Witnessing as a practice
A scattering of what I'm looking at
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A song I’m loving:
Sometimes, there is no “right” thing to say, or write, or speak — there is only the truest thing you have in the moment. Here are some of my current Truest Things in this moment, not highly formed but real, not on my usual schedule, sent on a random Wednesday that happens to the first day of November with a peach sunrise rising out my bedroom window.
The amount of grief, rage, fear, and heartbreak my heart is holding continues to surprise me. We are often forced to hold so much more than we’re made to, the miracle of our bodies somehow learning to adapt, make room, adjust, even at the detriment of ourselves. Sometimes, there’s no other choice than to learn how to bear more weight than we can bear, to find places and people we can ease the load with, to find rituals and actions we can lighten it with, to find books and poems and storylines we can lose ourselves in when we find ourselves crumbling underneath what’s heavy, to remember what we can turn to.
Some of what I’ve been turning to: phone calls to representatives. Meaningful, honest, grace-filled conversations with beloveds and acquaintances alike. Listening. Learning. Berries in the morning. Tea time with my daughter in the hours between her midday nap and dinner, where she says “steep steep steep” while she steeps hers. Creating a Fall altar in our dining room. Crying, a lot. Witnessing the full range of joy and devastation as equally as I can. Receiving permission to be moved, to be shaken. Everything listed in today’s links (find below). Writing less than I’d normally hope to because I’ve needed time for more living and less producing. Hearing many different perspectives. Dropping the need to know everything before I trust my intuitive knowing. Eating goldfish leftover from last week’s birthday party. Silencing perfectionism. The new Sewanee Review that arrived in the mail. Donating. Wearing my favorite sweater every day. Being willing to really look, see, feel. Letting what I feel change me. Visits to the farm to get our CSA box. Making new meals with veggies from said CSA box. Therapy. Holding more than binary thinking allows. Tracking the moon on drives home. Walks. Music playing in the house almost always. Looking through old photo albums with my daughter. Asking for longer hugs. Cacao and reading in bed. Noticing where I’m paying attention at the detriment of my nervous system and giving permission to take a break. Noticing where I’m avoiding and finding safety to tune back in. Flowers. The ocean. Trees. A glass of water. Early to bed.
This Friday, after months of preparation, I’m engaging (as a client) in a psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy medicine journey for the first time (part of why I’m writing today instead of this weekend). I considered cancelling after moving through the past few weeks and feeling a depth of grief I haven’t felt in a long time, but decided there won’t ever be a truly compartmentalized or “ideal” time to go inward in this way. I am not sure how much I’ll want to share about this experience; frankly, I’m surprised I am even sharing this glimpse here. What I do know is that putting ourselves in the way of new methods of healing, whether psychedelic or otherwise, feels brave to me. And, perhaps now more than ever (when are we not saying that?), allowing ourselves to access the kind of care we’ve been seeking feels like love in action, close in first, and I wonder how it would ripple outward if we were all able to carve out such space to do so.
On that note, I’ve been thinking a lot about how surreal it is that those of us not living in direct contact with what’s unfolding elsewhere must continue living the ordinary, mundane, or perhaps profound parts of our daily lives, amid war, amid violence, amid absolute horror happening in other places. I’ve been asking, how do we continue with our tasks at hand while life is flipped upside down for others? It all feels hazy and unreal. A child loses their life while I make my child breakfast, while I figure out how to get her to eat enough vegetables, while I do the dishes and stub my toe walking up the stairs and read Little Witch Hazel for the 750th time. I can’t get the faces of children in Gaza out of my mind. I can’t get their little bodies, their Batman shirts, their smiles, their cries out of my mind. I can’t get the vitriol I’ve received just for saying this off my mind. I wipe my daughter’s face and I wish I could wipe all of their faces clean of the rubble, the trauma, all of it. I wish this for every human being. I mean every single one.
I’ve never prayed in my life. I grew up in an unreligious household, I’ve never attended church, and I’ve always felt extremely disconnected from religion. The last few weeks, though, I’ve found myself doing my own version of praying: to the sun, the clouds, the water, the trees, the ground, the things I’ve always felt held by. I’ve been praying for children, especially — for children everywhere, and I mean Everywhere, to grow up loved, nourished, free. I look up at our shared moon and I imagine it. I picture what it would feel like.
“What counteracts erasure? Witnessing.” —Hala Alyan
My daughter turned two last Thursday. We spent the morning in Point Reyes, walking in the forest and visiting our favorite bookshop, sharing a pastry in the garden at Brickmaiden and watching the bees buzz nearby. Two years. Two whole years and also only two years. She reminds me every day to re-center back toward my values, back toward the vision of a future where all of us get to be our full selves, back toward family, back toward nature, back toward the moment I so frequently want to stray from when it hurts. She reminds me straying when it hurts also means not getting to fully arrive when it’s sweet, and that morning was so, so sweet, and I really wanted to fully be there. I want to fully be here.
Self-compassion lately has looked like repeating, “Of course you’re tired. Of course you’re tired. Of course you’re tired,” instead of asking why I’m so tired.
I haven’t been writing as many newsletters lately as I “usually” do, not because I don’t want to but because I’ve needed a deepening, space, some room. It’s been a season of personal challenge and while it is, at times, fruitful and nurturing to write through those seasons publicly, this particular season has asked for a lot of privacy. It’s felt good to honor that in spite of whatever consequences arise from sharing a little less here. That said, I am feeling more fuel return, more zest for getting it all down; thank you for being here for all the ebbs and flows of what it means to be a person out loud. It isn’t always easy but it’s a continuous teacher.
A reminder to me, and perhaps to you: It’s okay to do what you can: no less, no more. It’s okay to get things wrong. It’s okay to have learning and unlearning to do. It’s okay to access joy in the midst of grief. It’s okay to let grief fill you, to trust it will empty out soon. It’s okay to feel angry. It’s okay to feel delight. It’s okay to have no idea. It’s okay to trust what you are entirely clear on. It’s okay to disappoint people. It’s okay to take an extra-long shower. It’s okay to eat the leftover goldfish from the birthday party. It’s okay to cry on the message you leave for your representative. It’s okay to be holding multiple lived experiences at once. It’s okay to feel like you’re fading sometimes. It’s okay to be awed at all the parts of you still entirely vibrant, entirely here. It’s okay to give yourself room to be a person, to be human, to remember you’re only human.
Thanks, as always, for being here.
△ A scene that felt nurturing, nourishing, + needed this week —
With so much care,
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