Survival in Practice


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By Dr. Sekile Nzinga-Johnson

 

I’m typically a chatty Cathy…except for when I’m in pain.

When I was in labor with my children, I was sooooooo quiet. Labor was painful and somehow I intuitively turned inward to survive it. During my first labor and delivery, I remember my grandmother being very worried about me not using medical intervention. She and her bible sat in the corner. She was present and prayerful and I was grateful for her.

Cedric was right beside me and I recall when the pain got so intense I looked at him and said “I don’t think I can do it!!” He looked back at me and said, “Yes, you can”. I turned inward and I did.  I pushed out a 7 lb 15 oz baby boy. It was then that realized that I could survive what was quite surely one of the greatest physical pains that a body can tolerate. I set the terms, no pain killers, a Ghanian fertility doll as a focal point and loved ones present to help me get through. But ultimately, it was me who had to get that baby out of me and had to deal with the pain associated with childbirth.

It was no joke but I felt like a bad ass after.

During labor, it was my silence that was most necessary. I had learned the Lamaze breathing/panting (ineffective) technique, but I just wanted peace and quiet so I could listen to my body and survive the pain. With each childbirth, I refined my desire for intentional silence during labor. I learned Hypno birthing and incorporated affirmations that helped me believe that I could birth my baby. This practice is necessary only because we have been taught to fear our bodies and the child birthing process as well as deny our strength. The hypnotic state was really a deep relaxation and meditative process. It required inward reflection and visualizing a place of peace. Even the verbal prompts Cedric had practiced to help me go deeper into a hypnotic/relaxed state were distracting in the labor process because of my deep desire for silence and turning inward. I needed peace and quiet to survive that pain. No nurses coming in and out poking and prodding, no lights on, no massages. Just me getting through that shit.

Leave me alone.

I birthed an 8 lb 7 oz baby boy that day with very little pushing thanks to a very self-determined little one.  By the time the 3rd labor came along, I was skilled at childbirth and also at knowing which conditions were ideal for me. Silence and solitude during labor! I wanted my support system there, which now included Cedric and the boys. I had the boys with a family friend while I was in labor but they were the 1st ones to hold and see their little sister after she was born. Unfortunately, my midwife did not get the memo about my need for peace and quiet and got on my damned nerves the whole time. She could not accept that I was in charge of my birthing process and kept trying to offer suggestions. Irritated the fuck out of me.

What I have realized is that when I am in pain, deep pain, I hurt too much to explain myself to others. Cedric was my advocate but we could not regain control of the labor and delivery process. I felt disempowered. I recall that process as my worse birthing experience simply because I felt imposed upon and I was not allowed to just lie there and meditate til that baby was ready to come out. She wanted me to shift positions and just kept talking. I needed to just survive the ugly beauty of my pain in peace. Thankfully, a 8 lb 6 oz baby girl blessed me with another quick labor and put me out of my noise induced misery.

I find myself in pain a lot lately. My current pain is not physical–it is psychic, emotional, psychological and spiritual. It still hurts and it’s hard to explain its fullness to others. I tend to retreat into myself during these times. It’s simply too tiring and painful to try to help others get why and how a happily married, mother of 3 beautiful children with a bunch of sister-friends who owns a home, smiles a lot, and is a professor is dealing with anxiety and life long depression. My support team is ready to help—friends call, family members pray, Cedric does the heavy lifting at home and is the affirming spouse that I need in my life. I am grateful.

But I have learned that sometimes I still have to–need to– turn inward to survive my life. Especially when I feel my survival and joy are at risk or are being threatened. It is how I have survived before when there was seemingly no one at my side (go ahead, insert your “but God” here). Turning inward is how I am still here. I need to time to think, to name my pain, and at times go numb to survive it. Turning inward feels safe in this moment. Being in silent solitude through pain also allows me to spiritually ground myself and to store my reserves so I can tackle life as it is dealt. Living in solitude means not having to explain why I stopped listening to someone in the middle of their sentence, or why I am not feeling happy at “happy” moments or why I am not interested in things that typically bring me joy like socializing and exercising and eases some of the pressure. It means not having to cry in public or navigate answering the dreaded question “how are you doing?”

Prayer, meditation, silence, and out of body robot mode—have helped me survive before, in beautiful times like during childbirth and in horrific times, like during child sexual abuse.  I won’t stay forever but this is where I am in this moment.

This is survival.

