DISPATCH 004: Into The Thick Of It
“I want to love being alive, I want to love that there are so many possibilities.”
Hello & welcome to the new folks. This is the fourth installment of Dispatches from Chrysalis, an honest offering from me to you in the form of a newsletter. My name is Priya Florence Dadlani and I am an NYC-based cultural worker, community organizer, and strategist. I was born and raised in Silver Spring, MD to parents each of their own unique double diaspora. In 2018, I founded SPICY, a collective led by and for women and queer/trans people utilizing the transformative power of art to change the world. I am also a member of the Jahajee Sisters grassroots action team, working to end gender-based violence in Caribbean communities. Most recently, I joined Media Sutra’s communication team.
As I work to build a digital community in different, more intimate corners of the internet, I’ll pop up in your inbox monthly-ish with Dispatches from Chrysalis - the liminal space I often find myself, constantly on the edge of becoming. I’ll also be including journal prompts in my newsletters so we can process various topics together from wherever. I feel like it’s important to say that these newsletters are for me to work through the chaos of my life as much as they are for y’all. I’m no expert, no genius, and I don’t have it all figured out. I’m simply trying — trying to heal, trying to find my way, trying to find the words. And I’m infinitely grateful you’ve agreed to be a part of this process. Thank you!
The one person who will never leave us, whom we will never lose, is ourself. Learning to love ourselves is where our search for love must begin. — bell hooks, Communion: The Female Search for Love
It’s been a while friends, and I can assure you it has felt like it too. It has sort of felt like a lifetime. So much has transpired since my last newsletter, and as always I hope to sort through some of my emotions, thoughts, and spirals with you all today. On the surface, I’ve physically transformed. In late April I chopped all my hair off, and in early May I got a puppy who I’ve named Cheeni. He is a sweet little nut and has quickly become a large part of my life; he loves uninhibitedly and gives endless kisses. He reminds me that it’s actually okay to say hi to strangers, gives me a routine, and shows his appreciation by staring at me for hours in the evening as we watch old episodes of Gossip Girl together. I also finally got a kitchen table so I’m not eating on the couch anymore (only sometimes), and due to the 90 degree days we’ve had I’ve shed layers of clothing and have been embracing the sun on my skin and the breeze on the back of my neck for the first time in my life. It is summer indeed, and quite arguably the best time to be broken open and stitched back together with a renewed awareness, clarity, and purpose.
Outside, as we all know, is opening back up despite the fact that we are very much still in the middle of a pandemic. The trauma we’ve collectively gone through over the last year isn’t going away, and while we don’t need to process it all immediately — I can’t ignore it. I’m realizing that my body has been holding so much tension as if it is bracing for something, more so in the last couple of months, but really in the last year. I’ve been waking up in the morning with stomach aches (just Vagus Nerve things, according to my therapist) and developing back pain I’ve never had before. I’ve also made a commitment to never proactively ask anyone how their year has gone because you never know what they may remember. Socializing and jumping back into parties and hangs and community can be healing and it can also be triggering, it can be difficult and anxiety inducing. I know at least for me, I am not the person I was before. As I'm emerging, I'm tender & realizing I can't handle the emotional/social labor I used to pre-pandemic. But I'm using my “main character syndrome” this summer to tend to my needs, go slow, ask for help, relinquish FOMO, live presently, and check in with myself often.
Inside, I feel like I’m going through a second puberty. Some hormonal acne here and there, but mostly I’ve been having an existential reckoning. I feel like I’m constantly grieving. Grieving people, the comfort of old ways, myself, my future — all of it. It feels like a period of both immense loss yet also immense clarity. A couple months ago, as I mentioned in my last newsletter, I felt lost. I felt like I didn’t know what direction I needed to go in. I felt like the way I had been “doing life” needed to fundamentally be reassessed. This had to do with my worklife of course, but also relationships, friendships, family, etc. Today, I no longer feel lost. I feel extremely aware, and I feel like I’m no longer seeing my life through rose-tinted glasses. I’m no longer able to believe the illusions that once offered me safety and security. I feel broken open, but I feel focused.
