If There Is A Light That Shines

The past weekend was pretty magical. Intense for a number of reasons but also magical. Watching and listening to the conversation led by GirlTrek founders about survival, radical self-care, and freedom fighting featuring two of my favorites, Angela Davis and Nikki Giovanni, experiencing Erykah Badu and Jill Scott’s battle turned moment of sisterhood and nostalgia via IG Live, and then having a beautiful Mommy’s Day was awesome. I was so full and felt the best I’ve felt in a while.

In this moment, I am incredibly grateful but now I am also…incredibly anxious. A true to sign Virgo, it is so hard for me not to know what’s next, what the timeline looks like, what the plan is. It is often hard for me not to be in control. Certainly, we are surrounded by a lot of uncertainty and let’s keep it real, stupidity during this time. But, there are a few things that are certain. One of those things is that we were never in control.

Many of us have talked about the shift in our social media posts. We talked about entering a space where marginalized folks are centered with emphasis on Black people, universal healthcare, the dismantling of capitalism, food security, abolishing prison, and building community. Honestly, it’s beautiful conversation and this pro Black, pro Woman growing neo-socialist’s dream. While all of that is and would be beautiful, the impact of COVID-19 has already been grave. I can’t ignore that even though I hope for a more beautiful future.

As left as I consider myself to be, I have to admit that I am still an arrogant and entitled American working to radicalize myself. I mention arrogance because I never thought something like this could hit so close home – we’ve got too many resources, too much technology, too many delusions of grandeur and invincibility for this to ever. happen. here. I’ve never uttered those words. But, the thought has always been in the back of my mind. I empathized with people who were impacted by pandemics in the past but never really conceptualized what that meant. I’m an empath. Maybe I couldn’t allow myself to feel what I couldn’t fully understand. Maybe I was disconnected. Maybe I was trying to protect my mental health by not taking on trauma that seemed so distant from me. I’m having a hard time doing that now because COVID-19 feels like the monster under my bed. It shares the space with my daughters toys and my anxiety. With the underpinnings of social, political, and economic injustice, something makes me feel that my feet will pulled under when I get up from the bed in the morning.

I’ve had a couple of family members test positive for COVID-19 but they’ve since recovered. Most of my family seems to be doing relatively well, all things considered. There were moments where money was tight but we do what Black people always do despite the lie – we shared resources, money, information. Everyone has food, water, shelter, disinfectant, toilet paper. Haha.

While I have not been intimately affected by the virus (to my knowledge. Honestly, for the sake of already being anxious and speculating, I may have had the virus in January) knowing people who’ve had the virus is, to be frank, scary af. Knowing that friends have lost loved ones; that there are children stuck in abusive households not having their needs met; partners experiencing consistent domestic violence; Black, Brown, and Native folks being denied testing, protective equipment, and being treated indecently in hospitals; people who are quarantined alone; people trying to navigate this thing while also struggling with mental health challenges and addiction; parents, including myself, trying to juggle work and manage a household while being as present as possible for little people who are also anxious; those with Alzheimer’s or Autism who’ve had their routines interrupted and cannot wrap their minds around these rapid changes; exhausted front line workers; inconsiderate non-profits and corporations alike who continue to lead organizations like they are machines instead of people who are doing their best to live and breathe through this; an inept federal government and a racist, sexist, ableist, sociopathic idiot for president who I blame for these unnecessary deaths…And I mean, seriously, where are the checks and balances? Where is the accountability?  All of THAT is heavy.

We are individually and collectively mourning and grieving. While there is beauty in the fact that we are not alone in this grief, it is still heavy. I feel that energy right now. Right in this moment. And it is suffocating.

I’m sitting in my queen-sized bed with no room because my almond 3-year-old daughter likes to sleep right next to me, or on top of me. I really wanted her to start sleeping in her own bed before COVID-19. I wouldn’t dare start training her to sleep alone now. Now, more than ever, we need each other. It is the only way we survive. It is how we were meant to live. As I look at her beautIful face, I am pained for her. I am sad because she has not seen her daycare friends and we cannot go to the playground. I am sad because she misses her daddy and has made a pretend version of him to play with. I am so excited about her vivid imagination but the dialogue she creates around his absence is heartbreaking. He also has not made an effort to be creative and see her even though they can’t physically connect. That is also…heartbreaking. For weeks, my thoughts of that were probably rooted in judgement. I’ve tried to remove the judgement from this but it’s still a reality.

I’ve attempted to empower my daughter with language to help her understand why we can’t do so many of the things she’s used to right now – sharing space with family. Sharing space with her dad. She now says, “the Earth is healing” in response. She knows that we cannot hug people outside of our home right now. She knows that we cannot touch hands. She is happy to wave at people and draw hearts on windows. She is happy to go on car rides downtown at night. The lights at Campus Martius have become an amusement park. The MGM lion on buildings makes her think of the zoo. The flowers are the jungle. And she has noticed more green leaves on the trees over the last couple of months. On our rides now she says, “those trees have healed.”

The Earth is healing. We are healing. But sometimes those words, those ideas are not enough comfort for the lonely, the anxious, the depressed, the grieving.

Physical touch is one of my main love languages. Knowing that some of my peers have buried a mother right before Mother’s Day or a father right before Father’s Day but were unable to hug them in their final moments, unable to embrace family at the unorthodox service….I feel that. I hold space for that. In this moment, I am anxious because I cannot continue to try to hold space for all things. That makes me feel like I am betraying my community. It is a lie but I feel it.

