Carol Delmonico introduced me to Liz at a Stoke Your Woke event at the library and recommended her to this project right then and there. Not even two weeks later we were diving deep into it in her office. Liz is fiery and really fun to talk with. She's got a lot on her heart and mind and is putting really positive energy and good work out into the world. Our interview ended up being quite a bit more conversational than many others have been. If you listen to the audio, you'll hear a bit more of our back and forth than I transcribed. The main course is below, though, so you'll get a fair portion even if you choose to read. Liz tells it like it is. I like that. I come from Maine and maybe I'm romanticizing it or suffering from some nostalgia, but talking with Liz brought me back there. High-five, Liz! I'm looking forward to talking with you again and again.
Who are you and how would you describe yourself?
I am a daughter, a mother, sometimes a sister, a partner, and a library employee. In that order of importance, maybe. I value all those parts of myself and I'm happy to have all those parts working together.
What matters to you? What motivates you?
That's a toughie 'cause I can tell you what doesn't motivate me. What's important to me is space to be creative, making sure that my family is happy and healthy. Friendships are something I value greatly. And I think as I've gotten older, I've come to value my health. Because my health was something I took advantage of when I was younger and now, as I age, it's like, Oh, I should have valued that sooner.
What doesn't motivate me is money. I am lucky to have a job that I really, really love. And I'm surprised I get paid to do it because it's so much fun (laughs). And I get such satisfaction and validation through my work. So, I guess that's important to me, too - is to be validated by the people who I work for and with and by my family and friends. But I guess that means that I'm a yes person or that I like that affirmation. And I think everybody does. And maybe I like it more than the average person. (Laughs) I like to be affirmed that I'm doing good work. I do like spotlight. I mean, I think it's part of the reason why I'm good at my job and it's part of the reason my first marriage collapsed. Because there wasn't enough spotlight for both of us - my ex-husband liked a lot of spotlight, too - and there just wasn't enough to go around. That sounds so me, me, me and that's not so great, but I think it's an honest response. I'm not gonna pretend that that spotlight sometimes doesn't feel good. I also try to shine the spotlight on other people through my work and my family.
What concerns you or what gives you a heavy heart?
Right now, just about every thing. You know, every day I wake up and it's like, What fresh hell will we read about today? I'm really concerned about the environment right now - the wildfires and is this our new normal? Or is it gonna get worse? Or, it's gonna get worse. And what's that gonna look like for my kids? My oldest son has already told me - he's like, I'm not having kids. And I'm thankful. I don't like to think about generations to come of our descendants having to deal. Dystopian literature is my very favorite - post-apocalyptic lit is my very favorite genre - but I don't want to experience that and I don't want anybody I love to have to experience that.
I am extremely concerned about a woman's right to agency over her body. My mom's only sister died two years before I was born - 10 years before Roe vs. Wade - from a illegal abortion gone wrong. And the ripple effects that her death had on my mom's family just makes that an unacceptable... that is a non-starter for me to even think about that law - Roe vs. Wade - being rolled back, repealed. So, that's scary to me.
The amount of gaslighting that's going on in our country right now. Saying one thing and making it be like it's your fault or You didn't hear that right - it's just crazy. I think that a lot of people don't know where to land on these conflicting points of view and it's thrown us all into this blender. And it's very, very worrisome.
I worry about my kids being lonely. My youngest boy's going off to college next year and I'm like, Is he gonna have any friends? Is he gonna live in the dorms? Is he gonna be lonely? And my oldest boy is 25, lives in Portland, and is really adulting in all the right ways. But I worry about him, too. So, concern for my kids.
I feel heavy-hearted a lot of the times. And a lot of the days go by and like, Ugh, how are we gonna get out of this? What's gonna give us hope? But that is weird in itself… that some people - and I'm related to some - people think that this is fine, that this is great, like Make America Great Again. They're on board with that. And I've come to the realization that there are just two different ways of looking at the world. You know? I try. I do try and I struggle with trying. And I read all the articles about how you should talk to people with a different point of view and listening to them and I try. But that's a struggle. And when you have people on both sides with that strong ideology, what can you talk about in the middle?
