Member Shares - letting things fall apart
Updated: Dec 28, 2022
I am writing from a place in myself that is hard for me to find words for right now, so i will share a favorite poem with you and hope that it can start things off. A poem by Rainer Maria Rilke:
It's possible i am pushing
through solid rock
in flint-like layers, as the ore lies, alone;
i am such a long way in i see no way through and no space:
everything is close to my face, and everything close to my face is stone.
I don't have much knowledge yet in grief--so this massive darkness makes me small. You be the master; make yourself fierce, break in: then your great transforming will happen to me, and my great grief cry will happen to you.
I have heard this poem many times over the years and never before has it resonated quite so much as it does right now. For the last two months, i have been feeling that i was in a deep hole, a state that i had been labeling as "depression," and one of the most severe of my life. It has felt as if i have been on the edge of life and death.
It seemingly started with the loss of a friendship (with a Person of Color), one that i have had for five years and closely linked our two families. I thought we were going to co-create "The Village" together. Then came an earth-shaking moment of truth that shed light on some very unsustainable dynamics we had, something i helped co-create with my racial codependency. Sadly, we have not been able to work it through together, at least not at this moment in time. Then a short while ago, i was given some insight through Rilke's poem, that this unyielding depression--this stone in my face--was actually grief, and grief of a very profound nature.
Calling it depression gave me a sense of individualized detachment from it, seeing it as a symptom of mental illness and deficiency. The loudest voice has been the one telling me that i had created this pain by not taking care of myself well enough, being too sensitive ("fragile"), or that it was a sure sign of my unworthiness as a human--a white human. However, naming it more accurately shifted something ever so slightly, but very important for me. It got me to see my experience as a reflection of something emerging in me, and not necessarily of me, needing care and attention through relatedness. I think Rilke is saying this in his poem too--that we are powerfully connected to, and supported by, each other through our grief.
Somewhere i learned that all of our stories of grief get linked up inside of ourselves too, like one grief moment connects and spills into all the others in an internal network of grief. What i am experiencing now goes well beyond the loss of my friend and the illusion of the community we would create together, well beyond the death of my dad, the abandonment by my mom, the sudden death of my nephew, the dissolution of my first marriage, the decline of my health due to mysterious causes, and the disappearance of my childhood. It is all of those losses and more.
It is living three years in a pandemic, a pandemic that completely turned my life upside down; a pandemic which seemingly no longer exists for the majority of people in my country but is still a very real threat to me and my family. It is that i lost the ability and desire to be numb to my own suffering when playing the martyr in situations that are actually extremely power imbalanced and oppressive. It is that i must find more real ways to affirm my goodness now that i am no longer habitually reaching for the savior role, or for performative wokeness, scrambling to join some anti-racist cause so that i can soothe my guilt and badger others with my show of social justice warrior-hood. It is in breaking habits of self-righteous anger and victimhood that comes from a lack of humility--when I feel better or less than someone else.
It is being with the feelings of not belonging that come from no longer rushing to put my voice into a conversation about current events so that i know that you know that i am the good kind of white person. It is in tending to the family legacy of people who willingly chose to abuse their power to become enslavers, dominators, colonizers, and the countless people who felt and still feel grave repercussions from their choices. That is big and heavy, which is why I cannot do this work without a power greater than myself, and a community of people also doing the same kind of work.
It is in the work of seeing to the broken relationship between myself and my ancestors with our Mother Earth, and our sense of belonging to her and each other. It is in sitting with what i am feeling and seeing instead of running to consume or buy something to bypass what i am feeling or seeing. It is realizing that i have spent most of my life in a state of appeasement to dominating people and social structures--appeasement that has garnered me only the illusion of safety, belonging, and love. It is knowing that my body, not my mind, is my true friend and is a friendship that requires reciprocity, time, patience, and deep listening. It is continuing to wake up to the brutal realities of racism: that it is scary as hell (and I am not even a main target), that it is nearly everywhere in this culture, that is has stolen so much from every one of us in entirely different ways, and that our collective wounding is so severe, the denial in the majority of white folx so persistent, that it often appears that reconciliation, reparations, and desegration is impossible. It is that i am no longer shocked by being regularly gaslit when talking about any of these things. It is also being painfully hyper-aware of the ways i am still not living my truth. Where i am still silencing myself or hiding out.
I am operating at maximum cognitive dissonance right now. I no longer recognize my life or myself; hardly anything is as it was three years ago. I am all at once more clear in my essential self than i have ever been and the strangest creature i have ever encountered. I am the mush in a chrysalis, the transitional stage between caterpillar and butterfly. I believe that if i look for and nurture my imaginal cells, eventually, and if i don't hit the self-destruct button, i will get to the next stage--and that is where my hope lies.
I am exhausted from fighting for relatedness with people that have no clue (and seemingly no interest) about how to be related. I am crushed by not being seen in my closest relationships and in a society where my gender identity is ignored, pathologized, or made invisible and where the vast majority of my contributions are also rendered invisible. I am trapped in isolation trying to gently parent in an emotionally available way while also giving my child the tools and skills they need to survive in a world corrupted by violence, bigotry, power, and greed. I am defeated in my striving to always be resilient, flexible, accommodating, and spacious. I give up. After all, i am fucking pinned against solid rock.
This right here is the "clean pain" Resmaa Menakem talks about. My mentors and elders keep telling me this is exactly the best place for me to be if i am seeking true liberation. Early in my other recovery program I heard, "when one door closes, another opens, but sometimes it takes a while for the other door to open and you're stuck in the hallway." While it is excruciating to divest myself from ideologies of whiteness, racism, sexism, capitalism, ableism, etc. i know i am doing the necessary work and feeling the necessary pain (work and pain that is my birthright just as much as ease and joy) that i have been kept from through being enabled and coddled by whiteness.
There is no way in hell i could do this alone. Knowing this with all of my soul, no longer in the fantasy of individualism, is my strength. In order to keep choosing recovery instead of the disease, i lean on the WA fellowship and the small-in-number but mighty people who i have met since i began this journey, who are also practicing being relational and real in the world, the ones who are also attempting to unlearn patterns of domination and violence. With them, instead of getting into reality battles, I can ask for reality checks. I can talk about my shame instead of being shamed.
And that's it right now. I wish i could tie this up in a bow for you, give you that happy ending that we in the US expect. Right now, the happy ending is being held in my imaginal cells, it is the promise of unfolding and liberation if i follow this path--the 12-Step path of compassionate and searching self-inquiry, connection with a power greater than myself, reliance on a community of like-hearted people, and service to the greater good. Most importantly, doing this all with my body, not my mind, in the driver's seat. I look forward to writing to you again when i am on the other side. May we all go gently, but diligently onward.