Boundaries to Benevolence: Harms of Ageism Amidst the Graces of Mentorship.
This is for healing those who know betrayal by the healers.
Before the new year, as I drove from Las Cruces to Albuquerque, enjoying the long indigo and violet streaks of a slightly clouded New Mexico sky shaded by the winter solstice sunset, a fire began to burn in my belly.
Suddenly my deep ease and gratitude were disrupted by rage. The drive was so beautiful. It’s a wonder I could feel anything but wonder. Yet, here I was, feeling severely sick with resentment toward elder healers who had hurt me. All the things I worked so hard to heal in 2017 were re-emerging with a newfound anger as 2018 approached, interrupting my perception that I had made peace with certain pains of my past.
Holy shit, I wanted justice.
But I know that:
- justice doesn’t always come, especially from the delusional,
- often the getting of justice creates more pain than simple forgiveness, and
- righteousness and justice are different, and often difficult to distinguish, especially in the presence of said boiling gut.
“Love and let go. Just love and let go. You can do this. You will regret directing your energy toward this,” I repeated to myself, half-heartedly, and with a total lack of faith in my capacity to forgive, as I made the last leg of my trip.
“But where do I set a boundary? Am I saying yes to bullying if I let this fly? Am I the perpetual doormat who never could? What story are ‘they’ (the perpetrators in this situation) going to spin about me if I respond the way my gut wants to, like Khaleesi and her largest dragon scaring the shit and arrogance out of a lying and manipulative upper class? Or just sending mal ojo with my third eye?
Perhaps a crow with a flying ‘fuck you’ will do?”
So of course I call on my trusted advisors, “What do I do? Am I overreacting?” I get very honest answers, and all different, but I know that contacting these people with a desire for punishment isn’t going to make me feel any better at the end of the day. I will feel righteous for a few minutes, and still have to deal with the pain of the whole experience afterward.
Okay, so how do I set a boundary and move forward with love? How can I actually move toward justice on a level that really matters?
And this felt like the answer. A simple voicing of the harm perpetuated by ageism (among all the other isms).
I have been in the healing field for about a decade now. I have worked on my own trauma, and with others psychologically, spiritually, energetically, somatically and politically. I have belonged to a pretty tight community dedicated to feminine work in the world.
The feminine is beautiful, soulful, concentric, intentional, nurturing, elemental and fierce. It is an aspect of our life force that, as a society, the West is just now beginning to explore and understand after years of intentional separation from this mysterious part of our nature. And, like all things, it can be misused, misaligned, misrepresented and abusive.
Unfortunately, because I was so dedicated to leading a feminine life, I devoutly concurred with any feedback I received about how unfeminine I was, and experienced years of what I now recognize as bullying in this field.
I don’t need to relive all that occurred here. It won’t help me or you, but I have a young blood request for all the elders who refer to themselves as healers, leaders, activists, priestesses and feminists:
- If somebody comes to you with open wounds they aren’t even aware of, don’t fucking scratch at them. Gently apply awareness, offer a love balm with encouragement, and give them time to heal. Waiting a day and ripping the Band-Aid off a third-degree psychological burn does not equate with time to heal.
- Telling your apprentices/students/young leaders that their experiences aren’t meaningful, just because they don’t have breakthroughs, has nothing to do with them. That’s all about you and your need to feel impactful. People process in their own time. Compassion is one of the best and most underrated catalysts for transformation.
- Just because you are older does not mean you’ve seen it all or been there. This should be obvious if you perceive the world and the world perceives you with a different orientation to color, economy, gender, history and location, but it’s not obvious. So just try to remember that you haven’t ever seen exactly what another does, and your age doesn’t exclude you from a personalized perspective.
