Love and Loss

One of my earliest memories is dancing for my Uncle. I took dance from the age of about five and my mother would often stop by my Uncle’s house before going home. I remember one day I was all dressed in my ballerina outfit-- pink tutu, those slip-on beige leather ballerina slippers, light pink tights with a snag in the knee from my clumsy self and pink leotard. When I arrived at his doorstep, the door opened wide and a big man as tall as I could see and as wide as the door with red cheeks, a smile as a wide as a river, stretched out his arms and belted out “Dance for me! Dance for me my little ballerina”. His endearing boastful voice filled my heart, his eyes glittering like blue sea glass. I giggled and bowed holding my tutu with my two delicate girl hands and twirled around and around until his belly rumbled with laughter. He embraced me in a bear hug and picked me up, wrapping his burly arms around my small, fragile body, kissing my soft cheeks. I looked to my uncle as someone who was so full of joy, who always embraced me with love, who was excited to see me and saw the great joy I held inside. Unfortunately, my uncle was deeply depressed, an alcoholic, and an addict. Much of this was all undercover and came to be more known when he committed suicide about five years later, when I was ten years old. There were a lot of secrets in my family and throughout my life, a distinct trait of families where alcoholism pervades. My mother tried to protect me much of my life and my uncle’s suicide was one of the ways she tried to control and protect me. I wasn’t allowed to attend his funeral services because she considered me too young to deal with death, yet one day at school shortly after my uncle committed suicide, one of my classmates was laughing and telling a group of his friends about how some idiot dressed up in a clown suit and hung himself in his backyard. The gruesome details of my uncle’s suicide were shared openly and no one knew it was my uncle. I sank in my seat, my palms sweaty with heat rising  in my face. I wavered between wanting to get up to punch the kid and crawling under my desk to cry, grieving the man in my life who brought so much joy to me, who filled my heart with so much love. Mortified, I just sat there in disbelief. Not knowing what to do, as I wasn’t even given the chance to grieve, to talk about why he had committed suicide, what had drove him to that very day where he became so deep in his depression and self-hate that he decided to end it all. This was my first experience with love and loss. An experience I didn’t realize would live with me every day of my life thereafter. As a child, you experience pure love. The kind of love that doesn’t come with expectations. Doesn’t come with strings attached. It’s just there. A love whereby warmth ripples throughout your body to every corner, to every empty space, to every shadow lighting up your heart and soul. My uncle gave me that pure love and in return, I gave it back. I always felt that my uncle Frank has been with me throughout my life. Reminding me to be the little bright ballerina that I was once as a child. Reminding me of the love that I hold in myself. The love I am capable and deserving of receiving. A reminder that even in our darkest hour, we have the choice to choose love or fear. While this lesson was not apparent at the time, looking back at all the ways in which love and fear have shown up in my life, in the life of my family members and friends, I have witnessed how the self has been distracted, tested, challenged yet it still rises. It is still there. It is always there. It is eternal. The chorus of love rings so loud but the little whisper of fear can deafen all the choruses of love in your life. 

-An excerpt from my book, A Return to Home. 

The World Needs You

I know you feel broken, disheartened, frustrated, lost, angry. I know this because I feel it too. I have spent my life as an educator. As a social justice activist. As a woke white woman always striving to learn more about the ways my whiteness has oppressed and continues to oppress people living on the margins of society. I grew up on the margins, and I've been able to understand the effects of what it means to live on the margins of this society and its impact on me immensely.  

As a woman, I feel the deep effects and impact of PTSD. From growing up in a family of domestic violence, alcoholism, sexual, physical and emotional abuse, and a family of chaos-- I have realized that every day I am triggered. And I know I am not alone. I know that my black and brown and Asian and indigenous and multi-ethnic, lesbian, trans, bisexual sisters feel this every day and have for all of their lives. I find myself growing angered and triggered at every interactionwieh men -- with a man on the train who takes up more space than he needs, to the man who repeats my comment in a board meeting, to a male co-worker who consistently talks to me like I have no professional degree and no experience in what I do, to the men who cut me in line waiting to order food. In our current political and social climate in the U.S. these moments create an intensified triggering effect on me from the years of experience sexism in the home, at work, and in everyday life. I find I am often coming home tired and exhausted from holding the weight of this anger and the battle I feel I have to fight most days. And I know I am not alone. And I know my battle is light in comparison to what other women of color experience. But this isn't about comparison. This is about community. This is about coming together to be bound by our own liberation. 

What I've realized in this last month, is that the world needs you, and it needs me. It needs the fierce warrior feminine spirit that we are. Scrolling through the news and seeing the constant updates about the U.S. Adminsitration's continuous acts of bigotry and hate against marginalized peoples is exhausting. And it's important for us to pause, to take time for ourselves, to disconnect and restore that quiet warrior spirit within us. So we can get back up and fight the next day. We are needed more now than ever. To battle against the forces that have continued to oppress the other for generations upon generations. So when you're feeling frustrated, disempowered, embattled, sad, lost, helpless, confused, or angry. Know that you are not alone. Know that this feeling is normal and natural and you are getting to know your true strength. It is your body's signal to say, "take care of yourself", slow down, you got this". Three simple ways you can do this...

  1. Pause. Close your eyes. Inhale fully. Exhale Fully. Release. Drop your shoulders and gently shake your head no. Connect with your breath. Take three full inhales and exhales deeply. With each exhale out the mouth to release whatever is being held within. Flutter your eyes open and smile. 
  2. Give yourself a Hug. wrap those beautiful long arms around you and squeeze. Yea, going back to those middle school days, pretend you got a sweet lover who is holding you. that sweet lover is you. You deserve a little love and some hugs. 
  3. Connect. Reach out to your tribe-- a close friend or someone who can hold space for you. Who isn't there to complain or add stress to the already weight you're holding. Someone who can look you in the eye and say, "You got this". 

I find that doing these three simple things, I'm able to restore myself in a short period of time. And of course there are many other practices that can help to address the weight of PTSD, oppression, or general stress. In the meantime, keep fighting, keep resisting, keep speaking up for what you deserve. The world needs you and me and we're in this together.