There's only so much value in talking about weather and sports and now, even in all of those conversations... you can't talk about weather without bringing in climate change and you can't talk about sports without talking about taking a knee. What's the point of talking about the bullshit anyways? Let's just get down to it.
Right. Except I think people need practice in talking civilly about things they disagree on... Maybe that's where we can talk about issues - is just saying, I understand what you're saying. I understand how you feel about this issue, but I... And I think that empathy of putting yourself in their position and saying, I get what you're saying and I understand why you feel that way, I just feel this way and I want you to hear me and what I'm saying and understanding my point of view. And we just don't do that anymore. Because I think that people have come to believe that by saying, I understand what you're saying that there's some slippery slope. That by saying, I understand means the next thing - I'm gonna agree. I don't think that's the case. It doesn't have to be the case. But I think that's where people are. If I understand you, that means (laughs) next stop on the train is I agree. And I don't think that's true.
What do you mean to each other, person to person?
I guess it depends on the relationship, but I think as human beings, we all mean survival to each other. We rely on each other for our food, for our safety, for our well-being, for our health. We rely on other people. So, I think we mean everything to each other. And I think every person contributes to that. And then person to person, so I guess it depends on the relationship you have with that person. But I think globally, we mean survival to one another. We're all on the same planet. At some point, we all should be accountable to one another. To how it's gonna go down or not go down.
Are we, though? Are we accountable?
No. I don't think so at all. We certainly don't demonstrate that through how we treat each other or how we treat the planet. And this is something that's always gotten under my skin just a little bit. Some people don't have the ability to spool out the end game. Like, we cannot live on a planet that's seven degrees warmer. I always felt this way about Dick Cheney who was so invested in the oil industry - fossil fuels. I'm like, Do you not care about your grandkids? It doesn't seem that they do. Are they so profit... or do they have a bunker somewhere that I don't know about (laughs) or what? The money makes people do crazy things and not care about what's coming up - what's gonna happen. Am I just a doomsday-er? (Whispers) Possibly. I don't like to be. I like to consider myself an optimist, but boy, it's been hard. It's been hard recently.
What does community mean to you?
I think community is this lovely web of people that I can rely on and that can rely on me. Multiple different communities in my life are important - my community of my friends, my community at my work, my family is a community. It can tighten up and support you when things aren't going well. And knowing that, I can't imagine the loneliness of not having a community. It makes me feel so not out there on my own. In addition to my marriage, which is a small community (laughs), those communities that surround me are critical in keeping me balanced and happy. And I hope I do the same for the people in my communities.
Why does social injustice exist - a person putting their needs above someone else's? What are we meant to do about it? A bunch of energy goes into all the different particular injustices, but it's like whack-a-mole. Work on one and another one pops up. What is your role in that?
All the groups that lose... we all lose rights, we all lose agency. There's one group that's not losing. And I think you can look back from the few first upright-walking humanoids and that it's about power and it's about status. And those two things only happen when somebody loses those two things. And I think that idea of winner and losers is something that's evolved with us, sadly. And I don't know what my role in it is. After the election, my husband and I were having dinner with our son and we started talking about things, you know, What are you willing to do? What matters to you most? And what are you willing to go the mat for? We had some discussion and we each came up with one thing. Like, your gonna go to jail. And Owen, my son, is like, I better start saving my allowance for bail money.
So, I don't know what the role is. I think the core of the problem is systemic and you gotta get that fixed before you can deal with the whack-a-mole situation. But the problem is fixing that that makes the whack-a-mole problem - they're the winners right now; they're the people in power; they're the people with the money - and they don't have any desire - this is my opinion - the majority of them, they like where things are. So, I think the rest of us are left to play whack-a-mole. And it is frustrating and scary. I also think that part of the game here is that they keep us at odds playing the whack-a-mole. Like, black lives matter more. No, women's rights matter more. You know, as long as they can keep us divided on our issues, they'll just let us fight it out. It was that way with the Suffragettes. It was that way in the early civil rights movement. Are we gonna be part of the system and try to change it from within or are we gonna try to tear it down? So, you had women on both sides of that in the '20s. And they were super happy about it because as long as they were fighting, they got to maintain the control. I just read Handmaid's Tale, can you tell (laughs)? Yeah, I think as long as they keep us fighting each other for whack-a-mole time, that gives them cover to maintain the status quo, which is terrible.
