, sobbing. This week has been a process of his death becoming more and more real in stages, and seeing his picture there, blown up to poster-size, next to candles and the words “murdered by Oaxacan government paramilitaries,” brought it to a whole new level of real.

    Yet the vigil was good for me. When I rejoined the rest of my friends in the Halloween parade, I found myself dancing with a freedom and rhythm I didn’t recognize. I spoke Spanish without any of my usual self-consciousness. I felt a love for my friends there that was almost overwhelming. It was like all of the life in me was summoning up its strength and rebelling ferociously against death as it looked it straight in the eye.

    Then I slept, long and hard. Today my body felt like lead Jello, if there could be such a thing. It took me three hours to make a smoothie and do half my yoga. I probably wouldn’t have made it out of the house if it weren’t for Kip’s surgery, and of course the mural.

    I wonder if things will ever feel normal again. I don’t expect them to anytime soon, but I’m not even sure I would want them to. Trying to go back to life as it was would feel empty, meaningless. Nothing looks the same to me as it did a week ago. The things that used to be important to me just aren’t anymore. I’m not exactly sure where I’m going but I know it’s not where I came from. And I have faith that it will be someplace good.

    So that was last Wednesday. Thursday was the Day of the Dead celebrations here in SF, with a long procession to Garfield Park, costumes and alters and magnolias and candles abound. I walked with some other friends of Brad and we joined the tradition of dressing in black and painting our faces white and black like skulls. We carried the posters with Brad’s face and the names of the others who have been killed recently in Oaxaca. So many people stopped to take our picture, ask about him, or comment that they had heard about his murder. It felt really good, really right to be there.

    Afterward I finally watched the videotape from his camera, something I hadn’t been able to do all week, the last 16 minutes of Brad’s life from his perspective, as he hid under a truck to try to protect himself from the gunfire, and then later, when things seemed safe and he was standing again, but the bullet hit him in the gut and he yelled and the camera filmed the concrete below, then finally went still.

    Since Thursday things have been slowly, bit by bit, returning to normal, although it’s a different normal than before. I quit my job. My employer didn’t want to give me time off to be at the memorials and I just quit instinctively. There was no question in my mind where I needed to be. It was a sweet job, but the truth is that I had put out an intention to have more time to finish my book, and we all know how the universe has a tendency to manifest our intentions. Last summer I was so busy with my 60-hour work-weeks that I didn’t get any writing done. So I’m back to living on my trust fund (i.e. trust that the funds will come from somewhere!) and it feels great to be able to do activist work again, to plug into campaigns that are important to me and lend a hand when it’s needed, to put my energy where I feel it’s best used instead of toward a paycheck.

    The best thing about this week is that I felt so surrounded by love and support. I always had friends by my side, and made some new ones, and their strength helped me through it all. A whole lot of people had extraordinarily difficult weeks for various reasons, often with a feeling of impending doom or at least ungroundedness, but I see the whole thing as something like when you’re in the ocean and in the middle of the really big waves. You can either get pummeled, dive under them, or swim with all you’ve got and let them take you someplace good. I’m feeling pretty determined to swim these days, and already I can see some nice beaches in the distance.

Much love and strength to you all,
swim, swim, swim,

PS:  By the way, removing your own stitches is actually really easy! My chin is healing up nicely, it doesn’t hurt and my jaw closes normally again.