Moon Rites was originally intended as a bi-monthly newsletter but I’m feeling called to shift to a monthly cycle. Moving forward, you can expect to hear from me every new moon where I’ll offer intellectual and emotional support for your scholar-activism. From time to time, I’ll share with you information about any workshops I run and ways you can work with me if you so wish. If my emails no longer resonate with you for any reason, you can unsubscribe any time via the link in the footer. If you know anyone else who may feel nourished by my words, please do invite them to subscribe: https://disorient.co/subscribe/ 🌙

Dearest ,

When I was little, I was a painfully shy and sensitive child. Most of my memories were of huddling alone in the dark after been put to bed by my grandmother, sleeplessly watching the shadows take sinister shapes.

The smallest things would make me cry. When at six years old my father read to me Hans Christian Andersen’s story of ‘The Little Match Girl’, I wept inconsolably for days.

I was only brought out from my heartbreak when I rewrote the tale so that Denmark became a socialist state and provided the little match girl with a universal basic income. (Just joking, I wasn’t that precocious — I just wrote that the family in the house beside where the girl sat welcomed her in and shared their roast goose with her by the fire.)

As an adult, I haven’t really been able to grow out of that fearful child. I even wrote an essay about being a scholar-activist and my fear of retaliation.

Last week I presented a workshop on surviving the white patriarchal academy where I shared my experiences with anxiety, violence, and burnout as an intersectional feminist academic. Shortly after the event, a former bully reached out to probe if they were outed in my presentation.

I created the workshop with the intent to speak my truth and I don’t regret it, but their threats triggered a relapse in my mental health. Throughout the Easter long weekend, I found myself at times seized by terror, resentment, and despair.

At my emotional nadir, my partner offered a wise reminder: “Recovery is not a straight line”.

On Sunday, I made the decision to nurture a more constructive relationship with my fear. I reached out to a healer and teacher whom I first encountered a couple of months ago when we both got lost looking for a co-working session. artemisia shine and I had a somatic therapy session together where she invited me to embrace my fear and meet it in loving partnership.

To say it was transformative would be an understatement. I’m looking forward to extending my relationship with artemisia and continuing to learn and grow with this wise mentor. (artemisia is currently offering free mutual aid for all AAPI folks.)

, are you going through hard times?

Here are some further resources for healing that have been nourishing me lately:

  • My meditation teacher Ntathu Allen has a YouTube channel where she offers 100 days of free guided meditations. Her approach specializes in cultivating peace through breathwork.
  • Woman’s Inhumanity to Woman by Phyllis Chesler is an unexpectedly insightful and validating book that has helped me make sense of my experiences with bullying and abuse by other women, while also getting me to question some of my own past behaviors. As an Emerita Professor of Psychology and Women’s Studies, this book is the culmination of Chesler’s 21 years of study, showing the surprisingly common and widespread patterns of violence between women inculcated in patriarchy.
  • A light-hearted podcast called Movie Therapy has hosts film critic Rafer Guzman and culture critic Kristen Meinzer ‘prescribe’ films and television shows to their listeners who write in with their personal predicaments. Like the book above, I find enormous comfort in seeing how common and widespread my challenges are. A recent episode that many of you may find interesting is My Boyfriend Might Be Anti-Feminist (April 9, 2021).

Original illustration from the Rider Waite tarot deck of The Sun as painted by Pamela Colman Smith.

I have brought a Knight into my last three emails and now I cannot resist but conclude this collection by inviting in the fourth and last chevalier — the Knight of Wands. In a reflection on fear, it feels very appropriate today to invoke the knight who represents courage. This fiery fighter is passionate and determined to defend their values.

Emblazoned on their cloak is their emblem of the salamander, a hint to the knight’s humble beginnings. This is not someone who was born with a silver spoon in their mouth. Having tasted adversity, the Knight’s strength is not in their supposed fearlessness, but in their resolve to re-emerge from the flames after every defeat.

As the bearer of fire, we must also remember to keep our power in check. Running wild, our power can become a blistering inferno, scorching everything in our wake. As Chesler’s book illuminates, those of us who live in the margins can sometimes find ourselves turning into the oppressor. We exact violence against those who are even more vulnerable because domination is the only language we know.

Does your fire warm or does it burn?

I trust you will find your way,
Helena

P.S. I would love to run another workshop for you next month on publishing scholarly activist work. Let me know if that sounds like something you’d be interested in.

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