Welcome to the Party

This post is an excerpt from Season 2, episode 16 of Shelter in Place Podcast: Welcome to the Party.

I’ve always loved a good party. 

It’s been a long time since I went to a party, and even longer since I had a reason to throw one. 

This past week was Shelter in Place’s official launch date with Hurrdat Media, something that has been in the works for nearly eight months. After working mostly alone for most of the past year, we’re growing. We hope this partnership will expand our community. Still, it didn’t feel right to throw ourselves a party. It’s a difficult time for our nation. It’s been a hard year for many of us personally, too.

A family member recently asked me what my word was for 2021. I wasn’t sure how to answer. I couldn’t get past 2020. My word for that year was ambivalent. I can’t remember a time in my life when I felt so intensely the struggle between gratitude and despair. Some days I was full of hope and a sense of abundance; other days I moved through a fog of depression.

Shelter in Place began with the pandemic when my life was falling apart. Even on that first day I knew I had a decision to make: would I reach out or shut down? I decided to take one small step and start a daily podcast that I thought would just last a few weeks. After decades of being paralyzed by perfectionism, I’d let good enough be good enough. I had no idea that I was about to embark on the adventure of my life. 

Ten months and 116 episodes later, almost everything has changed. I thought I was doing creativity as catharsis in those early days of the pandemic, but it turns out I was rewriting life. What began as my “little project” has launched us across the country, changed my vocation as well as my husband’s, and sparked an apprenticeship program where we’re passing along what we’ve learned to seven remarkable young women. No one is more surprised than me that we are where we are now. 

This is not to say we’ve arrived. We have a long way to go before anyone would accuse us of being a financial success. Our move across the country was prompted at least in part by the very real urgency of needing a lower cost of living. There are still many days that feel very hard. Most days, we are very, very tired.

But if this past year has taught me anything, it’s that the best medicine for despair is serving and celebrating others–that when I feel isolated and lonely, I don’t have to reach far to remember that I’m not alone. When our country’s political division feels hopeless, I remember all of the incredible conversations I’ve had with people on both sides of the aisle. Those conversations have given me vision for what’s possible.

So this past week, we decided that we’d throw a party not for ourselves, but for every person who has given us something to be grateful for this past year: the more then 60 artists, activists, and thinkers who have shared their work and lives with us, the listeners who left us reviews and become patrons to help us continue, and all of the people we hope will find us this year and receive the podcast as the gift it’s designed to be.

For obvious reasons, we can’t all be together right now. We can’t congregate around a snack table, pile onto the dance floor, or clink glasses of champagne. But that’s why we created Shelter in Place in the first place–to build a virtual shelter where we can laugh, cry, commiserate, and dream; where we can better understand our differences and share the good things that are still happening; where we can create a space where we all feel at home.

We’ve opened our doors to you because you helped us build this house. Without you, I never would have had the courage to take this leap into the unknown. I certainly wouldn’t still be making episodes. We want each and every one of our listeners, supporters, guests, and friends to know just how grateful we are. We hope that as you listen, you feel celebrated and blessed. So come inside, the party has just started.

Coming Together in a World That Pulls Us Apart

Introducing Karma Compass’s newest partner, Shelter in Place, a podcast about coming together in a world that pulls us apart.

Yesterday my husband Nate and I spent the better part of the day in the Emergency Room. Our 3-year-old Mattéa had gotten into my father-in-law’s blood pressure medication, and so after a call to poison control, we headed to the hospital. 

Thankfully, Mattéa was fine. Actually, she was better than fine. As we walked out of the ER several hours later, she looked up at us and said, “that was fun!” We tried not to glare at her. Apparently our efforts to make her understand how serious the situation was had been a total failure. The ER doc had already warned us that the bill would be several thousand dollars. After a long day of taking turns wrestling our daughter down so she wouldn’t pull off the sticky pads that connected wires to her chest and index finger, we were exhausted. Neither of us had slept well for weeks, and for days, our interactions had become increasingly ragged and terse. This visit to the windowless underworld of the ER was just our latest stop on a pandemic Odyssey that we hadn’t gone looking for. I’ll say more about that in a minute.

But first, I have to say that maybe Mattéa has the right idea. Sure, she’d spent hours hooked up to monitors, and had to sit still and miss her nap. But she’d also made a bunch of new friends who all told her how great she was doing, people committed to making sure that she was okay. The Goldfish crackers and orange juice they gave her didn’t hurt either. For Mattéa, it was all one big adventure.

“Ultimately Shelter in Place isn’t just about where you find safety.

It’s about where you belong.”

It’s easy for me to lose sight of the adventure in my own life–to get shipwrecked by the hospital bills, the bedtime battles, the daily griefs and injustices in the newsreel that no longer surprise me. I forget that even in the hard times, there are all kinds of people–friends and strangers–who are willing and ready to make sure we’re okay, to help steer us in the right direction, to tell us that we’re doing great. I forget that even on the worst days, there’s an adventure to be found if I’m willing to look for it.

