Raising justice and healing me

I’ve been writing for two months and have shared very little. Unsure of what to say out loud. Unsure if it’s even meant to be heard.

In March, it became clear to me that my parenting was short sighted. I had been focusing on my kids so deeply that I was missing what I needed for my own being. Over the past six years, I have committed myself to authentic, deep, loving parenting. A type of parenting that looks at my kids as their own people in this world. People for me to get to know, to learn from, and to be in community with. At first, I thought I was meant to teach them. To show them all that is wrong with this world. And I started this journey in that mindset. But my wise little one would say to me…

“Can we stop talking about this?” or “Can we talk about something happy?”

Those moments were tough because things were happening the world. Opportunities to show the injustice, the oppression, the rampant violence in our society. But I didn’t listen to my own lesson.

I used to watch all of the videos on facebook of the violence in this world. Police shooting black people, strangling people of color, manhandling children. Photos of abused pets, abused children. News outlets showing overhead footage of today’s mass shooting. There was one summer where one video sent me into silence. I laid on the floor and stared at the ceiling. It was an opportunity to be the public voice, again. But being the public voice created crippling anxiety for me. I spoke to a mentor and friend. She reminded me that I don’t have to watch those videos if I believe what is happening. If something is reported – that a person was killed by a police officer or some white man with an automatic weapon shot a group of people, I don’t doubt it to be true. I know it’s true because I believe that in this country, we have rampant violence and entrenched systemic oppression and racism. I don’t need to see it to know it’s happening.

My kid was sharing the same. She believed me when I told her the ways of the world. And she was reminding me that she didn’t need to be reminded. She believed me the first time.

After that, I took to figuring out parenting by sharing my own perspective. Sharing my own feelings, thoughts, errors, love. I opened things up to a two-way conversation. I allowed her to bring things to me and to stop the conversation when she wanted to. And I started to focus on joy and the miracles of this earth. Talking about nature and the ways in how we choose to live.

In her Mother’s Day present this year from school, she not only listed me as 23 years young, but she listed that I am special to her because I keep her safe. This coming from an Aries sun and moon who lives in this world out in front or in first place everywhere she goes, is quite the compliment.

As her parent, this is who I want to be. I want her to feel safe with me and to be a constant. Someone who can be honest, raw, raggedy, and also so deeply loving.

But two months ago, I realized that a key piece of this was missing in my parenting. Really in my own relationship with myself. I was loving out loud for my kids, for others, but was not loving out loud for me. Simply put, I talk kindly about bodies but I do not treat mine well. I talk about what I love but my kids rarely see me do any of it. I talk about joy but I rarely show pleasure in this world.

One day back in March, I was sitting on my couch trying to figure out this turmoil in my body. My mind was crashing. I was stuck without a creative thought. In my mind, this feels dangerous. It’s an onset of anxiety, worries, depression. It’s the empty space that I avoid at all costs. I have feared this space since forever in this body. But I chose this time to listen. I was able to feel some profound trauma sitting in my bones. I wrote about it and I felt a bit better. Then, I kept writing. About loss, death, abuse, violence, harm, food, capitalism, oppression, sexism, all of it. All of the trauma wrapped up in my body poured out. It now sits in about 30 drafts on wordpress, waiting to see what I will do with it.

I turned to astrology for some guidance. I knew that my birth chart offers me the story of the energy in my life and maybe it has something in there to show how to work through this difficult part. See I am a Cancer sun and moon. I live in this world as a nurturer, lover, caretaker. Most of my life I live by giving energy out, being there for others, loving so deeply that I can shift the energy of a room. But it’s confusing because my energy is so wrapped up in yours. And, I can’t often find my way back to mine. But, I found it in March. It was empty, black, silent. Several meditations brought me to black, dark water. Some even nothingness.

Simply, within my natal chart, my sun and moon live in the house of death. A place where trauma exists, lineage, motherhood. A house where it’s likely that one’s mother had a difficult birth or you’ve experienced something close to death. A place where the trauma in your family is carried through your lineage, blood and bones to sit in your body. All of which is true. And, my chart offers something to me. That I am a person who can do something with this knowledge. That maybe I can be a person who holds this lineage of trauma and cares for it, maybe even works towards healing it.

The world around me is pointing to me, pushing me to find my personal power as a person, a parent. And I am realizing that I cannot do any of it without healing me. I am still unsure if I am meant to heal my lineage, as my acorn in only in its earlier stages of growth.* But it’s clear to me that I cannot be the parent, partner, person I want to be without some deep rooted healing and love for this body of mine.

