The World’s on Fire.
This much is obvious.
What seems much less obvious to those of us with Privileged is it is on fire because we set it on fire.
With Systemic Racism.
With Capitalism as our guiding values.
We did not honor all expressions of humanity.
We did not honor values that matter.
We did not honor the needs of the Whole.
If this is rubbing you the wrong way. I’m sorry. I truly am. It rubs me the wrong way too. It’s uncomfortable. It hurts to know that I played a part. That I am playing a part — even while I try — imperfectly — to dismantle my own role in the matter.
Yes, it’s uncomfortable…and that is Correct.
As Jen Lemen so aptly put it on her Facebook page, our nation has a virus. Everyone has been infected, but so far “only” some of our siblings have experienced the most symptoms.
“Only” people of color.
“Only” the very poor.
“Only” the immigrant.
I and my cohorts — basically the nice white ladies –we’ve not had to feel the symptoms acutely up until now. Now we’ve passed the tipping point of the viral spread. Now we are willing to call it what is is — an epidemic.
So what is the cure?
I can’t pretend to know the answers. I can only do the work put right in front of me. And today that is to write. About Reality Checks. About Resiliency. About old fashioned Tithing.
But first….because there was another massacre in our country this week — NOT the largest, just the largest of mostly white folks — a few words about Grief.
Grief, A Primer
One of the things white American protestant culture really sucks at is Grief. I am no longer religious, but if I was I’d probably convert to Judiasm. Or maybe ask humbly to be be taught by a Indigenous Shaman. Because they have grief down. But my culture of origin — and given the demographics of this blog, possibly yours — we’ve got nothing.
I don’t know if we are actually grieving the brokeness of our system, or actual lives lost, or the fact that our own futures are no longer what we thought they would be. But whether it’s some, all, or none of the above, the fact is, Grief Happens.
Women tend to be better at grieving that men. We have more experience. Society treats us badly. For many us, Beings we grew in our own bodies have died. Or we never got to bear them at all. Or we don’t want to bear them and we had to. Or we don’t want to bear them and people treat us poorly because of that choice. We get paid less. We lose societal value after 30. Our bodies are treated like sex toys. Etc., etc., etc. Every intersectional part of womanhood gets the short stick in the society lotto — some sections more than others. We touch grief a lot.
So here is the best of what I know from Women who Grieve. If you want, you can take it now, like a fistful of vitamins.
I hope you will.
I hope you will honor your grief.
Because it deserves to be honored.
And perhaps, more importantly, because we have Other Things to Do. And grief takes up more time if you ignore it.
So here’s my primer. The best and basic that I know. (So far.)
Look Your Grief in the Eye. If you stuff grief if grows. Many of us stuff grief because we are afraid if we look at it, it will consume us. So we think if we ignore it, or only peer at it from between our fingers for a brief glance, it will go away.
Grief needs to be seen.
Grief needs to be felt.
Grief needs to be honored.
So stop and cry. The tears won’t drown you. Write it out. Rage. Curl up in a ball. Shake your fist at the sky. Whatever your impulse is, that’s your medicine. Take it. You might be surprised how quickly some kinds of grief pass, if you just give it the attention it’s asking for. It will probably come back. Grief comes in waves. Sometimes in sneaker waves. Give it the same respect. And it will again ebb.
Treat Your Trauma. Grief is often caused by trauma, and trauma has cellar and muscle memory. Again, as women most of us have experienced abuse, traumatic births, physical threat. So when we witness abuse, trauma, or physical threat our cells react. Physically this usually manifest as a release in adrenaline and the corresponding “flight or fight” responses — even if we are not in immediate actual danger.
You are not a captive of this. You can burn it off. Walk fast. Run. Jump. Dance. Shake. This will burn off your adrenaline and calm your system.
It’s also helpful to ground yourself in your immediate surroundings. Feeling disconnected from yourself in a panic? To bring your mental state back to your current place of safety and away from remembered danger, notice your surroundings. List out loud: “I’m in my office. The walls are yellow. My feet are cold. The dog is barking. I am breathing through my nose.” This calms the trauma, and let’s you respond with right action.
Those are my to favorite techniques for personal trauma management. If this is resonating as familiar, ask a therapist about Trauma Response. I promise, it will help.
Know the Difference. Last week I was on the Olympic Peninsula, touching trees. (As one does. I’m a little bit witchy.) A family member of mine is going through deep trauma, and I was all bound-up in my body with emotional pain for them. I was hoping Mama would guide.me. As I laid my hands on the moss-covered girth, the pine said, “Grieve, don’t spiral. Turn to a new direction. Walk that way out of the past pain and into the future.”
There is a difference between Grief and what I call a Worry Spiral. Grief is about what has just happened or what is happening right now. Worry spirals are about what might happen in the future. We need to honor grief. We do not need to give worry any extra time or attention. It takes up enough all on it’s own, before we can catch it.
Are you grieving or are you worrying? If you are worrying, stand up, and face a different direction. Turn your back on the spiral. Then take steps. What steps? Making helps. (Soup, sweaters, phone calls.) As does clearing and cleansing. (Clean closets, delete contacts, smudge, floss.) Movement never hurts. (Walk, dance, shake — the same as for Trauma response management.)
There are lots of others things I can say about grief. But we don’t have time for in–depth lessons. We need triage. This is the best triage I know.
Don’t baby grief. And don’t deny it. Give it the correct amount of attention.
Then get on your boots.
With Warmth and Fire,
Got your own go-to medicine for dealing with grief and the worry spiral? Share them out on your social media. We need all the good wisdom medicine we can get! Tag it #priestessrising #religishresistance so we can find each other. Because it’s like I’ve always said, “There’s no where to go, but together.”
A Caveat: This is written from the perspective of a white, financially stable, cis woman. I.E. a person of economic and social privilege. I, and my ilk, did not discover the following pieces of observation and advice. In fact, if I had been listening to Voices of Color, I would have known all of this long, long ago. But I didn’t. We didn’t.
Because of this we made the lives of our Sibilings of Color harder. Because of this we are only now processing the shock that they have endured for hundreds of years.
I only write these words now because they came to me in a download. Because I am famous among dozens of (mostly) white, economically stable(ish) women. I have some small number of ears at my disposal. And we need to have ears to hear.
Normally when I write, I measure my words. I feel each of them out in my body. I try to assess if my fragile health will allow me to take the blows that may come. But now, I write fast. I write hot. If I mis-speak, perhaps I can clarify later. I may not. There are so many other fish to fry. Because now is the time to speak truth to each other — even to myself. Especially to myself. And this is my medium. So, I write.
(Most) Sisters of Color don’t want to have to teach White Sisters what they, as Women of Color, have had to known FOREVER about Surviving Trauma. It’s our job as Woke — (well, *awakening*)– White Sisters to teach our white peers Resiliency + Action. And, just as importantly, to acknowledge that CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS DIDN’T F-ING DISCOVER ANYTHING AND NEITHER DID WE. We didn’t discover these survive-and-thrive techniques. In fact, our Privilege is very the reason they had to be created.
If you you wish to converse, please know I will be asking you to be responsible for your own thoughts and reactions. To speak, and comment, and respond out of places that honor learning, and confession, and collaboration. Any place but but defensiveness, really. I won’t respond to defensiveness. Our energy and time is needed elsewhere.
We made this harm. Let’s heal it together.
With Warmth and Fire,