I am speechless. The days feel like skeins of yarn slowly unraveling themselves around the spool of the sun, dying quietly with the early winter sunset. Every morning brings fresh cuts into the fabric of our democracy—strikes against the environment, the land, women’s bodies, education, immigration, scientific research, the list is endless. Last week, I vowed to keep tabs of all the changes via Amy Siskind’s weekly lists (“Experts in authoritarianism advise to keep a list of things subtly changing around you, so you’ll remember”), but I find myself so beaten down by each single strike I’m not sure I can handle them en masse. Am I weak? Am I cowardly? Am I overly pessimistic? Or am I just a privileged white woman who’s never been called on to fight like this before because it never felt so personal?
As I write, an email zings in from The New Yorker with the subject “A Very Bad Day for the Planet”. Whatever I am, at least I can rest assured I am not alone.
We send texts and messages in monotone:
you: are you ok?
me: not really. you?
you: not really. what do we do?
me: I don’t know.
me: but we can’t give up.
I notice, with dagger sharp clarity, that joy has drained from most moments. Living without joy—that natural human ebullience babies and children exhibit so freely—is many difficult things, but mostly it is exhausting. The thought of even getting up, of enduring one more headline, of slogging through one more round of emails, is a leaden weight. But then I decide—I know—that I cannot live like this, joyless, cowed. As my insightful friend Julie Lake once yelled at me while I tried to fuse my body to my bed during a categorical sophomore slump in college, “LILY! YOU HAVE TO GO TO THE WORLD! GO TO THE WORLD!”
Julie was, and is still, right. So. Here’s what I have been doing:
I’ve been writing emails and making phone calls. To house and senate representatives, both in their DC and their local district offices. To the U.S. Government Accountability Office. To the banks backing the Dakota Access Pipeline. To friends and family, to remember. To remember that it’s possible to be proactive, even in moments when the certitude of negative change feels irreversible. I’ve signed up for the 100 Days project, committing to take ten actions over the next three months. (More on that here—join me this Sunday in Long Beach.)
I’ve been calling upon the practice of taking refuge. In years of Tibetan Buddhist study, I learned to take refuge. Traditionally, one takes refuge in the Buddha (the enlightened beings and their purity of wisdom), the Dharma (the teachings), and the Sangha (the community of practitioners). This past week, this meant calling upon the wisdom of great leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr., Audre Lorde, my mentor and Third Wave Feminist leader Rebecca Walker, and many other artists and poets of the resistance. It meant reading their words and remembering their teachings. And it meant surrounding myself with the encouragement and dogged work of others who are as ready for change as I am.
And then there are all the ways I’ve taken refuge in small moments of sanity-making. I bake challah. I wear my Nasty Woman tank top under every sweater. I volunteer at the local community garden, where I can put my hands in the soil and remember that seeds always take time to grow. We cannot change overnight.
And I remind myself that now, more than ever, I need to take care of myself. That it’s ok to be nice to myself amidst so much pain. So I make myself a small, simple gift—this satsuma rose body polish—to care for my body, to feel the flesh and bone of who I am, to slough off the detritus of these days. You can make it in under five minutes, and keep it in the shower for a couple weeks to scoop into at moments when you need some extra soothing. It’s entirely edible, and perfect for Valentine’s Day gifting to friends and loves.
SATSUMA ROSE BODY POLISH.
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon satsuma tangerine, or orange zest
- 2 tablespoons fresh satsuma tangerine, or orange juice
- 2 teaspoons sweet almond olive, or melted raw coconut oil
- 1 teaspoon rosewater
- 2 tablespoons dried edible rose petals
Nota bene: If you’re exposed to sun directly after using citrus on skin, you may experience severe burning or irritation. Make sure to wash your skin well after application, wait at least several hours before exposing yourself to the sun, and always apply sunscreen for protection. Moreover, excessive use of citrus on skin can cause lightening, so don’t use this scrub more than twice a week.
Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix until evenly textured. Transfer to an airtight container and keep at room temperature for up to two weeks, or in the fridge for up to a month.
Apply as you would any body scrub, testing a small amount on skin first to determine the pressure you’ll use on the rest of your body. Use as much as you like for your body. Only use for face if you used almond or olive oil, as coconut oil is comedogenic. Do not use on freshly shaved skin.