dancing with hopelessness

lately i have found myself to be a combatant behind enemy lines wherever i am in the world. the sounds of death are constant – either the current blasting or the sound of news anchors telling me numbers. sometimes the numbers are more overtly related to me – black people, people from the u.s., queer people, women and girls. other times they are less overtly mine – parents, people of a specific faith, people who speak one of the million languages or dialects i couldn’t comprehend. still human, children.

since i was young i have been blessed and afflicted with empathy, when i hear or read or see suffering i feel within me some response.

a restlessness – something must be done.
numbness – nothing i can do.
rage – why are you so evil, why are you not better than this?
shame – this is how humans spend our time, taking from each other and plotting each other’s death?

when i was in my twenties this set of feelings, sparked by what was happening in the world and fed by traumas in my body, pushed me over an edge of not wanting to be alive.

i know so many people who know what that feels like, to have suicidal memories. when i think of that time it is very gray, and, honestly, calming: if i can go, then i don’t have to keep feeling all of this. i don’t have to keep wondering if anything i am doing matters. i, i, i – who is i, what do i do/mean/need/take responsibility for?

i don’t feel suicidal now, since i walked out of that world of shadowed edges and paranoia and self-obsession i have never returned.

but our shared reality (if we are even slightly awake) is depressing. violence coming in from every direction all the time, with those in power committed to maintaining and growing power instead of learning to thrive on our miraculous spaceship. if people aren’t at least somewhat depressed and disappointed by humanity it’s hard for me to trust them.

and yet i am oriented towards solution and joy. i can feel myself fighting to lift up and move forward somehow. i am pressed to generate new strategies for moving through emotions that are larger than i know what to do with, larger than any community i am a part of knows how to hold. i love sugar and alcohol and weed as much as anyone, but my spirit has been needing more – more clarity and space to feel, more life.

my days are full of new rituals and ancient ones that have me feeling both closer to and further away from humanity at large.

here are some of the small and personal rituals that allow me to be in relationship with my growing hopelessness, to dance in real time with all that is happening.

i imagine myself a dragonfly. or an owl. an orca. a spotted cow. i let myself wander into the experience – flying, chewing, living out in the world, being wild, solitary, communal. we think reason makes us superior to everything, but when i let myself wander the experiences of other species i see there are so many ways to live without a focus on death, which seems to be the primary thing we use our reasoning to generate or avoid.

i light candles and speak into the flames the names of people and places that need light, concepts that need air, the things i need to let go of before the next in-breath, the things i can’t let go of but are too heavy today.

i also tell water what i cannot carry and then pour it into bigger water. if i am outside i find a river. a creek, a lake. lately i use my shower in this way too, i imagine it moving over me like a mother soothing a child. i imagine the cloudy heft of sadness moving through the pipes and systems, droplets to waterfalls, wetlands and deltas, into the gulf of mexico, into the ocean.

i burn sage, frankincense, cedar, palo santo, dhoop sticks, incense. i feel the smoke moving through me, cleansing, inviting a relaxation of everything in me that holds on to life too tightly, knowing i am more powerful when i am relaxed and flexible and soft.

i give time – quiet, meditative time – to tragedy and grief. i let my mind encounter the river of souls floating up out of our comprehension. when i hear something new and violent has happened, i pause. maybe it’s a prayer i whisper, an incantation, a spell – something less than words and more than breath goes up with those souls. if i know a number i set a timer and give a minute to each stranger, each possible beloved. i meditate on those who are precious to me.

i do my practices – tarot, somatics, yoga, words.

time, smoke, water, breath, practice, shapeshifting.

and healing circles. bringing myself into a circle with others, circles of two, circles of hundreds, to remind ourselves that we are also always with each other, cultivating something better than this horror, making more room to grieve, to be numb together, to be stricken and clueless together, to hold on to each other.

with several of the circles we have gathered our pain and heartache and hopelessness and actually pushed it down into the earth together. she is so big, with so much capacity to transform the toxic into the fertile. sometimes she is the only living thing i fully trust.

my indigenous story is one of physical and cultural colonization – i am cut off from direct knowledge of what my ancestors learned to use in this way, how they listened to earth and learned to care for each other, to move grief and hopelessness through the body, to live beyond overwhelming emotions. because no matter how awful this world can be, i cannot be more than i am. i face a broken world, i think my most healing offer is wholeness. i must be whole in myself, in the community i am accumulating each day.

i notice what produces a sense of release, space and good energy in my system, i listen to healers, i ask permission. i have learned from everywhere, i hope i will keep learning. i am weaving together my lineage and experience into a song that i can move to.

i am learning to dance with my hopelessness.

3 Responses to “dancing with hopelessness”


  1. 1 Ariana

    Thank you for writing this. I continually appreciate your writing for your examples/suggestions of ways to pay attention to the pain & joy of the world around us!

  2. 2 Grace Alvaro Caligtan

    I want to offer gratitude as well. Thank you for shining this light.

  3. 3 Erica Sharpe

    All I can say is Wow…this feels like something I am living, and have been living, continually with for years. This is written so beautifully and tenderly and real, and it is inspiring. Now I am going to read more!

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