Lots of my inner child work has been focused on revisiting my child self, a 9- or 12-year-old me, but recently I’ve been revisiting a 19-year-old Priya who was self-assured, self-suppressed, and committed to discovering new things about herself daily. I think about what I needed at that age, and how those things have shifted or stayed the same. Though still recognizable, I’m a different person now at 26 and I am being pushed to reassess the life path I’d envisioned for myself. I’m also being pushed to be as self-assured as I was at 19, and I’m being pushed to embrace the unknown like I was doing then. Maybe it is my Capricorn stellium, or simply a learned fear of abandonment, that causes me to leave claw marks in everything I must let go of, but these days I'm trying very hard to more gently release old ways. My friend Meena reminded me recently that at 25 years our frontal lobe solidifies and finishes growing, which means we have more clarity and foresight about our lives. I feel it.
If you know me, you know that in the last year I have become utterly obsessed with a show called Steven Universe (if you’re a Universe fan, please… let’s chat). In the show, there is a character named Garnet who has a superpower called “future vision.” She sees all of the possible possibilities that may occur in the future, and tries her hardest to gently guide her crew to the best outcomes possible. But in one episode, she wants to surprise herself by creating new realities that not even she can see. She begins randomly doing things she would never do, like spilling coffee on the floor, ordering 20 pizzas for no reason, running into strangers' homes, following stray cats, and more, just to see where she’d end up. She entered a new timeline she could have never predicted, and as exciting as that was for her, it caused her to spiral. Sitting in the woods with 10 stray cats in her lap, in the pouring rain, she began to cry. She was overwhelmed by the possibilities and all that could potentially be at stake based on the random path she decided to take. To recenter her, Steven brought her back to the present...
Garnet:“We’re on the outskirts of the possible, following the trickles to who knows where. Everyone’s looking to me for answers, I can’t stand it! It’s so hard for me to even exist in the first place, Steven. I want to love being alive, I want to love that there are so many possibilities… but I don’t know what I’m doing here anymore. Anything could happen, anything could happen to these cats!”
Steven: “That's true, but maybe instead of thinking of all the things that could happen, we pick the thing we want to happen and do that. So, what do you want to happen next?”
Garnet:“I want to get these cats out of the rain.”
And so they did. Similarly to Garnet, I feel overwhelmed by the fact that my “future vision,” as in the plans I had for myself in life, are now shifting unexpectedly. I feel her when she said that she feels everyone is looking to her for answers, and that she just wants to love being alive and love the endless possibilities — but it’s not easy. For so long I thought I knew my path and had gotten comfortable in it, perhaps in a way that signaled to other people that I had my shit together. I don’t. But despite the fog, I know I am on the right path, although it’s not the one I saw myself being on. Losing control in this way can be many things — exciting, unexpected, fun, but unfortunately for me and Garnet it is scary. As someone with anxiety (and a Gemini moon) I spiral about spirals; my mind can run miles in seconds.
The worst parts of my anxiety manifest as downward spirals. Catastrophizing thoughts that pummel through my deepest insecurities, fears, and trauma. The worst case scenario hypotheticals get seared onto my brain like grill marks on a steak. Based not in reality but on a different timeline, a false one, but one where I'm unlovable, not enough, unnecessary, alone, unsuccessful, etc. Depending on the day, the time, what’s been happening around me, maybe even whether I’ve been eating or sleeping well, these spirals range in severity. I can have panic attacks and start to, on top of everything, feel embarrassed or “too seen”. I fear these spirals so much that at times I’d rather ignore or tuck away emotions to avoid them.
When I do have these downward anxiety spirals, they can feel unstoppable. To calm them, sometimes I can locate that one final thought, that one deep-seated/seeded limiting belief — the thought that birthed the spiral to begin with — and sometimes when I reach that thought and say it aloud or write it down I can feel the spiral slow or fade away. The thot to end all thots! Thankfully sometimes I can also call on or be with a kind loving friend to help me through, and snap me out.
