Happy 4th, Everyone!
I just rode in our little city's Independence Day parade. It was a short parade, filled with clumps of red, white, and blue-clad spectators. Little kids lined the street, waving or dancing into the bubbles that were being blown from the top of our Jeep. The light breeze carried the bubbles through the people sitting on the grass in yards along the route. Some of those people did not seem to enjoy the bubbles. Some of them also didn't like the flag flying off the back ~ a giant American flag with Pride stripes.
As an American, I have the freedom of expression. The problem with the expression chosen for today's parade is that it comes with a price, especially if you live in a community that mostly fears it.
Fear Begets Fear
Sitting in the staging area before the parade began, I was starting to sweat. It could have been from the fact that it was already 85 degrees at 8:00 am. But it wasn't just the heat. My palms and feet were clammy and I couldn't quite catch my breath. I was in full blown fight or flight mode.
What was I so worked up about? Being gay? It turns out - yes. I've been gay all of my life, but I was clearly STILL not okay with being gay down a short parade route in my own city. Expressing my symbol of freedom in the 4th of July parade in 2021 was scary... scary enough to put me into a borderline panic and create physical signs of that fear. (I'm beginning to shake again just writing this.)
Beware of Stress
What does this have to do with health and wellness? Well, let me explain.
Your body's nervous system reacts to stress - good or bad - in the same way. Getting "butterflies in your stomach" is basically feeling the hormones that have been released as a response to that good or bad stress, and the nervous system goes into fight or flight mode.
So many of us do not fit in with the status quo. This can include any aspect about our appearance, personality, or ways of life. And some of us are living in a state of fight or flight in many situations, including just living our daily lives. Imagine being on guard, always looking over your shoulder, being soaked with sweat or unable to breathe deeply, clearly feeling fear - constantly.
Now let's understand the implications of that chronic fight or flight mode. When the body is being drained of its reserves from this constant state, it does not have the ability to fight infection. The immune system is literally being stifled. Seeing the implications of what this state can do to the body, it is then easy to see how so many would be susceptible to illnesses they otherwise wouldn't.
Activism = Just Existing
I know 'activism' is a dirty word to some who do not have a reason to need it. But some of us do need it, and it requires a tremendous amount of self-care to complete it.
The combination of always being in a chronic state of fight or flight and needing to stand up for yourself from an injustice can be extremely taxing on your body, and ultimately your health and wellbeing.
So many people's activism includes just existing. This could apply to me as a lesbian, but ultimately I mean Black, Indigenous, and People of Color. I wonder how they felt when the flag behind us came along?
Wellness Includes Activism
In my quest to better myself as a human being, it is important to educate myself on BIPOC's lives and their struggles. I imagine they are in flight or fight much more than I am. And if so, my compassion and respect for their existence is imperative. I was acutely aware of the historically-excluded people in the crowd and what all they had to see in the parade today.
It made me smile to see BIPOC families in the crowd. It also made me proud to have represented for someone in the crowd who may be struggling with their own existence. My 'activism' today was simply existing in this little community. Maybe that giant, gay American flag that offended some was actually a beacon of light for another scared, closeted person who also feels alone out here. My activism today was not for me. It was for someone else.
If your wellness does not include activism, it is incomplete.
Be Well, Friends