won’t you celebrate with me
what i have shaped into
a kind of life? i had no model.
born in babylon
both nonwhite and woman
what did i see to be except myself?
i made it up
here on this bridge between
starshine and clay,
my one hand holding tight
my other hand; come celebrate
with me that everyday
something has tried to kill me
and has failed.
‘won’t you celebrate with me?’ – Lucille Clifton (1991)
The wind the past couple of days here in New York City howled. Blew trees and rattled windows like I’ve never heard save hurricanes and tropical storms. The sounds make audible what I’ve been stumbling through for the past couple of months. While I’ve been writing and sharing my stories of ancestry, kinship and belonging, I’ve been struggling to situate where I belong in certain forms.
The scene can be social justice or political organizing communities, or wellness and healing enclaves, and because I am often in the middle and held by both of these groups – it can be both affirming ad overwhelming. There is a level of respect that I have earned in these spaces and I am immensely grateful, and it can and often does show up in the forms I just described. In the space I am in and the self-identifited role of the connector, I have to interact with and navigate multiple needs of multiple people, communities and spaces at any given moment. I think I’ve been doing a pretty good job at it too. Yet my reputation preceding me can make me feel like I’m an extension of myself as opposed to a whole. This type of dissociation makes me very closed off at times, and now appears in the form of me not sharing events that I’m hoping to attend on social media because I know that some folks who show up just to try and see the me that they want to see as opposed to the form I’m in at the moment. This guard is up in the form of me turning replies to my Instagram stories off because I got tired of too many “are you going?” as opposed to “hey how are you?” Or on the flip side, receiving attention in the form of admiration of the work and then feeling lonely or alien like when being abundantly clear on the types of relations that I am seeking – companionship.
I am grappling with how to truly be seen and not just how to navigate a scene. It can be overwhelming because there’s nights when I walk in to birthday parties for friends and the conversation starters are always “Veronica does this incredible work, here talk to her about it” and not the traditional “how long have you known so-and-so?” I used to think it was just less than ideal conversation starters, but sometimes it feels as though that speaking about our work – jobs, roles, paid and otherwise – is our comfort zone. But it can also be affirming because I still have friendships and comrades from different phases of my life and can reconnect after long time lapses without missing a beat. The question of how to keep my good character – emotionally, spiritually, etc – and to not morph into a simulation or avatar of me has seeped into how I socialized with the world, online and off.
Collectivity as a concept found me when I was reacting to someone who I had been in community with suddenly blocking me from viewing them online. The friend I was venting to warmly invited me to dig into collectivity as affirmation-based practice. It turns out that I was blocked by the person was due to purging accounts that didn’t want to see but then it landed on me as an attempt to balance out their account to have more of a following and less folks that they was following. Vague wording versus a numbers game it seemed.
In the same moment, I realized that another person, who’s work I deeply admire and respect, had unfollowed me for a seeming similar dynamic, as their profile on the Internet and the reach of their work was spreading. In this tension, I vented with another friend about what I now understand to be the delicate balance that is doing the work for the works sake and the necessity of it versus dong any type of work for an air of prestige, monetary gain, fame, or clout. Whether through technology or through word of mouth, the act of speaking and telling others about those who they might be able to seek guidance from or to collaborate with is crucial to our experience as social creatures. But we, myself included, have to be sure to include our shadows when engaging in this dynamic of being sought after and seeking connection.
This spiral dance has been one between how to be self-sustaining, self-starting, and rooted in the individual as opposed to being receptive and attuned to communal and interconnectedness that comes from allowing myself to be unapologetically witnessed. But bearing witness to an era of being concerned with a following as opposed to not knowing how to follow your own lead struck me hard this winter, and I’ve only just articulated in by first arriving a place of gratitude for finding folks like my babalawo and then reflecting back on how our experiences with own another can be heavily shaped by outside forces. Because coming to collect validation versus gathering and affirming all of our selves amid the paradoxical nature of belonging in a capitalist world that often pits us against our own reflections and one another.
