Mavis Staples would make a wonderful Weariness Advisor. She's never going to tell you to just chipper up. Instead, she'll point out how what you feel in your bones is essentially what countless other bones are feeling, right now. Mavis Staples will remind you that her mother, and grandmother, and all her ancestors somehow made it through, and not because their lives were any easier than yours. Mavis, I think, will not get into some pissing-match of weariness. She will look at you, suss out how much weh-weh, and how much pain, and mirror back what she sees, laughing in a deep, husky voice.
Here's something I am weary of: casual bashing of white feminists. Really, friends? When Trump and the Koch brothers and the rapine of the world are unfurling, your best bet is to reach out and bite other humans who are standing against this? Also, what do you mean, “white feminists”? Me, for example? Because I somehow ought to be wearying myself on your behalf? And why is that? Are you committed to wearying yourself on mine? Is there some kind of unwritten mutual-wearying-contract between us? Because, if so, let’s break it. Let’s stop. I officially renounce you, as a source of weariness for me; and you can officially renounce me, too. Let's just go ahead and make this broader: I renounce all beings, as sources of weariness. I refuse to be wearied by anyone. Feel free to call me a white feminist cis-het witch, if that’s unwearying to you. Just know: I am not going to take the bait. I’d rather be flying ICBMs in my dreams. I’d rather be hunting for Elliot in the woods. I’d rather meet whatever I meet, without labels.
Trump has set up weariness-centrifuges in warehouses deep under the White House and the Golf White House, to spin disgust and contention into power. You don't believe me? How else do you explain the fact that he is still in office, and hardly anyone laughs in his face? Weariness is not a force for change. It is the power of resignation. Oh, well. I guess that’s just the way it is. White feminists and Republicans are idiots, and there’s just isolated, radical me out here, carrying the banner of truth. Purge that. Remember: we are all making this up together, and no one knows how it will turn out.
You think calling me a slippery theory-word is going to undo the harm you’ve accumulated from other people calling you slippery hate-words? You think mocking my "allyship" is going to yield better results than staying open to what’s available to you? I think it's completely infantile, and it won't work. You’re looking for ways not to connect. You’re looking to protect yourself from taking responsibility for what you feel, hoping never to get hurt again. Making me say/think/do what do you think is right will only make us wearier in the long run, Friend.
Tell me what hurts.
Tell me what makes no sense.
Tell me who you are as a person, not as a label.
And I will do the same.
My Dad has a running refrain: the Democrats need to come up with something believable to say, or else we’re in for a thousand more years of trumpitude. Part of me bristles: the Republicans need to stop suckling at Satan's teats, or else we're in for a thousand more years of much worse. Radical responsibility, though, says he’s right. Standing for we are nice to everyone isn’t the same thing as having a coherent vision for this country. Where's the warrior side of the left? Where’s the willingness to say uncomfortable truths, and to scrape back to a sound foundation? Obamacare is nonsense. Necessary nonsense, granted, but not a sustainable solution. Someone needs to say: medicine is not business. Insurance is a nonsense model of paying for non-care. All of us need to agree on some guidelines about treatment, non-treatment, and what's reasonable to expect from the world and its resources. If it's left to the Republicans to be the only voice of restraint in health-care spending, the Democrats lose the opportunity to lead real conversations about life and death. I am weary of the party of the Good Breast, rainbow-bright, supportive us, vs. evil, selfish them.
Weariness makes it impossible to think straight. Someone says something, and you don't have the bandwidth to tease it apart into visible strands. So, you mean you're not a cis-het white feminist? What swamp bubbles up through that question? Which losses are you attempting to transfer from your own set of distortions, to mine? What’s that smell?
There's this argument: You have the luxury to live as though labels don't apply to you. I get it. Many times, reading, say, Tolstoy (or some much less accomplished white male), I get a gross whiff of My Experience Is Universal, Let Me Explain. It's a stinky stink, for sure. But that’s not all Tolstoy’s got to say. Alongside his overreaching voice, he’s capable of fine observations of how individual humans behave. This is so for all of us. Parts of us speak truthfully, from embodied experience, from a particular moment, from a vulnerable heart. Other, more tyrannical, universalizing parts, claim to speak to and for categories: All Black Men, All White Feminists. These statements can sometimes be temporarily useful, as a means of distancing ourselves from the burning quality of experience, but they become a direct path to weariness, if clung to for any length of time. All dogs. All old people. All mountains. The living particulars disappear behind a fog of theory and bias.
Law deals in categories, as it probably must. But the application of law should include awareness of what is happening right now. Am I acting from my human-parts, or my tyrant-parts? Am I allowing myself to see this person or situation as uniquely arising, as well as arising from systemic causes and conditions?
Thinking about all of this makes me weary. Our country makes me weary, if I let it. Trump’s weariness-centrifuges spin up dark energy of powerlessness and resentment, violence and poverty, into a reservoir connected to his bottomless thirst for being hated. This can go on for a long time, especially if his opponents refuse ever to acknowledge their own dark sides. I am a blameless victim! I am a virtuous rescuer! I am looking for someone to wrong me, and there you are.
Weariness means you stop looking for the particularity of each moment. You generalize. You fall back into patterns, and the whole thing just slips on by. Weariness is a bitter laugh-track, a wonder-proof blanket, a stinky shirt that never quite washes free of yesterday’s wearing, and a back-bending ditch in the place where you go to sleep.
Julie Püttgen is an artist, expressive arts therapist, and meditation teacher.
108 Names of Now