My favorite podcast for the last six months or so has been The Black Guy Who Tips. Rod and his wife Karen co-host the show where they talk about world events in an unapologetically progressive and unapologetically black way. They discuss news and pop culture. Their insights are often incredibly incisive and it has been cathartic, particularly in the current political climate, to have someone voicing what feels like my perspective. The show is also incredibly funny! It has several recurring segments including “fucking with black people”, “guess the race”, and everyone’s favorite “white people news” where they often just read the headlines of pop stars and actresses that are furnished by the paparazzi. The last segment of the show is always “sword ratchetness”, because sword violence is a real issue, you guys!
After all of the upsetting news, racial tension, bad puns, and media-based hilarity is over the show ends simply with Rod saying “Until next time, I love you!” To which Karen responds “I love you!” and in unison: “Mwah” (the kissing noise). It doesn’t matter how frustrating the events they’ve just discussed were, there is something calming, reassuring, and grounding about that little act of affection from total strangers. It just never sucks to be told that you’re loved.
If you follow me on Twitter (@derricklweston) or are my Facebook friend, you’ve probably noticed that for the last 13 nights, usually between the hours of 11-12:30, I have been posting nightly affirmations. In them, I always include the words “I love you”. The astute observer may have even recognized that I began doing this on the night of the inauguration.
Now let me stop right here for a second. In case I have in some way been too subtle about this fact, I want to make something perfectly clear: I am not a huge fan of the current administration. I am not a fan of the methods they used to get elected. I am not excited about their vision for the country. I have not approved of any person who has been chosen to a cabinet position or an advisory position. I think that much of what is happening in our government right now is highly immoral and I feel that it is the responsibility of every citizen who is paying attention to speak out about what we’re seeing and resist the administration in any and every feasible way.
So, yeah… just in case that wasn’t clear.
I got ready for bed on inauguration night with a sense of impending doom. It was also a sense of powerlessness. As I sat on the side of my bed, I had this overwhelming feeling to just hug everyone I knew and say “we’re going to get through this. And if we don’t get through this, I want you to know that I love you”. So, I eliminated nineteen words from that thought and simply tweeted out “I love you!” Or maybe it was “Hey, I love you!” The response was a lot of “Thanks!” and “I love you too!”. It was nice. It really never sucks to be told that you’re loved. The next night was the women’s march and my house was buzzing with positive energy. I felt hopeful. I felt inspired. I felt that even if this wasn’t the beginning of a long term movement, there was a temporary shout of “No!” from all four corners of the world and I was down with that! It was also the day that Sean Spicer made his debut and that Orange Julius (I can’t take credit for that one) started lying about the size of his inauguration crowd. Again, I felt compelled before bed to throw an “I love you!” out into the world, both in support of those who had made their voices heard and in defiance of the voices that would present “alternative facts”.
The next days were filled with terrifying news, executive orders, ridiculous cabinet confirmations, and more alternati… lies. The ground of our democracy is shifting. People are scared. People are stressed. I am scared and stressed. Yet each night, after I’ve said goodnight to the kids, decompressed, and maybe had a drink or two, I realize that we got through another day and that we have to continue to encourage each other through this fight. So, I condense what I hope are some uplifting thoughts into 140 characters or less and I tell my community that I love them. It seems to help.
I don’t own this in any formal way, but I have to accept that in some small way, part of my ministry is a digital chaplaincy. I didn’t ask for that, but I have been told that is a service I provide for people. It’s a non-sectarian ministry of encouragement, inspiration, and permission-giving, Permission to be sad, angry, depressed, outraged as well as jubilant, silly, and irreverent. I have a big social media community and I take nurturing it very seriously. There are people in my life about whom I care very deeply yet I have never met them IRL. And I have many friendships where the barrier of small talk has been removed thanks to our online sharing. I take all of this very seriously. I have many friends who have decided to step away from social media since the election and more so since the inauguration. They have every right to do so, especially if it means caring for their mental and spiritual health. For me, an introvert who happens to really love people, this is my way of staying connected.
In my last post, I talked about not wanting to sound alarmist in my reflections about what is going on in the world. I echo that sentiment here, yet I can’t fight the feeling of what Dr. King called “the urgency of now”. My friend Aaron posted these words on his Facebook page this morning: Someone recently noticed that I say “I love you” a lot to a lot of people. The person asked why. I said because I know what it is like to have not said it and then someone is gone. Again, I’m sure that seems extreme, but these strike me as extreme times. I don’t want to leave anyone in my community questioning whether or not they are loved. I don’t want to miss any opportunity to encourage someone who may be feeling the slightest bit world weary. I don’t want to regret not telling my network how much they mean to me.
I hope that my saying it each night doesn’t cheapen it. I hope to not sink to the level of cliche or platitude. I hope that my words are matched with actions. I hope that I get to say it to you face to face. I think we all need to hear it. When we’re scared, when we’re overwhelmed, when we’re confused, when we’re frustrated, when we feel totally lost…
It just never sucks to be told that you’re loved.