Know Justice, Know Peace

2020: Not Done With Us Yet

Look at this: future universities will have entire specializations in the study of the 2020s.

Turbulent times with great disparity in who is affected are likely to lead to social unrest. Medically, financially, socially, emotionally, and legally, marginalized groups have been dealt an incredibly disproportionate blow by the events of this year.

The killing of George Floyd was a tipping point. We all have a choice now. Will you contribute to peace? How are you using your voice?

How can I contribute to peace?

By contributing to justice. By combating injustice. By helping when you can help. By educating yourself. By understanding the context in which we all–not just any one of us–live. By helping others to understand as well.

Reverend Belita Mitchell (First Church of the Brethren in Harrisburg) on peace-building in 2014.  First video in a series*.
“How are justice and peace related in your thinking or your experience?” (5:00)

If you are someone in a dominant social group, there is no need to burn or break anything to make yourself heard. Authorities and media attend well to peaceful protests from White people.

2020 Minneapolis Anabaptists

In fact, you don’t even need to take to the streets. Just speaking up when you hear unjust or racist words spoken is incredibly helpful. (Here is a very helpful and practical list of ways to speak up against bigotry in many settings.)

When we truly know justice, we will truly know peace. ❤️

*Additional installments of this series can be found here:

Belita Mitchell

Are You Old Enough to Remember the Idealism?

I’ve heard that a number of you played roles in or watched Godspell as a musical number at your youth groups or summer camps. I never did. But I did see the movie as a child and we had the vinyl album at home, which I’m pretty sure I wore out memorizing the songs.

At the time this movie came out it was considered very hippie and almost heretical, though by today’s standards it may seem pretty tame.

Have you ever really listened to the words, though? Do you get them?

When wilt thou save the people,
Oh, God of Mercy, when?
The people, Lord, the people,
Not thrones and crowns but men!
Flowers of thy heart, O God, are they.
Let them not pass, like weeds, away.
Their heritage a sunless day,
God save the people!
Shall crime bring crime forever,
Strength aiding still the strong?
Is it thy will, O Father,
That men shall toil for wrong?
‘NO!’ say thy mountains,
‘NO!’ say thy skies.
Man’s clouded sun shall brightly rise,
And songs be heard instead of sighs.
God save the people!
When wilt thou save the people,
Oh, God of Mercy, when?
The people, Lord, the people,
Not thrones and crowns but men!
God save the people, for thine they are,
Thy children, as thy…

 

❤️

 

Black Moms Are Grieving; Are You Listening?

A widespread crisis is a risk to all, but it will always have worse effects on those who are in any marginalized group. Tynisa Walker has a son who is 15 and autistic. She fears for him daily, but especially now that there is unrest. She is pleading for his life.

Maya Richardson has some good mental health recommendations for Black people, especially Black youth who may be newly exposed to the threats and dangers of living in this society:

If you are White and you don’t know where to start with understanding race issues in America, you can start here: Someone Said I Did A Racism; Now What? A Guide

You might also consider watching When They See Us, currently available on Netflix.

❤️

Hands Antiracism 3

Managing Vicarious Trauma Across Professions

Archivist, oral historian, and genocide scholar Tim Hensley discusses his approach to managing traumatic material in the workplace:

Most caregiving and reporting professionals (health care providers, reporters, first responders, clergy, social workers, legal aid, and many more) interact directly or indirectly with the traumatic experiences of others at some point in our careers. But events of the past few months have increased this likelihood for all of us, in some cases with the force of a fire hose.

Furthermore, we are all dealing with our own increased stress and trauma, which leaves us with less bandwidth available to absorb the anguish of others.

In order for you to stay afloat and continue your trauma-oriented work, it is necessary to limit your amount of exposure to your carrying capacity.

This excerpt shows Tim’s method, which is organized, structured, and visual:

 


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While I personally don’t categorize sessions and activities visually in the  way Tim does, I do always maintain an idea of which sessions and activities are likely to contain material and experiences that are heavier to carry, and I spread my scheduling out in a similar way across a given week.

If you are in a caregiving or reporting profession, you may already be using a similar approach, whether explicitly or intuitively. If not, you might wish to examine your own process and how it is affecting you.

How can you know when it’s too much to carry? You have to notice how you’re feeling! This sounds incredibly simple, and yet many of us frequently push past our actual capacity into burnout territory. This can lead to illness, injury, depression, suicidality, and other life-disrupting outcomes. You may think it’s okay to push on–until it’s suddenly not.

It’s a case of “simple but not easy,” especially if you have always been taught to push through physical or mental discomfort in order to complete tasks. It’s considerably worse if you’ve always been taught you must put your own needs dead last after others’ needs.

Now is the time to de-condition that harmful approach!

