My family began packing in the past month as we prepare to move to a new city. It’s been an interesting process thus far to go through what we’ve accumulated over the past five years of living in our current house, and also to be more intentional about which of our belongings we’ll take with us into new spaces.
What truly “belongs” to us? What represents who we want to be, moving forward?
I’ve alluded to my love of books and plants in my social media posts, and indeed, just as my outdoor beds are overflowing, our home is filled with the books that I’ve accumulated over the past thirty-odd years of adulthood. I’m currently sorting through individual shelves and realizing which stories I’ve outgrown, which voices and lessons have occupied space in my life and which I’ve barely learned. I passed along many boxes of books to our local grade school for next year’s fundraiser, and several other bags were just donated.
What I can’t dismantle are the decades I’ve spent in fields that I recognized, even at the time, were white-dominated and white-centered. Because of my family’s social justice background and my identity as the parent of a child of color, I wasn’t oblivious to the lack of racial diversity around me but I wasn’t as disturbed as I should have been, either. A hallmark of white privilege is the belief that existing in white spaces isn’t a loss, but a potential gain. While I couldn’t always relate to those around me based upon class, socioeconomic status, family configuration, or faith, I nearly always saw my own white face reflected back in my classes, conferences, sessions, and community. And I made a series of choices that continued to confirm this lifestyle. Our default is to seek out that which is comfortable and familiar.
Some of the most valuable teachings I’ve taken away from my education as a clinical psychologist and mindfulness educator are the principles of beneficence (“benefit others”), nonmaleficence (“do no harm”), curiosity, self-compassion, and skillful action, which I can apply to my own messy, complex life journey.
Last summer, I ended a twenty-year-long career as a psychotherapist. Although I’d taken one other brief break, I needed to draw a very clear line between the identity that shaped much of what I did and how I saw myself (and others) in professional relationships, and the new chapter I was attempting to write, quite literally, in this second half of my life. My longest-lasting love has always been the arts and education.
I’ve said before that I’ve felt honored to serve in my role as a psychotherapist, and that I’ve been humbled by the vulnerability and courage that I’ve witnessed during thousands of sessions. This remains true.
I didn’t anticipate that in the midst of the current pandemic, I’d feel compelled to return temporarily to offer supportive psychotherapy to former clients. One of the biggest questions I’ve wrestled with during this sabbatical is how to utilize my healthcare background and training in new ways that continue to serve my community, while I also attend to the needs of my young family.
Over the past twelve months, I’ve engaged in hundreds of hours of service and study in the fields of horticulture, therapeutic horticulture, food justice, and mindfulness-related topics. I wish I could say that I’m closer to an answer regarding how to position myself (beyond my healthcare role) in our rapidly changing global landscape. I’m still struggling to define The SAVOR Project beyond a passionate, whole-hearted, deep inquiry into all things food. However, one thing is clear: at least half (if not more) of my future efforts will revolve around supporting BIPOC-led food and agricultural programs.
All I can say, for now, is that the more I learn, the more I realize I don’t know (or that I need to dismantle and rebuild). This website is one of those original constructions, even though I’ve made substantive changes to move away from my former clinical focus to one that is more education-based. Which is why you’ll find me elsewhere as I focus upon building new, more collaborative relationships – and why this blog often remains quiet.
More soon. Stay safe and be well, friends.