• Kenzie Gandy

Cultures Connecting Team's New Year Reflections



Dearest Community,


Thank you for your passion and unwavering commitment to social justice this past year. We want to say 2020 was a year like none other, but that sounds cliché at this point. Here are some reflections from our team as we look back and look forward.

ILSA


Struggles: As COVID-19 spread and distancing became the norm, I experienced a level of anxiety and depression well beyond any I had been through to this point. I am a natural extrovert and feed off of the energy of friends, family, and workshop participants. I’ve vacillated between wanting to go deep into the root of my emotions, really feeling all that comes up for me, to wanting and often needing to cover my emotions with anti-depressants and distractions. I miss hugging my friends and family and become extra stressed when I see others ignoring the warnings of the CDC and posting pictures of travel to Mexico or indoor gatherings. I recognize my response to the actions of others is a combination of wanting a sense of control, feeling jealous, and genuine caring for the health of our larger community. I’m trying to remember to channel my fear and anger into breathing.


Realizations: I have deeply internalized Capitalism and derive far too much of my sense of self-worth from feeling “productive”. When our work slowed down to a near stop in March, I made long to-do lists and felt guilty for resting. I began to recognize a pattern in my life where I become depressed when I have a slower work week or even when I’m on a vacation that doesn’t involve some daily busy-ness. I can easily fall into a shame cycle where I want to do more but have very little energy, shame myself for not doing enough, then feel paralyzed by the shame, thus doing less and making things worse. I’ve begun to recognize other options, such as, you know, taking a nap when I feel tired.


Restorations: With this summer’s surge of the Black Lives Matter Movement in response to the assassinations of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, I witnessed the uprising of support for racial justice. In the midst of what many are referring to as the Great Awakening, I found myself able to engage my community again in a way that gives me hope. I was able to use my particular skillset to connect with hundreds of White people in virtual caucus spaces. I’ve partnered with Richard, Jerod, and Caprice to serve many organizations who are starting or deepening their work to address institutional racism and White supremacy. I marched with over 60,000 people in Seattle and joined regular Peace Peloton bike rides. I’ve been listening to the Resistance Revival Chorus on repeat. Rekindling my love of letter writing as a way to connect to my friends and family, I also found joy in joining the Vote Forward campaign and writing 100s of letters to encourage people to vote in the elections. As I utilize new tools to care for my physical and mental health, I am more cautious about falling into the trap of “should-ing” myself when I’m not busy. I remind myself that while there’s always more I could do, what I’m doing is enough.


Celebrations: My biggest celebration of 2020 is the fact that Tilman Smith and I submitted our book to our publisher, New Society Press, this month! We have so many people to thank for their participation and support of this work and can’t wait for you all to read What’s Up with White Women when it comes out next fall.

CAPRICE


Struggles: I deeply struggle with how much pain and hurt our world is experiencing right now. This has always been difficult for me, even as a child, but everything is amplified right now. So many deaths due to COVID. The thought of losing a loved one and not being able to be surrounded with the love and support of family and friends makes my heart ache each time I hear another story, sometimes more than one loss in a family. Children and youth are missing their friends, people are isolated and alone, losing their jobs and homes. I also struggle with the hatred, the divide, the lack of empathy. How did Black Lives Matter becomes All Lives Matter? How can we have 545 Latinx children still in cages? How can we ignore the experiences of our Indigenous brothers and sisters and siblings? How is it possible that in 2020 racism is so alive and well? Heavy Sigh.


Realizations: I realize what I’ve always known, there is so much to be done. I want to “fix” things from the way they’ve always been to something new, something better. But I can’t, not alone, and certainly “I” can’t change the world. I’ve always been a fixer it’s why a became a psychologist. I thought I could fix my family. There is a quote I’ve always loved that reminds me of the need to continually work on myself.


“When I was young and free and my imagination had no limits,

I dreamed of changing the world.

As I grew older and wiser, I discovered the world would not change,

so I shortened my sights somewhat and decided to change only my country.

But it, too, seemed immovable. As I grew into my twilight years,

in one last desperate attempt, I settled for changing only my family, those closest to me,

but alas, they would have none of it. And now as I lie on my deathbed, I suddenly realize:

If I had only changed myself first, then by example I would have changed my family.

From their inspiration and encouragement, I would then have been able to

better my country and, who knows, I may have even changed the world.”

–Unknown Author


Realization, I still have time. Realization, we are in the midst of a Civil Right Movement. Realization, there are so many people out there like me, fighting for change. Realization, there is hope. Realization, we are making history right now, in this moment. Realization, I am a part of it.


Restoration: Again, nothing new, but this opportunity to reflect on my life reminds me of the need to recommit to eating healthier, exercising, spending quality time with my family, and friends, and so many other things that that truly make me feel good about myself. When I take care of myself not only do I feel better, but I have more to give to others.