You have gone beyond your carrying capacity if you are feeling:

  • Exhausted
  • Irritable
  • Weepy
  • Resentful
  • Stress-headachey
  • Pessimistic
  • Hopeless
  • Angry
  • Anxious
  • Disconnected
  • Dissociated
  • Craving substances

Once you are able to determine which pieces of your work tend to make these kinds of symptoms worse, that is when you can plan how to schedule your heaviest interactions such that you can recover in between.

Keep in mind, what may be light for someone else may sink you, and vice versa. This is never about what you “should” be able to carry–it’s about how it actually affects you in practice. No one can tell someone else what they “should” be able to bear.

Which brings me to the next difficulty for many: what if you are not the one doing the scheduling? What if the fire hose is never turned off? This is a physically and emotionally dangerous situation. It means that you’re in an environment that does not allow you to protect yourself, recover from injury, steward your health. If you are able to seriously discuss the issue with someone in charge, that may be helpful. But if they are dismissive, it is likely a situation that will be harmful to you in the long or not-so-long run.

What does it mean to recover in between? Again, this sounds simple but it is not always easy. You do things that help you feel better!

  • Sleep! And more sleep!
  • Basic exercise: walking, biking, yard work
  • Adequate nutrition
  • Enjoyable “vegging”
  • Creative outlet: music, gardening, knitting, hobby electronics, baking
  • And most important of all: someone supportive to tell about your experiences

This does not mean you must violate confidentiality or your HIPAA obligations or the sanctity of the confessional. It means to have someone with whom you can exchange understanding of how hard it is to do what you do, and express honestly how it’s affecting you. This may be a coworker ally,  spouse, friend, clergy, or therapist. But it’s very important and a big part of lightening the heaviness.

If you are not used to taking care of yourself “like you matter,” it is time to start practicing that skill right now, so you do not fall into burnout and illness.

Remember, you can’t give to others from an empty well! ❤

 

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Walking Through the Invisible Fire

What’s going on is pretty darn bad

As you have surely noticed, a lot of things really don’t feel okay right now. And a lot of us do not feel okay about that.

I’ve been hearing from people in health care doing their utmost to save those who may not survive and those who will not survive. I’ve been hearing from people trying to secure adequate storage space for human remains. I’ve been hearing from other therapists. From people who have gotten ill and been hospitalized. From those who are losing loved ones, losing jobs, losing savings, losing health insurance, and from those feeling trapped and scared and angry.

We are all facing an enemy that uses our greatest human strength in its attack against us: our connections with others. An invisible fire is burning through humanity, and we don’t know who is aflame, who will burn, and who will pass through unharmed. The uncertainty is nerve-wracking.

You may hear people saying “Humanity got through previous pandemics, it’s not the end of the world!” Well, yes…humanity survived, but we didn’t all get through those crises. Many died. And for those who died, it was the end of the world. (At least, this world.) And the world was permanently altered for survivors and their descendants. So this event is a true threat. It makes sense to feel distress.

What our experiences are and how we are dealing with them – it’s okay

Whatever we may have already been struggling with has been exacerbated: loneliness, depression, illness and disability, social issues, financial issues, employment, relationships. Meanwhile, many of the life trajectories we were working on in the hope that they would provide us with security, stability, and balance, have been upended. Exposed as transient, fragile, or even inconsequential: careers, money, possessions, self-image, institutions, political and social dynamics. These are great losses that may leave us feeling anchorless, or make the world feel frighteningly unreal.

For many there is also a cognitive dissonance between feeling the background hum of constant threat, while other parts of life continue apace as though nothing is happening and things are normal. “When your world falls apart, some things stay in place” (Billy Bragg). This dissonance can be crazy-making too!

With all that is happening, many people are experiencing an increase in symptoms. Some new, and some familiar. Many are symptoms of depression, anxiety, or past trauma. But please know that you are not alone in this. The most common symptoms I’ve been hearing about in the past few weeks are:

Sleep issues: insomnia, exhaustion, hypersomnia.
It’s hard to sleep when you’re feeling threatened. It’s not surprising many are having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep. If you are sleeping more than usual, it is partly because you have so much more to process, and that is exhausting!

Dreams: increased vivid dreaming (or increased memory of dreaming), not necessarily nightmares, either. We have a lot to process lately and it’s spilling into our nighttime hours.

Impaired executive function: forgetfulness, loss of concentration, unusual time perception (speeding up or slowing down).

Dissociation: losing track, losing time, spacing out, not being present, feeling numb, feeling unreal or that the world is unreal.

Hypervigilance: being easily startled, easily woken, heightened anxiety about possible contagion and contamination.

Grief and anger: we have incurred countless losses, individually and as a society. It is not wrong to grieve losses or to feel anger about them. It’s understandable.

