Connecting the Dots for Safety & Care
I am currently working on some projects that are pulling on my creative energy. I have decided to prioritize those things, one of which includes the final requirements for finishing my degree. While I rest from this platform, I’ll revisit some writings with you, with posts that I’ve enjoyed the most.
I haven’t done this kind of thing yet—but with new subscribers, this may be a nice way to help introduce new folks (hey *waves*) to my work.
Anyway, here’s a weird little video from my phone of me enjoying the changing leaves this past week. There are lessons here.
Sad and beautiful
You did a lot on your own
To hold tight to the world
Slowly opening your
Hands, palms up
To reach out for support
Is the move
From all you’ve taken on
To those who
Take you in
—Rose J. Percy, "Therapy Notes" (April 2022)
This picture has been with me since the spring semester of 2021, when I took a class on theopoetics and theologies of imagination, taught by my friend.1 He offered a bunch of images and we were meant to write a response for the one that inspired us. I don’t fully remember much of the exercise and cannot even locate the words I wrote, but I remember looking at this image and feeling like the one falling.
Looking back, I can now connect the dots.2 Maybe not all of them for you here, but some. I remember thinking, “Wow, this is exactly how I feel. Like I am too heavy. Like the sense of security I have is an illusion. Like those who say they care will inevitably fail to help me when I need them.”
I knew at the time I first saw this, I was not only thinking about people who represent that dotted-line figure, promising to catch me when I fall. I knew it was systems and cultures. I know it was theologies.
Since I first saw this image, I’ve been trying to imagine another way. I’ve wondered how to land gently and brought others along to wonder with me.
A Gentle Landing is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
What I have learned since first laying eyes on this image is…sometimes, I am the dotted one. I am the dotted one when I am not honest about my capacity and when I do not give myself enough rest. When in thought, I want to be caring but do not have the energy to activate caring responses. My studies are not just illuminating the ways systems, cultures, and theologies have failed me—they have illuminated the gaps in my own ability to hold all the things I want to hold.
So I must let go. I am working on it.
This semester will demand more of me in so many ways, as it is the final one for this program. Studying trauma, spiritual care, and mystic theology invites me to consider how I can practice care and attention in a different way.
There is yet another layer still.
Yes, I am seeing the ways I cannot do it all. But in creating communities of care for myself, where there is reciprocity, I have learned that, at any given time, my friends are all going through it…but when we come together and offer a little, a little can become a lot. A lot can become enough. And enough can meet the need.
I have seen us do it time and time again.
So often, I cannot pray with my own words. Writing for me is an act of prayer. What I pray here in writing this newsletter, is that those of us who have fallen into the wrong hands—or no hands at all, can find a web of hands,3 ready to hold and care. So that when one hand falls, the whole is not compromised.
A Prayer for Safety4
[Creator], thank you for being our hiding place.
You are our trauma-free zone.
In your presence, there is safety, joy, and restoration for everyone.
On this day, be serenity within my struggle, and the laughter amid my work for liberation.
—Gabby Cudjoe-Wilkes & Andrew Wilkes, from Psalms for Black Lives
This prayer comes from a small book called Psalms for Black Lives: Reflections for the Work of Liberation. It is one of the many books that I received from my Amazon wishlist for my birthday last month.
All the books on that list are related to my work in some way. Putting together a list like this goes back to last January when my friend and fellow Substack writer,encouraged me to say, “Let people love you.”
Over the course of this last year, I have reached for books on my shelf, knowing that I am reaching out for a physical representation of care from my community. The books will not let me forget. The group chats will not let me forget. The words of affirmation I am collecting for the moments when I begin to…will not let me forget.
I see Creator at work in these moments, co-creating a sacred community. So that I can see that image again as I organize files on my computer and it doesn’t bring me to tears. It now reminds me of a time I first began to believe I deserved to land gently.
Return to the prayer for safety. Say it out loud, write it down or record yourself saying it. Make edits that make sense for you—what aspects of “safety, joy, and restoration do you desire?”
Journal Prompt: How does the poem "Therapy Notes" resonate with your own experiences of reaching out for support and the feeling of being "the dotted one" or the one leaning into a bad trust fall at times?
Conversation Prompt (for therapy, close friends, spiritual direction, etc.): Reflect on the importance of self-care and consider things that you have done recently that showed you the end of your capacity. How can you be withholding, in ways that allow you to hold yourself and others well?
Gratitude Practice: Reflect on the people and communities that support you. Write down or speak aloud gratitude for their presence and care. As an added step, make time this week to thank 1 or 2 people for showing up for you.
Pun intended and if that made you cringe, I am so sorry, lol.
Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, Care Work: Dreaming Disability Justice, 2018. I was first introduced to the language of “care webs,” from my friend Erica Ramos-Thompson and was recently gifted this book from my wishlist that expands on the concept. I still have a lot more to learn about the concept, but I know as Leah writes, it centers on the agency of the person seeking care and “solidarity not charity,” which I love.
I subbed “Creator” for “Lord” in my version.