Dealing with Grief and Social Change
(Sensitive Subject Alert — don’t read if this is triggering)
While studying the subject of grief, I read this excerpt:
“There is ancestral grief for white people in the U.S. having to do with what many of our European ancestors did when they got here. They decimated an indigenous population through war and disease. They brought slavery to this continent. We have not reconciled with the indigenous people of this country or the people we brought here from Africa. That grief is still there in our collective psyche. We’ve barely touched it. Some other countries with similar histories are dealing with such griefs. The Canadian government recently apologized to its indigenous people, though now it’s backtracking. Australia has done some symbolic work with the aboriginal people. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa was significant. But the ancestral grief is thick in the U.S.” -Francis Weller, The Geography of Sorrow
Depending on your life view and if you’re white, you may have sensitive thoughts about this statement.
For me, it resonates profoundly.
I feel a burden around this subject as everything is changing so fast.
If you’re a white male (especially one of wealth or status), the #metoo movement terrifies us. I reach for a female colleague or sister to make a connection and instinctively retract for fear of being lumped in with so many scumbags that take advantage of women.
Some of my experiences leaves me feeling disconnected and I’ve been in circles of women that express how they feel unattractive and rejected by (good) men. They tell me their stories and I cry with them, holding a desire to stroke their face, hold them powerfully and together, maybe we can get to the place of… okay.
Yet, I haven’t hugged a woman in months.
The risk of crossing the great chasm between us is just too great.
The other day I was in the company of a black man and I stifled my response to call him “brother” like I do with (most) of my male encounters. A slew of racial fears flooded my mind and my greeting became awkward and forced as I didn’t want him to think that I was “acting black” (whatever that means).
“White Fragility” — I saw this the other day. “Great” I thought, “Another label!” So off to Ole Wikipedia I went to get definitions and engage the conversation.
Come to find out, there’s a book. Holy shit!
They met me with hatred, anger, resentment and displaced emotions of others — all because I was white. I was sad and tried to calm them and see life from their perspective.
“Please share and teach me.” I pleaded.
Then I realized — they too were grieving a past of burdens that none of us should carry.
Blacks are grieving the shame and manipulation.
Germans are grieving the bomb.
Whites are grieving the slavery.
Native American Indians are grieving the loss of their land/homes.
Jews. Muslims. Christians.
All these groups of people carrying past shame and trauma. This cultural season of trying to right all the (past) wrongs through finger-pointing is only aiming at one thing: We’re all grieving and don’t know what to do with it, so we project outwards. (Um… can you say “Trump Hatred”?)
Yesterday I was in a restaurant eating a meal alone and looked up to find (nearly all) the patrons frozen to digital devices, the flickering lights bouncing off their beautiful faces. Entire tables of people eating a meal together, not talking, staring at phones (especially young people.) It was like I was on another planet and didn’t speak the language, trapped in a bubble of isolation and disconnection.
Listening skills have all but diminished, and I’ve grown skilled in getting my point across in less than six seconds — the recorded attention span of most people. My brain fizzles in confusion as I’m in mid-sentence and my listener interrupts with a clarifying question, fragmenting my brain about answering the question versus continuing on my intended trajectory of sharing a thought.
I’m not complaining, more like confessing. Confessing my grief in all this — AND — confessing that I too am part of it all, circling the drain of human dysfunction swimming for dear life to catch the outer rim of TRUE human experience.
Perhaps the world is simply mirroring back to me what is going on inside me. “Story creates reality”, you might say. Okay, sure, maybe… nobody really knows, but I believe the viewpoint is still valid and evokes a desire to change (at least my own) reality.
I’ve lived in the cities of Austin, Texas, Boulder, Colorado and San Diego, California— places known (even revered) for their spiritual practices, programs, and centers where people flood to experience enrichment.
Bali, parts of Mexico, Costa Rica and Peru — all places where I witness friends go to escape (or even live) to rediscover this place of joy and yet, I hear the SAME cycle of human existence repeat once the thrill of the location wears off.
We seem to be in a time of rapid shift and human growth evolution.
That sounds fancy, but all it means for me is that things are changing, and nobody really knows what to do. We’re all figuring it out, and for some of us, it’s painful.
I knew a dear man in Austin, Texas. When I spoke to him about something special or tender, his eyes would water as he choked back emotions that were my own. I would get a little uncomfortable and lighten the conversation, but in time, I learned to FEEL with him and together; we emerged as better men.
I’ve studied the evolution of Empaths — the nature of some in society that HOLD the collective feelings (often grief) that feel others and can BE with that depth, transcend it and let it go, as if blowing out a burning flame and watching the smoke dissipate into the air above.
While under the power of plants-based medicine, (Ayahuasca, Tepezcohuite, Psilocybin to name a few) I would listen to the teaching, guiding me through pain and trauma so deep I thought I would die. The medicine shouted, squeezed, yelled, loved and brought me face-to-face with subjects I couldn’t look at alone.
Then there’s what I call, “Inauthentic Authenticity” that drives the nail deeper into our crucified flesh of a thousand deaths.
“What is that?” you may ask. Cue the seminars, the coaches (many, not all) the Healers, the wannabe best-selling authors and the marketers. You’ll know their language by that little tapping in your gut that is alerting you something is not quite right — there is an agenda present, one they spend thousands of dollars with each other perfecting and mastering.
You are in what’s called… A Discovery Enrollment Call.
Get your credit card ready, my friends, you’re about to experience transformation. (Cue sarcastic tone)
Tie down closes, closed-ended questions, leading statements all designed to take YOU exactly where they want you. “See you in class, you’ll be better when you graduate.”
It’s not real, it’s not right, and frankly, it’s gross as (most) of them prey on human vulnerability. (And ya, I’m angry at this tribe!)
So I mount back up on my white stallion of masculinity, conceal my love-threatening wounds with shiny armor of nice clothing, health, marathons and a body well-attended so this falseness will never make a fool of me once again. “What vulnerability? I’m invincible! And let me show you ALL the ways.”
Deep sigh. How can I blame and throw daggers at the ones that, even in their best intentions, are trying?
I live in a glasshouse with a floor made of shiny loose stones and a great throwing arm. Shit!
This human experience. It fascinates, terrifies, humors and bursts me open with curiosity as I wake up every day trying to do my best in a complex and complicated environment. I guess THAT… is life.
Grief is violent.
I’m learning to neither distance myself (which is addiction) or transcend it, but hold it with a compassionate reverence, grateful for all its teachings.
I crave to be part of a community, a tribe, to sit in the depths of the elders wisdom, to dance among the young people’s naïve joy, to revel in the intoxicating beauty of the women, to hunt in the collective bravery of my brothers that have each other’s backs. Humans… BEING… Human.
I crave my soul and the beauty within that drips out, leaving little footprints everywhere I walk, washed away by time or covered by the ones next to me traveling the same path.
Perhaps my soul and heart will always wander like this. I like to think so.
Today I’m simply holding space for this awkwardness of our planet, our home. This state of digitally connected disconnection that unites us through words and fancy photos, but stands as a thick veil between us ever being married in unity, cause, love or peace.
We must transcend this disconnection.
I guess… if you’re still reading this… I just miss all of you and trust that we will get through this together.