By: Liviana Bath | Storycollector | Germany, Czech Republic, Switzerland
Müniver, Necla und Ovula nach Alemanya
dein Körper ist deine beste Freundin
ich erschöpfe mich nicht mehr
das gute Leben zu jeder Zeit
Ich kann nicht dafür einstehen
den Wandel körperlich zu erspüren
ohne es selber zu leben.
Ich bin über diesen Punkt hinaus,
dass ich zurück konnte.
Ich weiß jetzt was auf der anderen Seite ist.
Ich habe mir die Treue geschworen,
ich kann nicht mehr zurück
Müniver, Necla and Ovula to Germany
your body is your best friend
I am not exhausting myself anymore
the good life is all the time
I can’t vouch for that anymore
to feel the change in my body
without living it by myself
I overcame the point,
that I can go back
Now I know what is on the other side.
I swore loyalty to myself.
Now I can’t go back anymore.
By: Belle Williams |United States
Cultivating Strong Roots: My journey understanding care
I have never had a healthy relationship with self care. My discomfort with self care has affected various aspects of my life; I have always felt a disconnect from my surrounding spaces and even my own body. I felt–and, at times, still feel–guilt for taking care of myself, even in the most rudimentary ways.
This sense of guilt that I have around self care has come from what feels like every aspect of my life. Having grown up in a conservative Protestant environment, I was fed lesson after lesson–both directly and indirectly–that feminine self care is a selfish and conceited indulgence. “Your body is a temple,” they would say. With girls and women, this Christian principle never talked about the connection with one’s own body, respect and care for one’s physical, emotional, and spiritual self; or expectations that we should have for others’ treatment of our bodies. Instead, this idea of body-as-a-temple was used to elicit guilt, fear, and remorse because it taught principles of sexual preservation and physical modesty.
As I grew older and became more involved in advocacy work and social justice, I made a conscious effort to untrain my mind to think about myself, my body, and other women in this rigid and oppressive way. However, something convinced me that basic self care was an unearned indulgence. Without realizing, I let a new source of guilt in taking care of myself creep into my thought pattern. I felt guilty taking any amount of time for myself. Over and over again, I would think to myself; “Who is [insert showering, sleeping, eating a full meal] going to help long-term?” and “If I had all the time in the world, I still wouldn’t be able to tackle half of the injustices that I need to. How can I know that and waste this precious time by serving no one other than myself?” I became overwhelmed with all of the injustices I saw around the world and in my local communities. I convinced myself that there was no time to take care of myself or do things just for my own enjoyment. I not only stopped fulfilling the needs of my physical self, I also stopped all of the things that enriched the emotional, spiritual, and intellectual spheres of my person; I quit making art, writing, reading, and spending time with the natural world around me.
These are two of the major pressures that have obscured my path toward leading a healthy mental and physical existence. Without these pressures, though, I would not associate such rich meaning with the idea of holistic self care.
Today, I am try to use both of these seemingly negative forces of guilt and self-denial to explore the depth of meaning embedded in the term “self care.” I am redefining the deeply-seated belief that my body is a temple in a way that does not instill fear, but rather empowers me by realizing the vast complexity and power that my body contains and creates. Additionally, instead of letting guilt convince me that I am wasting the world’s time by taking care of myself, I now see self care as a form of activism. A quotation by Mary Mellor has helped me reach this realization; she states that there is “a connection between the exploitation and degradation of the natural world and the subordination and oppression of women.” By denying myself care for my physical, emotional, and mental self, I violate my own basic rights and the natural world that is so intimately intertwined with my own person. I now view self and community care as ways of cultivating strong roots for future generations of young feminist activists seeking to protect their own bodies and the natural sanctuary around them.
When I Think of the Earth
When I think of the earth, I think of my body. Its curves, its peaks, its soft wet soil, its hard parched surface. My stomach, which still holds the refuse from my dinner. Artichokes from Italy, sun-dried tomatoes from California, avocados from Mexico. I used to think that only a dozen or so hands had touched the undulating surface of my abdomen, but the trace of a million hands can be found on every inch of my skin. Hands calloused and cracking from years of working with the dirt. Hands that are nimble and aching from threading a sewing machine. Hands that package or pick or heal. Hands without which I would be unable to stand. Hands that support me, constantly.