In the last few months I’ve also started tenderly nudging myself to ask different questions during a spiral. Instead of “What if everyone leaves you and you have nobody?” I’ll ask “What if everyone truly loves you, and more love is on the way?” Instead of, “What if I never achieve my goals, what if I fail?” I’m asking “What if everything works out? What if you achieve your dream?” And push these questions further and further until the spiral inverts and I’m spiraling up, towards joy. The hypotheticals are now based on an alternate, future timeline where somehow everything is not just okay, but even better.
However, just the other day a new thought occurred to me, that maybe I can slow the spiral all together (easier said than done) and just live in the present, devoid of all the hypotheticals. Similar to what Steven suggested Garnet do. Recenter to the moment at hand and just simply move based on truth. Removing all the “what if’s”. Affirming the realities. Saying... “I am currently achieving goals. I am currently cared for. I currently have friends. I am currently loved.”
I flatten the spiral into eternal nowness.... being nowhere but here.
On this journey, I am trying to relinquish old ideas and embrace new ones of what it means to be a good person, a good friend, a good partner, to live a good life. I have realized that much of my anxiety stems from my desire to care, and although that could sound like a positive intention, I’ve realized that sometimes this intense desire to care can turn controlling. Controlling myself, attempting to control my future, others, their futures, all in an attempt to guarantee that things will be okay. But who am I to say what “okay” is? In the last few weeks, I’ve learned that caring is less about worrying over things — but instead it’s about letting go. I was raised by a worrisome mother and a controlling father who showed their love through these overbearing traits, and I’ve internalized so much of that. As much as it hurts to admit, I’m realizing that I can never open myself up to enjoying the prospect of new possibilities if I attempt to be in control of things I cannot control. This is a core part of my identity that I have been confronting and pushing to transform, and I feel like it’s time for me to bridge the gap between self-awareness and literally making the changes to be different. I’m proud to say that in the short amount of time I’ve been actively focusing on surrendering, I’ve allowed a new feeling to emerge. For once I feel so small in the biggest way, by being a part of something much larger than myself.
And it would be blasphemous if I didn’t make clear that the only way any of this has been possible for me, is because of my friends and the endless wisdom they share with me. In the last few weeks I’ve probably cried more in front of friends or on the phone with them than I have in the last few years. And while I have unhealthy shame around that (which I’m working on unlearning), it feels ultimately liberating to be open about all the places I hurt and fear within myself. It feels good to feel sad and not feel bad about it. I recently got another tarot reading from Talia of Goddess Guidance Tarot, and she said that much of the love we seek can actually be found in siblinghood, in the relationships with those who have always been here. It has been a beautiful experience to dance around the infinite dimension of our vastly different relationships, to show each other new worlds, to set loving boundaries and to be more than honest with each other. The amount of voice memos, early morning or late night calls, texts, memes, homie dates, sitting in silences, smoothies, and sleepovers that have sustained me recently have also changed me. I was telling my therapist that I feel really guilty about having some instances in the last few weeks where I just didn't want to be alone, and I’ve chosen to hang with friends instead of facing the deafening silence of my empty apartment, and how that has made me feel weak. Her response was simply, “Isn’t that what friends are for?”
Speaking with my friend Pooja the other day, I was reminded that cycles come in seven. Every seven years, one cycle ends, and another begins. Seven years ago I was 19, a sophomore in college, flat ironing my hair, seeking newness, avoiding my journal, and wearing black liquid eyeliner under my eyes (how did she do it…). As I begin a new cycle today, I am reflecting on the fullness the last seven years have offered me, and every day brings up a new emotion. I’ve written this newsletter over the span of two weeks and I’ve fluctuated in and out of so many emotions through the process. Some days I am super sad, yearning for the past. Some days I’m present and blissful, surrounded by loved ones. Some days I’m excited for my future. Some days I can’t get out of bed and some days I don’t. Most days I fluctuate around. I’m simply feeling so much. Throughout this newsletter it has also transitioned from Gemini season to Cancer season, and in the last few days I’ve busted out crying at the most mundane of things. I’m trying not to judge myself though; to let the emotions flow through me. But one thing I never feel, even if I tried, is regret.
