As I navigate my interiority, at this time of lockdown, there is a thorn in my sock, it is niggling for extraction. As I traverse this ground of quarantine, there is a bird in my ribcage, it is fluttering for release. As I do the work of sorting the beans of my psyche to acclimatise to the ask of these times, there are words pestering in my mind, grief hungering in my heart, insight seeding in my bones, hungering for expression. I have been resisting them but they beseech, so I bow to the unformed and the nebulously emergent and give flight to the shadowed impulse, and add yet another thread to the weave of word and thought that we humans cannot cease to create.
This thing that wants form speaks of the violence that is seeded in the absence of care. I know, it seems to be the thing I am always speaking of, but it wants voice yet, I am still finding my way home to it. I see it in the human world around me at this time of global crisis, ecological, viral....but perhaps it is always safest to name it closer in, to give it intimacy first.
At the beginning of quarantine there was a power birthing itself through us in the very little world of our family. This birthing of empowered presence and connection was possible because for a moment I let the world stop. Work, school, the pull to attend to other. In that space a garden grew, almost instantly, my children and I like a pride of lions, tumbling in the grass, deep autumnal grace. Dirt beneath our nails from the time tending the soul, fostering the seedlings, praying at the alter of Earth. We roamed our sense of place, came home to the ground that houses us. Walking across her symmetry, we admired the mantel of her funghi, we arranged the hues of fallen eucalyptus leaves, found an orchid whose blooming has strayed so far out of the season of its kinfolk. We, constantly awed by the little miracles of nature, finding our way back into the weave, listening deeply at the bones of things and finding there the profound sensorial opulence of embodied presence, the sweet elixir of rest and nourishment. We came home. Home to our bodies, to each other, to our garden, to our clever hands, to the land that embraces us.
And then the world crept back in, entered our home again via the screen. School began, albeit in a somewhat disembodied version of my children’s wonderful school, it’s meticulous beauty, and impeccable ethos. The need for work drove my gaze out into the world, to share and to draw some succour near, to lure in the means to pay our way, while my other jobs slept. My own schooling in psychotherapy recommenced, an attempt to unravel from within the tangles of trauma that keep me exiled from belonging. And now, five of six weeks in, I feel severed again, blunted. My body speaking it’s language of auto-immunity, my sleep ruptured, my adrenals taking up their vigilant overtime to accomodate for the deficit of care.
That renewal at the beginning seemed so instant, like the sky above cities, once thick with pollution, suddenly clear and blue as a newborn breath. The water of rivers, oceans, so long silted with our plastic and grime, so quickly reinhabited by wild forces as they were cleansed by our conspicuous absence, an innate purification emergent in the slowing, in the stilling, a blatant consequence of our rest from the quest of constant consumerism, the perpetual feeding of our hungry ghosts, the ravenous maw of our dislocated selves.
Again things got busy, busier than I can bear, busier than my nervous system can cope with. This is how I have lived most of my life, busier than my embodied self can bear, than my fine tuned nervous system can abide. Obediently loyal to an outer imperative that denies my sovereign need for deep listening and regulation with other humans and with Earth, in ways I have not been schooled in by my culture, but find my way to by the example of other more intact peoples and by the cells of my own blood when I stop long enough and still deeply enough to listen and to hear.
The imperatives of the paradigm of domination that we currently reside in, calls me up into my head, there to flay myself at the ask for a particular sort of productivity that is required to earn sustenance in a world that is severed from its source of true nourishment. And the soft animal of my body, it’s finely tuned breath and intuitive movement and miraculous capacity to cleanse and restore and recalibrate itself back to equilibrium is abandoned to the god of other, of exteriority, of production and output, of brutal dominion over the soft feminine ground of my being. I abandon my fine tuned care, of body/Earth to meet the mind of the world. There is a trauma that drives me, not safe to rest, needs will not be met in surrender to authentic impulse, to presence, to ground. Or will they? Children must be educated, so that they are not cut adrift from the imperatives of the human world. An income must be procured, the hungry maw of the capitalist imperative must be fed, sacrificed to. We must keep up or we will be left behind.
I am sad, because I feel again I have left myself behind in the rush to belong to a way of being, I cannot truly abide, and yet cannot yet find my way to exist outside of. There is a potency in this liminal space between world and hearth, where the desires of the cultural paradigm have actually imposed their ask into my very home, it’s sanctuary breached.