And that’s why I’m so excited to partner with Karma Compass, to come together in this effort to have authentic conversations that can make a difference.

That’s what season 2 of Shelter in Place is all about: embracing the adventure we didn’t want, but that we’re on anyway–an adventure that we’re not meant to do alone. It’s about finding people who will offer you safety, shelter, and encouragement when you’re lost and ready to give up. It’s about learning to ignore the siren calls of depression and despair and instead find our way home–even if that home looks a lot different than the one we left behind.

Think of it as a pandemic Odyssey, a long and winding journey that shows us what we’re made of, and beckons us toward hope even when the world feels hopeless. A story that doesn’t ignore the dead ends or detours, but instead celebrates our need to rely on others to help us stay on course. Because ultimately Shelter in Place isn’t just about where you find safety. It’s about where you belong.

Listen to the full Shelter in Place story above.

I’ve Lost the Plot (On the Challenges of Hearing)

I’ve lost the plot, five months into the pandemic. I’m hard of hearing and rely heavily on lip-reading to understand conversations. I’m tired of people telling me that they can’t or won’t accommodate my hearing loss. In this time of social-distancing and mask-wearing it is even more devastating when I cannot lip-read, which accounts for 70-90% of how I’m able to understand anyone speaking to me. 

The casual (+/-callous) dismissal of my inability to access content or communication is painful. The inconvenience of providing captioning in a live video meeting has spotlighted the carelessness of those who can’t be bothered. These people cannot understand the impact on my inability to participate. I’ve been resigned to this for most of my life, but lately, an accumulation of incidents have taken on the tenor of stinging, hornet-like microaggressions. It feels personal in a way that I always ignored or excused before; perhaps in reaction to the ratcheted stress of this mishandled pandemic and the layers of imposed limitations and stressors, singular hornet stings have suddenly coalesced into a swarming nest.

A couple of years ago, I saw the Guggenheim biennial, and the standout work of one artist, Christine Sun Kim, made an immediate, visceral impact. Kim displayed a series of stark, smudged charcoal drawings of acute, obtuse, and right angles titled, Degrees of My Deaf Rage… . The drawings are captioned with the aspects of rage encountered while Deaf. The Obtuse Rage of a video with no closed captions. The Right Rage encountered while working for a graduate degree. The Acute Rage when someone calls instead of texting or emailing. The Cute Rage of accessibility options that don’t coincide with your actual disability.

Le corps humain, structure et fonctions
Edition : Paris : J.-B. Baililère, 1879

It immediately clicked with me. Had I not requested that an agent respond to my email in writing? Was she deficient in reading comprehension? It must be, because she ignored my request, and repeatedly asked me to call her, ignoring my attempts to communicate by email. I was forced to go to LinkedIn and ask the CEO why his representative was unable to accommodate my need to complete a transaction through email instead of a phone call. He conveniently blamed it on the pandemic. Christine Sun Kim did her graduate work at Bard, where I had graduated decades earlier as an undergrad; this tenuous connection served to multiply my appreciation for her work, which precisely pinpointed the welter of emotions seething beneath every. Irritating. Transaction.

But it would be remiss not to discuss the kindnesses I have encountered. When asking for accommodation, I sometimes received it, without further ado, even when it created an extraordinary amount of work and effort, like the podcaster Laura Joyce Davis of Shelter in Place who transcribed hours of interviews she made with writers of a book that I edited. She was willing to help create a connection with unerring grace; she lived up to her commitment to communicate with others. 

A post office clerk was compassionate and kind to me when I told him I was hard of hearing and could not hear him through his mask. He waved a friendly greeting; he wrote me a note to convey information. It was the tiniest of gestures, but it made me feel understood in a way that I haven’t felt understood for a long time. It was the opposite of microaggression. It was microkindness, or microcompassion–the impact of which is not to be dismissed for its apparent smallness.

In many situations, it is not an intentional slight when someone can’t or won’t accommodate my request, and I try to extend the benefit of the doubt when appropriate. I have many privileges in my life: I’m white, educated, and economically stable; these privileges have caused me to reflect on whether I must call out situations related to my partial deafness. And I think I must, to make people aware, so they can extend kindness rather than disregard to those whom they consider other—whatever the situation may be that would require understanding and awareness—whether it is systemic racism and sexism, gender identity awareness, ableism, ageism … the Karmic Compass turns like the wheel of fate; although it may seem self-serving, awareness of others may help shift the balance in your favor. As you put kindness into the world, goodly intent both uplifts others and reflects back upon you.

~Karyn Kloumann, Founder of Nauset Press

Detail “Still Life with Bevier Pots” by Adrienne Cacitti for Living Artist Project