Reflective Essay by Genesis Barraza
Why lie? I desperately wanted an out.
When I was still working, I was struggling to leave the warmth of my partner in the morning, rushing out the door, and taking an Uber to try and fend off an anxiety attack until I was actually at work. I hated the idea of being on the bus along with my fellow working class members doing everything we could do to avoid bearing witness to each other’s pain.
Witnesses or not, there is no denying that we shouldn’t have been on that bus.
Yes, we are privileged beyond anything our ancestors imagined but we also find ourselves more disconnected from our earth given humanity than ever. Why else would we wear our bodies down to overproduce and over consume despite experiencing disproportionate inequity and under representation on an everyday basis.
We seemingly forget that we are entitled to, at the bare minimum, free clean water, free fresh air, free holistic health, free reliable shelter, life satisfaction, and peace from the very moment each one of our souls was conceived from this earth free of charge.
At the same time, how can we blame ourselves for trying to forget our inheritance? Rent was due on the first just like every month.
As Brene Brown says, none of us cracked our hardwired neuro-biological desire for human connection. If all it takes to secure human connection is to pick one word from each category to describe ourselves and stay within the confines of those categories -job title, color, sex, gender, sexuality, and average annual income for example – and the confines of their respective hierarchies for the rest of lives, why fight it? Seems easier not to. Especially because for 99% of people on this planet, our compliance with these restrictive identity markers has become the only way to obtain the very resources that keep us physically and socially alive. While it may seem like the choice is simple, it shouldn’t be that the only way to achieve life satisfaction is to participate in our own subjugation.
On the bus, the empty quietness of my fellow commuters and loud shake of the metal bus fixtures made my ears ring. My head pulsed, fully aware that what was waiting for me at the end of my two bus commute would only make the ringing worse. Looking back, I know avoiding the bus was enabling me to privatize my compliance and consequential shame. However, I was not free from accountability then and I never will be.
Thankfully, accountability can come in many forms. For the 57 days I have been home since March 16th, accountability has looked like staying home and watching an entire season of CBS’s The Amazing Race every day. As silly as it may sound, I felt at peace watching duos work through all the clues, detours, roadblocks, speedbumps, and u turns that were thrown their way, together.
Win or lose, rarely did a team forget to stop and appreciate where they were and what they had accomplished, much less take themselves out of the running for the grand prize.
Eventually, I found myself wandering to my roof for daily walks to visit the sun. If I closed my eyes for long enough, I could feel myself racing around the globe alongside Amazing Race teams under the watchful eye of the same sun. Before quarantine, my heart had yearned for her. At times, it had seemed our love affair was doomed to flirting from a far at dawn and dusk.
Paradoxically separated from the earth by my earth given desire to feel alive, I started to believe this just wasn’t the part of my life when I could nourish myself directly from her. I tried and failed to find a different life source. In reality, I was doing myself a disservice by scraping the bottom of my barrel for reminiscence of my birthright to bear witness to the earth and its inhabitants.
I came to see the act of denying myself the beauty and life sources before me as ingratitude.
Even though I didn’t have much of a choice or say in our status quo, I began to look for ways to indulge in our earth’s natural energy flow. Every morning I could, I rose with the sun, let her into my home through my windows so that my partner, our cats, our plants, and our home could bask in her.
After suddenly finding myself without a cellphone for the first time in 7 years, my new norm consisted of kissing my partner goodbye with peace of mind, staying off social media, and looking for new ways to ways to channel my ancestors.
I felt like I could breathe.
In a time when millions of disproportionately vulnerable humans have had no choice but to take their last breathe alone and only with the help of medical equipment, I owed it to them to breathe. With every breathe, I find myself closer to the kind of person I want to be – one who lives, thrives, and dialogues within a constant state of gratitude. Accountability can come in many forms, indulgence in gratitude is just one of them.