I am journeying with my children as they stretch into their futures and enculturated selves, as they practice the patterns of order and structure that scaffold our thinking. The times tables, the way that words fall together to form an internal temple of thought to temporarily house and shroud our not-knowingness and mystery, our vulnerability and aliveness, to keep at bay the wild terrain of our bodied beingness, our instinctive selves. It feels easeful for my daughter, fierce of will, sharp of wit. Yet still I wonder what is it that truly lies behind her fierce diligence, as I see the strain at her brow. And then there is my boy, day after day we sit, with deep resistance and inner turmoil and overwhelm. I am being called to attend to my own educational trauma, so that I can hold to him in his experience of being brought to things, again and again that are not natural to him. I see myself in both of my youngest children, the vigilant and the overwhelmed, but there is deep work being attended to here with my boy, we are repatterning the fabric of our psychic weave.
This sensitive one, who just weeks before gathered rain soaked sap from the dark interior of trees over days of rainfall, and then warmed and stirred the dark, sticky liquid over a fire he had built beneath the sky, until he’d made a glue, to hold the hemp string that he entwined around his tea tree fishing spear to secure and seperate the points that he had hewn and crafted and sanded with such diligent care. This self-directed impulse, so alive and driven, only the week before. There is an astute intelligence in his body-being, his hands and his heart are innately clever, but he struggles with written word, the shapes don’t fit neatly into the shape of his unusual and creative mind.
In these weeks of schooling from home he has been laid bare, again and again, by the intensity of his frustration, in his feeling of not enough, not good enough for the pace and structural imperatives of this ask of remote learning, unbound from the embodied trust he nurtures with his attuned teachers.Is this frustration always there for him at school? Or is it just unearthing itself here in this strange context, where mother is teacher, learning support, specialist teacher, violin tutor, lunch maker, space holder, student, small business owner, creative being, sensate animal, wounded soldier? I can feel the coiled brutality, of what he has had to put aside in himself to abide in the structure of a human focused system, even one so beautifully attuned as his Steiner education. I feel I am baring witness to his aliveness of feeling, slowly unfurl as we learn to make a home for it again. The school work has been put aside again and again to sit with the tears, both of ours, and the angry frustration of the ill fitting garment of the world, where it inadvertently curtails the wild self, without due conversation and time and listening and attunement, between the body and the world, the knowledge and the earth, the imperative of the system and the willingness of the being.
He deeply loves his school actually, and there is so much there that feeds this wild soul in him, but this is something else and he is not coping with this school in home, mother as teacher. It has been valuable in its unearthing of trauma ground within our shared field, the bare bones of it. It has been useful in the imperative that has arisen for me to learn how to hold my son and myself more fiercely, less conditionally, in our big feelings, in our true pain and outrage, the frustration that lies at the heart of being subtly brutalised by a cultural system and institutional demand that would have you be other than what your true nature would ask of you. The shame and erosion of esteem that can grow in that place, if care and holding and emotional attunement are not brought there with an impeccable and astute will. Care and holding and emotional attunement take time and presence, things we are in short order of when things get busy.
There is a deep squeezing, in the ask of our time. It has been valuable for me to see more acutely the polarised pull within me, of the fierce rebellious renegade who longs to unschool, to rewild, to decolonize and along side this, there is alongside this, the hyper diligent good-girl, loyal to the narratives of the cultural ask, even as they kill me and the natural ecosystem I love. I sense within me the obsequious approval seeking mechanism of the dangled carrot of belonging, if I just try a little harder, work a little longer, sacrifice a little more, I will finally arrive in the world of human, exonerated, accomplished, pristine.
This is often how it is for me in this life, to return to my body, I meet with the bare bones of trauma. There is a hyper-aroused nervous system, a deep chasm of grief, an incapacity to truly ever feel safe in my own skin. There are subterranean geysers of rage and the microcosmic filaments of desire that have never been fully given authority to move and be satisfied. There is a battle between nature and culture alive in my skin. A dance between past and present, in my sensate experience, the unresolved encapsulation of my past seeking resolution through the cellular aliveness of the now. But a part of me keeps asking, can I become big enough, brave enough, resourced enough, nuanced enough to fully land in my own skin, alive to feeling and indebtedness and to the thunderous love for my own existence that would actually give me a home to truly dwell within, a bedrock to truly plant my feet upon? Sovereign, loyal to the true ask of my embodied and inter-connected self.
