by Shirley Way
We are meant to enjoy life. This Life is a gift. To not appreciate the Gift, to not honor it, is to turn from God.
It has sometimes been a chore, these past months, to remember the Gift and to free the heaviness in my heart. It can be too much to take in: the deeply entrenched worldwide injustices on so many levels—economic, racial, environmental, social—the earth careening from the effects of climate change, the understanding that we can only expect it to get much worse.
I must remind myself that it is not my work to fix it, and that to believe I could would be arrogant and misguided. Neither am I allowed to turn away. It is my work to discern what is mine to do. And when I do and I do it, the burden lifts and the work is healing for me and others, nourishing, liberating and joy-filled.
Just as a gymnast must be able to see themself in their mind executing their routine, we must also be able to envision the world we want if we are to be empowered to move toward it.
Imagine. Imagine a world without privilege, without any of the isms, without poverty, with climate change reversed. What would that look like, feel like? How freeing it would be. Everyone has what we need—healthy food, comforting shelter, clean water and air, a restored earth, education, healthcare. Everyone. No more guilt because I have what you do not.
Without the barriers to real relationship that injustices create, we become free to form healthy relationships and communities that are real, truly loving, life-affirming, creative, resilient, flexible and changeable.
To get there, we need to begin by healing ourselves. Whether we realize it or not, we are broken, wounded, and traumatized, and therefore operating at diminished capacity. The earth herself, of which we are inextricably a part, is broken, wounded, and traumatized. The racism we breathe traumatizes whether we are white or a person of color. The effects of the genocide our ancestors suffered, witnessed, or took part in is in our DNA. (See Thomas Hübl’s work on collective trauma at thomashuebl.com.)
It is common inside prison to hear, “Hurt people hurt people.” It’s true. If we can heal ourselves, we can be available to help others heal and break the cycle of violence and trauma that confuses, isolates, numbs, and paralyzes.
The Alternatives to Violence Project opened the door to my own healing, and through it I have witnessed the healing of hundreds, maybe thousands of people. It is a gift we have inherited and we have expanded.
Healing is a continual process because life wounds us again and again. I must be vigilant and find ways to heal daily. Selfcare means I am more available to God and others. Part of selfcare is paying attention to what I let in. The algorithms target and entice and I must be intentional and limit my intake of social media, “news,” and “entertainment,” and make space for God, for Spirit.
Let’s make healing ourselves our first work, remembering we cannot give what we do not have—peace, love, connection, wholeness. Let’s allow ourselves to release the pain, the grief, the sorrow. And then let’s together envision the world we want.