For a long time, many of us have listened to the story of our own dehumanization and silencing of our experiences.
SO many lives have been lost and affected, it can feel desensitizing to experience physical and emotional violence daily in various forms. However, in the works that Audre Lorde wrote, the story is that we get to fight back, we get to stand up for ourselves and create a different reality. In this story, we do more than survive. We unapologetically thrive. We reclaim, reshape and reimagine our futures without unwanted input.
In 1992, Audre Lorde transitioned to her next life at the age of 58, leaving behind legendary works like “Sister Outsider” and “The Cancer Journals.” The late, influential queer black poet gifted her readers this gem from “A burst of Light” published in 1969:
“Caring for myself is not self indulgence, it is self preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” -Audre Lorde
Today this statement is prevalent, healing and continues to revolutionize the mainstream concept of self-determination, self defense and celebration of self.
My take is that Audre’s words show awareness of the hostility met with her identity. When Lorde calls upon “political warfare,” she names that there must be a sense of urgency when we handle our self preservation. She says we must aggressively love ourselves to endure and resist regimes that seek to divide those of us who seek liberation.
It makes me wonder, what aspects of my self care could I take more seriously? Where do I still need to accept myself? Where have I too often accepted the bare minimum or self-sabotaged due to feeling unworthy?
There are mainstream projections that tell women to solely rejuvenate their physical appearance to achieve self love. However, self love calls for us to take a step further and use everything in our power to personalize our own processes when defending our right to be loved.
We might use the lipstick for warrior paint, we might use the freakum dress for self- eroticism. We might use cat videos or home cooked meals FOR UNAPOLOGETIC JOY.
We must have a strategy (specific to our needs) and defend what is sacred to us without letting others define what that is for us. No mainstream plan for self care will do the trick; each one of us has to come up with the blueprint for what makes us feel worthy.
It was Lorde’s guidance towards agency that empowered me at the age of 20. At that time in my life I was not attuned to my obligations directly addressing my specific mental and emotional health needs. I had learned the boundaries of people, cultures and institutions around me, but set none of my own. I had dared to “ask the hard questions” and probe into the minds of great thinkers as a journalism student, but didn’t yet turn the microscope on my own thoughts, dreams, wants, chambers...
There was much avoidance until I came to the terribly world-stopping idea of self love. It commanded attention. Like warfare does, it commanded action. Using Lorde’s teachings about identity, erotic power and agency, I took the liberty to liberate my mind and question the norm of self negligence among women.
It’s scary to think that for a long time, I operated in a way that didn’t address 1) the harm/trauma I personally withstand in society and in my past or 2) the degree to which I must pay attention to my emotions and identity for my mental health. (Hint: there is ancestral knowledge from all over the diaspora that teaches us how to overcome the struggle with medicine, prayer, ceremony and exercise- we must never feel alone!).
It’s my hope and prayer that I will be able to write and share some tools and ideas that have helped me cultivate my self love progress and continue on the path of acceptance, forgiveness and embrace.
With all my love,