Self-Love Series Day 4: Sherrie
I have to confess that I’ve had the hardest time formulating the words for this post, so the best I can do is write it out my thought process as it came to me last night. Despite sitting in front of my computer, or the notes app on my phone, or a random piece of paper, trying to make the words form, I had nothing. Then, in the moment I was least expecting it, when I was five minutes into my yoga class trying my best not to think, tears started streaming down my face and I finally found it. ***
“Where are these tears coming from? Ha, honestly, where are these tears NOT coming from? I feel so powerless in the midst of the world right now. Breathe. I’m not doing enough to help my fellow humans. I’m a skinny white woman in a yoga class. Breathe. What am I offering right now? Not a damn thing. Breathe. Ong namo guru dev namo. I bow to the divine teacher within. Breathe. What am I doing here?”
I think about the women at Planned Parenthood that I didn’t get to see today. I had to work through my time off this morning, which would have been spent in the abortion procedure room. It’s the closest thing I have to a church besides the mat I am currently sitting on. As a volunteer abortion doula, it’s my job to care for each patient and love them unconditionally, to not make assumptions about their lives, and to offer whatever they need, even if it’s just to give them the chance to be seen and heard.
We are all lying on our backs, pounding our fists on the floor next to us. The rhythm stirs up more tears inside me. My head is the clearest it’s been in weeks. The instructor tells us to scream. The tension rises, but no one wants to go first. I look at my neighbors and our eyes briefly connect. Should we do it? Somewhere across the room one of the women gives in, and a wave of rage and relief erupts from the group. I try to recall the last time I allowed myself to yell, to absolutely lose my shit. I can’t remember. I relinquish my ego for just a moment. I simply let myself react.
I pause to catch my breath and I recall one of the greatest lessons I learned during my training: there is no one abortion patient. I think of different moments I’ve experienced so far: a small woman clutching my shirt and pulling me closer to her until we are face to face and I tell her to breathe so she doesn’t pass out; a relieved woman who spent the entire procedure apologizing for crying; a woman who had to go to work afterward. I stroke each of their foreheads once the procedure is completed. I clean their blood up off the floor and wish them peace.
The screaming turns into laughter as we all get caught up in the sounds the other women are making. It’s almost orgasmic at this point. I feel myself getting light-headed and I roll over until I am prostrate on the mat. I think of my Muslim brothers and sisters who would be judged for the same gesture that I am practicing in this moment and I send them love. I think of the people who live in fear and misunderstanding of those who are different from themselves and I send them love. I think of my whiteness and how I can use it for positive change and I give myself love.
I know the implications of my race as I walk into each room and introduce myself. It is meaningful for me as a white woman to offer this service to our black patients, and I make sure to tell them that the choice to have me involved, to whatever extent, is completely theirs to make. I keep my ego outside the door. I maintain the importance of consent. I solely exist for whatever they need, even if it is for me to leave the room. “Do you need a hand to hold? Do you want your feet up? Would you like Sprite or water?” I tell each of them a quick goodbye and jog back across the hall, knowing that they are in good hands with the recovery nurse and will have some time to relax. Another woman is waiting.
We are in shavasana now. I ask myself again what I am doing here and I have an answer. I am here seeking peace. I think about my favorite phrase from mass, “My peace I leave with you, my peace I give you.” I cannot express this sentiment genuinely while my ego is not in check. I cannot be truly introspective while my ego is not in check. I cannot love other women while my ego is not in check because I will only see them as my competition. In relinquishing my ego, I am holding space for myself. That is self-love. I realize this and I am one with the cosmos. I am one with each of you. I have nothing but love to give. I take a few deep breaths to end the class. Namaste. I bow to the divine in you.
Sherrie Lemons is a Memphis native, radical doula, and windowsill gardener. She lives with her boyfriend and two cats in Midtown, where you can occasionally see her struggling to train for a 5K. She is the co-creator of the #20lbs17 campaign with fellow life enthusiast, Ebony Archie.