Three positives

Dear President Trump,

When I woke up this morning I decided today’s letter needs to warrant a “positive” tag when it gets posted in my blog. It can have other, less upbeat, tags too, but “positive” needs to be in the mix.

The first positive is how when my colleague gave me a pep talk about our unfortunately sited offices, she had tears in her eyes talking about the vets in our intensive substance abuse program who now get to hang out in the beautiful new atrium during lunch breaks. She’s right. On the whole, the building is really a terrific thing for the veterans. Previously the addiction program was in a 40-year old “temporary” building that was in bad shape and was physically far away from the main outpatient mental health clinics. It always seemed like the vets with addictions were relegated to less than, “over there” space, whereas now our clinic is on the first floor and definitely in the mix.

The second positive comes courtesy of the WP front and center feature of a group of high school senior girls who found out about a list the boys were circulating that ranked the girls on looks. They were pissed. When their first complaint essentially went nowhere, 40 of them insisted on a meeting with school officials. This led to a big meeting between the girls and most of the other boys in the program. The girls shared about the impact of knowing boys they thought were friends were objectifying and ranking them, about their daily experiences of harassment, the eating disorders they’ve fought to overcome, the shitty self-doubt they feel every day. And it sounds like the boys listened. The boy started the list said he hadn’t understood the impact and that he’s grateful the girls called it out. A group of girls and boys meet regularly to talk about toxic culture and pairs of them are talking with the younger grades about toxic masculinity.

The third thing is a WP photo essay called “Long Exposure.” It’s by a male photojournalist who decided to risk using his photography in a less objective, more nuanced way. Through an intensive art class he was challenged to work on something personal and to choose three words as guides. His words were “pain,” “fear,” and “disconnection” referencing having had to fight off a sexual attack by a mentor when he was in his teens, something he never talked about but that haunted him (he was 65 when he took the class). His use of long exposures made for eerie, hard to parse images. I love that he titled the photo essay as he did since it speaks to what’s almost always necessary (long exposure) when there’s an awful thing that’s happened that one wants to run away from but that will chase you as long as you keep running.

May we be safe to face what and who we need to face.
May we be willing to listen when we get tough feedback.
May we be open to making healthy shifts that ameliorate shame.
May we make peace with the need for fundamental changes.

Tracy Simpson

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