Alexandre Hogue – “Erosion No. 2 – Mother Earth Laid Bare” (1936)
But hands are also weapons. They build and make and steal and hit and push. They dig into tired mountains who safely hid their goods for millennia but gave way to clawing machines and well-laid plans. Now parts of Appalachia look like my stomach too–carved, raw, and scarred. I look at the mountain, now missing its face, and I whisper, ¨They did that to me too.¨
When I was young, only 15, hands of destruction, white hands, the hands of a Christianman, also picked out goods from my insides that weren’t theirs to take. They destroyed you in order to produce energy; they destroyed me in order to take all my energy away. I, maybe like you, threatened them. My exterior hid the secrets of my body. The XY chromosomes. The internal testes. The vaginal canal that was too short for them to penetrate. My unwitting deception scared them. Like you, I had a deep source of power that could be used to build or destroy, and they, those hands, wanted to keep that power for themselves. I’m so so sorry. That power was never theirs to take.
But even as I type this, I doubt my words. I am working on a computer produced by a company that has poisoned water and workers. Whose brightly lit screen draws from the energy of your dark insides. Even as I type this, I wonder if my anger is justified at what those doctors did to me, without my consent. Did they think what they were doing was right? If they had not carved me up, would I be who I am today? I don’t know.
But I remind myself that, that is the binary talking. Both can be true as can neither. The answer may be, like my body, like yours too, riddled with beautiful and horrifying crevices and contradictions. Contradictions and crevices into which we can pour our love. Our love. Earth, I promise I will remember how similar our bodies are, and I will remember how much violence my hands are capable of.
By: Leslie Arreaza | Guatemala/United States
Taking care of others by taking care of myself
“Look who that is!” the man said to me. I stared, confused, because I had no idea who he was talking about. “Papi!” my older brother exclaimed, and I realized who the man was pointing at.
I was three years old when my father left Guatemala, and four years old when my mother left. Years later when I was told I would see my parents again, I was confused; my grandparents were all I could remember. All I knew about my parents was what my older brother said about them, but I didn’t even know what they looked like. Coming to the United States was his dream, but mine was to stay where I was – with my family.
Migrating to the United States was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. Learning English, the culture, making new friends, being away from my family – it was too much for me to handle. Yet the hardest part was having to reinvent who I was as a daughter, a sister, a friend and a girl. Learning to navigate a new society where I was not welcome and live in a land away from everyone I knew changed me.
I grew up knowing that if I made the smallest of mistakes, I could be deported. I had to keep everything to myself because I was told to trust no one. My identity revolved completely around seeming like the perfect American girl. I was not allowed to talk about my family or my home in Guatemala. I was not allowed to talk about what I loved to do, or who I wanted to become. I had to get straight A’s and be the best at everything I did so that Americans would not hate me.
I began to advocate for immigrant rights out of anger and fear. At first, it was easy to stay engaged and motivated because the injustice of being a “good immigrant” was still fresh in my mind. That wore out fast. I began to go on a downhill spiral and it happened so fast that I didn’t even realize. I let all the comments on media and attitudes towards what I was doing get to me.
I wasn’t taking care of myself and I crashed. When I felt tired, I told myself, y friends and family couldn’t take a break from being mistreated so why should I take a break from fighting for them? It was so bad¨that my professors and colleagues noticed. My manager sat me down and he reminded me that I couldn’t take care of anyone else if I didn’t take care of myself first. At the time, I thought about how silly that sounded. I didn’t need care, I needed results. But one day, after breaking down in front of my roommates, I finally realized how bad I had let things get.
It has been months since I have been making time for myself. I began writing, running, and dancing again. I take time to shut down, and sometimes I even skip out on rallies and advocacy events. It was hard not to feel guilty about this at first, but self-care is important in advocacy work. As I begin to feel better emotionally, I have noticed how my energy impacts those around me, and I now understand how much taking care of myself impacts taking care of others. I can help my community in many ways, but if I am not emotionally present and ready to fight, there is not much I can do.