community educator, writer, herbalist


love school with sumi: cynicism as the wounded healer

"In Which They Lived (furiously, fearlessly) trees (#1)" by the wonderful  Shloka M. Ettna  (reposted with permission from the artist).

"In Which They Lived (furiously, fearlessly) trees (#1)" by the wonderful Shloka M. Ettna (reposted with permission from the artist).

  1. 1.
    a feeling of surprise mingled with admiration, caused by something beautiful, unexpected, unfamiliar, or inexplicable.

i am experiencing more wonder in my life lately. more good surprises. more "present moment, perfect moment." less cynicism and a higher frequency of miracles. and they're spilling out of the mouths of everyone i meet.

it has me asking, what am i doing differently? what changed?

(whispering, what's changing in me?)

when i feel for it - this change - it’s as though i’m facing a direction that’s always been available to me but now i’m choosing to turn towards it, over and over again. and when i do, it’s like the fiery possibility of me touch-moves towards the most beautiful, inexplicable parts of the world around me. we're both reaching for each other. possibility recognize possibility.

it's curious to me, this sentiment that perfection = better. equals more good, more right. politically and in our relationships, we may crave perfect. but i'm finding that actually releasing perfection is what has made wonder more possible. a softening of the world and people around me. meeting more of the everyday brilliance existing around me. more space for the inexplicable. is this how you live a life guided by love?

(is this how love moves you, returns you, evolves you?)

because it's happening to me.

i was at a membership gathering last month with southerners on new ground where we were discussing the "plagues of movement work." one of the plagues we named was cynicism and despair. what's cynicism? in me it's a narrative which spirals towards impossibility. it's low hanging fog on the ground which never clears. it's a reasoning which leaves me feeling more gloom-stricken than before. everyone else isn't doing enough, this space can't hold me, that person is so misguided, we'll never be free unless..., y'all don't get it (me), it's putting our movement back when activists do xyz. i write this having felt these feels over and over again. there's a rigidity to it, a survival fear, a collapsing of possibility. so what makes us go there? 

it's helpful for me to separate the talented narrators who live inside me, which includes the cynic. my cynicism voice manifests as a really protective high school girl who is candid, playful, and perennially fed-up. some secret part of her even relishes in her own bad behavior (because of course that makes her more radical than anybody). i'm not mad at her. lots of room for her in the family of things, amirite? however i'm finding it's less of a spiraling relationship when i'm aware of her and we can be more amused by each other than internally or externally destructive. one assessment of my thoughts patterns which has helped me is asking them, "does this move me towards more life?"

(more life meaning the current within us which is always chasing miracles, chasing wonder, chasing next breath)

and because i believe everything has it's place, i began to wonder: what if cynicism is the chiron of rage? rage's wounded healer (who can't seem to heal itself). i like imagining cynicism as not solely a plague, but rage energy trying to understand itself, even trying to heal it's own wound but without the necessary tools. it's powerful to feel rage - to cut a straight deep line through denial and strike the center of injustice with fire.  so how do we move (even doula?) our rage (and sadness) towards more life? even when the desire to self-soothe with cynicism and despair is tempting. could we try to face our rage and say: 

there is so much room for you here,

i am happy that i can feel you deeply,

i choose to chase life with you.

more accessible to me than feeling rage is feeling sadness. i've heard people say depression is rage turned inward. during a somatics course, a friend shared that even sadness could be a way of self-soothing. a long practiced way of communicating to self, 'i'll take care of you.' her saying that was that same feeling of a new direction being opened up. (the people around us are full of miracles like this, i'm finding.)

while meant to be a protective force (of self, of political values, of each other) the curious thing about cynicism and despair is that it seems to make us deeply more fragile. every imperfection in others needs attacking to keep our sense of safety in tact. coincidentally, in this conversation about movement plagues, "fragility" was also one of them. trying to work, struggle, and take action together becomes a land mine of breakdowns.

i decided that i'm ready for different ways to have my own back. while slipping into sadness is a smart reflex, how does slipping into MORE LIFE create MORE POSSIBILITY in my life? and that more possibility could be as simple as being happy more. (and if you're like me, being happy doesn't seem like sucha small thing really.)

toni morrison said "all water has a perfect memory and is forever trying to get back to where it was." i'm convinced that our breath, our pulse, our fight is proof that we're always trying to get back to life. what if we could tune our rage to meet that current of unstoppable love moving through all of us? that sounds like real life magic to me.