Lately, the polarity in my thoughts and the feelings of joy when I miss out on certain gatherings and remain elusive is matched only by the joy of the synchronicities in my life at the moment from flowing moments. The embodied connections returned as I stopped worrying as much about the artificial intelligence needed to have a verified status and positionality on the internet. In being honest when presented with intentional opportunities to share my whole thoughts around myself and my work, I’ve been present to connections and interwoven threads that I didn’t see through the haze.
“Do you already know that your existence–who and how you are–is in and of itself a contribution to the people and place around you? Not after or because you do some particular thing, but simply the miracle of your life. And that the people around you, and the place(s), have contributions as well? Do you understand that your quality of life and your survival are tied to how authentic and generous the connections are between you and the people and place you live with and in?
Are you actively practicing generosity and vulnerability in order to make the connections between you and others clear, open, available, durable? Generosity here means giving of what you have without strings or expectations attached. Vulnerability means showing your needs.”
– adrienne maree brown, Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Shaping Worlds (2017)
My babalawo mentioned the significance of honoring and protecting my word in my yearly reading, along with the importance of maintaining my connections to folks who understand me and remind me to be my whole self. He names the orisha associated with this energy, Egbe, which is not to be confused with the form of the word which refers to a spiritual home. Egbe as in the set of spirits and beings that we played with and grew with on the other side before we received our mission to come to this world. “Heavenly homies,” he calls them and tells the story to his Godsister of how this energy shouldn’t be a stranger to our relationship.
This time last year, in the first iteration of Who Heals the Healer, my babalawo was working on a worker-owned cooperative business with almost the exact same name. Folks we had in common told us both that we had to connect in general, not out of a sense of competition, but that of alignment. So Baba came to the last session of the community freestyles, the intimate version of the project, and made himself known in his work and in his role in Ifa. I had been wanting to deepen my ancestral practice at the root for sometime, and because I had not operated from a place of envy or fear at the thought of someone doing similar work to me – I found my sacred homebase. An almost missed connection. We muse to the newest member our house that we’ve been in each other’s lives ever since.
The spiritual energy of Egbe shows up in the spiral of doing this work that I am “known” for in the physical world through a crew of folks who are able to not only support the work, but also operate from a place of reciprocal community care. An ebb and flow that does not stretch my throat too much, or leave me drained. My sacred homework for myself implores me to be an active participant in the life I am praying for and co-creating. The prayers are heartfelt and to be actually felt and held as someone who is neither too much, or playing small. For additional moments with a healthy balance between an ego-driven response of copying to one that is heart-centered in the bliss of not being alone. None of us are alone in doing anything.
The ancestral reminders that we are not alone are often trending on these same digital streams of information but I’m leaning more towards the energy of collecting moments and stories within the five dimensional experience that is life. This unfolding has allowed me to regroup, and root myself in the commons and the shared ground of my varying forms, and how to make sure that they get along before seeking external belonging. Collective reminders around the meaning of the collective it self – no matter which scene it’s uttered in – and how we do not do any of this work alone.
I am not alone in doing the work necessary to live the life that I want and actively strive for. My family, chosen and blood, my communities, and those that I support push me to my goals without explicitly knowing this. But while Venus is in my natal placement of Capricorn, the Saturn Return lesson of the moment is to continue to unravel because that is the work. To unfold from a place that is heart-lead as opposed to my comfort zone of logic because my rational thoughts can have me miss out on full feeling feelings. I rather maintain a relatively ‘low’ profile on a screen and have ‘high’ quality connection in 5D so that I can stay true to myself and to the root of my name. Creating from a place of vulnerability and my healing process often runs the risk of self-exposure. My reputation has to include what I think of myself and how I reconnect accordingly. Maybe that’s why it took me so long to write this whole thing.