Thankless Tasks & Wobbly Movement

Nancy doesn’t use crutch words- it has taken me a while to put my finger on what is so elegant about her speech and when my mind lands on this, I feel like I’ve really found the main culprit. But it’s so much more than that- she weaves words (in both English, and Spanish) and makes diplomatic and graceful remarks about what we are trying to do, and how we are trying to do it.

I first met her in a group meeting of returnees- immigrants who had been forced to come back, whether by government or by limitations in the States. I walked into a room full of people that I did not have to explain everything about my journey to. So much was understood; it was a sequence of “what, you too?” over and over again for the entirety of the night. That was my first, small taste of community and I was hooked.

Nancy sat down and chopped bits of raw salmon with me while we exchanged stories- she came from California, and I from Texas. We connected pretty quickly, and after that night, would occasionally email. It seemed like a safe, calm friendship.

The thing is, somehow I ended up involved. I can’t particularly detail the how-to of the transition, but I can tell you that I am deep in the waters of the returnee fight. I am also deep in the waters of trying to find mental and emotional stability- the two don’t always match. In all of this, I feel like Nancy is miles ahead- she has been doing the press, talking the talk, and tackling Goliaths for years. Years where I buried myself in work, and community, and denial, she has spent staring at the monster in the face.

And now, we are trying to work together, this small group of dissonant emotions. I wish I was always steady, but I’m not. My current activism looks a bit like Bambi, learning his first steps. I tumble a lot. I take three steps, and buckle. I am trying to be better. I am making slow progress.

I owe a lot to a lot of people, but I do want to take a second to say how much I owe Nancy and how, the current turbulence of my lack of precise follow through may hurt. I don’t really have an excuse. I am trying. And yet. She has been at it for so long and through so much.

Nobody really talks about what it takes to make change, but I will tell you what I see from this shaky beginning- it is a bit of a mess. Like an orchestra, you are all trying to tune yourself to make something majestic; the tuning feels eternal. You make commitments and you don’t keep them all. Things fall through the cracks. Some things are not done in the best way. You have to surrender your vision to form a vision with everyone, for everyone. Sometimes one person will pull a lot more and sometimes people won’t know that they are pulling. You will get tired. You will be angry. You will cry.

Everyone remembers the big end result- the part where the orchestra finally gets it together and resolves the big build up. Everyone can clap then. But what we forget is how messy and lonesome and thankless the practice can be.

I don’t have any solutions to this. I am still learning what it means to be part of a movement and part of a community. Even if I hardly ever save anyone’s world.


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