What does it mean to be a witness to the atrocities that surround us, sometimes overtaking us?
In my small therapy office I am witness to the journey of those who go to the deeper wounds, and to the majority who only need to stay on the surface to feel the pin pricks and enormous jolts coming from their lives.
In my personal life I am witness to the wear and tear of a, mostly inactive, body that leans toward comfort and rest and eats what soothes the tender ache. It’s caught up to me now— the medications need a pill organizer.
I witness the decline of my mother and father, and my two daughters making a life outside of the family home.
And then I, along with the majority we, witness the daily, sometimes hourly, onslaught of news stories that haunt, disturb and tempt to take away any belief that life is secure, safe and hopeful.
We bear witness to a lot.
I don’t know that I have a remedy to process what we see, hear and experience, but I want to name it, even so.
We witness a lot.
And what do we do with it matters. A lot. Do we digest it? Internalize it? Ignore it? Deny it? Fight it? Become paralyzed by it? Mourn it? Disease, label and justify it? Politicize it? Analyze it? Mostly we just keep living our lives with it. Some of us wonder what more we can do. Others get out and do it.
A long time ago I went to the circus and witnessed the elephants parading around in a darkened arena while dressed up humans with whips led them. I never again went to a circus. The witnessing of the elephants “living” in an unnatural way was enough for me to make a clear choice not to participate. But I didn’t do anything more. I did not protest at circus doors or go to an elephant refuge. Then, not attending felt enough of a protest.
So why is it then I can continue engaging in a life where I am, along with countless others, parading around in unnatural ways, succumbing to a way of life that is not of us, not of me? Why aren’t I protesting in some way? Why am I not refusing to show up and participate in this unnatural way of living? What happened to me? What happened to us?
There’s words and phrases for it— capitalism, patriarchy, internalized misogyny, colonialism, white supremacy… you name it— we are not only swimming in it, we are drowning. We have lost our way.
I look back upon all that we’ve said yes to, at least since I was born in the 1970’s. Food coloring, additives and processed non-food. Bottled water. Coffee shops and fast food on ever street. Gas. 9-5’s. I could go on…..
As a child I said yes to Oreos and Ho Ho’s. When I got a little older, and was continuously bullied, I said yes—yes, I’ll hide. Yes, I’m too much. Yes, there’s something wrong with me. Yes, you’re better and I’m insiginficant. Then I said yes to alcohol, Newports, boys and sex. Then I said yes to kids, marriage and a mortgage. Some of the yes’s should have been no’s— but it was too late. I’d been programmed, traumatized and neglected.
Now, I’m 50. I got through the pandemic (for now) and I’m witnessing what I have done. I am witnessing our culture and what it has us do. I sense all of it is enough to not only leave the circus but get off the circus grounds altogether— but how, and to where? Which cause will I protest, show up for? Which cultural, repressive institution will I leave?
All I think about lately is a cottage in the woods— fuck it all, eat mushrooms and berries and sit among the trees and the ferns, touching moss— live like the hobbit or the fairy tale old lady I know that I am.
I wonder who I could have been had I not said yes to it all. Who we might have been. What if I had said no, that’s not for me. Or no, we could have cried, this is not for us! This is who I am. This is who we are.
What I want to be a witness to now is a new cultural uprising for us, for me, for we. 🌲🌿🍄
Note: This is the first blog I have written in over a year. I sat down with a pen and paper, planning on writing something else, but instead listened and what I wrote above is what came through. I hope it reaches someone, in some way and I hope to return to this space more frequently.
~Nikki, The Soul Reporter