Slow Start Today.
This last semester in my grad program about killed me. I got through it and learned a lot about my limits. I took a few weeks to step away from things. During which, I tried to find peace and renewal, as I am about to start writing my thesis and finish the most daunting portion and final leg of this program.
With regard to my life, in the midst of so much Black death, I think it is important to reflect on the things I do have within this system that was created to exploit, violate, subjugate, and mutilate me. Hell, it’s my birthday.
How to find the time for you when you are constantly being monopolized:
-It’s not easy. This last school year combined with the BlackLivesMatter Movement was an experience that I cannot adequately quantify in words. All of the actual Black Death at the hands of the system was and is a very tough thing to remain cognizant of, all at the same time as the blaring systemic inequities and violent structure that I was having to navigate as a student and engaging in student teaching.
-Self-Care for me manifested as speaking out against the violent structure of the classroom, refusing to read certain texts, putting my grades at risk, and alienating myself from the professors of whom I found to be perpetuating the very systemic flaws they wanted to challenge in the courses I was registered for.
-Self-Care ain’t always nice. Sometimes it is messy. Sometimes you don’t even realize you’re caring for yourself until you have the time and make the space to reflect.
-Self-Care within traumatic experiences can be traumatic. There’s no best-fit generic formula for attending to wellness, especially within the struggle. Sometimes (most of the time for me) you don’t and won’t have the time to actually make sure that you are attending to you in ways that protect yourself. Try not to let that add to your stress, anxiety, and depressive feelings. Try not to lose yourself within this white supremacist heteronormative capitalist patriarchy. When you feel yourself fading, JUST PAUSE. It’s okay to just stop yourself for a moment, a little while, just to make sure you still are there.
Self- awareness is integral to self-care, this is often time the hardest part. Being self-aware is very hard to learn and maintain, especially in the midst of chaos.
-Being Self-Aware is being attentive to your body. This is hard to do when so much is demanded of you in many different ways. Feel how your body reacts to your sleepless nights. How does it feel after a good movie? How does it feel going into a job review/interview? Think about the things that lead up to your last stress headache. Really feel your heart flutter with the caffeine you put into it. How does it feel to you when you orgasm? How does it feel when you are sick and have to work through it? The more you can stay with some of these physical responses, the more likely it will be for you to anticipate a stress boulder headed your way. With this anticipation, comes the opportunity to engage in activities that will help protect you throughout the boulder coming right for you.
-Being Self-Aware is being attentive to your affective and emotional responses. You can pretty much take all of the previous questions and reflect on how you respond emotionally and affectively to those stimuli. How do you think and process stress? How do you process delightful and fun experiences? How do you prepare your mind for confrontation and loss? Do you have an emergency protocol for times when you feel helpless? How do you confront jealousy? When you come to a comfortable stasis of self-assessment of these things, it will help you become decisive on what type of self-care activities to engage in.
-Being Self-Aware manifested for me as feeling my joints stiffen when working through the night. I felt my body tense up when I was uncomfortable. I felt myself closing down when I was not okay. I realized when I felt happy, comfortable, giddy, and randy. I worked through my mental and physical exhaustion, and understood that I couldn’t do that regularly.
Living Into the Death
This is what I lovingly regard as the result of self-care and being self-aware when you embody the subjugated space, marginal life, and know that our culture will inherently devalue anything you do, even and especially if what you do benefits it.
-This is what you actually end up doing in the face of our cultural hegemony in order to find and keep stasis.
-This is pretty touch-and-go, so you would just have to feel your way through to figure out what works for you.
-A major thing that helps me live through all of this is the fact that I’ve come to be okay with failing. Failure is not necessarily bad. I’m okay with failing to meet the requirements of normative success. I’m alright if I don’t nail acuity of theory, even after many attempts. I’m alright with being flawed.
-I also realize that it is okay to not smile all the time. It is perfectly fine to feel negative affect and emotion. It is beneficial to express those negative feelings.
-It’s okay to take sick-days, it’s okay to take time for yourself. Even if you are not necessarily physically ill, it is okay to take some time -even a moment- away from all the many directions you are being pulled in, just to breathe.
-If you look in the mirror after a long day and your eyes are bloodshot, try and drink some water.
-It’s not easy in our culture to live with all of this Black death and anti-blackness, so do what you can to stay afloat and all the while try to remain attentive to you. I mean, in the end all you have is yourself.
* * * * *
I want to conclude my birthday reflection with a moment of silent and anticipatory meditation. I’m thinking of all of my fallen comrades, your lives mattered. I’m thinking of all of my revolutionary friends organizing and living in this struggle, you continue channeling that loving rage and allow it to fuel this movement. I’m thinking of all of my people on the brink of fading, of breakdown- feel your way through this, reach out, or don’t- whatever you do, please know this too shall pass. Please know that throughout it all, you are valued, you are loved, and what you are doing matters.
I will leave you with Audre:
A Woman Speaks
Moon marked and touched by the sun
my magic is unwritten
but when the sea turns back
it will leave my shape behind.
I seek no favor
untouched by blood
unrelenting as the curse of love
permanent as my errors
or my pride
I do not mix
love with pity
nor hate with scorn
and if you would know me
look into the entrails of Uranus
where the restless oceans pound.
I do not dwell
within my birth nor my divinities
who am ageless and half-grown
and still seeking
witches in Dahomey
wear me inside their coiled cloths
as our mother did
I have been woman
for a long time
beware my smile
I am treacherous with old magic
and the noon’s new fury
with all your wide futures
and not white.
Thank you for engaging my birthday meditation, this was healing for me.
Until Next Time,