by Aiano Nakagawa
After everything that's been happening in our world my energy has been off. I think everyone's been feeling it. There’s not really any way to escape the tragedy, terror, and heartbreak that is flooding our world. It can be difficult and guilt packed to say “I need some space” and actually take the time and space for yourself. I’ve battled the “well, the _____ doesn’t get to ‘take space!’ This is their life! Taking space is a privilege!” and while that is true, in order for people to be able to make effective and lasting change, they need to be clear, concise, organized, and energized. I cannot make any change in the world if I’m constantly feeling helpless and wanting to retreat, which is how I’ve been feeling these past weeks.
So how can we take the space we need to take care of ourselves in order to help take care of others?
In the past few days these are the things I’ve done in effort to move myself forward:
You could say I'm an over-feeler. When I read a news headline, I don’t just read the headline and move on. I imagine myself in the situation and how it would feel to not know your chances of survival, your child's chances of survival, or even where your child is. I imagine how terrified the children must be feeling and it takes me down this slippery slope until I feel buried by sadness and anger.
But, in these moments I try to remind myself that it is important to feel this way and to get sad and extremely angry. These are atrocities that no one should have to endure. So, I give into my sadness and my anger and let myself feel the way I feel. If I don’t let myself fully experience my emotions and truly acknowledge and honor my feelings, I get stuck. I get stuck under sadness and anger and the more I try to suppress it, the more I end up suffocating myself.
So, let yourself FEEL. Let yourself cry, let yourself curl up in a ball under the covers, let yourself get angry, let yourself curse the world, that is an appropriate response. Get it out of your system. Then, without judging, name your feelings, honor them, and more forward.
2. Phone a friend
And not just any friend. This friend has to be made of magic. They have to be the friend who won’t tell you to “get over it” or make you feel shame about your feelings. Phone a friend who will honor you, listen to you, and get mad right along side with you.
For me, there’s nothing more validating than someone else becoming infuriated right along side me. “Of course you’re feeling this way, that’s super fucked up! FUCK WHITE SUPREMACY, AND CAPITALISM, AND PATRIARCHY! GAHHH!”
And listen to those friends when they give you advice (but only if it resonates). If they give you advice that doesn’t feel right… then LISTEN TO THAT FEELING and ignore that advice.
I’ve been all over the place lately and then Hannah told me to “be small. Small is good.” That is exactly what I needed to hear.
3. Be small/retreat
It’s easy to feel the pressure to always show up, big and ready to take on the world. And on good days, I do feel like this. I feel brave, strong, larger than life, and ready to conquer, but then there’s days when I want to be alone, not speak to anyone but my partner, and to be small. Sometimes I don’t want to take up any space. Sometimes I want to disappear, and that is okay too.
I’m giving myself permission to be small and retreat into my own tiny world for a while.
Spend some time inside yourself. Connect with the tiniest atoms inside yourself, exist only in that world for a bit.
This has actually been the most gratifying thing for me to do. On Saturday I turned my phone off and every night since then, I’ve been powering down a few hours before bed. Turning my phone off gives me a clear boundary and is an easy signifier that this is my time to center and regroup.
5. Be present
This past summer, when I was working with refugee, orphaned, and exploited children, my first few days were extremely difficult. I did the thing where I began to imagine their past experiences and then began thinking about what their future would hold. I couldn’t believe what some of the children had been through and was imagining them in those situations. I went down that slippery slope and disengaged from the present. I became overwhelmed by sadness, grief, and anger, and had to confront those feelings.
With some guidance from a good friend I began to ask myself, “in this moment, are they safe?” the answer was yes. “Are they healthy,” again the answer was yes. “Are they happy?” and again, the answer was yes. We were not in the past and I have no control over their future. All I had control over was the present moment, and if they were healthy, safe, and happy, then that’s all that mattered and I need not worry about anything else. If, in the moment they were not healthy, safe, or happy, I would do everything in my power to work with them to bring them back to health, safety, and happiness.
When you begin to feel overwhelmed just ask yourself “what can I do in this present moment?” If there is a clear answer then do it, if there’s not, don’t stress about. Live out the moment. Give yourself whatever you feel you need and the answers will come.
After all is said and done, we are bombarded by sad and terrifying stories everyday, but just remember that tragedies like these have always been part of human life, it’s just that now, these stories are being shared - to millions, within seconds - so it is, in a way, a positive thing. Now, more people have access to news stories - not just mainstream news - than ever before. More and more people are beginning to see the problems and are beginning to develop solutions for change.
Right now I think that we are all feeling the uncomfortability and uneasiness of a world on the brink of change.
Hang in there, take care, and keep fighting the fight.
Be honest to yourself about what you want: out of life, to eat, to feel, to do in this world. Honor whatever it is, without judgment. Give yourself whatever it is you need. This is a process that takes time. It is the process of getting to know yourself, getting to know your body – without judgments or assumptions – learning to let all the parts of you be what they are.
Face them, hear them, know them, and find peace in letting them be.
Many of us work against ourselves – denying us pleasure, fulfillment, and fullness. This is no way to find peace. We are working for peace within our bodies and ourselves to reconnect us to our power center. We are learning how to listen to ourselves and honor our needs and desires.
Be kind, be gentle, be love, be open.
Enjoy your body.