‘And are we yet alive?’ Those are the beginning words of a Methodist hymn whose relevance has not been as keen to many of us in the past as it has this past 2-year-span.
Even those of us who have the privilege of living in spaces where death is not a regular occurrence have been overwhelmed with death near and far in unavoidable ways. Physical death in the millions, and less tangible yet still significant deaths in the spiritual, emotional, and metaphysical realms.
We’ve seen and experienced the death of many of our bubbles of privilege around the experiences of Black, Indigenous and People of Color in the United States. The death of the strongholds of toxic Christianity married to Supremacy Culture. The death of the status quo and the idolization of systems that perpetuate harm to the masses. The death of childhood frameworks that diminish the power, sovereignty and beauty of the gifts we share. These are just to name a few.
These ‘things’ are still alive out there, of course, but they have died or have begun to die inside of many of us. The pain that comes along with any of these deaths has been exhausting in the midst of what I like to call the ‘trauma dumpster fire.’
In many spiritual texts ‘new life’ can only come after some form of death — as painful as the death and the birth might be. Often symbolic and less-so literal, these deaths offer the nutrients, the space and the opportunity for a new, different and more healed thing to be born. (To be clear, when I talk about these necessary forms of death I’m not talking about the unnecessary death that comes from preventable illness and violence — both of which we’ve seen too much of these years.)
The transformative forms of death often come along naturally with the experiences of life and struggle. Our recent history has prepared a ground ripe for this, however.
Another way of thinking about it is that the pandemic and all that has swirled around in its midst has had a way of grabbing us by the lapels and asking us the great Mary Oliver question: “What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” And what is hindering the opportunity for that life to be lived out in its fullness?
For me that came along at a time where death had already overwhelmed, and pain and trauma had worn things down. For those for whom that was the case, how could even our normally nimble selves escape the questions?
That has come with lots of things in my world: a leaning in to deep callings (yay for new meaningful jobs), a space for healing and remembering of the self (dismantling Supremacy Culture within and without, yo), an embracing of sovereignty (y’all, I bought a house), and a walking through a threshold into a new part of my journey led by a more loving adult-self (yay terms from therapy). All of these admittedly done in a life that is also marked by great privilege. All of these still very much actively being transitioned into and internalized.
And so I am yet alive — alive anew in ways, coming alive in others, and experiencing death still. And I am, like the rest of us, navigating an uncertain world. I am navigating anxiety and caring for my mental health. I am navigating the innate desire to make a better world in the midst of people’s pain, anger and hate all of which perpetuate pain, anger and hate. I am navigating loving myself in a world where that is counter-productive, and learning to love and be loved by others wholeheartedly. I am…
And so this is my way of saying this to you a few things more:
I am glad you’re still here. I am glad I’m still here.
Let it die.
Do the thing.
Listen to your body.
Trust your gut.
Say the things out loud.
You can do scary things.
Hope is a stubborn and persistent thing; wait for it.
Death is not the end of it all.
You are not alone.
You are always beloved — in life and in death.