I have been hearing about how there are lots of people opting out of work and tons of positions that are yet unfilled. It has been coined the Great Resignation. I don’t really know the truth of how many people have changed their trajectory since the beginning on the pandemic; however, I do know several people, myself included, that would be tallied in any counting of this phenomenon.
Theories abound as to why this is happening now and how much it will affect our way of life. I like to think of this as a Great Reclamation instead of the Great Resignation. I thought of it that way after seeing my friend’s new book, Reclaiming Food, which is a follow up to her book Reclaiming Ourselves. Through these books Emma Kathryn Porter discusses building self-reliance as a way to break the shackles of oppressive ideologies that rule our lives, namely Capitalism. She breaks this concept of reclaiming oneself down into simple to understand categories. I feel like people walking away from any path of “returning to normal” is certainly under this wide umbrella of reclaiming ourselves.
How much money is enough? How much extra is required? How much energy do we give out? Is the “American Dream” for me? These are questions that we, those who are turning away from any interest in returning to normal, are collectively asking ourselves. During the events of the pandemic, many people noticed how little the outside shoulds and have-tos matter as they were focused on their inner shoulds and have-tos. What is this finish line that we are all moving towards? As if when we get enough money, then we can finally relax. Or as if when we look a certain way, that we can finally be happy with who we are.
I am one of these people, changing my relationship to myself and to the culture in which I live. Namely, I reject so much of the enculturation that pushes against me every moment of my life. I am thinking about what it is that I want and what I care about. I am, like Emma says, reclaiming myself. I am not represented on the news, I am not a loud mouthpiece for what people should do and how we can shame, judge, and coerce others into my way of correct thinking, righteous indignation steaming from my pores. Instead, I am carefully considering how I can live in this world since there is no other place to go, no escape. I am not defining myself against the thoughts and ideologies that run through the collective conscious, choosing one side over another and thereby defining myself in the prescribed cultural paradigms of the moment. I am defining myself by the thoughts and ideologies that I am finding to be the truth in my own life.
I was making choices based on my knowledge of the world and as it turns out, my knowledge was lacking, and my choices were often based in fear. Everything moved so fast, getting things ticked off a list, day after day, and giving entirely too much energy to things that gave me nothing in return. An imaginary timeline always hovering over me like some video game, pushing me forward. I didn’t reflect on discomfort, pain, experiences because, of course, I was like everyone else. Busy, busy, busy. Survival. Working towards some red line of retirement or attainment of enough things that I could somehow slow down even though once milestone is reached, there is another one to move towards. The only rest a busy vacation.
Instead, I decided to cultivate a sense of freedom. But in order to so, I had to spend years thinking about what freedom actually meant for me. Freedom from what? The idea of freedom, is that there is some force to act against, right? So what did I want? Freedom to think my own thoughts based on my knowledge, experiences, and perspective on the world. Freedom to not know everything and therefore not need to righteously defend all my thoughts and ideas. Freedom to not react so that I had space to consider. Freedom to view the world as alive, as energy, as infinite. Freedom to allow people to exist as they are without reflection on me and my choices. To just take my anxiety about leaving parts of society and culture that are poisonous and inspect them so that I could continue my path. I am not making loud squawks that everyone follow suit. I am working on my own path here. And I do think that there are so many people just like me. Set on walking their own path, quietly, in the dark.
I am not saying that I am doing something better than anyone else but I am saying that I am doing something different than I had before. I am detailing the difference because I know that I am not alone and I want others to feel comfortable in their own decisions to choose for themselves. Somehow with all of the access that we have to the internet, I don’t hear a lot about anyone like myself. Those leaving behind the binary paradigms that keep them stuck. Those leaving behind the constructed divisions that force constant opposition and war.
The idea that we all need to shift together with the monoculture of our times, is not one that I claim to believe. Cancel culture is not new. It is centuries old, baked into our histories. The one monoculture devouring all smaller cultures around it. Taking each unique culture, homogenizing it, and selling it back in a newer more righteous form. In the news, walking away from this monoculture will be boiled down into the monocultures ideas of what is wrong with people. It is always what is wrong with people instead of what is wrong with the culture in which we live. “People don’t want to work anymore,” they will say. As if there is something wrong with not wanting to slave away each day just to live. Poor people scrambling to not be the lowest on the hierarchy of the monoculture which requires that they judge and shame those that they consider to be lower than themselves. Oddly, the vast majority of people, nearly all, are the poor. Scrambling to be better than the others.
I want to reclaim myself through living with the Universe as it is: birth, life, pain, joy, sorrow, grief, suffering, elation, and death. I want to commune with the world around me and know that I AM because I am a part of the All that surrounds us instead of knowing that I AM because I am better than other people. My barometer for living a good life, set by someone or something else.
If you are out there, reclaiming yourself, you are not alone. We are here. Listening to the Earth, feeling her change beneath our feet. We are with you. Energies of the
celestial pulsing through our bodies, allowing us to feel where we are moving. We are out here, knowing that we have choices. Take a deep breath and as you exhale, feel us out here, quietly forging paths through the desolate monoculture back into the wilds.
The paths forward don’t have to be to give up everything you know and love. It can be as simple as resting when you feel that you need it instead of because you “deserve” it. It can be as simple as walking in the woods and paying attention to your surroundings. It can be as simple as acknowledging that there is so much that we don’t know about the Universe and then being open to those vast possibilities available to us. And in those spaces, we are creative. We can pull in energy and transform it into something new without all the rules, regulations, and naysaying of the monoculture in which so many of us are raised.
And if you don’t know where to start, pick up Emma’s book, Reclaiming Ourselves.
Picture of the IV of wands in the Tarot of the Holy Spectrum Deck by Chase Voorhees. They really captured this feeling.