We're fighting all of our known history. And I imagine someone has been since there's ever been a first loser. And I just wonder what do I, personally - as the creator of this project or all the roles I play in my life - what do I actually think is gonna happen if I have all of history to look at? What is the example that I have that would show me any sign that hope is even a word? I know that is very sad and heavy, but what is it that we're hoping for?
For me anyway, after this last election, I think I was willing to sort of tolerate a certain amount of... not tolerate, but not freak out about a certain amount of losses. ‘Cause it did feel like we were moving forward. That I always just assumed that progress was a thing. We started here and we are just gonna keep moving. But I think, as a culture, it's more cyclical. And the idea of going backwards to me is so unfamiliar. Why would somebody want to go back and take away something that we've had as a society? I don't get that. I don't get it. But progress doesn't look the same, I guess, for all people. Taking the things away that these people didn't think we should have had in the first place is acceptable. I don't agree with that. I think I did have hope that we were on the right track. I was completely blindsided by this whole election. I am a political animal. I've been a political animal for ever. My family always has huge debates over politics. At this time in my life, I wish I wasn't so tuned-in to what was going on politically. 'Cause it would be nice to just shut it off. And I think maybe a lot of people do - at our peril. But, boy, it would be nice to not be so angsty about it every single day. I don't know where I look to for hope. That's interesting. A lot of your questions are getting to that - where do I go for hope and solace in this space and time?
Do you have a sense of purpose?
Some days. Most days. Yeah, I do have a sense of purpose. I think my sense of purpose is to be a good family member and to do good work. And that good work can occur in different venues, whether it's my job or my home or with friends. Doing good is sort of my purpose. And good isn't necessarily narrowly defined; it can be a lot of different things.
Do you have any language around what a general sense of purpose means?
Yes, I think so. I think purpose is that thing... I don't want to confuse purpose with like a task list. I'm very task-oriented. I like to check things off my list. But purpose is larger than that and does something internally while you're doing something externally. So, doing something with purpose is not just about an activity or an action, but it's about an internal need to fulfill a purpose.
What do you want more of in your life?
Naps. (Laughs) I want more naps. I love napping. Let's be honest. I want more of an ability to not get spun-up about things. So, maybe self moderation. And I want more kindness. And that means globally and personally. I want to be kind to people and kind to myself and sometimes I'm not to either. I can be a little snarky about things and I can beat myself up about things, so a little kindness practice on the personal and the other people plane would be good for me. I would like more of that. Naps and kindness - two awesome ones (laughs).
Do you have anything else that you'd like to put out there?
Yeah. I hope that people will not lose heart. And that's a hard thing to say because that is a daily challenge for me. And that losing of heart is paralyzing, exactly what you said. It makes you hunker down in your own little bunker and forget about the wide world out there of which we are all part of. I don't know. It is such a confusing time. Can we go back and talk about the spotlight? I'm feeling a little awkward about the spotlight comments (laughs). I don't know. It's messy. And maybe being human, that's just part of the deal - to be messy. And hopefully the mess isn't fatal. And that there can be a way to tidy up the mess without causing a mess for other people. I don't know. Sad.
Is there anything you'd like to ask me? You can put me on the spot.
What do you want more of in your life?
I don't know what this is - it keeps happening - when someone asks me, I immediately feel like I'm sitting in therapy and I just want to cry. There's something to it...
I want to be able to eek out a living, very modest - I have no wealth aspirations; I find the whole game to be nauseating and extremely shallow and I'm fine that that sounds judgmental - but I need to survive in this system. And I want to do it this way. So, I would like to sort that out before it's too late. But, with that, I wish that people were more willing to not only have this conversation - with whoever, right; on your lunch break or at your family reunion or whenever - get down to it and learn about each other. And I also wish people were more willing to take that in instead of replacing it with all these void-fillers. Like, there's some basic, good ingredients and I think we just need more nourishment. And I get it from this.
Some validation. I could use some validation. Quite honestly, I could use an email from a stranger that was like, "Interesting project." That would be something. That would be a fair place to start. So, I guess I'll answer it with that vulnerability for now.