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A Heavy Privilege

How many times have I written something, only to later regret it?

Several dozen times at this point, I bet. Hundred? Maybe.

Sometimes, maybe I have regret for the tone, the words, the approach. Sometimes sheer terror and utter, cry-worthy regret for the whole thing.

[And sometimes I just light it up on fire and roll with it.]

But when I read this post from Rebecca Stanley… just wow. I knew exactly where she was coming from.

“Nearly ten years ago, I wrote some words about a family that, in hindsight, I knew very little about. Back then, my newly-married twenty-two year-old-self thought I knew it all, however. I thought I understood poverty and how to raise children and how to save people who looked nothing like me. And so I wrote a story about a family I thought I loved, even though I hadn’t yet learned what love means. A few days ago, the family I wrote about found my words. Because when we write on the internet, it doesn’t care that we grow and change and learn a whole lot and fall flat on our behinds. Nope, your words and pictures and snap judgments and unchecked assumptions stay right where they are, hyperlinked forever for posterity….” READ MORE….

I found myself thinking: Oh man. I know what that feels like. I have felt that exact sick feeling.

Yes. I choose my family. I choose my friends. I choose my neighbors, too.

And if someday, I have to tear Swim Bike Mom and every single thing limb from limb to protect those people, I will do it. (….and some will cheer from the rooftops! Yay, she’s gone!).

One of my dread stories comes from the tale of the “Hell House” in 2013.

I wrote about how we were homeless because we rented this slumlord house which was infested with fleas, raccoons and had no air conditioning in the middle of Atlanta summer (not that it was broken… it was non-existent), the water ran whenever it decided to turn on, the lights went on and off without warning—but mostly just stayed ON… that’s an adventure in itself. We were constructively evicted because it was “unliveable,” but lived in those conditions for a month, and I tried to make it funny when I wrote about it–because, well it wasn’t funny–and we were hurting.

“For we have all these unpacked boxes, in a house that we technically don’t live in yet because we are squatters without a lease. We are ping-ponging the kids around like some reenactment of The Pursuit of Happyness. Living out of a suitcase. Carrying around a marinating flank steak like it’s a bone scanner I have to sell.”

Only a 33 year-old Meredith would choose the word “homeless” to go with the story. But the choice of word… I was clawed and attacked on the webs. (And thankfully this was before social media was really in force). And rightfully so, I was attacked. Man, I see why now. What a stupid choice on my part.

37 year-old Meredith (me today) would have phrased it differently. Maybe. At least in hindsight, of course I would. The story on its own would have stood well and funny without that reference.

However, the 45 year-old Meredith (future Meredith) probably would have shut down, gotten to work on fixing the situation, and written nothing.

In light of Hurricane Harvey, I can’t understand how could I ever be so brash and idiotic to even use a term like homeless?

We were in a temporary shitstorm. Not homeless. I did though, and why? Because we felt like we were. We were out of house, and we didn’t know what to do. It was my lens… it was my bad choice of words.

With age and experience comes wisdom, not perfection.

With experience and growth and an audience comes the ability to really make an impact…
but with regret and shame and sadness of making mistakes comes the real truth of shutting down, never writing again, withdrawing and moving out of the spotlight, even if it’s a small spotlight.

How DO we keep going and doing anything when perfection is demanded, flaws are literally pointed out with hate and anger? How to resist the urge to crawl in a hole? To actually continue forward when you f-__ up?

Ding ding! Using the F word for the first time ever on my blog? Like what will THAT mistake “cost” me? Okay, I’ll go ahead and remove that one. See? Experience… Consider it strike-throughed.

Such a valuable lesson to remember that HUMANS are on all sides of equations in our current world–that on the other side of social is a person.That on the other-other side of social is also a person.

We are inundated with social media, comments, raging comments… in frequent world where someone tells me to be kind, but then literally goes right for my jugular with their words to me. It can be a vicious circle cycle circle.

Like a bad cartwheel.

Valuable lessons to remember that the posts we write are tangible things.

That social media is a blessing and a curse. It’s easy to forget that social media is fleeting, but also permanent. The words said to people in anger are remembered. The words said in apparent help, may not be helpful at all. That some hard things should actually remain up for posterity. That mistakes are mistakes, and that once they’re released, it’s done.

At the end of the day, we can say we are sorry, change things, do work on ourselves, do better next time, and move on.

That in itself is a privilege, and one that is often taken for granted.

“I need to recognize what my neighbors have always known: the ability to claim ‘I was young and didn’t know any better’ is in itself a heavy privilege.” – Rebecca Stanley, from I Choose My Neighbors

I am thankful for all the blessings and the lessons in my life, especially people like Rebecca who keep going—humbly, authentically, as a shining light and inspiration.

I am grateful for her.

For this: to remind me to remove my motherhood blog before my kidlets were knowing enough to Google it… where I meant no harm in writing about them, where I tried to be funny and helpful… but I would no doubt have to learn a hard lesson when something I wrote from a place of my lens, my perception was tainted by young motherhood, insecurity and lack of so many things— that could have harmed two of the most important people in my world.

I know now, about that.  Keep learning. Keep changing. We keep going and doing better when we know how.

And we #justkeepmovingforward.

Learn more about Rebecca and Blueprint 58:

“We believe that communities can be restored through building mutually transformative relationships. Our approach keeps the individuals that make up the community at the center of what we do. Through spending time, sharing laughs, and engaging culture, we open up ourselves to other opportunities to partner with and empower the community we are now active members of.“

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