normalizing

I came to the party a little late. I was buried alive for 8 months while the earth shifted on its axis after November 6th, 2016. I fell into another world, very far away. My lifelines were imagined–only in my head–and they snapped at the first sign of pressure. When I dug out and came up for air in June 2017, this world was gone. So was everyone I knew. I’m still processing. 

I missed the group reckoning process, the one that started most people’s normalizing. I can actually feel the normalization process happening in real time now. I feel my emotions—stirred up by everything wrong in the world–want to relax, rest, just be. I feel the outside edge of rage dip into anger, cool, and trickle to a lower plane: sad acceptance. All my new, lively, squirming emotions have been on high alert since the world disappeared. They still haven’t settled down. 

My emotions want to lose their hypersensitivity, want to be calm. They just want to try and enjoy what they can. And my mind colludes. It keeps looking for ways to live with the cognitive dissonance between a body and emotions justifiably hyper-vigilant and a deep exhaustion and desire to stop feeling every fucking thing. To just live, accept what is

If I let myself normalize, I give myself permission to stop thinking about the carnage, stop feeling the chaos, stop trying to solve this new world’s ocean of problems. If I normalize, I let myself relax into this new normal, figure out how to maneuver in this new environment. Normalizing, I wall off my view of the destruction, creating a garden behind it, making room for peace in the midst of war.

I wonder: “How much harder will it be for me to push back when I’m normalized?”

silence

A cabin, above a river; dusk. A small light flickers, like a hesitant child.

Screeching hawks coast above a fog-shrouded Russian river whose banks drip with lush green growth. The sun’s going down on this Christmas eve day. The sky’s saturated with intermingling tones of deep reds, purples, oranges, and yellows. The colors splash the bellies of speckled clouds. Shadows erase structure. It’s near time for the walk up the mountain.

324 square feet. One year. No reading. No talking. No arguing. No one else.

A deep black resolves from jewel tones into a sky close enough to touch and artfully splashed with sharp sparkles of hard white light. Blues and reds and oranges and purples glimmer and wink from trees and balconies. A striped orange and white cat joins the walk, performing graceful figure eights through less graceful slowly walking legs.

Being, walking, hiking. Learning self-care, how to cook; leaning into the rhythm of the day. Dancing and raging and grieving with deeply interconnected intimate rhythms.

An enormous, glorious oak lives at the top of Fitch mountain. Her lower branches extend from her trunk and gracefully lay on the ground around her. Visitors have fashioned seats from other trees’ trunks and they encircle the glorious oak. On Christmas eve, the seats are filled with silent visitors who gather to remember what matters.

The small light in the cabin winks out, and the river reflects.

gratitude

She makes her way slowly along the bluff, eyes adjusting to the early morning depths. As she walks, just the beginnings of outlines appear, above and below the horizon. Muted warm light reflects off shining footbridge handrails, revealing deep green and yellow mosses that feast on ancient redwood. Sand crunches under her soles. It’s the only sound that cuddles up to waves kissing the shore.

Standing on the little bridge, watching the sunrise in this place brings her to tears. It’s taken months for her body to believe she’s safe, for her mind to relax and accept, for her spirit to allow itself to be lifted. Every single day the universe lets her know she’s in the right place doing the right work. This morning, the rising sun warmed its way through the defenses her mind’s been slow to relinquish. (Sometimes a soul’s been parched for so long that the salve runs right off at first. It takes a little while to be able to absorb the good.)

She realizes she will never hear the sound of gunfire on this bluff, never hear high-powered, rapid-fire weapons in her neighborhood, never across the street from home. Here, she will never agonize for hours, rehearsing violent scenarios where she tries to defend her kittens and herself against an angry white guy with a gun. Hiking in this world, she will never come upon a sow whose gut has been blown out with small explosives. She will never stumble upon acres of naked, clear cut land. She won’t regularly terrify other animals just because she’s a human animal. She will never, ever say goodbye again to the sun for nearly half the year.

She reaches deep, but she can’t feel the bottom of her gratitude.

wall

A perfect day in the city. The sun is out, the streets are clean, the windows shine.

On a spacious street corner, a man checks his phone. Another man, kitty-corner, is doing the same thing. A woman, running, stops at the corner to check her time.

In between these three humans is another one who is bouncing between the trio’s energy, carefully avoiding touching anyone. She has a blanket wrapped around her. Her feet are barely covered in filthy socks. Her hair hasn’t been washed in months. Her face is blackened from dirt. Her eyes are washed out from the sun.

