Imagining Another Way

I sat down to write a note about gratitude, as is the custom. And there is plenty to be grateful for: this community, the outpouring of support that carries it forward—our board, our advisory board, the facilitators that share their talents, the people who tell their truths. And personally (and there’s a great deal of overlap in these populations) the people who bolster me, help me find center, make me laugh, and remind me to dance. And there’s this body of mine, the 15,000+ sunrises I’ve opened my eyes into the light of (or stayed awake into), the books that line my shelves and my heart. Poetry in all its forms. 

So yes, gratitude.

But also: the grief and the rage, and most of all, the fear. It is a difficult time to be an American who dances. Who goes to the grocery store. Who inhabits any public space for any amount of time. It is difficult to see a way forward, maybe impossible. Wherever you fall on the political spectrum, this is no one’s best case scenario. It is easy to think of whose fault it all is, but the truth is we all find ourselves in a world that it seems none of us prefers. I don’t have answers, but something I’ve been thinking about keeps coming to the surface. Maybe it’s helpful to you.

I have been working for some time, with mixed success, at moving away from shaping myself in opposition. Shaping myself in opposition has been so much of how I reclaimed my own authority in my life. It’s how I moved away from a too religious upbringing, left difficult relationships, decided what kind of mother I was not going to be, started this organization. It has been a useful tool, but one that comes at a cost. Because when you shape yourself in opposition you’re still thinking at least 50% too much about how someone else is wrong, instead of what you yourself believe. Working against instead of working towards can be more comfortable—it’s easier to reject possibilities that exist. Inventing new possibilities and charting a way towards them is terrifying. There is no map. You walk towards an idea that maybe no one else can see, that maybe you yourself can only see the vaguest outline of. It is the most exciting. It is sometimes very lonely. 

The work that we do, every time we show up to the page or the canvas, or the stage—is about finding out who we are, what we believe, what the specific weirdo that we are today needs in order to become the next (and perhaps weirder) version that we will become. Though we are a community, we do the work alone, in the confines of our own minds, in the swirl of our very personal histories. Because we are a community, we are fortunate to look around and see that the people around us are doing similar work in their own minds, with their own histories, heading in their own directions. We piece together a world that is right for each of us, has space for the particular person we need and want to be, one where we belong.  

So today, wherever you are, take what you need, and leave what you don’t. Keep walking, even though the people around you might not be walking lockstep with you. And tomorrow or next week (or whenever), if you join us for art making and self reflection, we will all be delighted and emboldened by the steps you’re taking. 

I am grateful that you are not exactly like me, not because I am trying to get away from what you are, but because I trust that you are becoming who you need to be, even if I don’t fully get it. I’ll keep listening, to myself and to you, and I trust that you will too. 

We are all good enough to get better. We are all good enough to deserve better.

With admiration and respect, and so much love,

Seema Reza, CEO, Community Building Art Works