There’s a lot to be done in this moment in time, but I’m not going to speak to you about politics or organizing. This isn’t because it’s not important, it’s just not my area of expertise. My very wise partner keeps gently reminding me that we all need to do what we can with what we have-- rather than more than is possible from theoretical resources-- which in all honesty is what I’m often inclined to do when I feel a bit lost. This has been a hard pill for me to swallow. It’s left me reeling a bit. I’ve built a life and practice on agency and resiliency, and in all honesty, I feel a bit low on both in this moment.
With that in mind, a small offering on people and fear, because it’s what I can do with what I have as a being that has been fortunate enough to have my life intersect at the crossroads of marginality and healing.
I spend lot of time in my office reminding people that I see them and that they exist. Before we tackle strategies or movement we pause to attend to whatever is right in front of us. Due to the way that we are taught to self-care (or rather ignore this fundamental human need) what is right in front of us is often the challenge, the blockage, the voice that tells us we can’t/shouldn’t move to the next step. Along with rightful outrage, frustration, exhaustion, and anxiety, what is currently looming in front of us is fear.
Here’s the the thing about fear, there is a “dramatic” nature to it, in that we all have a back story to our characters as they are presenting on the world stage at this particular moment in history. This goes for those of that who have jobs that actually put us in a place to face the international community on a policy level and those of us that are trying to decide how to take our place amongst the ranks of social media presence. We’re trying to figure out what our fear is and how it may motivate us, incapacitate us, or dictate our lives in the coming days/months/years.
"We’re trying to figure out what our fear is and how it may motivate us, incapacitate us, or dictate our lives in the coming days/months/years."
On November 7, 2016 at around 10:45pm PST I took a breath, closed my eyes, snuggled my pup in next to me, and laid my head down on my pillow. I knew there would be things to do the next day, but I tried to do what I thought was healthiest, what I would have encouraged my clients do. I’ve clung to this mindful and methodical temperance, in my healing journey and it has served me well. I’ve been lucky enough to live a life with a relatively low mental and emotional burden for someone with my inclination towards high context sensitivities and porousness to the pain of others. I tell you this to let you know the privileged spot that I’m starting at. I’m honored to bear witness to traumatic but inspiring stories of survival daily, and I still manage leave my house every morning with little internal struggle. I’m neither blind to hard things in the world nor have I been stopped in engaging with it.
I wish I could tell you exactly what time I sat straight up with a start, heart beating, breath quickened, as it would add to my drama metaphor, but the rest of the night into the morning was pretty hazy. Unintelligible screaming punctuated by cursing and “New World Order” poured in through the back window that we leave open to enjoy the tiny bit of seasonal weather SoCal musters in November, and by the time I could parse out that the screaming was in celebration not aggression my mind had already gone through the gamut of terrible things that might be about to occur. In that fearful state, we were faced with several decisions: Did I want to hear a neighbor scream back to know that we weren’t the only ones not happy with what just happened? Did we hope that everyone stayed silent as to not aggravate whoever was already in an amped up state? Was everyone hearing what we were hearing or were the screams specifically turned our direction? Do we close the window to drown out the noise, or should we leave it cracked so we could be more aware of what else might be happening in the neighborhood? Were we safer in the back of the house with the animals and us away from any street facing windows? Should we be in the front of the house since it seemed like the majority of the yelling was coming from behind the house? In these few moments should we head out of the neighborhood to a friend or family member’s house or do we just stay put inside?
"Was everyone hearing what we were hearing or were the screams specifically turned our direction?"
This decision making process was stopped only by the jarring explosions of fireworks. Again, very aware that from the privileged place that I sit I could manage to question and then ultimately feel safe that, in fact, fireworks were all that they were.
We ended up staying put, and nothing happened per se, but our sense of safety was forever changed in those moments. Since then, more decisions. Was it still safe to stroll around the neighborhood at 9pm at night for an evening walk after a long day? How about at 8am on a slow weekend? How many times had we strolled past where the yelling was coming from? Were we previously safe because while politically dissonant from us they wouldn’t ever physically hurt us, because we had never run into those neighbors, or because they weren’t previously emboldened to approach us?
"Were we previously safe because while politically dissonant from us they wouldn’t ever physically hurt us, because we had never run into those neighbors, or because they weren’t previously emboldened to approach us?"
If at this moment, you’re not scared, it’s because you probably don’t have to be. If you feel like others are being dramatic, maybe take a moment to put yourself in their back story. None of us who are currently navigating our fears want you to be scared as well, and we’d too like to believe that we are being dramatic. The truth of the matter is though, that fear is real. Real because it is unfortunately being validated in the world events that are playing out around us and because we experience it whether the terrible thing that we’re fearful of actually happens or not. Remember that the fear that people are speaking of on this large scale level is not of politics and policy (although that is undoubtedly scary too), it is fear for the physical safety of ourselves and our loved ones. Remember that for the marginalized communities experiencing the most fear, this isn’t new fear, it’s just exacerbated and validated fear.
"Remember that for the marginalized communities experiencing the most fear, this isn’t new fear, it’s just exacerbated and validated fear."
If at this moment, you’re scared, you have every right to be. I don’t want you to be incapacitated by it, but I also don’t want you to ignore it/silence it. Let’s not bully ourselves in the same way that we have been victim to the bullies that make us fearful. Let us be the kind nurturing balanced caretakers that we may or may not have had growing up. Attend to your fear, find compassion for the requests that it is making. You may not be able to give it everything that it is currently demanding but you can remind your fear that you see it, that it is valid, that it exists, and that you’re going to move forward with the intention of you both being safe.
In love and safety,