ow does one prepare for The Long Enduring? Is it something to brace against as I grit my teeth and hold on tight? Perhaps The Long Enduring carries the ease of a river-flow, an evanescent gliding of time that erodes edges and permeates walls?
When the pandemic set in, I wanted to believe the isolation would be no more than three months — the impact instead lasting well past 18. When the pandemic set in, I was in the middle of a divorce with the person I had thought would be my traveling partner through the time I had left on this earth. I thought Time was on my side.
Sitting through The Long Enduring, I had to open myself up to change, to evolution, to undergo the shifts of transformation that knocked boldly on my outer doors as I slept.
I had to shift my relationship to Space and be ready for Time.
To wander through The Long Enduring is to wait. To listen. To whisper the secret hopes of a broken heart that yells angrily into the void, “Are we there yet?”
This heart of mine has been worn down, even more, this past year. Uprisings rising, inviting in an uprooting. Asian elders being stumbled under the rhetoric of hate. Fists connecting and tearing apart. Ancestral tales blaring of never being good enough.
As a survivor of eating disorders and other forms of self-harm, this past year (at the intersection of a divorce, a pandemic, heightened anti-Black, anti-Asian and anti-Immigrant violence, and a horrific election cycle) invited me into a new relationship with food, my body and the feelings that reside within me.
To be alive in this world — in a body-othered, in a body not meant to exist, in a body seen as the cause of the pandemic, and also a body that weaves new worlds at the margins — is to be taught to always be on guard. Hyper-vigilance is a state of being.
This heart of mine has been waiting lifetimes for what could be, of what perhaps is already becoming. In shifting my boundaries from the inside-out, colonies of mushrooms trapped in the soil beneath me begin to peek their tiny heads out to say hi. The Long Enduring invited me to wait and see.
Twenty years ago I met a person who would completely redesign my heart. When we met, she was an Americorps fellow, repopulating Crissy Field in San Francisco with native plants. Her efforts were cordoned off by yellow tape and small red flags, demanding wandering feet to find another path.
What if all this time she had been showing me the way?
Gathering rocks I draw a circle at the center of a clearing deep in the forest, bathed in the gaze of ancient beings rooted alongside me who breathe blessings into the wind.
“Hold me,” my spine begs, falling back into the rough embrace of a middle-aged redwood.
Widening my stance amongst the trees in the forest, I wind the circumference of another circle, trailing yellow tape behind me. I place up signs around the border: “Restoration in progress. Keep out”
Protected within, I begin to dance, scattering the rocks I had so intricately placed earlier, piling two then three on top of each other, tossing others into the spaces to my left and to my right, rediscovering what center feels like.
I drew circles around me, tacking up more and more yellow tape and small red flags along the edges of my external worlds. I called in mockingbirds to perch on the fence posts and invited starlings to keep me company with petty tales of gossip. I even begged the cooper’s hawk to sit with me on the front porch, but he had much better things to do, he said.
“Is the yellow tape strong enough to keep the monsters at bay?” I asked the fig tree nestled in the far corner of my backyard.
The fig tree refused to answer but she kept on growing.
Perhaps I could do the same, I wondered. What if I pushed my boundaries further out?
Recovery, for me, is about the dance between boundaries and permission, trust and surrender, possibility and resolve. As a queer, trans mixed-race Asian American Buddhist...experience with boundaries has evolved, framed as someone who has been in recovery, and as someone who is an energy healer working specifically with QTBIPOC in eating disorder recovery. My external boundaries used to be much more permeable and flexible. They are now much more rigid and defined. My internal boundaries are much more relaxed.
This past year in lockdown taught me that there are ways to soften, to let down my walls, to experiment with an open heart, to reimagine kindness with the roots of my core traumas which up until this last year, felt too terrifying to name out loud.
Somehow, in setting a boundary outside of myself, by limiting who and how others had access to me, my inner self could once again play. My heart and my body found freedom in the spaciousness of trees. I shattered the armor I had grown around my heart and explored new configurations of the pieces. I began to believe that my boundaries didn’t have to suffocate me, in order for me to be safe.
More yellow tape, please. New worlds are forming but the restoration is still incomplete.