I feel compelled to share some of this healing with you all. But I am scared. I am scared because it’s deep and raw and terrifying to share. What if what is trauma to me seems ridiculous to you? What if what I write triggers your own trauma and makes it so you never want to read my writing again? What if the people in the story read it and come for me?

And, I am scared because I do not live in this world as a single human. My experiences are interwoven with others. I was raised by two parents. Two loving, beautiful, brave, amazing people. Who just like me have made mistakes. I believe deeply that our parents’ errors are our lessons. And the same will be true for my kids. But I am scared that you will have an opinion of them when I think they are the greatest parents alive. I am afraid you will know who I am talking about and you will tell me I’m wrong. I’m afraid that I may be writing about you and you’ll hate me.

My coach, mentor, amazing friend Maureen…I hear her voice – “It’s not your business.” This leaves me with the thought – can I write honestly, from that raw, deep, dark place inside of me and still be the person who loves, nurtures and cares for you? Can I both hurt you and love you? Can I put your own body at risk in reading my trauma? Can I out the people in my life for their failures? Am I really the person to share these stories out loud?

I don’t know the answer yet.

But, I am working towards being the person who can openly show my kids what it’s like to pull back the layers of this body and to show who is really under there. It has to be a lesson to them that seeing their mother at her rawest can lead to their own freedom. That they will have that moment or moments too. And I can provide the reminder that they can survive. That we can survive. That even with all the shit that happens to us, it’s only a few sentences in our story. My trauma is not the core to my story. It’s a page in a chapter in the larger story of this life. My life.

“…My body is my home. My body is the place I can continue to return to. My body is where all the things that have ever happened me are remembered and held and I’m the only one who’s been through all that I’ve been through…it’s not just a space for trauma to happen to me and it’s not just a space for harm and it’s not just a space for oppressive ideas to be projected onto me…it’s actually my own.” – adrienne maree brown

So I’m still writing. Working towards sharing. Working to feel brave to do so – loving and healing through sharing. I expect you’ll hear some from me soon.

*In “The Body is Not an Apology,” Sonya Renee Taylor speaks of how we are all acorns. Acorns are born with a purpose as they always become an oak tree. I believe I was born an acorn, my purpose is within me and I am growing towards my oak tree, even if I don’t know what that oak tree looks like. 

Note: Maureen White is amazing, I am so grateful she is in my life as chosen family, a friend, a coach, and a mentor. Consider her, it’s worth every penny and every moment. https://www.maureenwhiteconsulting.com/ 

I’m turning towards the sun in 2018

This time of year, we’re surrounded by New Year’s resolutions, challenges, contests, etc. all with the aim to improve ourselves. This year I reject that notion. I am not here to change me, but instead to be me for once. I reject what the world expects of me in regards to my body, my personality, my presence, my silence. Instead, I choose to embrace the love, the community, the joy that surrounds me. I am doing this all for me, but keeping in mind how my daughter will see this. Watching tv with commercials, I cringe wondering what she’s internalizing watching diet commercials, work out jokes, and ads for “healthy eating.”

So this year, I reject resolutions and instead I am stepping towards the world I want to be in. I must admit that I am inspired in this direction from several places. First and foremost, my kid shows me every day how to prioritize joy and laughter. When she can be her whole self, in an environment where she can be filled with reckless joy, persistent independence, and space to stretch, her laughter fills the room. Her smile fills my heart. Her joy shifts the energy in my body and in those around her.

Secondly, I want to acknowledge the people in my shared community of Evolutionary Leadership. In a time where the world continuously disappoints us, I watch them maintain a steady focus. Certainly, I see pain, anger, but I also see resolve. I see transformation. I see steps towards justice which include love, joy, and dancing. They go dancing all the time. I regret that I am not able to attend in this stage of my pregnancy, so instead I dance whenever I can. Gibrán Rivera reminded me last June that dancing is a religion. It’s a connection to your spirit, to our ancestors; it’s connection to the power and energy of the space and our bodies. So even though I don’t dance with them most Saturdays, I dance with them in other ways, ensuring that I am sharing love in all the ways I can from a distance.

