“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence. It is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” — from the epilogue to “A Burst of LIght” by Audre Lorde
This week, within the space of 48 hours, there were two police shootings of African-American men while they were just living their lives, followed by a mass shooting attack on Dallas police at a peaceful Black Lives Matter rally last night.
This was more death and terror than I could handle in such a short amount of time. I couldn’t bring myself to watch either video documenting Alton Sterling’s or Philandro Castile’s murder.
It was enough to know two more African-American men had died at the hands of the police. Something in the network of my nervous system said: “Don’t look.” It’s too close to home. I think about my cousin’s daughters, both married to African-American men. I think about my best friend Rhodessa, an African-American woman whose family is a part of mine. I think about all the African-American women who I work with who are part of my extended artistic family.
I cannot accept that all these people who I love are feeling the pain and terror for their own existence. Fighting for their lives. Their struggle is mine because they are so tightly woven into the fabric of my heart that I must remain present with them. They are me. My heart was sinking.
Yesterday, oddly enough, it was Facebook that saved my sanity. My community was coming up with resources for us to handle what was coming at us. My friend Gloria posted some healing words of advice on her Facebook page, which I shared on mine. My friend Rhodessa posted a link from Colorlines to a compendium of articles on how to cope with and balance out PTSD, called 4 Self-Care Resources for When the World is Terrible.
That same collection includes this piece from the Just Jasmine blog called “Self Care for People of Color After Psychological Trauma.”
The compendium was directed not only at straight, gay and lesbian people of color but also included everyone who has experienced trauma, like this basic primer called “Everything is Awful and I’m Not Okay: Questions to Ask Before Giving Up,” which can be downloaded and printed to keep as a reminder at the cubicle or refrigerator when the shit gets heavy.
Before we judge Lorde’s use of the term “warfare,” the type of war she talks about from “A Burst of Light” is survival as a life struggle and a political struggle. She was struggling with cancer at the time of its writing, and used her struggle with cancer as a metaphor for her community’s struggle with racism.
The cancer of systemic racism is what we see before us as African Americans struggle in an age necessitating a Black Lives Matter Movement. It is also a battle between our spirits and the powers that want to crush them and have been doing slowly over the decades and centuries. Lorde’s words inform this current battle for our individual souls, and the reclamation of our humanity. It’s a battle for a just and peaceful world.
I think with all this separation — tribalism, violence and distrust — we are experiencing a phase in our history where we’re Learning (with a capital ‘L’, as in a Big Lesson) how to re-establish our connection to each other, which starts first with our selves — not with cable news, pundits or opinions as fact on Twitter feeds. With ourselves.
When we re-connect with who and what we are, we aren’t thrown off balance by terror and panic. We don’t give in to hopelessness, fear, despair and loss of spirit. And we don’t march to the drumbeat of tyrants. When we re-connect with the humanity in ourselves we can see the humanity in others. Miracles, like compassion and faith, ensue.
So before re-engaging in political and social battles for economic and social justice, take heed from Just Jasmine’s blog, and listen to yourself this weekend. Refresh yourself. Turn off the television. Make a hunt for beauty. Get lost in a bookstore. Clean your room. The Sun’s in Cancer, dammit!! Cook something wonderful and share it with friends.
This is what Lorde was talking about. Take care of your self. Fight for your spiritual, emotional and physical health. That goes for people of color and all people. Re-establish connection with your body and your relationship to your community. Find beauty in yourself and in others. Look at others on the street and make eye contact to acknowledge you see them. They matter like you matter. We share this world with you.
Fe: i’m grateful for your guidance as I hold on to the connections of which you write. You have aided and abetted me in my exertion of asserting for love as the necessary requisite of peace. You have encouraged me to refuse to be confused. The evidence of your soul, so plainly demonstrated here, has helped me not to give up on the existence of my own.
I am beginning to understand the impact of Saturn on my MC (;-).
We are humming the same planetary tune here at PW. Your article says the same thing from your lens, which keeps me grounded here as well.
This is amazing Fe! I read it after posting an extract from an fb post I just read – and found that you were saying exactly the same thing. As the great Buddhist Vietnamese teacher has always said (who is a political activist, too), everyone harbours hatred and violence in their hearts, as well as love – it’s part of being human. This is why such times as these are a call to knowing our hearts even more deeply, to know our own unnamed violence, too – and to respond to ourselves and the world with as much compassion and love as we can muster. Thanks Fe – as Len indicates, you’re a beautiful, brave soul.