 

“Survival in Practice”  was reposted in The Possible World with Dr. Nzinga-Johnson’s permission.  Readers can find this piece and others on her Blogger.com blog, I usta be monique.

 

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The Most Vulnerable Group:  What The Trump Effect is Doing to Our Children


“We have an obligation to protect children from violence”

–author unknown

 

The 2016 primary election is byfar the strangest and the disturbing.  Between Hillary Clinton doing the Nae Nae on the Ellen DeGeneres Show to appeal to millennials and the Bernie “Hey Girl” memes, I seriously don’t know whether to laugh or be skeptical.

But what seems to be clogging up my social media newsfeed is the antics of Donald Trump. Trump is a businessman and candidate for the Republican nomination for the President of the United States in 2016. Unlike the other Republican candidates, Trump seems to be getting all the media coverage one way or the other.  Now, there isn’t a day that I don’t see a plethora of think pieces, memes, videos and skits focusing on this man alone.  Of all the Republican candidates, Trump is the most popular while leading in the polls at forty-four percent and has recently been endorsed by former candidates Sarah Palin, Dr. Ben Carson, singer Aaron Carter, and other celebrity Republicans.

This is completely different from four years ago when he could barely get press due to his ridiculous accusation that President Barack Obama is a non-U.S. citizen, demanding that the current Commander in Chief show his birth certificate.  But this time around, President Obama is not the focus of the Trump campaign but certain demographics of color.  At every rally, the Republican candidate is not only telling his predominately White supporters that Mexicans are raping and stealing here every time they cross the border.  He is also telling them that Muslims need to be deported or wear “special ID badges” and the Middle East should be blown up.  When anti-Trump demonstrators show up at his gatherings to protest, Trump encourages his supporters to “beat them up,” watching while angry White men shove protesters out the auditorium.

But what disturbs me about Republican candidate is how his violent inducing rhetoric affects the most vulnerable populations:  our children.

Called the Trump Effect, this use of oppressive rhetoric is more likely to cause trauma among young kids–especially immigrant children.  Mostly Hispanic and Middle Eastern children are now being targeted by their peers, causing the former to fear their environments.  Case in point: there is one story about a young Muslim girl named Sofia who hears Trump’s speech about deporting all Muslims.  She soon goes into her room and begins packing her bags and checking the locks on her door, thinking that she and her family are going to be targeted by soldiers.

Another example involves Trump supporters taunting Latinos at Dallas Center-Grimes High School during a basketball game. The former not only chants “Trump” as the students play, but “U-S-A” after the game is finished.  This act of racism stems from the runner-up’s promise to build a wall at the Mexican border to prevent migrant workers from entering the United States.

When NPR’s Cokie Roberts asks Trump during an interview if he is proud of his actions, Trump responds “Well I think your question’s a very nasty question.”

But the question is far from nasty.  I have to say that it’s completely valid and fair.  For one, let’s talk about the fact that not only are children of color are being targeted due racism and xenophobia, but are victims of fear mongering that leave them extremely confused.  They are watching Black Lives Matter protesters being attacked by White strangers at Trump rallies and wondering why this is even happening.

So imagine my anger at the cognitive dissonance of those who defend Trump’s supporters and the actions of Trump himself, arguing for their “First Amendment rights.”  Look.  Everyone has the right to speak and express their ideologies, so that’s not the issue here.  The problem is that there’s a difference between freedom of speech and using speech to incite the physical, emotional, and psychological harm to entire demographics of people.  When Trump is encouraging his supporters to attack protesters and people of color, his words and actions are no longer protected by the First Amendment.  It’s officially hate speech and adults aren’t the only ones affected.

So what am I getting at, Dear Readers? That our children are paying attention to the election.  They are watching the anti-Trump protest rallies unfold on their streets and their peers reacting to those who attack them.  They listen to Trump’s speeches about building a wall to keep Mexicans out of the country, how the BLM members are trouble.  They hear the lies about how Muslims are nothing but terrorists. Our children see it on the news, YouTube and catch the conversations on the city bus.  They are aware and are becoming afraid.  Don’t believe me?  Watch this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mmylREVCULo

So whether you “Feel the Bern,” consider yourself a conservative or radical, please do all you can to protect the children who are negatively affected by Trump’s foolishness and that of his supporters.

P.S.–Do not come at me with the “Bernie is better” nonsense.  Not only does that misses the ENTIRE point of my post, but his being in the White House will neither erase historical trauma caused by White supremacy or the trauma caused by Trump’s ignorance and the disturbing acts his supporters.