Dear Beautiful, Angry People:
First, if you have not read this poem, you must. The words “you are who I love” came to me often this week as I talked with friends. The words ran across my mind as I watched people post on social media and saw people responding to one another in small, kind, beautiful ways. The words came to me as I watched friends who had not previously posted about political or social justice issues speak loudly, clearly and passionately, declaring through their actions that they, too, are resisting. I watched the ways we are helping one another through the day-to-day: through parenting advice, offers for childcare and assistance with the daily things that need to be done, through people checking in on one another. I saw the ways we make each other laugh and the tiny-yet-monumental ways we lift one another so we can – somehow, in spite of everything – keep moving.
“You are who I love,” the poet writes. “…each of us looking out from the gorgeous unlikelihood of our lives at all, finding ourselves here, witnesses to each other’s tenderness, which, this moment, is fury, is rage, which, this moment, is another way of saying: You are who I love You are who I love You and you and you are who“
There’s so much that could be said, and so much that needs to be said, and so very much that my frightened, raging, resisting heart cannot yet figure out how to say. Here is what I know: around Wednesday of this week, I started getting text messages from friends and family saying, “I am so tired. I am exhausted. I am just so exhausted,” and “I can’t do this. We can’t do this. How are we going to do this?” and “Everything is crumbling. I can’t even breathe.”
We are so hungry for something to hold onto — for some semblance of normalcy. We are gasping for a moment to catch our breaths before the next wave of news crashes over us. I know I am.
Let’s talk about self-care.
In this country, when we talk about self-care, we have been conditioned to think about manicures, massages, and long baths by candlelight. We think about the basics of taking care of ourselves well: eating regularly and healthily, exercising, remaining hydrated, and getting enough sleep. Mostly, the narrative around self-care happens around this idea of deserving it. As in, “you’ve worked hard and now you deserve some indulgence” or “you’ve worked hard and deserve to make sure you take care of your body.”
Let’s revolutionize this shit.
(1) Self-care can look like whatever feels good to your soul. Yes, self-care sometimes does and should look like taking a break from activism. Sometimes it should absolutely look like taking a break from social media. Sometimes, it means shutting yourself in your office and turning your headphones way up and listening to whatever makes you happy as you do your paperwork. Self-care can look like manicures, or shopping for new shoes, or getting new hair-dos or new tattoos. It can look like cleaning, or running, or yoga, or punching the shit out of a punching bag. It looks like trashy romance novels, knitting, and poetry. It could mean cuddling with an animal, driving, being alone, a glass of wine, chocolate…
And self-care can also mean activism. Self-care can also mean showing up to be with the people who are hurting like you because it feels good to add your voices together. Sometimes, self-care means being in community with your people. It can mean putting your feet on the ground to feel powerful. I stand up for women’s rights and reproductive justice. I fight against rape culture. I fight for LGBTQ rights because I need to fight these battles. As a woman, as a lesbian, as someone who has experienced sexual violence, standing up for these issues is one way of caring for myself.
I find that I need to actively remind myself that this is a way of caring for me. When I say to myself, “this is self-care. This is a way of caring for my soul,” I am able to engage that aspect of the work more fully. Activism, protest, engagement in local politics, calling your representatives: there are many ways of caring for your precious, angry self. I recommend utilizing all of them.
What is the state of your soul? What will feel good to her? What does she need now?
(2) We must love and trust our people. Here’s the other thing: we get uncomfortable with the idea of self-care being all about us. Like most things in life, however — even self-care is not really about you. Your self-care is a gift to yourself, yes. But it is also a gift to your family. It is also a gift to your community. It is also a gift to the world.
To truly engage in this work — this work of community, of activism, of love — we must be in relationship. If we are in relationship, we must have a deep love and trust in our people such that, when they need to step back, we can and will carry on. When must have such a deep love and trust in our people that, when we need to step back, we know they will carry on.
We must love one another enough to carry them. We must love one another enough to allow ourselves to be carried. When we cannot go on, we must trust and love one another enough to rest: what a gift we are giving our fellow humans, then. We are telling them, “I love and trust you enough to continue so that I may one day do the same for you.” Can we do that for our communities, friends? Can we trust them enough to say, “I value you and this thing we are fighting for so mightily that I must allow you to walk for me today so that I may someday do the same for you.” Can you imagine how this might revolutionize our world?
There is not one of us who is not impacted right now.
There are many of us who have more privilege than others.
Know who the people are you can trust with your particular burden. Know who you should be listening to more frequently.
(3) What you’re feeling is real. Particularly if you’re a person of color or a member of any of the number of groups of people that are under attack right now, what you are feeling is valid and real. If you are a helper – a psychologist, social worker, clergy, doctor – feeling overwhelmed by the suffering or what is to come — what you are feeling is valid and real. If you are just a regular, feeling, human person in the world: what you are feeling is valid and real.
I don’t know what you may be feeling — but there may be anger and rage. There may be fear. There may be uncertainty, and resentment, and betrayal, and loss, and exhaustion. There may be trauma and grief. There may be hopelessness.
Whatever is there, I invite you to know it and hold it so very gently. Whatever is there, I believe there is also resilience, and hope, and love. I believe there is also strength and courage and resistance. I believe there is also badassery.
(4) Above all, know this, my friends:
There will be times when the weight of this world lays on you like a wet, wool blanket. Like bricks. Like boulder. There will be times you feel broken and alone. There will be times when you feel as though the enormity of sorrow, anger, grief, and pain in this world will engulf you, and you will worry you will be pulled into the undertow. Your body will ache and you will long for quiet, for peace, for a break from the need and the hurt and the wanting.
This is not wrong. This pain is not your shame, is not your broken, is not sign of your failure or lack. This is simply the way of it: our hearts are meant to crack open under this enormity of grief. We were never meant to carry this alone.
Self-care sometimes looks like crying alone in the bathroom. It can mean naming the beast: exhaustion. Compassion fatigue. Burn-out. It can mean reaching out, in spite of everything that tells you to fold in. It can feel like allowing yourself to crumble.
So crumble, beautiful friends. We do not need to fear the how of putting-back-together. We will come back together because something in our cells was built for this: for the falling apart and putting together of broken lives, including our own.
You were made for loving. It is the reason you will always fit back together. This world has not stopped loving you. It does not know how.
We are an angry and beautiful people. You are, indeed, who I love.