My dad critiques the state of mental health in America by saying that Americans think they need to “be happy all the time” and that is why they are so sad, and while he is misled — there is maybe a bit of wisdom there. My goal is not to be happy 24/7 like so many Westernized, white-washed, wellness brands try to sell us. Instead I want to experience a range of emotions, truly feel them, no longer fear the potential of a spiral, and withstand it all to see another day. And not to go galaxy brain right before ending this newsletter, but it makes no sense to understand my healing outside of a political context. My healing is not the priority of capitalism and white supremacy. My healing is actually in direct opposition to the goals of capitalism and white supremacy. These systems of oppression do not want us to be capable of feeling a range of emotions. They thrive off of us ignoring and silencing our emotions, behaving like robots. It makes us better workers; more exploitable, fearful, and isolated. Another reason why I was taught to suppress emotion, tuck them away neatly, and involuntarily clench up when I feel my eyes water.
As I navigate this new chapter of my life, unpack trauma, release expectation, and gently open up to be vulnerable and receive, I simultaneously reject this settler colony for the way it strategically restricts us from feeling, from healing, and from becoming. This act of transformation, what this newsletter is all about, is a rebellion on behalf of my ancestors, community, and future generations who have been stripped of the right to self-determination. Within the word “self-determination,” it’s implied that we have an idea of who we desire to be, how we desire to live, or at least we have the space and time to discover that. Today I am claiming that for myself, and for you. I’ll continue to labor for these moments of connection, and I’ll continue to create spaciousness for us to feel.
We’re tramping through the bush, on and on we push…
Journal Prompts As We Go Into The Thick Of It
This week's Journal Prompts are heavily influenced by the topics in this dispatch including letting go, releasing expectations, relying on various streams of love, care taking, locating emotions in our bodies, etc. They’re a bit haphazard and everywhere, but I promise there is a common thread. I hope they are able to offer some clarity for you all, and I’ll soon be organizing a group writing workshop so we can journal and share with one another. As always, please pick and choose what questions feel right for you and leave behind the rest.
How do you feel right now in your:
What do you need today to feel joy?
How do you feel about outside opening back up?
How does it feel in your body?
Social distancing sucked for obvious reasons, but did physical space from crowds or certain people protect you in any way besides from the spread of COVID-19?
Do you feel like the main character of your life?
If not, who is? How can you take ownership of your life and actions?
If so, how will you prioritize your needs and wellbeing this summer?
Are you attached to a certain future plan for yourself right now?
How does it feel to know change is the only constant?
If you ever experience mental spirals:
What lies do you try to make yourself believe during these spirals?
What positive inquiries can you make to counter those false beliefs, pushing your spiral upward towards joy?
What affirmations can you write to begin manifesting your new beliefs? They must be in the present tense.
Do you rely on only one person for all the love and joy in your life?
If yes, who else can you rely on? How else can you receive more love in your life?
If no, write down the names of other people and things who bring you joy or love. Write a line of gratitude for each one.
Do you trust yourself to feel a range of emotions?
Why or why not?
Which emotions are you scared to feel?
If you fit into a caretaker role too easily, these are for you:
In what ways did your parents or caretakers show they cared for you when you were a child?
How did their care feel?
Did they ever project on you? How?
Have you embodied their style of care or not-care? How or how not?
If they didn’t care for you, how was that apparent?
Can you tell the difference between caring and controlling? What is it?
Who do you caretake for?
Have you ever projected on them your own desires?
Does your caring personality trait define you?
Do you think it makes you good?
Who would you be without it?
Have you ever cared for someone by letting them go? How?
If you’re able to do the journal prompts, please let me know how it goes and do share any feedback! You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or DM me at @priya.florence.