AwareNow: Issue 20: The Kind Edition

Page 19

Valarie: (continued) So then this is the hard part, right? How do we turn the compass to an opponent? I don't use the word enemy here because the book is filled with stories of every time I want to hate a person, every time I want to see them as a monster, I hear their story and I see their wound and I realize that there are no such thing as monsters. They're only human beings who are wounded, and yet there are still opponents.

Opponents are people who are opposed to your life, your dignity, your ideas, your way of being. Your opponents can come in any form and some feel very permanent, but the idea of making it so that it's possible that they might not always stay in that category is the idea of calling them opponent, not an enemy. So we're facing our opponent, we're pointing our compass at the opponent.

The primary practice there is to tend the wound. It begins with tending your own wound. So rage is a core practice of Revolutionary Love. To honor your rage, to feel your rage, to harness the energy of your rage for creative action, nonviolent action. That is a core practice. And then if you are safe to listen to your opponent, not to change them, but to understand them, to understand the wound and then to take that information to not just resist, but to reimagine. To reimagine the world that could be. So this raging and listening and reimagining is how we can practice orienting to our opponents with love.

And we turn the compass one more time. And this often gets left out, right? So our social reformers from Gandhi to King to Mandela, they have talked at length about how to love others, how to love our opponents, not so much about how to love ourselves. This is the feminist intervention. I really look to black women leaders from Bell Hooks, to Audre Lorde, loving our own flesh, our own bodies is not a form of self indulgence, but a form of political warfare, because it says we matter too, we've got to the last enjoy matters and longevity matters and our dignity matters.

So the core practices there are breathing, pushing and transitioning. So remember the wisdom of the midwife. She doesn't say breathe once and push the rest of the way. No, she says breathe my love and then push and then breathe again. And I find that if I'm showing up to my life with love, orienting to others with love, I'm able to form deep solidarity. If I'm orienting to opponents with love, I'm able to do the work of understanding. If I am orienting to myself with love, I'm finding longevity, and to then practice joy.