self care/ community care

hello world! hello me!

today, i am quite UwU and heartened by the week – of rest, reflections and processing and tending to my inner garden. i don’t use these words lightly, as much as they sound so fluffy…

i named this blog ra’ah because God gave me this word this year, and it’s been an anchor throughout – ra’ah is used in Ecclesiates, where it says:

every version of this verse hits me different in a good way

ive written a lot about this word and what it means to me on my instagram so do check it out if you would like the long and in depth journey of me and this word.1As i start this writing documentation of my journey as a “young 20-something” “christian” “activist” – ive never FULLY resonated with any one of these words because of the social and cultural stereotypes and contexts they are often used in, and would prefer actually to say i am a highly sensitive, deeply affected by the world person walking out a journey with God – i go back to the word ra’ah because it encapsulates and grounds my direction for this space. this space of figuring out what it means to heal, personally, as well as heal, collectively, intertwined and interdependently. It is a space where i want to see self-work and community work as intertwined and mutually enriching and nourishing. it is space where i want to work things out, personally & politically.

ra’ah – it means to enjoy. the verse up there, it states, so clearly and simply, that it is pleasure from the hand of God (!) that we can enjoy ALL our labour, toil or work. I like to use the word labour because while work has so many related connotations to what one’s job or career is, labour reminds me of a life’s work – what are we even alive, breathing, occupying this space in the world for? i used to think (as a believer) my life is a sacrifice to God. For him to do what He wants to do.

That is most definitely true. but ive never imagined that this life’s work was meant to be enjoyable, pleasurable, rich & delightful.

but that’s what God is saying here, at least to me.

for so long, ive thought of life split up into three segments: clear up my own mess, clear up the world’s mess, and then, relax when its over or you reach retirement age and no one expects anything from you anymore.

as someone who struggled and still struggles with her mental health, the first segment seemed to be going on forever.

so, i decided, forget it, lets just forget the first part, and move onto the next part. let’s at least be useful somewhere and somehow. i dabbled in so many non-profit related work, in photography and videography, i volunteered in family service centres and charities, i served in my church. im NOT in any way a hero, nor have i done anything amazing, but i would say im constantly striving to give and help… whatever little i have. i was always conscious it was little, and felt that sheer relief that God somehow still wanted to use that little bit. i was always conscious of my own brokenness, helplessness, weakness, and that made me cling onto Him.

i would say, yes, the journey was beautiful in its own way, and even needful in its own way, but you can imagine what it is like when a broken, empty person trying to help other broken, empty people… its painful. its full of pain actually, because you cannot ever seem to do what you’ve set out to do (help people) because you realise your own struggles are getting in the way. then you feel burnt out, small, condemned, useless. you’re like, “God… why did you create me?”

eventually, my body collapsed and forced myself to stop running and striving in this desperate way. at the core of it, i saw myself as rejected and useless until i could find meaning and purpose in helping others. i saw life as something to be earned and deserved, rather than a gift to be received.

even though the season of giving and serving definitely showed me my need for God, it resulted in a very broken relationship with myself, and with Life. striving and striving, never allowing myself to receive pleasure, beauty, joy, freedom, peace.

through the word – ra’ah – which i’m only just beginning to understand and live out, i have come to realise that what i thought were three separate stages or segments of life (if i may separate them: growth, labour, pleasure) were One and Intertwined. Life is a gift, where we grow, where we labour in our own growth and in our communities, where we find great enjoyment and pleasure in this labouring, individually and together. as we become, we are also working, we are also partaking, we are also enjoying. society has taught us that life comes in fixed stages or linear hierarchies when really it comes in overlapping and encircling ripples, life embraces you as you learn to embrace yourself.

for reALLy long, ive always felt hindered in my ability to connect and contribute to the world, because of what i saw as mental illness. there’s so much to be unpacked where mental illness is concerned (how much of it is really an individual’s problem and how much of it is determined, shaped, inflected, fuelled or propped up by societal – political, cultural, economical – structures and systems?) and that is definitely something i want to explore more here. but for now, i find in myself more than sufficient Grace to say that i have come to see my own healing, self-work and self-care as intertwined and nourished by a deep and active engagement with my immediate communities and the wider world around me, indeed that self care/community care are one and the same thing.

Credit: @ogorchukwuu

this doesn’t mean i keep on giving, giving, depleting my own energy for others at the expense of myself. it means trusting that my self-work, my self-care is not the simple shopping spree or mind-numbing vacation, but a sincere, persistent digging deep into myself to find what i truly want and desire, to find what makes me move and rumble, what my whole being yearns to vision and create. it is trusting that this entire process is part of community-building, too, and then actively and intentionally creating those connections through vulnerability and holding space, for the Other and your Self. (but what is this other/self but yet another binary? can we choose to leave the vision of the autonomous ego behind? more on that later, too) in this way, self work becomes community work when we choose to see the process of unlearning, of shaking off the dust of stereotypes, biases, small-minded beliefs and ignorant behaviours, of quieting the voices that say we need to be productive, useful, superior, better …. as a part of loving and nourishing ourselves, and each other, and embracing what is True, together.

really, i believe self-healing can only happen in a community of co-labourers, grounded in Love.

it is finally also believing that all of this, ALL of it, the painful and ugly and gory bits, can also be deeply fulfilling, pleasurable, enjoyable – ra’ah. where my soul sees Good. I want my soul to see good, even in the difficult in-between, the painful poking and prodding.

part of all of this, trusting that i can hold space for myself in this chaotic, messy world, to write, to make, to create, to do things that i love doing and makes my soul sing. to believe that even something small like this can mean something. and i really believe, if in simply following my own path i can inspire another person to shake off the dust of the world, and do the same, i can rest fully satisfied.

so in all of this, may those neatly divided categories tumble and fall; because God has again showed me how big He is, how big His heart is for Me and for My life. and for every single one of His people as well. so much richer, so much more beautiful, this Life, than i could have ever imagined.

may You bless and nourish and open up this space for me to move, dance, paint and sing freely, God, may You be intimate and close to me in the process.

from my favourite hand-letterer, poet and artist, @lorihetteen

💌 all my love

[1] my instagram account is privated, but i will accept anyone who isn’t a bot or spam or shop account, because it helps me to curate with intention when i keep the space very personable and small. but i will accept any HUMAN BEING! ❤ (or Very Sincere and Persistent Animal!)


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