reminder to self: it’s okay to be bummed out 

I have been wanting to blog but not blogging, so I am breaking the seal for now with this mini-post. Thank you to Narinda for the reminders & for setting a good example!

We are in a pandemic. It is bad and uncertain, and we still are not sure how bad things will get. On top of all of the ways this moment is exacerbating the existing inequalities and failures of global capitalism and U.S. empire, this moment of collective trauma and constant grief is going to ripple out for years.

And, in spite of that, I would say that I have been feeling … not completely in disaster the majority of the time? I am blessed, in a way, to be in a lot of sdq (sick & disabled queer) community, and that has given me a lot of skills to prepare for and cope in this moment. I have also found a lot of joy and movement in mutual aid and staying busy. And, of course, having class privilege and being a light-skinned East Asian insulates me from a lot of ways this pandemic and widespread shutdown are impacting others, including many of the people I love.

So, in general, I am appreciating that staying busy helps. I appreciate that most of the time, I feel pragmatic and/or hopeful, even. I like being able to look on the bright side of things. And also, in a coaching session today, my coach helped me to identify that I haven’t made enough space to just be … bummed out.

To that end, what’s one big thing that you were looking forward to this year that isn’t happening/or is delayed, one medium bummer, and one small thing that has been a surprising bummer?

Big thing: I had plans to spend a really big portion of this year in nature, including several camping trips with the FIRE Fellowship and a 30-day backpacking and sea kayaking trip in Alaska that I’ve been planning and saving for over the last two years.

Medium bummer: I MISS DANCING WITH PEOPLE. It’s something I was just starting to get comfortable with, that still felt terrifying most of the time, but also felt like a kind of liberation and presence in my body that I know was only becoming possible because of years of internal work, unlearning and growing.

Small, surprising thing: I really, really miss riding the bus alone with my headphones on, reading, listening to music, or just observing other people going about their lives. Walking to the bus stop, the awkward shuffle when everyone tries to let each other on first, getting off at my stop & not having to think about where I’m going, just letting my body lead and singing as I traveled to wherever I was going next.

I have cried hard exactly twice in the six or so* weeks that I have been self-isolating: About a week ago, I realized that I can’t hug a friend who is grieving (and also get hugs for good news that I have & want to share with friends). On Sunday, I realized that if we were still having in-person rehearsals for my theater company, we would have been at this beautiful dance studio in Pasadena that we go to once a month. It’s the first place I danced in front of a group of people, at my theater callback last fall, and dancing there after rehearsal at the beginning of March was the most free I have ever felt my body in movement. I miss it. I miss hugs.

And, also, I am grateful for these moments, the release of tears, because I have barely been able to cry, and because the tears are very clearly letting me know what is most important in my life.

* I had to take a break in the middle to argue with my parents about self-isolating and to buy groceries in my attempt to keep them out of the store.

#EmotionalLaborDay

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Image shows a genderqueer Asian sitting in a light blue inflatable kayak in the middle of a lake surrounded by trees. They are grinning and holding a black paddle.

Today I’m celebrating what I’m calling #EmotionalLaborDay, uplifting and honoring the often-invisibilized emotional work that goes into our communities and movements.

Holding space; processing trauma; building relationships; offering care; setting, navigating, and respecting boundaries; holding ourselves and others accountable — all of these acts are beautiful and necessary, and they are also work. I am grateful to the femmes, women of color, and QTPOC who are my possibility models and inspire me to grow, to do and be better. I see you, I see your labor, and I appreciate you.

I am also celebrating my own work, my difficult / rewarding / beautiful journey toward healing, the ways I have learned to become accountable to myself by stepping into my values. I am uplifting my recognition that organizing is not just #clipboardface, it is building and growing and love and hope and visioning and manifesting the universe we want to thrive in.

I am celebrating and honoring rest. At the beginning of June, I drafted a note on my phone asking for support in taking a temporary step back from organizing to focus on self-care. Instead of posting that note, I took on new projects and coordinating roles and kept pushing beyond my capacity. All of this work has felt necessary and rewarding and beautiful, and it has strengthened many of my relationships with comrades and friends I’ve been organizing with, who have offered care and support and wisdom and creativity and laughter over the past few months. AND ALSO I know that I am tired and right on the edge of burnout (or, to be honest, probably three months past my edge of burnout), and that constantly burning through all of my spoons is affecting my physical, emotional, and mental health. Being constantly tired and emotionally drained also makes it harder for me to live in my values. (All of the values, because it is hard to be cranky and tender at the same time, but particularly values around agency and self-determination; when I take on labor that is beyond my capacity, I do not honor myself or the fact that we are interconnected, not alone, in our work. I do not allow others to move in to take on what they can.)

Last December, I started a series of posts about self-care, and then I started a new job and haven’t finished the posts I planned about community care and interdependence. Over the last few months, I have seen beautiful care support teams flourish around loved ones who have gone through surgery and in the ways allies have rallied around the #DecolonizeLACityHall encampment led by the LA chapter of Black Lives Matter. In addition to wrangling supplies, offering rides, coordinating schedules, and gathering resources, I have seen folks show up hard (physically, digitally, and emotionally), and I am grateful to have participated in and witnessed this labor.

At the last full moon, I set an intention for stillness and art, and ⅔ of a lunar cycle later, I hope to spend the next few weeks focusing on both of these things. My motto for September is going to be “work hard, introvert hard.” I am committing to not taking on any new tasks, projects, or coordinating roles for the rest of the month, to re-learning how to say no, and to making time for reflection and creating for myself.

I just searched through my coaching notes to look for something my coach told me about rest, and I found this from a mid-July session:

what are the gifts of stillness?
opening up possibilities, being able to see past the present moment and also be in the present moment
opening up space and time in a way that isn’t constantly moving
what’s important about opening up that space and time?
it feels like the opposite of trauma
allows folks to just be
cultivating the opposite of trauma, when you say that, recognize that, what do you notice?
the first thing is that I haven’t been making that for myself
so there’s something about feeling like I can’t rest, recognizing that I have been contributing to that, not just the things around me
what stops you from being still, Audrey?
feeling like there’s too much in the world, if stop, won’t ever be able to start again

My original plan was to close with a quote about the importance of rest, but instead I offer you this glimpse of the things that feel most terrifying and most hopeful. Rereading my own words, I remember how grounded I felt when I named stillness as “the opposite of trauma.” I wish this feeling & truth for myself, and I wish it for you.

[Edited to add accountability tips I posted on FB, feel free to borrow, edit, and use for yourself!]

Ways you can support/hold me accountable:
– Please feel free to reach out and/or check in, but be aware that I may be slow to respond or not respond.
– Tell me how you take care of yourself! Comment below, send a message / email / text, etc.
– Keep inviting me to things, so I know what’s going on in the world & can also practice saying no.
– Send affirmations / gifs / memes about self-care as community care, taking breaks, rebirth, growing, and/or healing.
– Model rest and self-care and healthy boundaries for yourself. The more we practice these skills individually, the better we all will be at holding space for each other.