Grief is like

I woke up this morning and felt my body ache before I rolled over in bed. Today is a year since the mass shooting at Pulse in Orlando. My heart feels as heavy as the grey skies above Portland, while creep of stress, transition, and grief upon grief pound in my temples.

Today I felt myself going too fast. I felt the pull of not listening to my body, of pushing through, of ignoring pain and letting stress take over my viewfinder. So I took a bath. I poured scented epsom salts into a tub, and lit candles for safety and clarity. I lowered myself into the hot water until all I could hear was my heart beat underwater.

I tried to listen while my heart pounded, tried to let go of everything outside that moment. The water began to grow cold, and I poured in hot water by my toes. I sat there, feeling alone with myself and the couple of sugar ants wandering around the tub.

And I thought about how queer people love each other. I kissed my kneecaps. For myself. For the people I love. For the wonderful complex humans who danced that night at Pulse.

Hands hold so much power and tension in them. Hands are for connection, for healing, for holding, for doing the work. I kissed my fingertips, whispering healing into my body and out into the world.

After the shooting last year, I went to see my spiritual director. I carried with me in my body the knowledge of queer family and love, community and connection. And the bitter, awful, violence felt like waves across our community. After we talked for a while, she put her hands on my shoulders and set to work clearing out my energy. While I sat there in a sea of suffering I don’t even fully understand, she said “oh honey, you have Orlando written all over you.”

This weekend I went to a wedding and danced until the sky turned dark. The night before I cried through the full moon. All day Saturday I could feel my stomach churn and protest until finally in the middle of the night at 4am, everything came out. And I sat there shaking for long time. I’m not sick, and while the combo of wine, dancing, and many snacky foods in a day can certainly lead to such an outcome, this felt like more.

This weekend I read Alice Walker’s book, Now is the Time to Open Your Heart. There’s this scene where the main character Kate is vomiting on the side of the river, mid river rafting journey. She reflects on how, as her body literally empties itself, she is letting go and dislodging years of the stuck and crowded grief of her life. With every retch, things buried deep within her finally find their way loose, and she leaves them by the side of the river.

As I sat in my bed at 4am, trying to calm my empty body, I thought about Kate and all of the stuck things I want to be freed from. I thought about the way our bodies hold and carry trauma, grief, violence, tension, stress, pain – both what is ours individually, and also the collective weight we carry.

Queer fam, I hope that we can be kind to our bodies and to each other today. I hope that we never stop dancing. There’s a candle lit in my heart and my home for you today. A candle for safety and hope. I love you.

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