The parts of me that I have never learnt to listen to and care for, prevent me from being fully available to my children as mother. The bigness of their soulful beings have not always been able to find traction in the conditioned ground of my trauma infused psyche. All my life I have been told not to listen too closely to my own will, but to bend to the imperatives of the other, not to yield to my own emotional turbulence, but to honour instead the narrow pursuit of the mind and obedience to expectations of gender and familial codes. The subtle indoctrination to abide the norms of an emotionally illiterate culture, severed from the true throbbing, aching needs of the embodied self, in an alive and intertwined eco-system. Often my last resort was to just leave my skin, evacuate the sensitive feeling capacity to mitigate the disregulated overwhelm of psychic isolation.
In this time of global pandemic there are so many fraught questions and decisions requiring of leadership, I wonder how can we do, whatever it is we do, from a more kind and loving and emotionally informed and body centred place? How can we truly honour and value, those amongst us who have already done the immense emotional labour of learning how to be a safe harbour, a warm sanctuary, an inclusive portal of care? How can we lend credence to those amongst us who know instinctively, how to tend and attune and restore and envision a whole and life-giving and ecologically inclusive solution to the terrible predicaments of our time. In contrast to the way we scapegoat care, the way love is surrogated in an unconsciously parasitic way. Their is a chasm between world and hearth, demand and ecosystem, output and sustenance, drive and care, head and heart/body, human and earth, state and grass-root.
The frontline of this chasm is being lived out in homes, in bodies, in economies, in the hospitals, and the institutions we have built to house the vulnerable and those who less neatly fit the productivity paradigm. I question the way our world sidesteps and sidelines care in times of health and wealth, when it is the handlers of the shadow, the grief walkers, the nurturance givers that are called upon to tend the festering wound of our psychological deficit of care, in the times of crisis.
As a people we have severed our roots to earth, to that deep nourishment and succour that comes from allowing ourselves to be cared for by the earth, to truly and deeply drink of her bounty and know our indebtedness to her vast love. As we hide in our houses, our forests are being severed, as we are policed for our obedience to eroded civil liberties, can we be sure that those who hold sway in the world are making decisions founded in emotional intelligence? Are they honouring the profoundly interconnected web of our interdependency, are we attending to the needs of the ones who are on the front line of care? Do we know how to tend to the ones who tend? Do we understand the value of that literacy, the literacy of embodied benevolence?
Do we value the capacity to create an energetic field of safety that has space for all the scope of human experience so that the body being can exist within its own innate intelligence.? So that we can all find the traction required to return to equilibrium, to balance, to health? So that we can be informed from within love’s living moment, of its willingness to respond and its responsibility to care? Are our leaders aware that the treadmill, the brutal imperative, the mental indoctrination is killing us and the whole miraculous ecosystem of this exquisite planet? What would it look like to take a term off school and just to take the time to deeply listen, instead of cramming more and more in? What would it look like for our leaders to redistribute our enormous wealth so that everyone could feel safe and that they are valued enough to be cared for? That their true being is valued, their emotional safety, not just their capacity to produce on the economic treadmill? We are experiencing a collective trauma, the ask for business as usual seems brutal and insane.
I think what I see is the immense wound, as it lives inside me, inside my home, where care and love have not been given the time to find a seat at the table, to take a root into the garden of my being. Also I think I see that we are living a collective trauma response to our own individual experiences of a collective deficit of care, that has been acculturated across millennia by our severance from the true source of life and embodied intelligence in a symbiotically receptive ecosystem.
There is a violence that grows in the absence of care. We are scrambling for solutions in the mind, in the business as usual mode, when perhaps the true solutions lie in attending to the reality of the body. Do we truly feel safe to be all that we feel and know ourselves to be? Are we able to express our grief, shame, violence in ways that don’t harm life, but instead actually free it and us, to find new creative solutions. The frontline of carers in our world are actually the most economically vulnerable, the least valued professions, nurses, teachers, disability workers, care-workers of all kind, mothers and fathers at home, being asked to implement entire curriculums for multiple children while simultaneously procuring an income from the same space, for those of us privileged enough to have the capacity to work, is a sign that our leaders are very cut off from the emotional realities of holding space in a home.
