During the month of April, 10 or more folks have been reading adrienne maree brown's Emergent Strategy and we've been talking about it weekly. This week, we were talking about adaptation and iteration. Due to COVID19 experiences, the conversation focused on how we are adapting in these stay at home moments and there was conversation around who we will be after all of this. -How is this experience shaping you as an individual? as a community.
The book club leader, Mady, showed us this image from The Center for Story Based Strategy:
The discussion questions raised were around building what is to come. Folks contributed what they could. But, the surreal-ness of these moments formed a haze around the discussion. Folks had a hard time imagining what is possible. They also had a hard time committing with any enthusiasm to what might be next. No one was jumping at the chance to form a ideation collective. No one was altogether interested in naming our next move.
The conversation sort of melted. Folks were sharing reactions to their current experiences, grief over losses, confusion about what is happening and what the future looks like, anger about ignorance and lies, anxiety about uncertainty. The "fourth box" in the picture was only being filled with "I just don't know," "My gut reaction is to help others," "I want laws that will keep people healthy and taken care of," "I can't think of what's possible because there are so many unknowns." It just wasn't at all possible to lift the cloud of COVID19 to get at a different conversation.
I tried to chime in, but my thoughts were scattered constellations, not at all a clear path. I mentioned A prayer of Thomas Merton that I thought would be helpful and cathartic. I told folks that their interest in wanting to remember the holy moments of these times reminded me of the ritual of communion, a practice of remembering. I told them that what Mady was asking of us, to imagine the 4th block, was what I saw happening in the works of scifi writers like Octavia Butler and Starhawk. I talked about a small practice of adaptation that has been meaningful to me- wanting to write letters, but having no words, so shifting toward sending collages with few words but much prayer.
In a way, I too wanted folks to rally together, covenanting with one another to build some sort of liberating collective. I certainly need those kinds of co-laborers, that kind of validation, a sense of "I've got your back" and "We're in this together."
Mady asked for it, and folks let the ask be what it was. I was a little nervous about her ask. Before the book club, I had encouraged her in a different direction- "I just don't think folks can commit to anything at all right now. Only the smallest, no strings attached, ask is possible." I gave her a silly game exercise to try, something that would be fun and low stakes. But, she went for it and I wanted to support her, so I reiterated what I thought I heard her asking. "It sounds like Mady is asking for folks to join her in stratigizing for the 4th block" The conversation was all the way melted at this point. Awkward silence.
I don't know exactly how we transitioned, but the conversation moved to something else. The next part I remember is Stephanie saying, "I want to remember who I was when I was not in crisis." She may have also said something like, "I want to build from there." Or she may have said something about the book's thesis that God is Change and Everything is Change and how she wants to also consider the other side of that statement-the place where things are consistent and stable. I'm not exactly sure what she said after that first sentence. I was too busy writing it down.
What Stephanie brought up was not something I had ever considered. The right now person that I am is the one I can remember. Who I was 6 weeks ago seems far gone. To my own self I am "out of sight, out of mind." And what caught me even more about Stephanie's words was that I cannot remember a time in the last 15 years that I have not been in a series of crisis. I cannot remember a single time.
Blankets of crisis after crisis have smothered me. I don't remember another way.
I'm not sure what others would consider crisis. It is a risk to even share what I think is crisis because others might think it is just frailty or snowflakey. To be honest, I don't really know. I thought it might be cathartic to write down all the crisis I've experienced over the past 15 years. I even started to write it in this blog. But, it got too hard. It isn't fun to think about and I also hear a tape in my head saying, "Folks will read this and think you're just whining; making a big deal out of nothing." So, I deleted the list.
I don't remember how to get back to the person I was when I was not in crisis. And, to be honest, I'm not sure I want to. I mean, I'd like to not be in crisis, but I'd also like to think that the crisis made me stronger, wiser, more me. Maybe? I guess? I'm not sure.