These are trying times for all sentient beings. We are all carrying the intensity and stress in our bodies and spirits. I feel it. You feel it. In fact, we are feeling it together—sharing an experience even though interpreting and understanding it in our own unique ways.
As a person of faith, I believe we are on a collective healing journey. As a feminist, I believe that journey continues to involve extended uphill challenges because of intersecting systems of oppression. And that is how I understand this particular moment in time—a healing journey in a difficult uphill section on the path. As a human collective we are healing uphill.
Healing uphill can feel like too much to bear sometimes. Healing uphill is the experience of having more and more challenges heaped on your back when you are already tired and struggling to keep going. Healing uphill is like trying to take care of yourself when you lose your job in a global pandemic and one of your kids gets sick and your landlord tells you that you are late on your rent and then your spouse comes home angry and blames you for all the stress and, well… you get the picture. Healing uphill is when you can’t seem to catch a break and things seem to just keep getting worse.
A few weeks ago, the church I serve hosted a powerful online event called “Healing Families: Exploring Trauma Informed and Trauma Responsive Parenting.” You can watch it on YouTube. It was all about finding ways to be present with children and to ourselves in the realities of enduring and intersecting traumas. As someone who has lived, studied, and written on trauma for much of my life now, I listened with deep gratitude for the ways the speakers were framing what we all need most as human beings in the realities of trauma: love and support.
When trauma unravels our sense of safety and possibility, we need more love and support. Yet often when trauma persists, love and support get harder and harder to come by in families, in schools, and in communities. Then there is more acting out, more hostility, more reactivity, and often more violence… more trauma.
As a nation, as a collective, the United States of America is healing uphill. And trauma just keeps coming. Piling on more pain and reactivity and diminished relationships and stress and grief. And in these fraught days, when our uphill climb includes the specter of another, even steeper uphill stretch ahead, where are the collective sources of love and support? This might be one of the most important questions we ask ourselves as we head into next week.
The steeper uphill stretch that lies ahead may include epochal challenges to participatory democracy. It may include another horrifying wave of COVID deaths. It may include more unchecked militia and state-sanctioned violence. It may include more confusion and chaos about how to organize, how to resist, how to persist. All of these things are trauma. And remember we are already healing uphill.
Please read this post not as despairing, but as an acknowledgment. These are trying times—and we are all working hard to heal uphill. I am acknowledging this because I want you to know you are not alone. I am acknowledging this because I want us to know we have support. And I am acknowledging this because I love you—whoever you are! We are healing uphill together—I see you and I love you and I am with you.
And maybe on this uphill leg as we turn the corner and see the steep uphill ahead of us, we can promise each other we’ll stop when we need to along the way and remind each other to hydrate, give each other a foot massage, cry together, share a snack, tell a story, maybe even laugh together to settle our nervous systems.
Healing uphill is not a great place to be, feminist siblings. But it is where we are. Now more than ever we need to prioritize giving each other love and support. If we can find a way to love and support each other, then the road ahead will not just be an uphill battle, it will be healing underway.
Marcia Mount Shoop is an author, theologian, and minister. She is the Pastor/Head of Staff at Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church, Asheville, NC. Her newest book, released from Cascade Books in October 2015, is A Body Broken, A Body Betrayed: Race, Memory, and Eucharist in White-Dominant Churches, co-authored with Mary McClintock Fulkerson. Marcia is also the author of Let the Bones Dance: Embodiment and the Body of Christ (WJKP, 2010) and Touchdowns for Jesus and Other Signs of Apocalypse: Lifting the Veil on Big-Time Sports (Cascade, 2014). Find out more at www.marciamountshoop.com