Celebrations: For the past 3 years I’ve been jokingly telling people if I were to ever get a tattoo, it would say “grace and gratitude”. I feel such an immense sense of gratitude for all the blessing in my life. As I reflect on how far I’ve come, I can’t help but thank God for so many things. This year I’ve accomplished a lot of things from my “vision board”. I don’t really have one, but things I’ve hoped to accomplish have been in my thoughts. In June we moved into our dream home. In November I did my first Tedx Talk. Our youngest daughter Makena graduated from Holy Names and started Seattle University this fall. I finally finished my book, though not published yet. These are just a few of the many things I am grateful for not to mention another year of good health, loving family and supportive friends, and twelve years with an amazing business partner, Ilsa.


Happy Holidays: May 2021 greet you with health, peace, and joy in your life. Throughout the year, may you be surrounded with friends, family, and community who love and support you. May you find economic and spiritual prosperity. May you greet 2021 with a commitment to being a part of the change you want to see in the world.

RICHARD


Struggles: 2020 has been a year of being okay with not being okay. My wife works at a hospital and has lived with the day-to-day stresses of working in healthcare in the midst of a highly contagious global pandemic. My work often requires that I model genuine curiosity and vulnerability (virtually) which requires a lot of energy I didn’t have. My wife and I have both stressed about how much this year is impacting our two sons and on our extended family. I have had family members who were laid off, no longer make a living wage, and several who have contracted COVID. I have always played the role of caretaker in my family and there were many times I felt stretched thin without any time or space to escape. I have done a lot of stress eating, and consumed too many sweet rewards for making it through a tough day.


Realizations: I am really bad at self-care. I can say this because self-care has been a challenge even before 2020. I stay up too late, spend too many hours on screens, eat horribly, and don’t exercise enough. In the past, many of these habits were masked by work and travel. Working from home and caring from our two sons has amplified these bad habits. I feel especially ashamed when I see that my kids are learning to accommodate my habits. My oldest tells me to not stay up too late before he goes to bed and my youngest brings me my eye glasses and my phone in the morning.


Restorations: I have been deeply appreciative of being able to work on an amazing team doing something I am passionate about. Our team has been invited to facilitate listening sessions and caucus groups throughout this year and I have invited me to be more reflective and affirming of my Asian American identity. I have appreciated the opportunities to foster spaces that deepen awareness, acknowledge fears and anxieties, and facilitating spaces lead to healing and renewed hope. This has been truly lifegiving work in a stress filled season.


Celebrations: I have been returning to gratitude a lot these last few weeks. I have had a lot of family and friends who have been negatively impacted by the economic impacts of the pandemic. I am grateful for having a job and being able to offer financial support to family and friends. It has been almost two and a half years now working at Cultures Connecting. Having a working relationship with organizations and being able to support them this past year has been affirming for me. I am grateful for a team that has navigated the challenges of transitioning from 100% in person to 100% virtual. I am grateful to feel more confident in my work. Caprice and Ilsa have been incredible mentors and colleagues. Especially given the year we’ve had, I have been especially grateful for the Cultures Connecting Family (Caprice, Ilsa, Jerod and Kenzie) who has been a community that continues to learn, grow and celebrate together.

KENZIE


Struggles: Graduating during a pandemic was obviously challenging but more specifically because of a shift in my access to resources, a change in environment/regular routine (went back home in May when the first stay-at-home order was placed), staying motivated to finish with many of the senior celebrations I was looking to being canceled, and general stress/anxiety from being in a pandemic. I’m very thankful to have the support system of my family to rely on when I needed to vent or advice on how to navigate something.


Staying connected and grounded has been a struggle for me through this pandemic. Given that most of my time is spent inside now I have spent way more time on social media than I should be. This was a way (to a certain extent) for me to feel connected to people I know but it turned into me wasting a lot of my time, giving my energy/time to the wrong things/people, and left me feeling ungrounded. Given that I just graduated, many of my friends are now in different states so I’ve been challenged to find new ways to connect with loved ones and friends.


Realizations: My perspective and relationship to work has really begun to shift in this pandemic which I am thankful for so early in my work life. I’ve had a few office jobs and now I get to work remotely which is really great for where I’m at personally. I have seen the ways different organizations have responded to the call for remote work and how doable it really is. This pandemic has really reminded me of the value of my time and how much of my work days are often not spent working. This has been a wake-up call for me to be much more intentional with how I spend my time when I’m working so that I’m more efficient which then allows me to do even more things that I enjoy/keep me grounded.


Restorations: I have a refreshed desire to make my health my priority in this new year. I didn’t realize how much I was neglecting myself in certain areas until I really slowed down after graduating and being at home so much more. This goes for mental, physical, spiritual as they’re all extremely important but some more than others depending on the day.


Celebrations: I recently started learning ASL! It’s been really great for me to use my brain for something other than school. This has been something I’ve been able to learn along with one of my close friends and has inspired me to look into ASL interpretation. I’m finding new ways to express myself creatively via yoga, painting, cooking, etc. I’ve never really considered myself to be a creative person in its traditional sense as I’m Type A. This year has opened my eyes to the fact that I am indeed a creative being as we all are! It’s felt so good to exercise this muscle with an open mind and heart.

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