It's time for another Nourishment Challenge. From now until Thanksgiving, I'll notice ways that I'm nourished by life.
I've spent the year looking at my inner world with much more precision. I've spent the last few years prioritizing narratives that have depleted me. "Nikki, how are you?" "Oh you know - I'm tired!...There's never enough money!..."Our people are dying the streets!" And one of the most significant ones for me: "That person is hurting me".
I have habitual responses to life that I don't question. I don't look to see whether there's just as much data to support a perspective opposite mine. And if that opposing data exists, and I happen to notice it, at best I ignore it. At worst, I use my manipulative skills to force that conversation/person/circumstance into submission. I demonize it. I break trust in relationships by prioritizing stories about other people that force them to be "bad" if they challenge my view of myself or the world.
Most of this year has been an exercise in noticing this behavior, and the ways that it has shaped my professional and personal relationships. I slowed down. I took more care with myself, my people, and my work. I'm in a much more intimate relationship with these depleting narratives, so I can see how many of them exist within me.
I'm nourished by this inquiry, by allowing the truth about my dark side(s) to live in peace. The stronger, healthier, and more mature I become, the more of my dark side reveals itself.
I was in a Theater of the Oppressed Image Theater workshop a few weeks ago. We were creating images (using our bodies) of societal power structures. To begin the image, a woman sat down in the middle of the room and put her face in her hands. Seeing her in such a subordinate and obviously vulnerable position made me want to hit her. Instead of judging the impulse, I used the safety of a workshop container to explore that feeling within myself. I brought myself into the image as an oppressor, and I pantomimed back-handing her. As the image shifted away from what currently exists to what we want to see in the world, another participant (and dear friend of mine) gradually put her arm around me, and I laid my head on her shoulder. I noticed the way her support allowed me to express the feeling beneath my abusive impulse: fear.
In that workshop, I connected with control. I connected with the part of me that yearns to hurt others if it dims the fear inside me - the fear that something will happen to my brother in the military; the fear that my other brother will come to harm living in South LA; my fear of physical intimacy and inadequacy; my fear that poor opinions of me are spot on, and that I'm not worthy of my blessings; the fear that I can't be the kind of wife and mother I want to be white being ambitious as well; the fear of that feeling when I expose my heart and feel misunderstood. My fear becomes anger. My practice is not judging these feelings, and finding ways to express them safely. My practice is not projecting this fear and anger onto friends, family, colleagues, or even current events.
The more I practice, even if I practice poorly, the more real my relationships become. This realness has given me so much. I've made friends this year that have changed my definition of what it means to support someone. I've fallen in love with my body in a new way. I have changed my reactions to my husband such that I now approach him (most of the time ;) with tenderness. I have accomplished more professionally than I could have dreamed in January, and pushed myself harder to serve in a humble way. I have felt how 2014 and 2015 were filled with more pain than I've experienced in the last few years combined, and I have found wisdom and freedom within that pain. I have seen how much more opportunity there is in risking conflict with someone I love if it creates honesty within the relationship. In many of my relationships now, honesty has trumped comfort, and all of us are better for it.
I am light, and I am the dark of night. It's nourishing to be in the dark time of the year, watching the days get shorter, and have the sun partner with me to give me more darkness as I explore my inner shadows.