There are so many missives on healing and self-improvement, so much to tell us how we should be well, how to measure our health and our wholeness. I don’t think I need to write another one of those.
“Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.”
I am not ok. I am magnificent, fierce, intelligent, and deeply intuitive, but I am not ok. This is me outing myself; the shadows of a black woman have never been acceptable. The wounding of generations of hatred against the unacceptable, the queer, damn near split me in two. My rage has saved me from drowning in this sea of hatred; kept me alive against a world that has tried to kill me everyday. My rage is the river only the brave and truly loving can cross. My rage is tethered by a deep and profound love for myself and for the desire for true transformation. And it is my rage that informs me that I am not ok.
We cannot bear witness to the truth while denying the storm with a smile. I do not give a damn about your mantras, your crystals, your yoga or your green drinks if you cannot tell me about your despair. The bliss that has knocked the top of your skull off and sent you reeling into a miraculous and ridiculous universe full of pulsing lifeforce. Tell me about your rage. Tell me about the hunger you have for beauty, for intimacy, for truth, for purpose, for self-worth. Tell me about all that lies inside of you unspoken and unnamed. Don’t tell me you are ok. Tell me you are magnificent, and glorious and passionate. Or tell me that you are open, and raw, and hurting. Tell me you are the rooted-tree-peace surpassing understanding. Or tell me that you are the turbulence of the hurricane. But don’t utter that soul-suppressing “ok”, unless you can draw it up from the base of your spine and breathe it into the world like a naked tender gift of medicine that is authentically you-
I don’t need your platitudes or potions. We are kept sick and small because the world has told us, and we have believed, to hide ourselves is the way that we are loved, cherished, and supported. Oppression works on our innards to turn the fullness of who we are into bite-sized commodities that are easily digestible and controllable. Within marginalized communities, the ones who reap the most benefit from the status quo are the ones who can remain the most acceptable and the most controllable, while those more unacceptable are sold the dream that equality can one day be theirs, if they work hard enough to become an acceptable minority. In a system like this, there must always be those that are on the outside looking in.
I am here to tell us to dream bigger.We are not the accessories of allies who wish to be patted on the back and given progressive cookies. We are the antidote to the pervasive destruction that is the gaping maw of western culture. We must stop looking from the outside in and cast off the shame of being too other in a hegemonic world. We are not the beggars, we are the changers, the healers, the shifters, the alkhemists, the dreamers, the lovers, the soul of the earth.
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves
What do you love? What is ancient in you and before words? What presses your eyelids open in the morning and gives you the strength to move forward? What keeps you alive? That is the medicine. There is no life in the desert of self-hatred, there is no transformation in the self-improvement industrial complex that is built on the backs of people who have been taught that they must continually repent for breathing. You do not have to be good. You have to be brave enough to love your shadows and honor the perfect gift of life that is you behind the self-doubt, the inferiority, the if-only-i-was-more-oppression-induced syndrome. You have to listen, really listen to your rage and what it is trying to tell you. Because rage is a hunger that will eat your bones if you do not bear witness. It is a cherished friend when you do.
You have to cultivate fearlessness with the tenderness of a mother; especially if that fearlessness was never nurtured in you by the people who were supposed to do so. You have to be fearless as you have always needed to be in order to face each rising sun. You must breathe and go at your own pace. You must understand that you are a terrible beauty of great consequence, now. and now. and now. and now. You have never been as small as the trap you find yourself in. This is not a self-help epistle; this is a love letter and fight music. Even in your smallest self, your tiniest, softest and most scared self, you have been dangerous to and bigger than the definitions and the labels and the cages and the cemeteries that have been built for you. You have always been infinitely lovable even as they have sold you your own death as a palatable alternative to being black and or native and or poor and or woman and or queer and or trans and or disabled and or fat and or and or and or and or and or. And that is why everyday they have tried to kill you.
Don’t you know you are Nsoromma?
A child of the heavens
created in the cauldron of the beginning
a revelation of divine fashioned from sifted stardust
the universe sings your true and living name every morning
even when you feel like shit and your breath stinks and you don’t
know what you are going to eat today and all the traumas of all the yesterdays sit on your chest as soon as you open your eyes. You are the living Truth
calling itself forward
The blue text is from Mary Oliver’s poem “Wild Geese”.
You can catch Joy KMT teaching Liberation Science here:
Liberation Science Workshop