- If you think your modality of healing or activism is the best one, it’s great that you found a fit. I experience almost as much dogma in healing workshops as I do in political offices. Conviction about a method can stand without a dedication to protocol that forbids creative intuitives like me and others from integrating the many bodies of wisdom they are familiar with and integrating their knowledge in practice. Many healers, who are tied to protocol and dogma, end up pushing talent out of this field by making younger individuals wrong for what they naturally know. Yes, so much of our wisdom comes as a result of the work done by our elders. Yes, we must respect and honor bodies of wisdom that have been developed before our time. No, it doesn’t give you a right to shut our capacity down. Everything is interconnected. All modalities can have value and interplay beautifully. Each modality in the world was created or channeled by another human, so what makes our young innovation so threatening? Lift us up, please. I hear so many elders complain about where the young people are. We’re here, feeling like we’d rather not deal with ageist bullshit.
- You can’t talk the equity talk while walking the trickle-down walk.
- If you have a title, but claim none of its responsibility, that’s f’ed. Any declarations of “I’m teaching you accountability by stepping out of a contributing role” are ridiculous. If you are an ED or COO or CEO, you are responsible for fulfilling financial contracts with staff. Staff staff. They’re doing all the work. They deserve to be supported. If you can’t ensure that, don’t endorse contracts with real live people who need real-life shelter and real-life food.
- If you spout bell hooks, take a cue from her material, and participate. She was all about vulnerability meeting vulnerability. Therein lies the deconstruction of power over dynamics. You can’t lead in an all-knowing kind of way while quoting bell hooks.
- Finally, give people credit for their work. Taking it for yourself, or distributing it to others you are more fond of, is just lame.
So these are my boundaries, on behalf of wounded youngins everywhere. Now to the benevolence:
- Without the wisdom, compassion and humility of my dear abuela and her healing presence, I would never know the mystery and magic of this world. I am so grateful to my lineage of elders. May they feel the love and joy of all we receive from them.
- An older mentor was the first to say to me, “Your sensitivity is a gift.” I can never thank this woman enough for transmuting my biggest weakness into a strength with a simple sentence. She opened a doorway to self-acceptance and a world of intuition that has made this world worth staying in for me.
- My first organizing jefe, a young, courageous and visionary woman, saw my Spirit and gave me the skills to teach and build community, and only ever made me feel capable, effective and meaningful. May she feel the impact of her generosity and commitment to her community. She has lifted hundreds of young women into their gifts.
- I know that a lot of my wounding by women was unconsciously carried out. May we all have ease and grace as we reveal and forgive the harmful parts of ourselves.
- Thank you, thank you, thank you to all the way-makers, healers and wisdom-keepers who profoundly empower younger generation’s lives, skills and purposes in the world. May you see your visions realized.
- To those whom I still work to forgive, thank you for willing to be in confrontation and discomfort. Thank you for being the agents of teaching me healthy boundaries, and for demanding that I claim my worth instead of defaulting to you to declare it. May you feel the relief and lightheartedness of a shared burden.
- To the incredible number of older women who have comforted me, encouraged me, held me in my tears, loved me when I couldn’t love myself, there are no words. May you be forever embraced by the love you wrap around others.
- To the hearts of those who have always been in service, may you receive all the thanks, the validation and applause, the generosity and compassion and the space that you have held for others. Your efforts often seem thankless, but they are marked in the book of the Soul, and in the imprint of goodness they have permanently made on our world. I hope you are filled to the brim with the bounty of divinity you bring to light.
May I lean hard into these latter graces this 2018 year, hold healthy boundaries, and send out, in sincere waves, loads of benevolence. Compassion, as I said earlier, after all, is the most underrated catalyst for transformation.
Carli Romero is a native New Mexican, who is in love with the state’s blue desert mountains, and won’t give up red or green chili for the world. Carli is a Youth Empowerment Specialist at New Day Safe Home, and is currently studying for her master’s in Educational Leadership at the University of New Mexico. She previously directed a branch of Shakti Rising in Las Cruces, NM from 2013-2016 after organizing with Comunidades en Accion y de Fe. She has published individual articles with Rebelle Society, Cushy, and Journey of the Heart, and published her first book of poetry in August. She loves to partner with other creativas from her state who share a love of New Mexico’s land, spirit and people. Carli has training in Reiki, Ortho-bionomy and Pranic Healing, and enjoys the way energy interacts with all systems. You can find more of her words at Rosemary Wisdom.