I also must name inspiration by adrienne maree brown. I was blessed to meet her when I was part of a group of people who hosted a series of workshops by her back in November. She is a pleasure activist, writer, facilitator, doula, and general badass who speaks the language of our hearts. If you have not read her blog, or her book “Emergent Strategy,” do it. Right now. She has taught me so many things, but most importantly that the world in front of me has all the answers that I need and that if we pay close enough attention, we will learn how to be, how to love, how to co-exist. One of my most favorite quotes from her book is:

“My favorite life forms right now are dandelions and mushrooms—the resilience in these structures, which we think of as weeds and fungi, the incomprehensible scale, the clarity of identity, excites me. I love to see the way mushrooms can take substances we think of as toxic, and process them as food, or that dandelions spread not only themselves but their community structure, manifesting their essential qualities (which include healing and detoxifying the human body) to proliferate and thrive in a new environment. The resilience of these life forms is that they evolve while maintaining core practices that ensure their survival.

A mushroom is a toxin-transformer, a dandelion is a community of healers waiting to spread… What are we as humans, what is our function in the universe?”

— adrienne maree brown, “Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds.”

I read this to my partner over the summer and we committed ourselves to dandelions. We committed ourselves to allowing them to grow, to be prolific, and to love each and every one. I know that this likely frustrates my neighbor as he maintains a beautiful lawn, but we are committed. By allowing them to thrive, we are also acting in resistance, in resistance to the capitalism of a well maintained lawn. If we let our yards grow without intervention, imagine what they would be…wild…but organized, strategic, in co-existence.

adrienne also recently shared her plans for 2018 and they included turning towards joy and acting only in transformative justice. She starts by saying, “What you pay attention to grows.” From this, I heard her tell me that this year I need to turn towards the sun. I am turning towards what warms my heart, what fills me, and what opens me. I will not forget the pain, the trauma, the terror of this world we live in. It’s not about ignoring it, it’s simply about an approach that allows me to see the light. To acknowledge that feeling angry about things I cannot control is of no use to me. Instead, I choose to take that anger and turn it towards more than just resistance, but instead towards transformative justice. adrienne spoke about transformative justice and helped me understand the following:

  • Punitive justice is the world we live in. We punish people for mistakes and then throw them away. Our prison system houses more than 2.3 million people. 1 in 5 people are there for a drug offense. And I’d be remiss not to mention that Black folks make up 13% of the general population but 40% of the prison population. (source: Prison Policy Initiative)
  • Restorative justice is what many believe is what we need. In this case, it’s about apologies, getting along, promising to never do it again, giving folks a break for first offenses, etc. This is our interpersonal approach – I believe you’re a good human so I am going to forgive you and give you another chance.
  • Transformative justice works towards making the system better so there is not a need for either above. Think of this example – If someone stole something from me, 1) punitive justice would be punishing that person, 2) restorative justice would be them apologizing to me and me forgiving them, but 3) transformative justice would be changing the system that made the person steal in the first place. Do they not have a job? Do they need to feed their family? Do they live in housing that doesn’t meet the basic standards of humanity? Do they experience racism and oppression that daily impacts their lives, their bodies?

See transformative justice is working towards erasure of all of the pain, anger, and trauma in today’s society. It means that our president would never have been crafted into the person he currently is. It also means that government wouldn’t be run by white rich men, that we wouldn’t debate right and wrong based on religion or opinion, but instead we’d live in co-existence based on our natural driven love and humanity. This is the sun I choose to turn to.

So you’re probably wondering, how does this fit into my parenting? Why put this on this blog? Well it has everything to do with my parenting. Since I have chosen transformative justice, since I have chosen to uplift love and joy, the relationship I have with my family is dramatically different. One small and simple example is my experience at the grocery store. At one of the stores, they have little carts for kids to push. I have heard all sorts of parenting groans about this and I was one of them. I used to try to talk her out of them before we got there, offering whatever I could think of. I hated those things. I especially hated how she regularly rammed them into my feet and that they are perfectly aligned to hit my ankle bone, re-issuing a weekly bruise. When I instead thought about how important it is to have kids in our everyday experience, that our energy needed it, that our lives depended on it, my experience changed. I now watch her skip down the aisle, pick out food based on her likes, she helps more, she is learning how to say excuse me and practice awareness of others. And she participates because it’s fun. Even more importantly, I enjoy her boundless energy and I have fun. I no longer have bruises and it’s not because she’s gotten better control of the cart. I have gotten better control of me. My once negative energy is no longer attracting her to ram into me. Life was literally ramming me, asking me to pay attention to a different way to be and instead I just groaned, rubbed my ankle and cursed under my breath.

Turning towards the sun means turning towards the inherent joy in my child, the inherent joy in me. It means that yes there are times to be still, but in general life is about dancing, loving, and using this power to make change towards the world we want to share with others. When is the last time you can remember laughing fully? Dancing with zero awareness of your body? Walking outside and smelling the scent of life in the air? This year, I am turning towards the sun.