Look for safe harbor
In difficult times in life
Shelter within you.
Look for safe harbor
In difficult times in life
Shelter within you.
What does it take for a marriage to last 50 years?
I have asked a few people that, and what I usually hear is this:
Patience. Lots and lots of patience. Also, the ability to let go of the need to be right about everything.
I think it was Frida Kahlo’s father who told her that the secret to a good marriage is a short memory.
Ten years ago (in 2010) I met the man who would become my husband in 2017. He proposed in 2015. It took me many years of therapy, personal coaching, spiritual growth and a leap of faith for me to enter back into such a contract for a second time.
I read books like “All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation” by Rebecca Traister and “Committed: A Love Story” by Elizabeth Gilbert. The first time around, I had known I could get out of it. That marriage was borne of familial rebellion and personal stubbornness.
The second time around, I waited to be sure I could outlast my tendency to get bored and move on every 4-8 years. I already knew living with other people (anyone really) can be difficult for me. Solitude is precious. Personal space is one of my highest values. It’s why the era of COVID-19 has held blessings in disguise for me. I realized this reflects a lot of privilege. It also reflects the personal choice I made not to become a parent.
My parents love my sister and me fiercely and protectively. Their division of labor is not what I would choose, but it seems to work for them. They taught my sister and me that all people are worthy of respect. They contributed to their community in so many ways, especially to their students and neighbors. They focused their attention on us, our educations and our futures. We have never doubted their commitment to us. I am forever grateful for those gifts.
Half a century. I am in awe. Grateful.
I find myself celebrating the past year for my birthday but feeling quieter and more reflective than in past years. When I read that George Floyd was also 46 years old I realized we shared an age, but are separated by a yawning gap of white body privilege. His life was cut short, and my life continues.
I spent the past week re-reading portions of “My Grandmother’s Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending Our Hearts and Bodies” by Resmaa Menakem. I downloaded the audio book so I could listen to it as well. Coincidentally, Krista Tippett had a conversation with Resmaa on her podcast On Being just before the pandemic, but it aired only within the last week. If you have not heard it, I recommend a listen.
There is also a simple body practice that is about 4-5 minutes that Krista released yesterday that I really love. It helps us engage the vagus nerve and the psoas muscle in a way that is calming. Resmaa describes how “bodies of culture” must orient when they feel in danger.
One of my loyal yoga practitioners (Jackie) told me last week that Resmaa’s book is sold out right now, since she had looked for it online. I find that wonderful and hopeful. Maybe we white folks are ready to grow up and out of our privilege in a way that can support “bodies of culture” (I love Resmaa’s terminology) to achieve their dreams as well.
We must do the work, and we must begin now, no matter how uncomfortable it may feel at first. One thing that yoga teaches us is that we can stay with discomfort, a moment longer, to hear what it has to say. I love it that we have the tools to do that. It is our practice off the mat, and it is why we can succeed in this effort.
As a white woman from a multi-cultural (Swedish Mexican) heritage, I have struggled with knowing what my role can or should be in this effort. I have to admit I don’t have a complete answer right now, except to highlight voices that may not otherwise be heard. I also hope to hold space for other “white bodies” that know we must be part of the solution here.
Resmaa recommends we do our own work, with each other, to educate and get over our “fragility” around race discussions. In my 46 years of life I have never worried about being killed by a police officer. My level of discomfort is a tiny sliver compared to a daily stress of someone who’s life has been cut short by a police officer. While police bodies also need to do their own work, we can and must begin in our own bodies.
I close this reflection by saying all of this begins in our bodies. We unwind our stories and social conditioning by exploring their origins, questioning the protective habits that our “primitive lizard” brains developed, and by learning better ways to sharing the bounty we all have. When all do better, all do better (a phrase Paul Wellstone used to use frequently).
P.S. Resmaa’s Cultural Somatics Institute offers a free 5-day e-course which summarizes the principles in his book. The videos are short and they are helpful. They will make you want to get the book.
I was off the grid for the weekend, a planned retreat to my primitive place in the woods before we began experiencing as a collective the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder and the chaos that descended upon the Twin Cities.
Friday the following haiku tumbled forth:
Our hearts grieve deeply
Sorrow of generations
On Saturday, after reading old journals and during a re-read of Dani Shapiro’s memoir devotion, the following emerged:
And nested within
A part of me felt anxiety while I was off the grid, missing the news, away from the internet. I was not even able to receive texts unless the wind was right and my cell intermittently had reception. Another part of me felt grateful for the retreat and the space away from knowing all of the heartbreaking external events of the world.
I used the weekend for reading past journals (I’m up to 2016 after about a year of reviewing my collection which goes back to 1992), reflection, writing and grieving. I went on walks and listened to what my inner voice seemed to request. I fasted for 20 hours on Saturday, allowing my body to be awake to any and all sensations.
Retreating requires enormous privilege, I realize. And it is something that feeds me psychologically and spiritually. Since I was very young I have always valued and treasured solitude and personal space. I wish it is something everyone could have when it is necessary.
After a retreat, there is the return. We live together in an interdependent web. We love each other. We hurt each other. We forgive each other. We acknowledge and apologize for past misdeeds. We resolve to treat each other with more respect. We understand that how we treat others is a reflection of our beliefs. We examine and unpack those beliefs, conditioned patterns we did not necessarily create consciously.
In the end, many of us realize that we are not separate from others. All living beings contain a divine spark, an unlikely miracle of energy and matter, defying the physical law of entropy.
How can we learn to value and love all humans, and all creatures of this earth? How can we remember our divine connection, our shared fate on this small planet?
These are questions for which I have no answers. Yet I keep asking them and my soul keeps beckoning me to live these questions as I strive to serve.
I write with a sad heart and an all too familiar feeling of distress at the news of another unarmed black man being murdered. His name is George Floyd. I support the Black Lives Matter movement. I believe we all need to become aware of our privilege and how white body supremacy has functioned since the early days of this country’s history. It will help us understand what keeps happening.
Last summer I read a book called “My Grandmother’s Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending Our Hearts and Bodies.” It helped me to see and understand the deeper historical forces at play within white bodies, black bodies and police bodies.
As a yoga practitioner I appreciate the exercises that Menakem offers for the body, to be done alone and in trusted communities. He writes sections in the book for black bodies, white bodies and police bodies. A couple days ago I realized he also has a free e-course on Racialized Trauma, offered by the Cultural Somatics Training & Institute. While it is a 5-day course, each of the videos are only 10-15 minutes, and it introduces the major themes covered in the book.
I highly recommend the course or book, as I think Menakem helps us to understand how we swim in a larger system of injustice. While we are not personally responsible for creating the system (and there are historical factors that are larger than us) we are responsible for dismantling and slowly unwinding it.
While I don’t claim to know anything more than what I have observed and absorbed over the years, racism can be subtle poison. Current times are revealing how black and brown bodies and women’s bodies are subject to even greater risks for the COVID-19 infection.
I have no answers. I am a white person. Other voices need to be heard and highlighted. All I know is that I’m going to keep doing my personal work in bodyful and somatic ways with self-compassion and love for all those that are hurting. Hopefully I can connect with communities that also want to engage in these efforts.
Stay safe. Be kind. Wash your hands. Wear your mask.