Her faded eyes look at the energy of the people, never at their eyes. She did that, a long time ago, but they never looked back at her. They still never look at her. She has stopped seeing them, too.

She pushes against the man’s energy in front of her, bounces gently off and into the woman’s energy, who carefully keeps her face neutral as she steps sideways, away from the blanketed woman. The man kitty-corner notices the movement in his direction and smoothly decides he’ll cross against the light which is just about to change anyway.

The blanketed woman, mumbling softly to herself, pushes against his quickly receding energy, and propels herself away from the warmth of the corner humans and toward the brick wall of the adjacent shop. She drops the blanket, spreads her fingers wide, and pushes her hands flat against the wall. She closes her eyes, feeling the cold, the hard. She puts her weight behind her hands and pushes into the immobility of the bricks, feeling their presence, letting their substance make substance of her. Letting the actuality of the bricks against her hands remind her she exists in the world, too, even if no one ever looks at her.

The wall doesn’t respond to her either, but it stays still, stays with her.

sf bay area peeps

San Francisco Bay Area peeps are collaborators. We are student-centered, client-centered, customer-centered, patient-centered. We are power-sharers. As learners we’ve been shown how to power-share, and we expect to share our power. We are freed to stop chasing power, debating for it, fighting over it. Power-sharing frees us to create a multitude of healthier sources of power.

SF Bay Area peeps know possibility is real. We know it’s as real as what’s actual. We know that ideas have lives, that they can change lives. We like to work from the ground of possibility. We are subjunctive. We are limited when we problem-solve only from the actual. We challenge systems that lock us into the actual because they block our view of the possible. We live in the actual and are present now (and now and now), but possibility moves us, lights up our imagination.

SF Bay Area peeps imagine. We imagine BIG. Our imaginations soar. We look up. We expect things will work out. (And we know they will, eventually, if we keep doing just work.) We know that imagining positive outcomes helps us create humane methods for input. We know that’s what humans can control, our own input. We focus on our best input instead of fearing unknown outcomes in the future.

SF Bay Area peeps self identify. We know the power in knowing ourselves. We embrace our intersectionality. (Ness.) We recognize that diversity, options, choices—knowing our own agency—makes healthier humans. Too much of any one thing always steals power. We know that each of us is a work of art. And we know that art is life.

SF Bay Area peeps orient toward the best. We strive to engage with our best selves. We trust each other to speak to our best selves. We try to connect with others’ best selves. We prefer incentive and support to threats and punishment. We recycle. We upcycle. We don’t throw people away. We know that people have inherent value because they are part of a whole.

SF Bay Area peeps embody Ubuntu. We live “I am because you are.” We recognize that we are all glittering jewels in Indra’s net: all our reflections are in each of us and those reflections are the core of who we are as human animals in the cosmos.

We know that creating one just relation at a time makes just families and just communities and just societies.

mandala

Our cycle of life is off. It mirrors our pursuit of knowledge. And things. It starts out slow, thin, but very present; aware, visceral, emotional, tactile, hopeful, curious, open. Full of joy, of wonder, of imagination. Then, we accumulate experience and knowledge. We collect things. We become culminations, and our limbs are collections. We become complicated. We become too big to move easily. We become comfortable and stuck in our assumptions. We feel safe and sure in our conclusions. We compare our thickness to the thinness of youth and feel secure. We know we know so much more. We’ve experienced so much more. We have become the standard. And we guard that standard as if our lives depend on it.

18: legally, we’re “adults.” We are responsible for everything we do, everything we think. We are accountable for our actions, our thoughts, our behavior. It is up to us to fix ourselves. Up to us to find the help for the damage that’s been done to us, by power. Up to us to recognize it, to see the connections to a wounded life; up to us to commit and engage and follow through on the repair process. Drowning in everything else “adult,” we reach back toward what we think we see in our younger selves, what we think we felt then, all the while having lost our connection to who we were when we started.

What if it changed? What if we started out the same, but we inclined toward returning there? Toward returning—nourished and full of experience and resources—to the place where new humans are starting, to the beginning again. What if the first half of our lives were like sand mandalas? What if when we got to the middle, we let go, blew the beauty of our lives to the wind, and turned to where we are needed? Where we are useful. Where we can offer what was never offered to us. Where we can find the beginning again. Where we can feel that joy, that wonder. Where we can join in imagination. Where we can honor and celebrate and help bring to life the dreams and hopes of being young. Again.

What if we lived there at the end?