(Editing to add: The lens I predominantly write from is one that intends to be BIPOC affirming, though I understand intent does not always correlate to supportive impact. I am open to clarification of biases I may reveal in my writing. Blunt responses are welcome here.)
Hi all. It’s become shockingly clear that we have a number of long-smoldering fires here in the US. If we *only take a brief moment from inside my head to prune the tallest sunflowers, so to speak…
- Systematic, blind, pervasive and enduring conscious and unconscious racism
- Inept, corrupt, exploitative leadership–who, quite frankly as a good friend pointed out is benefiting *EXACTLY from the foundation our politicians have set up for him and others like him
- A school system that’s in an adrenaline-fueled rush to retrofit something that will keep the most vulnerable students from suffering even more than they already have been
- A new virus in our global population and the politicization of our response
I’ll stop there. There are some positive things happening right now too, but those are not the topic of this writing. People like positive stories, of course!
This is a post about accountability for our own contributions to the balance of positivity and negativity; and balance is a bit of a throwaway word these days, since it’s taken on varied meanings since the suite of wellness industries co-opted it.
Right now a lot of us are angry. Sad. Disillusioned. Afraid. Numb. Agitated. Generally unhappy and working hard to stay in our centers. Most of us were tapped out before our current status. And some more than others.
Any of these current affairs can be thought of as very old fires that we have more or less protected and kept smoldering over the years and generations. Our practices and policies and everyday behaviors have served to keep these coals alive and well.
Every so often these flare up. A quick peek at comprehensive history confirms this. If it’s happening, we’ve been here before. Maybe not during our lives, but in the life of our history and our country and our world, not much is new.
We struggle. And we strive. And sometimes we thrive, even if for moments before we’re back into struggle.
Every individual struggle is different. Some of us struggle with the integrity of our minds, the health of our physical bodies, and our relationships with people, places, community and things. And then we can subtract food, housing, economic security, emotional/social support, physical safety, and water.
Some of us have all of these and some in abundance. But we may not be able to feel that because we don’t know any different. OR, we may not be able to feel that because we DO know different, we have been there, and we know what it took to get out of that place where basic needs were unmet. And there is no way in hell we’re going back, if there’s anything we can do about it. And that desire to stay out of our past keeps us in a state of rippling stress.
And it’s important to acknowledge that our systems perpetuate this. The fine line between enough food and housing is always at risk to be yanked away by policy makers who have never been hungry.
These very different histories that fuel our behaviors can show up so similarly in our emotional and behavioral landscapes, because while our brain stem knows when we are on the brink of starvation, our amygdala alerts us to the faintest idea of starvation on the horizon. And we just may shunt into fight, flight, or freeze from there…or a combination of all of these.
Shaming doesn’t help. Entitlement wars aren’t helping. The inability to understand any other person’s reaction to the stressors we are facing won’t help.
I think, in the end, we must be as thoughtful as we can be. We have to slog through our emotional reactions, because those are real and must be handled with care. We must take care of ourselves.
And then we must look around. Who is slogging knee deep and who is gasping for air? And please don’t make the peer shaming “just stand up” reference for those who are up to their eyeballs. Whether it’s accurate and true or not is not the point. If a person up to their eyeballs could stand up and join you at knee deep, they would have already.
This is a time to be mindful what fires you are throwing sticks on. What are you fueling? How many sticks do you have to spare? And are you putting them in the place you need to? For you? For your community? For your family and circles?
Some of us are really dumping our bundles. May I suggest that you consider sparing your own energy for the days ahead? And if you don’t know how, there are many ways to re-center. Many ways. You know yourselves very best. And please give that grace to others. We will never understand what another person is going through, has gone through, and what is compelling them to cope the way they are.
No matter how much you disapprove, that is not yours to judge. But we will. It’s what we do. It’s far easier to throw a few sticks onto that, especially if we have extra sticks to throw. That’s about all I can say about us right now.