Tending to Softness

By Veronica Agard

The folks who have been historically marginalized ‘saved’ the United States, again. The long breath folks that have held in since 2016 has started to hiss out. I use the word started because there is still work to be done. In the meantime, there is some collective relief in a moment of mass grief.

During the nights leading up to Saturday, November 7th, my anxiety made itself at home on my chest. Cozy yet heavy. Having recently moved and laid off within a thirty-day span, it seemed like my mind and body anticipated the worst, so when I realized that I was wrong and that 45 was soon to be a one-term president, my immediate reaction of relief took the form of wanting to sleep.

Anxiety had robbed me off rest temporarily and the most radical thing I could was to honor the tender spots in my heart. Was I really relieved about the election results? Or was it a temporary feeling? Even if I can comprehend how we were not meant to consume this much traumatic information through social media, November was truly hard to rest and disconnect from the news cycle. While I’m not formally diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, I know myself to know when my mind-body connection is working to my detriment.

I realize I was experiencing the embodiment of a viral tweet, which essentially read “Black women experience anxiety in the form of thinking that they’re not doing enough.” Those words found me after I had been rejected from yet another grant-based opportunity to fund my creative work that I always aspire to be sustained through funding, but after these series of rejections, I was tired. My fears around financial security from the job I had been let go from, which marked the end of an uncertain and terminal role, marked a new era in my life. The last time this level change occurred in my life, I fled a toxic job, changed boroughs, and only worked creatively while collecting unemployment. When that ran out, I searched for a new role. In my imaginative headspace, I noted that I'm on a similar point on the spiral that is life.

Being kinder to my body through rest has allowed me to be more aware of sensations that arise. Somatics, which Healthline.com defines as any “practice that uses the mind-body connection to help you survey your internal self and listen to signals your body sends about areas of pain, discomfort, or imbalance,” has been a balm. My father, who is a US Army Veteran, often urges me to have a “go bag” ready at all times, especially these times. But another tweet invited me to take that concept down a more pleasurable route - a “joy kit,” or my proven mood-boosters. Reaching into my joy kit in the past weeks looks like making time for dancing to house-music under the stars, anointing myself with oils and butters from the tropics, journaling my dreams, and laughing until I cry.

By digging into my joy, I was forced to face my own feelings of self-imposed inadequacy around my productivity and outputs. Knowing all of this, and knowing the histories of the many people who call this land home and are alive in a time of mass consumption and burn out, is not easy to embody at all times. But in case it hasn’t been explicitly said, people who are descendants of slavery and genocide do not have to do anything other than exist.

We do not owe anyone else anything beyond this.

We do not owe anyone else anything beyond this.

We do not owe anyone else anything beyond this.

Just as the work of QTPOC Mental Health Initiative and The Nap Ministry remind us, rest is a form of resistance. In addition, I believe that our mission at this time has to be to experience life in a way that our ancestors could not. A life that invites us to be joyful, live expansively, love whole-heartedly, in spite of the timeline that we find ourselves a part of.

I am expanding in the face my fears by inviting others to support me by maintaining my ecosystems of care. By imagining my pods of communities and ensuring that I do not flood or deplete one, or think that I am alone or invalid in my feelings. By modeling how I want to be cared for by pouring it onto myself, and speaking kindly to my body for continuing to bloom in spite of the environment we’re in.

My only “job,” is tending to my softness.

Untitled, 2020 by Veronica Agard

You can explore Veronica's musings on her website, veronicaagard.com, and engage with her at @verosgotthejuice

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