For some it may be easy, but for others, where there are wounds and traumas beneath the surface, that loom large in the absence of the distractions we procure to emotionally surrogate for true healing, it is incredibly hard. The fact that this is not really spoken to with any great intelligence on a level of leadership, suggests to me the emotionally illiterate paradigm we are all being asked to exist within.
All the while another reality beckons, where Earth shares her medicine and food wholeheartedly, for the beneficial price of hands in soil while the sun graces the crown of our heads, where there is space for the body’s voice to be heard and stretched and given over to, safe and held in the warm knowledge that all of me is welcome here, there is time and space for all of me to be safe and to become present, so that I can live as a sovereign, informed body being, inside a thriving/ nourishing/ life-giving/ death-wielding universe.
It is not sustainable to cut ourselves off from the care of each other, from the care of the earth, it is not wise to scapegoat the emotionally literate and venerate the mental encapsulation of wealth accumulation, of the domination of destructive human endeavour over the health of the ecosystem that sustains us. It does not seem wise to expect the vulnerable to shoulder the weight of a broken world.
I want to courageously address the ways I am severed from myself, the ways I suppress my true nature, the ways I deny care to the vulnerable parts of myself, the way I suppress and do not learn healthy pathways of expression for the wild transformative impulses of my psyche and body-being. I want to make a tender place on my lap for the scared obedient child within me, who feels I will be exiled if I do not abide by a way of being that I depend upon, even if it hurts me. I want more for her, I think we can offer her more now.
I want to be willing to die to what does not serve me and send out deep roots into the fertile ground of the relational field, risking aliveness, even in isolation, befriending death, even as I preserve life. Fostering connection and care, even as I isolate to protect the vulnerable. Growing the immense garden of my heart, to feed and nourish my children and the human world and the natural cacophony of magnificent creation. So that I can respond to a changing world with embodied intelligence, emotional literacy, a deep responsibility of care to the known and the unknown and the unknowable, to the revered qualities and the rejected impulses of humanity alike. I want to create a fertile ground of care that will wrap itself around us all, and bring us home to true belonging, so that we may feel emotionally and psychically safe enough to stop more completely, listen more astutely, rest more deeply, arrive more groundedly into the great ask of this moment. To make our world anew, with room for us all, in the crisp clean air and the brilliantly clear flowing water of our shared ground, awake and ready to feel it all, from inside a great weave of embodied love.
Do we understand the cost when a social animal does not feel safe to be in relationship with others? What gets split off to accomodate the absence of attuned care and living relationship and wholehearted belonging? What will be the cost for those who, in this experience of isolation, are severed from the life-giving connections that are essential to healthy life?
What might grow in our garden if we tended a little more to our being and a little less to our doing? Would there be room at the feast table for us all? Would we each inhabit a psyche that had made a place at the table for all of the parts of who we are, as human beings on this Earth? How is it that I can cultivate the fertile ground of a healthy ecosystem, within my own body, within the culture of my family, within the human world and the greater ecosystem of earth? How alive and awake is my microbiome? How clear the channels of communication and life-force expression? How can I cultivate a sensitivity to nuance and feeling so that the delicate undergrowth and intelligent mycelium that grow underfoot are protected and not trampled?
How can I allow those deep underwater currents of my creativity to flush
up and through the sediment of my being, clearing and purifying the waterways of my living flow so that I can be a clear pool for others to be reflected in and to drink from? How can I choose rightful action so that I’m not polluting the Earth with unnecessary clutter, so that the skies can be clear for the birds to soar through and that the air we breath can be an expression of our purest intent for all of life?
How can I allow the wild animal of my body to find the soft and undulating thrum that allows each muscle and sinew to unfurl and stretch and find the syncopated rhythm of my dance that returns me to the one-song of creation? How can I express the most honestly aligned intention and life-giving impulses so that what is being lived is not a response to yesterday’s misgivings but a vibrant and vital co-arising field of inclusive and mutually nourishing existence? How can I move beyond the survival of and obedience to a brutal and outdated paradigm, into a thriving co-creation, allowing the terrible nature of grief to rip through the being like a brutal rainstorm, flushing my heart back to reciprocal resonance with the moment, in the courage to delink the misplaced loyalty and double binding beliefs that hold me away from my own true and sovereign magnificence, and my impeccable capacity to care for all life and to harness the blessings of my own death?
© Lucy Pierce 2020