If I took one lesson from the past year, it’s that there is incredible power in radical vulnerability. While I’d hoped that 2017 would be kinder to us all, I spent most of the year feeling paralyzed.
In August, things finally began to shift when I started to see a therapist for the first time in my adult life. I’d known for months that I needed to get some help, but finding someone to open up to was overwhelming. It didn’t help when I reached out to half a dozen practitioners who never returned my calls.
Finally, on the personal recommendation of a friend, I started seeing Lynn. I wasn’t sure if I liked her at first. She pushed me in ways that felt uncomfortable . Our conversations never went in the direction I thought they should go. I kept seeing her anyway. This has turned out to be one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
In September I posted a photo on Instagram that I almost deleted a hundred times. It felt too radically vulnerable, too exposing, too real. But the support that came through was transformative. And it led to one of the best things to come from the year: A magical new friendship with an incredible soul.
(Bonus: She just so happens to live a few blocks away from me. And she goes to UMBC so lunch dates are easy. And she’s a fellow blogger so she’s the perfect writing accountability partner. Thanks, universe!)
On Leah’s advice, I visited a hypnotherapist for the first time in October. It was one of the most life-changing experiences I’ve ever been part of. I kept trying to write a blog post about it, but I couldn’t seem to capture the magic that happened that day. Words can’t seem to capture the healing came from the energy in the room. The guidance of Carly’s voice allowed me to let go of energies that I’ve carried with me since childhood. In those 3 hours, I was truly able to work through some bullshit that had been plaguing me for decades.
At the same time, we welcomed a friend into our home who’s living with a chronic, invisible illness. She needed to move out of a toxic living situation and our upstairs apartment was empty. We offered it to her without a second thought. It felt right to provide a safe space where she could take time to heal without the pressure of making rent. It’s such a small act, but it’s also made me realize that activism doesn’t mean one single thing. It doesn’t have to mean planning protests or organizing sit-ins. Sometimes it means sharing what you have with someone who needs it.
Funny, that’s also my politics in a nutshell. #sharemore
In November, I gave up smoking weed. It feels uncomfortable to admit this, but I’d been smoking a lot since Bruce died. Like, every day as soon as I would get home from work. It felt like the only way I could cope with my mega emotions. The only thing that helped me unwind after a stressful day. I thought it helped keep my anxiety and depression at bay. But I started to notice that it gave me a lot of reasons to dislike myself too.
I would get snacky and then eat too much
I wouldn’t go out when I was stoned because it made me slow and stupid and paranoid
it sapped me of the focus I needed to do anything other than binge Netflix
I’d already realized that I was spending a lot of time beating myself up. Over my unhealthy eating habits, unsocial lifestyle, and lack of productivity*. It took me months before I could accept that my habit of smoking when I got home from work was the root of these problems. And longer still to realize that if I actually wanted to change, I had to take a break.
It was surprisingly hard to admit that weed is bad for me.
But once I did give it up, the positive effects were undeniable. Within 2 days of quitting, I noticed that most of my negative self-talk had disappeared. Within a week, I discovered I suddenly had energy to do things after work again. I didn’t want to spend my evenings watching mindless TV because there were books to be read! And herbal potions to concoct! And friends to reconnect with!
I haven’t had a suicidal thought since I quit.
*A brief aside on productivity
Somehow, my lack of productivity became wrapped up with warped ideas of self-care. I hate idea that they base our worth on our productivity. In a weird way, I convinced myself that getting stoned was a way of sticking it to the man. It gave me permission to be unproductive after working/commuting 10+ hours a day.
But the thing was, smoking weed sapped me of the ability to do the things I wanted to do. I lost touch with my creativity and didn’t have the focus to read or write. When I would sober up the next morning, I’d beat myself up for wasting my free time. I realized that my stoned state pushed me to take part in mindless consumption through TV, junk food, etc. It
I’ve found that there are healthy ways to give myself space to be “unproductive.” When I want a break, I choose to meditate or take a bath or simply be still with myself. Building up my inner reserves and taking time to care for myself is a much more potent act of rebellion.
In December I discovered a podcast that has opened up new worlds for me. It has completely transformed my relationship with hopelessness, change, and the future. The Brown sisters discuss apocalypse with humor and compassion. They offer a refreshing reminder: While this world may be ending, we make space for new beginnings. I’ve spent the past few weeks devouring as much of adrienne maree brown wisdom and writings as I can.
As the month came to a close, I realized that I’d spent too much energy in 2017 hating the world as it is. In adrienne’s work, she talks about how we live in a world that has been shaped by someone else’s imagination. Our job now is to envision the world we want to create. In a recent blog, she wrote,
“today i am entering a year-long commitment of putting my attention on what i love and want to grow.
i have been heading this way, but still giving too much of my attention to that which i cannot shape. that which i cannot reach. i want to hold my attention as precious sunlight that i bestow on every practice or person or concept that advances the way i believe things should be. i want to affirm that which is done well, and/or is done bravely.
to have enough attention for this focus, i am intentionally removing my attention from those who hurt humanity or the planet, or hurt movements learning and working to protect either of these.”
For too long, I’ve been paralyzed by my anger over that which I cannot shape. My attention has been directed toward the things that I cannot change. This is where I’ve put my energy rather than focusing on the pockets of joy and hope and beauty all around me.
I’m filling my Instagram feed with herbalists, witches, and radical activists. People who inspire me who live by my values and embody my spirituality. I’m consciously cutting ties with my need to be informed of everything that’s wrong with the world.
And I am directing more of my resources toward projects that are building toward the world I want to live in. If you live in the city, check out baltimore (r)evolution. It’s a group I created to build community between activists and people who want to contribute.
Building a Practice of Radical Vulnerability: A Spell for the New Year
I spent New Year’s Day in quiet reflection. I practiced adrienne’s beautiful spellcasting technique and I’m so thankful for it. This is the spell I wrote for 2018 that will live inside my pillowcase for the next year:
I let go of the belief that I am broken
I am whole. I am enough, just as I am
I take forward with me the knowledge that there is strength in my vulnerability
and I choose to share that boldly, bravely, freely
I stand in the power of my honesty and insight
I choose to trust in my truths and believe in myself
I will cherish my softness
I will be in practice of radical vulnerability in service of collective liberation
I will grow outward rather than shrinking in
My weaknesses are a gift that I will offer as an invitation to others to share more fully of themselves
I will be bold and brave in building toward a world based on caring, support, and mutual aid