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places I feel safe

places I feel safe

Hello, I’d like to tell you some places I feel safe.  I shared some feedback with the local UU church recently.  It was about my needs not being met at their service on Sunday.  Ming and I went in person because our friend Ariel gave the sermon about tarot as a spiritual force in her life.

In my feedback, I explained to the UU folks about me and Ming–our history with the church, and a little about our disabilities.  We’ve been friends of that church for almost six years.  I asked if it was ok to move around at their church, and I explained how their service seems set up for abled adults, which feels like a power issue.

There was a lot of response to these ideas.  One person implied that I hadn’t gotten to know the congregation and said to let her know when I find a better place.

I want to explain a few places I feel safe.  These are much better places to be who I am, where I find spiritual nourishment, where my needs matter, and I can be my disabled self without fear.

the prayer room of the Las Vegas Catholic Worker

One of the safest places in the world for me is the prayer room of the Las Vegas Catholic Worker.  The Las Vegas Catholic Worker is an intentional community that exists to do the works of mercy, mostly to feed the hungry and provide hospitality, among other ministries.

My spouse Ming and I live in this community.  I’ve been in the prayer room for meetings, and I go there to sing.  We held the memorial service for my mom there, after she died two years ago.  All the people who attended sat in a circle, and some beautiful truth about my mom was shared.

I like the prayer room’s seating options, the religious iconography around the room, the musical instruments anyone can play, and the chill vibe.  Singing there feels good, and I like to lie on the couch and rest.  It’s a peaceful spot to meditate.

I’ve always thought…if I was having a psychiatric episode and trying to stay out of the hospital, that prayer room would be a good place for me.  My soul can rest there, and the quiet love of that place can be felt beyond language.

Las Vegas Radical Mental Health Collective

Almost five years ago, I helped start the Las Vegas Radical Mental Health Collective.  We’ve been meeting at least twice monthly for support group meetings, and we’ve also done dance workshops, art workshops, garden days, a journaling workshop, and Get It Off Your Chest in collaboration with Happy Earth Market.

The Las Vegas Radical Mental Health Collective is one of the places I feel safe, because we create an environment together where all people are valid.  It’s a low-judgement zone where we practice compassion and listen supportively.  Many of us have been psychiatric diagnoses.  We’ve been damaged by trauma, and survived the unsurvivable.  So trust isn’t always easy.  With a set format we follow each time, some people enjoy the container we co-create, and deep truths are shared.

At meetings of the Las Vegas Radical Mental Health Collective, I feel valid.  All of us are there with our own struggles and histories, showing up to love one another.  There’s no need for small talk, and it’s ok to cry.  That kind of community connection feels sacred.  It’s spiritually nourishing, to be my whole self and know it’ll be ok.

Ariel’s house

The house of my good friend Ariel is one of my favorite places I feel safe.  I can be myself by getting up to dance and stim whenever I want to.  Being quiet is ok, and resting is fine.  We can go outside into the yard.  We pull tarot cards, talk about everything, and work on embroidery.  I look at Ariel’s art and everything she’s making.  I visit the altar above the fireplace and pay respect to the goddess that’s honored there; I’ve brought offerings to the current sea goddess.

Ariel and I have shared ritual.  One time I made her potatoes when she was sad.  I talk with her kids and answer their questions.  Ariel’s provided me safe haven when I needed a break from the activity at my own house.  She’s told me I’m very welcome there.

“If your house was a person, I would give it a hug,” I said to Ariel one day, at her dining room table.  I like the layout, the furniture, the craft room, the office, the entryway….

I love this house because it’s Ariel’s, and she accepts me as I am, unconditionally.  This type of love is so strengthening.  I feel much braver with her care.  I’m safe to try things and take risks, with her love that’s so steady and stabilizing.

Ample Movement yoga classes

I love yoga as a way to inhabit my body.  I move in ways that help me feel more flexible.  Sometimes my emotions and energy can flow more freely, with the bodily movement.  Yoga helps me breathe better, and it’s strengthening to my arms, legs, and core muscles.

A yoga class can be a good social experience.  I learn that I can show up as an embodied person, and nothing bad happens to me.  It teaches me that being vulnerable with other people can go well, after a childhood and young adulthood of violent harm.

Ample Movement is my favorite way to do yoga lately.  The teacher has a body sort of like mine.  In an Ample Movement yoga class, it’s totally ok that I’m fat.  We do the poses in ways that work for us.

In all my previous years of yoga, I’ve felt guilty for holding up other students, when the teacher has to help me customize poses to work for my fat body.  It’s a treat that in these classes, there’s no need to be embarrassed.  I love this space to fortify my fat liberation.

Ample Movement nourishes my unconditional love for myself.  Being totally ok in an exercise space is a spiritual experience of embodied bliss.

nature

I also feel safe in nature.  I like to go to the riverbed and pray.  Being in the desert is wonderful for prayer.  I also love praying by the ocean, with trees, and on mountains.  I enjoy praying with snow, rain, and in the sun.

Mother Earth never tells me to sit still, talk more, or talk less.  She never tells me I’m too much, weird, selfish, or wrong.  Mother Earth accepts me exactly as I am.  In fact, she made me this way.  She likes me so much.  She’s proud of me for accepting the gifts my ancestors handed me, and doing my best to use them for the benefit of the world.

home

These places I feel safe all have a tone of love, acceptance, and playfulness.  Humor is allowed, and movement is encouraged.  My needs are ok.  These are the only places outside my home where I can relax.

Home is the place I can be most safe.  I’m fortunate that no one hurts me here, or demands that I act like I’m someone I’m not.

Home is the place many disabled people stay, since it’s so much easier to stay home than go outside.  Going out requires so much energy expenditure of preparation, frustration, risk, and recovery.

When I look out into the world, I know that many of my disabled siblings are hidden away.  If I could use Superperson vision and see through walls, I would see disabled people stuck indoors.  In institutions, group homes, prisons, hospitals, psych wards, and our own homes.

My heart breaks for the people who’d like to go outside and be included, but circumstances like poverty, fear, tradition, superstition, lack of support, lack of accommodation, and lack of welcome keep them tucked away.

For as long as I can, I’ll continue going out into the world, being who I am, speaking my truth, and modeling that difference is ok.

I’m valid, and so are you.  All bodies are valid bodies.  I hope you have places you feel safe and can be who you are.

By Laura-Marie

Good at listening to the noise until it makes sense.

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