Communication and sociological scholarship often defines America as having a masculine identity. Scholars write that masculinity deals with egocentricity, individualism, and competition. The long-lasting identity of America is antithetical to community. It is antithetical to how we get through this.

In this moment, I am trying to figure out how to support and lean into my community in meaningful ways and to feel deeply without exploding with emotion.

I’m also unhealthily trying to rationalize and theorize about how long life could be like THIS. I don’t want to go back to normal. I want to go toward better. I want to live in a country that is person and community-centered. A place that is not about economic competition but saving the lives of people!! Do you hear me? I want to go toward a space of love, not ego.

Love. I am surrounded by the love of my Mother, Brother, and Daughter. They are the great loves of my life. I am so grateful. We are quarantined together and driving one another crazy. But, we are alive. I try to let that be my centering thought often but I still myself longing for more human connection, longing to embrace my partner who has become another great love of my life.

He is my best friend. I have never had someone hold space for me the way he does. As one of my close friends recently shared, “He just seems to navigate you so well.” As someone who struggles with anxiety, managing empathy, and often just feels full of electricity, finding someone who navigates me well is a gift. In the past, I’ve tried to convince myself that I was too difficult to love and share space with because of how deeply I feel things but also, how personally I take them. My relationship with him is somewhat unexpected but what’s special is that even before we began dating, we always had a spiritual kind of intimacy. Physical distancing has allowed that aspect of our relationship to grow. I can honestly say we’re closer than ever. But not knowing when I can melt into him or just be hugged or kissed on the forehead by him…I feel betrayed by nature. Betrayed because all the great love in my life seems divine and I finally have it all in my heart but anxiety has made me replay different ways that I could lose them. I don’t want to lose them. I pray not to lose them. I pray not to lose myself. In this shit show. I will not lose them. Or me.

I just keep repeating this affirmations while feeling like a dope fiend, addicted to their magnitude but not fully satisfied by them.

My Love is not a worrier. I am. But I try hard to take on his calmness, his Obatala energy. I try hard to be present, to dissect information but not be consumed by it. But I feel this. I feel it in my shoulders and my neck. I feel it in my womb and my back. I feel it in my knees. I feel it in my knuckles. I feel it in my clinched teeth.

My Daddy, who was also a great love of my life, used to grind his teeth though I never remember him being anxious. If he were here, he’d tell me to “be anxious for nothing. The Earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof.” That is one of the last messages he left me with.

All of this brings me back to what seems to be the hardest lesson of my life, surrendering. I thought I surrendered to this in April. I was doing okay. But now, I am reminded of how much of a nightmare this is while also not taking the beautiful moments and the health of my family and loved ones for granted. I just have to continuously disclaim that.

I feel like there is no ground beneath my feet. For a Virgo, that is hell. I’m trying to ground myself in what I can control. I’m trying to listen for God’s voice. I am begging God to be gentle with us and to help us be gentle with ourselves and each other. I am just…trying. I’m trying like hell, like all of us.

I am praying that we’ll not only make it through this but that we’ll make it through this changed.

America is exposed. Holding its flag and wearing its broken systems and fallacies like hand-me-down clothes from wretched forefathers. Perhaps this is the reckoning or the start of reform or maybe revolution. Ideologically, that would be great. But my question is – can we protect our people and protect our peace through this? How many and how long do we suffer? Rhetorical question. No one has answers. So, I remain anxious and pray and try to surrender every day.

God, help me to surrender without suffering.  And if revolution soon come, help me to be fearless and fight like I’m anxious for nothing.

Update the morning after what felt like a storm:

I have hanging lights in my bedroom. I have them on a setting that allows the lights to alternate. They don’t all shine at once. These lights have been hanging for months. For some reason, my daughter noticed that all the lights were not lit for the first time this morning. She didn’t stretch or yawn before noticing. She noticed and was immediately moved because she thought some of the lights were broken. Then I became moved as I explained to her that the lights share their light with each other, they are not broken. They take turns. She stood in the bed and I told her to hold onto one of the lights that was not shining and wait a moment. When she saw the light shine through the star she held in her hands, she smiled and understood that they were not broken.

Sometimes we can’t all feel or be filled with light. It takes those around us to shine and share their light with us to sustain us, it takes a village, a community of light. These little lights not all shining at once doesn’t make the ambiance less beautiful because every light does their part. Every light shines at some point. Every light is still connected. Every light is still beautiful.

My daughter, whose name means luminous in some languages, radiant or brilliant of others, teaches me so much. I often say that she came to give birth to me…The spiritual download she shared with me this morning reminds me that it’s okay to not be okay right now. It’s also okay to not be sure what’s next. I’m not sure where we go from here. But I know that wherever we go, we must continue to go together, with each other in mind, sharing as much of our light as we can.

I hope these words will be some of kind of comfort for folks reading. And I pray that some way, somehow someone shares a little of the light you need to get through today. I hope you meet God in some form today. I hope you feel the spirit of an Ancestor or the voice of a young child who reminds you of our connectedness and our light.  

Published by Raina La'Shea

Mother. Writer. Social Justice Champion. Lover. Orator. Liberator. Marvel Fan. Delta. Abecedarian.

One thought on “If There Is A Light That Shines

  1. I have always admired your writing, your way with words and poetic delivery. Proud of you , great job.

    Like

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