great Buddhist Vietnamese teacher – sorry, forgot his name! Thich Nhat Hanh:
“We often think of peace as the absence of war, that if powerful countries would reduce their weapon arsenals, we could have peace. But if we look deeply into the weapons, we see our own minds- our own prejudices, fears and ignorance. Even if we transport all the bombs to the moon, the roots of war and the roots of bombs are still there, in our hearts and minds, and sooner or later we will make new bombs. To work for peace is to uproot war from ourselves and from the hearts of men and women. To prepare for war, to give millions of men and women the opportunity to practice killing day and night in their hearts, is to plant millions of seeds of violence, anger, frustration, and fear that will be passed on for generations to come. “
I was driving on an expressway, following my husband’s car when a cop pulled up in the lane next to him beckoning him to pull over. I pulled over behind the two of them but the cop motioned me to keep moving on. I had been driving the same speed as my husband was, but my husband was black and I was white. That was my first firsthand encounter with how unjust justice can be regarding race. For the years that followed while he remained in my life many more experiences of such profiling by cops and ordinary citizens made me acutely aware of just how hard it is to be black in America.
You are so right Fe, “we are experiencing a phase in our history where we’re Learning . . .” and normally I would show how astrology describes that process without getting personal. Astrology has for many decades depersonalized those emotions that overwhelm me and everyone else in which we succumb to the tragedy and trauma that life seems to never run short of. Perhaps that’s the reason for why we learned about the stars and their “influence” on our lives so many 100’s of centuries ago. We needed to be able to make sense of the insanity. The BP explosion in the Gulf of Mexico is a good example of how I was able to keep from losing my mind through astrology. Day after day after day of the never-ending ruination of so many lives surely had to have a reason.
This too shall pass into our memory and some of the pain we feel now will fade as most all tragic experiences do. If, however, we can know as the times move forward and new tragedies are layered over the old ones, that there is a reason behind the suffering, it lessens the chance that bitterness will fill the empty spots in our hearts.
I’ve been saying for over a year that our feelings are getting a workout (based on the astrology of things like supermoons and what have you) in order to balance out our lopsided dependency of mind and logic over feeling and intuition and even common sense sometimes. Our emotions are blitzed with the shock of events that defy logic and therein lies their purpose. For us in the USA we could start with the triple transiting conjunction to our U.S. Sibly chart’s Moon by Chiron, Jupiter and Neptune over 6 years ago.
If we accept the premise that this balance between mind and heart is necessary in order to advance our species up the ladder of evolution it won’t ease the pain of these recent events; only time can do that. What it can do is make us aware and that is a learning process. After awareness comes the possible mobilization of group action once our feelings, not just our minds, have been engaged. Everything you have said here about reconnecting with our own humanity and with other people’s humanity is part of that advancement up the ladder.
As transiting Jupiter, the symbol of understanding, approaches his 3rd and final conjunction with the U.S. Sibly chart’s Neptune, the symbol of compassion, and as transiting Hades conjuncts the U.S natal Jupiter, the Cosmos will provide us in the USA ample opportunities to better understand what needs fixing. Transiting Jupiter will make many connections with other planetary symbols as he moves through his 2nd half of that cycle which started with the triple conjunction to the U.S Moon; a new cycle with transiting Mercury and a new cycle with transiting Venus as well as another opposition with transiting Chiron. Things will change, purpose will be defined.
By Christmas when transiting Jupiter participates in a transiting multi-planet pattern with Uranus, Chiron, Saturn and Venus, I feel confident that progress up the ladder of evolution will become evident. Here in the USA that complex pattern will include the U.S. Sibly Chiron who opposes the U.S. Sibly Juno in such a way that will transcend much of the difficult history which that opposition represents. It could even become a model of excellence for the rest of the world. This is how I prevent grief from breaking me, but rather to motivate me to see the possibilities. I hope it can serve you and all our friends here at PW to do something similar.
Lovely piece and commentary, my dears. In a time of such powerful change and challenge, it’s worth constant affirmation that while many will see these events as breakdown of society, we can be confident that it is, rather, breakthrough — dissolving the old barriers to higher consciousness of ourselves, our world and our responsibility to one another. Thanks Fe, Len, Lizzy, Be. You remain my hero’s.
Bless you, dear Jude! Telepathy, because I really thought of you today – and missed you. So lovely to read your comment. Hope all well, my dear. ((())))
Just watched this wonderful, uplifting video:
Thanks, Lizzy. Perfect for a drizzly Sunday morning here in damp old Brexitain.
Glad you’re feeling more upbeat these days. You deserve it.
Brexitain – ha ha! Love it! Thanks sweetheart – not an easy time at work – working a six day week and till seven pm every day these days, for what is in reality a false emergency – and not sure if my contract will be renewed come September… And I’d swap your Brexit drizzle for the sweltering heat and humidity here, any day! But am doing ok thanks Geoff – and hope you are, too. xxxx