I talked in Origin Story about the importance of the container.
Soon after I wrote that, the container fully ruptured.
The personal landscape: a breakup, and the demolishing of a vow. The home landscape: the scourge of a bedbug infestation, destroying more than I would have thought possible. The family landscape: unfathomable pain.
Alongside all this, the politics: Trump rising, getting elected, wreaking havoc. The enablers who encouraged and abetted the damage for their own ends.
And slowly, viscerally, and then suddenly, I was coming to understand late-stage capitalism. The headline in the Washington Post: “Here's how much you would need to afford rent in your state.” The underlying report from the National Low Income Housing Commission, "a full-time worker earning the prevailing minimum wage cannot afford a modest two-bedroom rental home in any state, metropolitan area, or county in the country. A full-time minimum-wage worker can afford a one-bedroom rental home in only 12 counties... all of which have a minimum wage higher than the federal level." It wasn't just the Boston area, which I'd chosen two decades prior because it was safe and welcoming for people like me. There was nowhere to go.
When Covid came along, and when a murder in the midst brought uprisings, I felt relief — we were all, finally, in a ruptured container made visible. The world was mirroring what I had been experiencing for a solid four years.
The rupture was the new container, and anything beyond survival was gravy.
(Is gravy — we're still in a pandemic.)
My offerings stopped with the rupturing. Not immediately, and not entirely — you could ask for a Core Action Circle or a Tape Club on the road event, and I would answer — the offers remained, evergreen-style, on my website — but I stopped reaching out the way I'd been doing. I needed to cocoon, and the signs that this thing still existed were part of that cocoon.
Cocoon. Or maybe it was hibernation, or just plain hiding. A form of “freeze.”
Activism. Small kindnesses and simple moments of care.
Gentleness with self.
Allowances for grief, in all its forms.
Tentative building, and storms, and building again.
What is possible in a state of rupture?
What is ethical, in the liminal spaces where “freeze” gives way to fight, flight, or something approximating calm, yet the rupture remains?
This is not the end of an essay. It is a pause, not a conclusion.
How does one complete something, while still inside of it?
ABS :: draft date 6/04/2021
If this piece moved you or sparked thought, I'd love to hear it... by mail. Send me a postcard or a letter. I'll read it. (Though I may not respond promptly.) You can write me at Audrey Beth Stein P.O. Box 380426 Cambridge MA 02238.