Mental Health · Personal · Social Justice

A Form of Resistance in the Trump Era: Radical Authenticity

I understand this more politically-charged topic may seem irrelevant to a health blog, but many people in my life – including myself – are having their health affected by the barrage of difficult news of the past few months especially. I entirely understand if you’re not interested in reading this one! Feel free to skip over it and return next week, when I’ll be sharing about some of my favorite and most frequently-used health products. 

survivor_redemption_island_logo

So, this post isn’t actually about the TV show “Survivor: Redemption Island.” (If you’re bummed about it, I’m sorry – I’m sure there’s a blog about it somewhere!). As I was looking up images for this article, that came up, and I found it wonderfully appropriate – especially the call to outwit, outplay, and outlast. This time in our history isn’t a sprint, nor should we treat it that way; it’s a marathon, and to get out of it alive – to outwit, outplay, and outlast even ourselves – we will have to figure out how to resist for the long-haul. You simply can’t go to a march every day.

We all must learn how to take care of ourselves so that we can continue to take care of others, and this piece, I hope, is just one of many ones that you’re reading to figure out what that will look like. One of my favorites, for example, is “How to Stay Outraged Without Losing Your Mind.” (I personally prefer the terms “aware” or “involved” because I try really hard not to lose my patience, but you get the picture.) I’m starting to do things that are concrete and specific that protect me from being involved to the point of damage to my health, including deleting Facebook from my phone so I wouldn’t mindlessly scroll through the news, setting identifiable goals and limits for my participation (for example, to only engage with the news for an hour each day – when my mom and I watch Rachel Maddow, and during the commercials I sift through BBC News, and to make about 30 minutes worth of phone calls and emails to elected officials each week).

There’s something that seems to be underpinning everything that’s healthy and helpful for me (and the others I try to serve) right now: Radical authenticity. If you don’t already know about the life-changing power of authenticity, I need you to go look up Brene Brown right now and watch one of her TED talks or read one of her books. Her work has changed my life. Ever since the spring of 2013, when I had the deep privilege of attending a women’s therapy group based on her work about shame and vulnerability, I’ve been trying to live more into who I am. Now, I’m shifting it a little bit: I’m letting it be radical – to guide me in how I spend my time both in my care of others and of myself. I’m letting my truest self shine through because that in itself is a radical thing – especially now that a few of my marginalized identities (woman, sexual assault survivor, LGBTQIA, neuroatypical, and physically ill to the point of sometimes being disabled) can feel (and even truly sometimes are) more dangerous in Trump’s America.

Radical authenticity, for me, means leaning more into the marginalized identities I hold. (For example, spending my Valentine’s Day weekend sharing another woman’s experience of sexual violence in a Vagina Monologues production. Here I am; here me roar).

red-lipstick

My mere existence is resistance. I cherish it and am choosing to highlight it by playing up aspects of myself that seem scary to some in this new America. (I want to say, before I get rolling, with this, that if you feel scared, you don’t owe anyone anything. If, for example, you feel a need to go back into “the closet” for now because your family, friends, and community are not supportive, you should do what is best for your physical safety.)

My womanness and my queerness are louder now. My laptop is covered with more stickers. I share more about how my womanness and queerness fit into my theology. That is resistance.

I now, more often, wear red lipstick and other “provocative” articles of clothing without reservations as a reminder to myself that my body is my own and nobody else’s, regardless of the epitomes of rape culture that now live in the White House. That is resistance.

I share my stories of living with bipolar disorder type II and chronic physical illnesses without shame as a reminder that neurotypicality and able-bodiedness are not synonymous with worthiness, and neurodivergence and disability are not synonymous with shamefulness. That is resistance.

My friends,

Your accent – your proof of knowing another language before English – is something to be proud of because it shows your ability to change, while also keeping roots in what matters to you. That is resistance.

Your residence in a neighborhood that Trump is scared to go to and even belittles in words and deeds shows your strength. That is resistance.

Your ability to save money is not your defining characteristic; rather, your ability to keep going on little money and a lot of hard work shows how creative and determined you are. That is resistance.

Your beautiful skin of a color different from mine is something to be proud of, not ashamed of, for your love of your body is something for you and your community, not for others. That is resistance.

You embody resistance.

Radical authenticity also means intentionally growing characteristics of myself that I’m proud of, while also working toward qualities that I want to gain. I’ve decided, among other things, to dedicate myself more fully to radical hospitality – going out of my way to show the people who are already in my life how much they matter to me and to keep my arms perpetually more open to strangers. Living generously by tipping 18% or more each time, buying my friends’ teas when we sit down at a shop together, giving my time more openly and deeply to people. That’s part of my resistance. (I’ve put together a list of 20 small and things you can do to find your own sense of radical hospitality.)

welcome
[Image description: a lawn in front of a chapel that has a sign planted into the ground. It says, in 3 differently colored sections, in Spanish, English, and Arabic, respectively, “No matter where you are from, we’re glad you’re our neighbor.”] 
These signs started popping up all over my town when the executive order about immigration was first announced. Never forget to notice those little moments when the humanity of others around you outshines the fear that you see manifesting in so many different forms during this time. For example, through United We Dream’s #heretostay initiative, where people literally crowd in the tens and hundreds around people under threat of deportation as a sign of tangible solidarity. Through the fact that more people marched on all 7 continents on the day of the Women’s March than any other day in history – and that’s just the beginning of what the organizers plan to do. All you have to do is look around you and you’ll find amazing people doing amazing things. Just because others may seem louder right now doesn’t mean they are. Take a deeper look at who’s out there doing great work.

So, what will your resistance look like? Make a list of 3-5 topics that matter enough to you that you would go to a march, make phone calls and send letters, or donate and volunteer at an organization dedicated to them. Let those around you handle the others, for your list of 3-5 will not exactly match anyone else’s. When there is something that you care about, but don’t have time to work for, know that someone else has that as their priority. You cannot singlehandedly keep the sky from falling. I can’t. Nobody can.

So guess what?

Our joy – and our efforts to live, laugh, and love anyway – is resistance.

Our existence is resistance.

you-are-enough
[image description: a white piece of paper with two different kinds of texts on it. One is a lowercase handwritten cursive and that comprises the top and bottom lines: “you are enough” and “you always were.” In the middle of these sayings are black capital letters with yellow, green, and pink dots in them. This font is smaller than the handwritten cursive and it says: “not because you did or said or thought or bought or became or created something special, but because”. Looking from the whole, this says: “you are enough not because you did or said or thought or bought or became or created something special, but because you always were.”]

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