This is the only word I can conjure to describe the state of the world right now.
I was going to start by listing all of the awful things that are taking place on planet Earth but I realized a) one of my 5 ways is to do exactly not that and b) the world is probably not any more or less terrible than it has been during other dramatic periods of history. I think our increased access to media gives us a heightened understanding of what’s happening in the world around us. It also serves as a reminder of all the things that are painfully out of our control and all the ways in which people are being hurt.
I’ve never been particularly good at doing self-care. I often over work myself and drink a little too much wine. So rather than try to do yoga or schedule in bubble baths, I’ve tried to find new and more proactive ways that help cultivate safe environments for myself and the people I care about. This helps in feeling protected from the dangers of right wing radicalism that knocks on the doors of our safe havens and also allows me to feel a little less helpless as the world rages on.
Here’s what I’m doing to cultivate a feeling of safety for myself:
1.)Divesting from horrible things
I wouldn’t advocate for disengaging entirely from the rest of the world (although for some people that’s necessary) but rather only tuning into sources I trust and voices that matter. Deleting racist high school friends from Facebook, unfollowing major news networks on Twitter and stepping up my privacy on social media has helped me to create an online world I can fill with things that are affirming and productive. World news matters a lot to me, but also in times of personal struggle I prefer to get my news from my friends. How are they doing? How are we doing? How are we coping? I’m divesting from big businesses, mainstream media and aggressive marketing that wants to indoctrinate me.
2.)Focusing on local change
My first thought, when I open up Facebook or Twitter, and see the latest Trump-esque nightmare, is to curl up into a ball and hide from the world. I do this, for about 10 minutes, then I feel even more enraged that I don’t have the power or courage to do something about these things. But then I realize… I do. I have the power to make impactful change in my local communities and do my part in safeguarding vulnerable people from harm. I don’t feel confident about my ability to change huge political structures, but there is potential in shifting local narratives. By organizing local events, taking up space, shifting media focus to community issues and supporting small businesses, there is the ability to momentarily exist independently of the shit show higher up.
3.)Participating in different forms of healing
I’ve come to learn that there are so many forms of healing in the world, particularly within marginalized communities that rest in ancestral traditions. As a person who thrives in organizing and doing community work, I like to be a part of creating spaces in which people can come together and heal with one another. For example, after the Pulse nightclub shooting in Florida, many of the vigils that took place erased the fact that so many of the victims (and victims of homo/transphobic violence in general) were people of color, specifically Black and Latinx. A group of queer and trans people of color worked together to create a beautiful safe space with poetry, prayer, altars and food. These things were nourishing and transformative, especially when we felt so broken and neglected by our larger community. Here are some other types of healing, rooted in long histories of racialized communities (by mindful of who you access these from and respectful of whose culture they belong to):
- Traditional Indigenous medicines and healing, Turtle Island (North America)
- Reiki, Japan
- Acupuncture, China
- Martial Arts, various
- Homeopathy, various
- Therapy, various
- Yoga, India
4.)Connecting with my ancestors
I’ve never been a particularly spiritual person but over the past few years of doing organizing work, I’ve come to understand and feel the strength of my ancestors. This appears in my life in so many different ways, but I feel a sense of guidance and strength and motivation that comes from being closer to my ancestors. Particularly for Black folks, many of whom have been torn from ancestral lands or displaced, finding that connection can be really hard. I recently had the incredible opportunity to return to the motherland and visit my family in the Gambia, West Africa. For me, this experience represented a greater connection to my roots and really grounded me. I was able to relax, feel a connection with the lands that my family originated in and re-evaluate my life. When I got back to my real life, I was able to feel collected, focused and supported.
5.)Burying myself in Black magic
I find so much joy in being surrounded by people whose experiences mirror mine. I am so lucky to have friends and family and community who do amazing things, make beautiful art, share wonderful photos, organize joyful events and so on. There is so much profound beauty and power in creating safe Black-only spaces and they’ve changed my life for the better. Here are some amazing Black/Blaq folks whose social media platforms are filled with Black beauty, joy and magic:
- Joy Gyamfi, @roughclub
- Ashleigh Nicole Tribble, @ashleighchubbybunny
- Ashleigh Shackelford, @ashleighthelion
- Hamad, @freckledlightskin
- A. L. Major, @a.l.major
- Jari Jones, @iamjarijones
- Lydia Okello, @styleisstyle
- Rudy Loewe, @rudyloewe
- Reina Gossett, @reinaxgossett
- Quil Lemons, @quillemons
- Brianna Marie, @artbybrix3
Stay joyful, curate your own world of wonder and bask in Black glory!
[Featured Image: A brown-skinned individual with curly hair stands outdoors in front of a wall wearing black pants and a floral shirt. Pexels.com]