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  • Writer's pictureTasha Harmon

Survival of the Nurtured

These last couple of months have been overwhelming, on so many levels. 

For me that overwhelm has included the death of my father (and all of the physical and mental work that entails as well as the grief) and figuring out new ways of supporting my mother, in addition to all of my usual work – both paid and unpaid – and the enormity of the many challenges, fears, griefs, and uncertainties facing all of us in our communities and the larger world.

And, amidst all of this, I was gifted, again and again, with experiences of nurturing.

🌱 I put out a call for help moving my folks into a small residential care home, and in 36 hours we had all the crew we needed to do that move in three hours. 

🌱 On the day my father died, the common room outside his room was filled with friends, sharing stories, tears, laughter, hugs, all ready to provide support for us in whatever ways were needed.

🌱 I usually do all our major cooking and two friends announced that they were going to make us a giant meal (lots of leftovers) once a week, for however long that was needed. (And the food has been amazing!)

🌱 An old family friend flew in from Chicago to help when my mother was spiraling into delusions and could not be alone at all for days.

All this in sharp contrast to the struggles my brother and I have had with the systems that are supposedly designed to support us through this crisis. That includes my parent’s long-term care insurance, and the confusing and often ridiculous decisions we need to make about how to handle our parents’ assets to ensure that my mother will not run out of money to cover residential care. And the systems challenges my partner and I face trying to protect our hard saved retirement savings as we try to navigate the world of disability benefits are even bigger, and more toxic

And, of course, many of the choices we face are a function of our privilege; we actually have some financial assets that create some of these experiences. So many people don’t. 

As a college-educated, English-speaking, white person, I also recognize how much easier it is for me to navigate these systems than it is for BIPOC folks, for more recent immigrants who don’t speak the language, for people who were failed by our bifurcated education system, or trapped in poverty.

I am torn, many times a day, between gratitude and rage – both of which are real and legitimate responses.

Naming It

I got an email a couple of weeks ago from Desiree Adaway that starts:

“I know so many of you are exhausted, overwhelmed, struggling. I want to remind folks that it’s not your fault. It’s a collective response to what these systems of power are designed to do —fuel themselves through extracting our labor, time, and capital. I believe in my bones our best method to both resist and fortify ourselves is to be in deep, loving community.”

This landed strongly for me, and sent me back to reread the email I had gotten from her the week before, where she talks about the survival of the nurtured, not survival of the fittest. 

I want to share that email with you, with her permission and my gratitude. 

I’ve included some of her upcoming offerings. 

I have done her Whiteness at Work course and it is powerful and useful. I commend her work to you.

Desiree wrote:

Last week, I had the privilege and honor of speaking on two different panels about how the systems we find ourselves in are hard on every one of us. They are hard on us emotionally, physically, socially, and spiritually. Yet, we continue to fight to make our workplaces, communities, and society more just and equitable.

Navigating these exploitative systems, norms, and beliefs can keep us passive and stuck, they can harden our hearts, reduce our empathy, make us numb and desensitized to violence and oppression that we see around us daily.

The systems are failing us and these structures want us to fail each other.

But we won’t let them.

I recently read that it’s not about the survival of the “fittest,” those of us who can and are expected to carry the pain, heartache, and grief that systems of oppression generate within us, but rather it is the survival of the nurtured. Nurturing, not just surviving, is a deep necessity for all of us. We are not meant to carry the weight of these structures and their impact on us by ourselves.

How we meet, how we build, how we struggle, and how we survive all matter just as much as where we meet, when we build, what we struggle with and who survives.

What we protect, love, and allow to flourish are just as important as what we dismantle as we push back against the systems destroying our planet and our souls.

We will only make it if we are hard on these systems but deeply tender and caring with each other. This means we need to name and recognize the insidious nature of these systems which weaponizes individuality and our humanity against each other. We need to build stronger and deeper relationships hinged on trust and reciprocity so we can articulate our needs in ways that hold folks accountable but with care.

We are saved by the way we nurture and are nurtured.

To nurture one another means to be intrinsically invested in each other’s emotional, mental, physical, spiritual, and social well being. It means supporting, caring, and loving each other deeply, tenderly, and relentlessly. Nurturing ourselves and our communities is what will fuel our fight with systems of domination and oppression.

Nurturing protects our humanity and cultivates trust, compassion, empathy, and connection.

In the spirit of nurturing I want to share some upcoming programs and workshops with y’all:

Throughout the spring I’ll be co-facilitating a program with Holly Truhlar called Liberating Grief: Finding Freedom through Sorrow & Soul. We’ll gather two Sundays a month March-May to explore the Gates of Grief together with a systemic analysis, a grief practice, and a liberation practice offered for each session. You can learn more and register HERE.

Last up, through our program Whiteness at Work we’re hosting a 90-minute workshop centered on bringing an anti-colonial and anti-imperial lens to DEI and race equity work. Anyone enrolled in w@w gets access to this workshop in addition to live quarterly sessions plus all of the 15+ hours of training content and resources in the portal.

May we show up for ourselves and each other. I hope you have a moment for a deep breath this weekend.

Let’s get free y’all.

What are you nurturing? I’d love to hear in the comments.

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