The Revolution Begins Inside
Can owning your rebellion help you find your voice in a broken world?
We live in a torn world.
While there is obvious truth in this lament, the “world” itself is hardly this nebulous galaxy of non-conspiring or vague entities, but rather, of people — human souls with the ability to think and do different and better — who set its orbit into motion through repeated deliberate and complicit microaggressions, acts of outright violence, and wars that continue to assail the very fabric of the human soul. The political and social unrest in this country alone is so unbelievably disconcerting and predictable that one can easily acquiesce to being the new normal.
Before I go any further, let me say that I am hardly a pessimist. I have made the observation at times that the world has gone mad; however, I refuse to readily embrace new mantras of hopelessness. Their hollowness suggests an inevitable personal detachment from a problem thought too grand for our undertaking.
How do we get past this impasse of yelling at each other — online and offline — and the outright dismissal and denial of each other? How do we tend to the huge awkward elephant in the middle of the room and still come out whole? The very fabric of America seems to be warring with itself and no one can say that they have a sizable or traceable enough piece of it in their hands to help put it back together again. As daunting as it might seem, we all have the ability to do differently.
As a writer who is a mother and a wife, who is also black and still very much alive, I don’t have the luxury of ever going to the page without the backdrop of a reality steeped in this unrest, or of divorcing myself from the question of “Now what?” That I am alive seems to be its own new privilege, given the propensity of violence exacted upon black bodies in this country. There is always a guilt that comes with any form of privilege. I must confront this sad privilege as well as the collective grief and mourning that we continue to bear when another beloved man, woman, or child dies in police custody. I cannot simply create amid my legitimate fear for my very physical person and for those I love, but still, I must create, and fiercely so. If I am to do more than stay alive, I must preserve my very soul; therefore, I must write.
Away from the phones, social media, and the constant barrage of bad news, I must deal with who I am at my core, in and apart from the events that mar this country with blatant racial injustice. I am finding myself increasingly wanting to spend time away and time alone and rebelling against the need for any external validation of my thoughts. I dare to write, not for mass consumption, but as a means to self-reflect, nurture my spirit, and arrive at my own thoughts and opinions on what really matters. In these acts alone, I find myself remarkably whole and valuable and aligned with my divine energy. It is where I feel most capable, and where I am at my creative best and highest spiritual self.
In the end, there will be no superhero reward for my being spent and depleted. I am aware of each new piece of me that dies after every confrontation, therefore, I must combat my inclination to refute every ill-perceived comment — often made with little context or nuance — and temper my reflex to prove my humanity at every turn. Choosing to create instead must be my quiet rebellion. In my rebellion, I have the power to construct new narratives that free me from the constant burden of living while being black in America. Even at its most fictitious, what I create in my rebellion becomes its own clarion call for what I call an accountability to love and justice.
Strangely enough, my rebellion keeps me sane though not inoculated. It is anything but passive. It is intentional and deliberate in its adamance; it is essential for not just my becoming, but definitively for my remaining whole. And I must remain whole and intact because in being broken alone, I cannot serve the earth, feed the broken, clothe or shelter the needy, or counsel the forgotten. And I need my whole because it is simply not enough to remain or survive. I must thrive as best as I know how.
So, I’ll take back my time and create what I can in the meantime because I know that not another second of this privilege is promised. Not now. In this sad urgency, I am going to rebel like the woman fighting Stage IV breast cancer who knows that she might as well live in the meantime because there are no guarantees. I’m going to rebel against the forces that conspire to extinguish my very soul, and rob me of my rightful humanity.
My rebellion is also homage. In my rebellion, I honor the sacrifice that was made in my creation. My rebellion is both a gift of gratitude to my creator and a reminder to myself that I was created, therefore I am purposed. I was created and therefore I must rebel in order to create.
Rebellion is what I’ve got. It is my best, if not my only one, defense. The revolution always begins inside, and my contribution to it requires that I use both my voice and my gifts. I will create knowing that, in doing so, this very well could be my last act of rebellion.
Avril Somerville is a writer and speaker. She is also the author of A Journey Of Life On Purpose, a collection of personal essays and poetry that address operating authentically and purposefully from the intersection of creativity, identity, and spirituality. You can also find her at her blog at Life As An Art Form, where she writes prose and poetry, and quips and commentaries as she is inspired. She is currently working on her debut novel.
Post originally shared on Holstee’s online magazine, Mindful Matter.