The Waking Up Series

March 1, 2012


I lean against the headboard, laptop and late night my company, lights dim. I’m traversing mental whimsies, and snicker when I imagine a character thinking he can achieve enlightenment simply by waking up early in the mornings, as a practice. “Waking up to embody Waking Up,” I think. “That’s cute.”

I’m still snickering, when I hear in my head, “Well…why not?” Why not practice something physical to find something spiritual, or cerebral, or emotional…some parallel experience by which we can compare another experience for better understanding how to maybe bring it about.


My new blog project is conceived, just like that in the late night and solitude. A 30-Day project about waking up, stories and experiences and guest posts. “My, the topic is so broad, anyone can relate,” I think. I start reaching out to people to open the conversation, asking them to be a part of my experience. I jot down memories and story ideas that illustrate examples of waking up. …But along the way, I start thinking, “My, the topic is so broad, I wonder how anyone will relate. I guess I’ll write stories about my experience, invite others to do the same, and people can follow along if it speaks to them.” I make a contributor calendar and set a start date.

A Swerve the Size of A Continent

I hear a fantastic radio story on “This American Life.” It’s about a guy, a normal dude, who looks so much like this other guy who’s running for president, that he shaves his beard, buys a suit jacket and starts showing up places to feel the rush of the Obama-for-President experience. It’s a story about the way up, the way down, it’s a story about the way people look at you, and about racism, and about hatred by proxy. It’s human and heartfelt, and more shocking by the minute. By the time it’s over, my blood boils, my skin sparks, and I can’t stop wishing, once again, that I could find a conversation-in-progress about racism, buried deep in the recesses of the ways we think and feel and fear, specifically racism quiet or loud in the American electorate, in Congress, staunching the yeses and swaying the no’s, on the House floor, in living rooms, and in the darkness of the never-said but leaking out to the surface in action, inaction, refusal to be led by a Black man.

I’m still boiling when I fire up email and reply to a Waking Up contributor asking for clarification. I let it rip. I don’t know her politics, but off I go, spewing like a geyser, connecting an example of waking up to what I just heard, to allowing different conversations into one’s life, to examine how he or she feels and thinks, and to question if it is fairly serving self and community. I hit send.

I don’t hear from her for a week, till I email her again and apologize for my outburst, and for connecting it to the project between us when I don’t know what she feels, where she stands. Politics, everyone knows, is not for polite company. And heck, I’m the one asking for her contribution here. I’m a jerk. I welcome her to vent anger in reply. I ask for forgiveness. I hit send.


What I get back blows me and my little Waking Up project into the stratosphere. She takes time to tell me her experience, her observations, her profound and profoundly calm assessment of the same things I have been spewing about, whether certain No’s would be simple Yeses if the man were not Black, if certain classes of poor would vote against their economic interests if they were being led by a fair skinned leader.

I finish reading the email and my idea to write introspective stories about personal consciousness, on the path to individual waking, seem tiny in comparison. Then my bell gets rung even louder. I sense, through the clanging of it: this project is not about my personal awakening alone, or others’. It’s about where we wake up and plug it into community. It’s about lighting up our cultural realities with personal possibilities turned outward. It’s about plugging in and flicking awake, like a string of lights down the line, one person and the next, one community coming into consciousness and then the next.

My idea is not new. Religions have been proselytizing for centuries. But it’s not evangelism that powers my exploration. It’s the curiosity of what will happen when we take our own personal revolutions and plug them into the cultural status quo. What then? Even if cultural status quo refers to your personal environment, your family culture, your work place. What happens if you take what’s been waking you, and slip it into a community’s dark edges?

Crack! The lightning of cold meets warm. Current races across the sky. And thunderous conversation roils, about seasons, elements, change.

Building It

That’s the result. That is what we’ll get to. Before then, there are inner miles to explore. I meant to start a 30-Day project today, wherein I wake up at 4am to embody waking up and write about it, toy with metaphors of the physical feeling, see if I can speak the language of wake-up in this way. I will get to that, and will ask for a cohort to wake up with me for that time.

There is road to cover first, however. It’s a road I’m not exactly sure about, but the beginning of which I can see. So today, I step into it. I invite you to walk with me. I’ll post on waking up throughout the month. I’ll publish guest posts. We’ll get out conversations that live in the dark. We’ll retell stories of how the light got in. We’ll follow the yellow brick road. It’s all WONDER after all. And begins today.

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Story Charmer’s Waking Up Series is the month of March in meditation on WAKING UP. What does it mean? What growth does it spur? What wonder and challenge? GUEST POSTS and personal queries will appear here throughout the month. Read all the posts in the series here…

If you’re spurred by what you read, and you want to write a post in reply, email me (hi) at (storycharmer) dot (com).

Join the conversation. Leave a comment. Write a post.

Let’s wake up together.

{ 2 trackbacks }

Conversation or Confrontation: Speak Your Piece, Live Your Peace
March 7, 2012 at 12:59 pm
Sleeping (and Waking) with the Cult of “Not Enough,” by Pearl Mattenson
March 13, 2012 at 12:10 pm

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