I watch as smoke drifts upwards from a small fire in my friend’s backyard. As the smoke lifts into the night sky, I ask it to carry my prayers and pleas up to Spirit. Inside the house, a map of the United States filled in with mostly red, is displayed on the screen of the TV. No one is in the house watching the TV any longer. We are all sitting outside staring at the fire shocked and in disbelief that Trump had become president. Stunned and terrified we hesitantly tell each other softly, “our fight continues” and “activism is alive.”
I’ve never felt such visceral fear in my body about an election before. There’s a neighbor up the street with several Trump signs in their yard. I found it comforting that other neighbors around them, three to be exact posted signs for Hillary facing the street and facing the house in a direct response. Yet, I can’t ignore that live in a red state, one where a majority of people voted for a man who campaigned on hate, violence and fear. Safety is suddenly my new everyday question. And I know I’m not alone in this intense vulnerability.
At home, I hold my partner and cry a bit letting myself drop fully into the fear of what will happen to me as disabled person, as the daughter of an immigrant, to this border I live nearby. I fall asleep exhausted completely immersed in my vulnerability and fear.
In the morning, after confirming the truth was still what I had left the night before, I sit by myself alone. I feel consumed by fear and knew if I don’t get grounded, I will lose myself in worry. Getting grounded means feeling a stream of energy from my hips going down deep into the earth, feeling that energy come back up through my body out the top of my head into the universe and then feeling it return down into my body again. Being grounded means I’m aware of my body, and this helps me understand what I need and what actions I want to take. But, I was lost in the stack of emotions piled on top of my center, the ground I sat upon. I was unable to feel the stability beneath me. I had to delve through these feelings first.
Sinking into the feelings and how they feel in my body is different than thinking through the feelings. I try to not analyze or create logic or to get lost in the imaginings of the future. Instead, I focus on the pressure in my lower chest, the intensity of throbbing pain. I sit in my awareness of this for a long time. My mind wanders and I pull it back to just observe. After a while, I notice the pain had shifted to my back. I sit and observe this shift. (This discomfort is different than disability pain. It’s literally the manifestation of how I’m feeling in my body.)
Finally, the pain fades and I am able to imagine a cord of energy dropping down from my hips into the earth. I feel the ground beneath my body.
Sometimes in the midst of upheaval, we need to create a small space for our bodies to be present with our feelings. Talking to my partner later, he says, “It’s hard for me not to be shutdown. To succumb to the despair I feel about the current reality.” “Yes,” I say. Then I shared with him what I had done, how I had sat and paid attention to everything inside of my body which was reacting to feeling so vulnerable. When we are giving ourselves attention, it is hard to be disconnected.
Underneath vulnerability is strength. Meaning, underneath all of these emotions and fear, however connected to reality they are, lies our desires, intentions and love. When I am in touch with my feelings of vulnerability, then I am also in touch with my desires and strength. Yet, if I stay in a place of disconnection and let myself shutdown, then I will live in my trauma both current and in the past. I will live in a place of fearful anticipation which makes me more open and susceptible to panic and shame. I need to touch my strength, even if it’s only with my heart.
In some ways, I feel the need for my world to get smaller. I might try to check in with my neighbors more and ask friends to tell me how they’re doing. I know I need to fall back into a place of witnessing and supporting those who are around me. If we could all do this, then we all would have something, some kind of support. My partner also reminds me of the importance of engaging and changing systems. To change and support the structures which provide for our day-to-day lives. The balance of time and energy to devote to vulnerability and strength, to witness each other’s lives and to cultivate and listen to our desires and dreams is now our current task.
Connecting to our own strength is essential in making it through what will come. We must draw a circle in the sand. Take a moment to sit there alone and allow ourselves to have a safe containment for the vulnerability we need to witness within our own bodies and hearts. Breathe. Touch the dirt. Give ourselves attention. In our strength, our desires and our love are the gifts the world needs now.