the importance of being angels

I just facilitated a circle on ‘sustaining ourselves’ at a gathering of organizers who do work with a reproductive justice lens…work that advocates for the dignity and right to exist for trans people, poor people, people of color, queer people, queer families, women, people living with HIV/AIDS, people in the sex trade, active drug users…basically people marginalized now and as far back as any of us can remember.

the circle deeply moved me, which sometimes happens to me when I facilitate, where the room is crying, and I find I am crying too.

what moved me was how deeply we have to go to find the part of ourselves that still waits for the dominant systems to love us, to save us, to care for us. to find that part which is desperately clinging to those systems, as they manifest in our work, relationships, communities, governments, societies, media and elsewhere, and to let go.

what I mean is, there is a part of us (however much we acknowledge or deny it) that is trying all the time to just be normal, to have traditional power and privilege in the world of normal. and my challenge, to myself and all those around me, is can we let go of being normal if letting go is the only way to survive?

there is a level at which we know we have to be who we are, because we are being it – the room I am sitting in, the city of Detroit which I am living in, the family I am born of, the friends I have claimed out of the chaos – we are all being human in ways which have been considered radical, marginal, illegal, wrong. and yet it’s who we are, and though many of us have given conformity the good-old-boys-college-marriage try, it doesn’t fit.

but that doesn’t mean we don’t still hold onto some other dream that lives deeper within us, in a dark place, a dream to just be safe, to be held by a society that continuously rejects us.

and in that process of letting go, of leaning into the margins, the new world we are evolving with our difference, it is so important to have angels who come along and care for us, love us as we are. exactly as we are, insecure and different and somehow surviving.

angels tell us the truth, bring us water and tissue when we cry about the truth, hold us tight when the truth is too much. angels heal us, restore our energy when we are battle weary.

when our society is on the brink of change, and it begins to chasm and split apart the old from the new, crash the old into the new, burst new from the old, it hurts. if you are aware, you can’t help but feel it.

many of us organize because we can feel the enormity of transformation that is coming, and we can see it playing out in our families, communities and organizations as the change occurs.

it is angels who remind us to breath, remind us that this wave breaking over us is what we prayed for, and we not only know how to swim, we might just know how to breathe underwater.

what brought tears to my eyes just now was how we never know when WE are the angels. there are so many ways to acknowledge the strength, perseverance, survival, brilliance and existence of another human being at exactly the moment they need it acknowledged.

today I heard stories of people saving themselves, being saved by someone willing to be in conflict with them over issues that matter, saved by being able to engage others in actions that were about feeling together, even if they couldn’t change the outcomes of the moment. i heard stories about grieving together, about working together after breaches of trust because it is the work that matters, about holding each other accountable in the moment, about body and spiritual practices that we can offer each other to expand the space we have within ourselves to love.

today, and this week, and this year, and this life, I encourage you to stay, to listen, to look someone in the eye when they are blinded by tears, and hold the space for them to feel, to heal, to find their center again.

and if/when you have an instinct to judge them, to let them go, to push them away…don’t.

they are you.

and believe me, they need you.