Guilt: This has been a big one for a lot of people! Specifically, guilt about productivity, guilt about parenting, survivor guilt, and free-floating guilt. Please understand that unnecessary guilt is a symptom of both depression and anxiety, but it’s a feeling that makes it especially easy to buy into the content, so we tend to think it’s real.

Regarding the productivity guilt: your value as a human being is not your productivity. The most important thing you are producing is someone who survived the pandemic! If you come out of this alive, and with your children alive, you did it!

This is the earliest reference I can find, but we all know this statement by now. You’re not “working from home,” you’re at home, working under a global crisis.

Furthermore, you are not obligated to somehow optimize yourself. You never have been! But this is a good time to finally understand that at a deep level. It’s an especially ludicrous expectation right now.

Many people are struggling with unhealthy coping mechanisms right now: drinking and substance use, eating behaviors, self-harm. But the first thing is to cope. To get through this day, and this night, and the next. So if you are using unhealthy coping mechanisms, instead of beating yourself up about it, allow yourself first to cope. And then start working on adding in some of your healthier coping mechanisms. All behaviors, even dysfunctional ones, are adaptive in some context. Sometimes an unhealthy coping mechanism is healthier than not coping at all.

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Future directions & hope

Listen, we don’t get to choose what arc of history we occupy, only what role we play in that arc. You are living through a historical event that you did not choose.

A lot of things are not okay right now, many of us aren’t okay with that, and it’s okay to feel that way. It’s reasonable to feel distress. We are all walking through this invisible fire, but what matters most is how well you walk through the fire (Charles Bukowski). You can still choose what role you will play.

Humans have an immense capacity to take something good and positive out of surviving even the most horrific events. Things we always heard could not be done are now being done: work flexibility, distance learning, accessibility, financial and personal support. Meanwhile, things we always heard were implacably crucial, are turning out to be not so important. Deadlines! Attendance! Fees! Work pants!

Many more people who are in a tough spot now suddenly understand that we all need support and we are all mortal. We are all vulnerable. This kind of insight can be a turning point for great change. This is a liminal space in which we can effect that change.

It’s easier to see the real rock-bottom truth from here. Human connection is still our most important strength, even without physical proximity. We take care of each other: family, friends, neighbors, community, churches, local government and organizations. Our strength comes from sharing via those systems. Power comes from the people. You are the people! So let this radicalize you, rather than leading you into despair (Mariame Kaba).

Let this radicalize how you treat others: What can you do to help reshape an inequitable system? Is there some way you can help support those who are already marginalized, on whom the bulk of the crisis falls? The illness and death, the job loss, the financial hardship, the limited access to resources. If there is to be a new normal, what social improvements do you want to help solidify?

Let this radicalize how you treat yourself: Learn that your value does not lie in your ability to produce. Learn to treat yourself as well as you would treat an honored guest, a close friend, or even a beloved pet. If there is to be a new normal, what habits do you want to bring back from this experience? What deserves to be left behind in the ashes?

Walk this invisible fire with compassion, flexibility, and acceptance. Acceptance for others, but also for yourself.  ❤

Intersectional Life Counseling and Psychology offers remote video sessions for PA residents, as well as sliding-scale rates from $70. Please EMAIL if you would like to schedule or have any questions!

Honoring 60 Years of Black Activism

Lancaster Black History Month Celebration!

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Juneteenth: “America can never be free until her people are free”

If you are interested to watch the proceedings live today, you can view them here:

 

International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia & Biphobia

Today is a good day to celebrate events supporting LGBTQ folks and to take a stand against discrimination!

Historic equality legislation happened today in the USA!

And Taiwan legalized same-sex marriage!

 

(Lancaster rainbow stickers can be purchased from Madcap & Co.)

Happy Constitution Day to Norway! Gratulerer med Dagen!

📷:Kari Schibevaag  📷:Logan Johnson

 

Gratulerer med dagen til Norge!

As some of you know, many years ago I was a Rotary exchange student to Norway. Today is Norway’s Birthday (Constitution Day)! Norway has more layers to its history and diversity than some may realize. Let’s look at some of them!

…Senker drømmer for alt på vår jord…

Norway’s national anthem:

Historic Syttende Mai children’s parade from NATO:

And if you are watching Eurovision this weekend, check out Norway’s group, KEiiNO, featuring Sámi songwriter Fred Buljo who incorporates traditional indigenous joik singing style into their performance:

Happy Star Wars Day! And Free Comic Book Day!

 

It’s national Free Comic Book Day, support local business!

Some good recommendations for comics by BIPoC:

Bridging the gap from comics to Star Wars, here’s a cool illustrated book of the women of Star Wars:

Black characters of Star Wars:

 

Speaking of inclusivity, here are 5 Queer Things You Didn’t Know About Star Wars (or maybe you did!):

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Finally, it’s no secret on what historical premise Star Wars was based. Here Alegria Barclay nicely breaks down the social justice lessons found in Star Wars: