surviving in the liar's sandstorm, part one of self care in the time of liars series by naomi ortiz

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How people in leadership act sets the tone for those they are leading. It’s been 75 days since Trump took office and his decision to constantly lie is starting to affect my town over two thousand miles away, creating a deeper sense of distrust which is showing up in subtle ways.

Living in a world with false leadership is like living in a world of constantly shifting sand. What was a mountain yesterday is now a flat low-land. Where we had laid down to sleep the night before, our backs protected by the sloping dune, is now exposed in all directions.

Lately, a heavy sense of distrust is shadowing people in community spaces. In the public spaces that I access frequently, people react to each other in impatient and explosive ways. People are in their fear. Near me at my local public pool, two older women (both in their late 60s) get into a physical fight because they are in each other’s way. At a local coffee shop, an older man insists that I not laugh so loudly, getting very angry and arguing with me when I refuse. Shifting sands become like shifting blame.  

As a kid, I remember driving through the Imperial Sand Dunes National Recreation Area on a car trip to visit family in California. The dunes were strikingly beautiful as the sun crested over the horizon. The wind was still and the sky was clear. The dunes appeared statuesque, firm and true. On the way home, it was early afternoon as we crossed back through the sand dunes area and the wind was raging. Sand was flying through the air so fast that it created almost like a dense fog which no light could travel through. Everything was violently shifting and changing and I had no idea when the wind settled how the landscape would appear.

Lying creates harm. One element of this harm is feeling like there’s no solid ground on which to build our day-to-day lives, let alone to build resistance. We become focused on what we can control, focusing perhaps on the sand right below our body, afraid to look up and see which way the landscape has shifted today. Many of us don’t have the skills we need to handle these dramatic and increasing shifts. We react by scrambling for what we can control, functioning from a place of “give me what’s mine.” At the same time, exerting even more energy and patience dealing with and/or resisting these scarcity-based or entitled reactions from others.

In the past 75 days, I’ve seen a change. I see changes in people’s bodies, in the way they fearfully go after what they need with fervor and a disregard for others. The need for control over irritations that they may have tolerated in the past. Folks acting especially spacey and/or passive.

I am reflecting, asking myself if the fear I feel is shaped by the lying of our national leadership? My friends are calling me more lately, shaken, fearful, traumatized in a bigger way by the things happening in their life. They fearfully wonder how the shifting of the national landscape will impact these smaller life changes.

Living in the time of liars is much like living in a constant sandstorm. I don’t know from which direction the winds will rise today, but when they do, I am stuck where I am, unable to predict how things will shift, where solid ground will be.

I find myself angry after listening to the news at night and unable to sleep… In the desert, we only have one natural water source, what will it mean if Water Protections disappear? There’s already a wall on much of the Border, how will militarizing the Border further affect animals, waterways, families, my community and other communities? So many friends are living in fear from the increase in deportations and the increased ICE presence makes our whole community feel less safe.…These anxious thoughts and questions fill my mind as I go to sleep — instead of — how do I help my friend who’s going to be recovering from surgery? I wonder how my neighbor is doing? What ideas or questions am I excited about?

Living bombarded by lies and in my fear about what will happen makes me highly attuned to the shifting dunes. I’m losing the gifts of truth. A solid gift that truth gives is that truth in itself creates connection, propels movement. Factual truths can connect to solutions. Through facts I can understand the picture of the problem which can be discussed, explored, broken down again and worked on. Intuitive truths connect to areas I’m working on, my own growth. Truth loudly shared over making dinner with friends creates a connection which ties us to a shared sense of understanding and often a way to move on. In the simplest sense, truth bonds me to myself and helps me feel connected to the world.

Part of self-care for me in this time is creating intentional ways I can connect with truth. When doing this, I like to stick to the small and simple things which my fantastically imaginative mind can’t pick apart. For example, the truth that sunlight feels good on my face. The truth that I can give my neighbor an authentic smile and wave. The truth that at this moment, my back feels sore and I need to stretch. I find myself going into nature more often needing reminders of simple truths I can observe. Today I noticed the bright pink blooms of the hedgehog cacti which are usually the first to bloom in a year. These all are truths I can attend to, validate and focus on.

Focusing on truths that are simple, reminds me what truth feels like – meaning what truth feels like in my body. Reminding my body through simple truths, what truth feels like, helps my body to also recognize larger and more complex truths. This is especially helpful when truth is obscured by a sandstorm of lies.

In this time of deceitful leadership, I need to be reminded of how people have survived in this kind of environment. I need to be reminded of how people compensate for the shifting dune landscape, for example, how people built floating roads of wood planks across the everchanging mounds. Animals evolved to develop ways to flow across, and with, the sand. Staying in the truth of the moment, the truth I can feel my body, allows me to stay connected to my environment, myself and to relationships that help support me over the long haul, surviving in this time of liars.

How do you stay connected to truth in this time?  Share your answers with me in the comments.

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]surviving in the liar's sandstorm, part one of self care in the time of liars series by naomi ortiz[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_message icon_fontawesome=”fa fa-star”]Naomi Ortiz is a writer, poet and visual artist who cracks apart common beliefs and spills out beauty.

Naomi is a nationally known speaker and trainer on self-care for activists, disability justice, and intersectionality. She has conducted hundreds of workshops and trainings on a wide range of areas and has published articles, manuals and poems.

She is a Disabled, Mestiza (Latina/Indigenous/White) living in the U.S./Mexico borderlands.

Naomi’s upcoming book, Sustaining Spirit: Self Care for Social Justice invites and supports readers to explore the relationships between mind, body, spirit, heart and place in order to integrate self-care to survive and thrive. Sustaining Spirit: Self Care for Social Justice will be released in 2017.

Connect with Naomi’s writing, art and learn more about Sustaining Spirit at:[/vc_message][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_separator color=”turquoise” border_width=”6″][/vc_column][/vc_row]


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  1. Thank you for the calming thoughts, Naomi, and for inviting us to consider what is true. I work with a city government as an activist with homeless people. In the last two weeks, three of the liberals I consider allies surprised me by pushing forward a punitive measure against homeless people. The sand shifted beneath me and I feel a lot of anger. What is true? Who can I trust? Have my efforts been foolish? Who really holds the power in this town? What should I and other allies do in response?

    But you asked for the true things and suggested focusing on what is simple and factual. It’s a beautiful morning. I’ll be taking the dog for a walk today and giving him a bath. My brother and I had a wonderful connecting conversation via text message late last night. I slept fairly well. I reached out to two people for advice about this disturbing City Council dynamic. I have an idea of someone else to call.

    I’m looking forward to your book!

    Adrienne Lauby

  2. Thank You. In the midst of this national shift, I (and many of my team) are also being attacked by liars and I will use this and share with them the tips on finding and holding on to the simple truths to help us center on the bigger truths. Yes, thank you.

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