Needing, together.

By Rev. Anna Blaedel

For the last few days, I’ve been beginning each day with this, “queer morning blessings // birkot hashachar,” written and translated by Dori Midnight and Randy Furash-Stewart. It is grounding me. Helping me breathe. Helping me be, and be present, in my body, to the Lifeforce that is Spirit, and Breath, and Divinity. I know I am needing more help than usual, these days, finding grounding, and nourishment, and breath. I suspect I am not alone, in this need. I recognize how much we need spiritual nourishment, in order to show up for the long haul, the lifetime labor of collective liberation

One particular line in this holy litany keeps startling me: “Blessed are you, Abundance, for helping me remember I have everything I need.”

This I believe: We have everything we need. And. Also. We have so many needs, unmet. Both, I believe, are true.

I am in the process of healing from a hand surgery, and preparing for another. During the disruption and healing, I am unable to do so much that I am accustomed to. Like, laundry and opening mail and making coffee and putting on my socks. I have been needing a lot more help. (And I am so grateful for the help and care I am receiving.) And, I have had to pause many of the practices that have been sustaining my soul over these last months. Cooking and woodworking and kneading dough and writing and playing piano and sticking my hands in the dirt. I am sitting with feeling powerless and vulnerable, and confronting the complex truth of how little power we have alone, and how much power we have together. We need each other. At every level, in so many ways. I am also confronting (or being confronted by) this (uncomfortable) opportunity to sit with the stillness, the fear, the pain, the loss, and the possibilities of this time.

I confess: I struggle with feeling…needy. And, I understand this deeply rooted value of self-sufficiency is inseparable from the devastating systems of white supremacy and ableism and capitalism in which I, and we, swim. I am still unlearning the lies that tell me my worth is bound to my productivity, and my efficiency, and my ability to move and use my body according to the norms and expectations others have set. I am confronting how much more comfortable I am with giving than receiving, and how this is wrapped up in power, and control. I am reimagining what I need, what I have to offer, and how to be in relationship with my own need, and our collective needs. Thanks be for those–especially disabled, queer and trans, and BIPOC folks–who have been doing this reimagining for a long time, including through mutual aid and abolition, changing our political conditions by taking responsibility for caring for one another, exchanging resources and services for our collective benefit, recognizing our collective power. I am grateful to learn from those who have so much wisdom to share, wisdom I need.

Every Tuesday evening, I gather (on zoom) with students and beloved community to connect, and breathe, and be nourished together. We close each gathering with the Prayer of Examen, and offer our collective benediction by each sharing one thing from the last day we are grateful for, and one thing we are aware of needing in the coming day.

What do you need?

I asked this question recently, to a broader public:

“Justice for Breonna Taylor.” “A whole new world, capable of imagining justice and care for Black women.” “Someone to hold me while I cry.” “For white people to fight against white supremacy like their lives are at stake.” “For my student loan debt to disappear.” “A nap.” “A hug.” “Fun/play/joy/whimsy. Those things have been missing in my life for too long. I can’t seem to find them right now.” “A job.” “Coffee and company.” “A spiritual community that cherishes my transness.” “Rest.” “Relief from pain.” “Cookie dough.” “RBG to come back to life like Lazarus.” “I need my college to understand how important Covid precautions are. I need our Governor to put people over profit.” “Ability to pay my medical bills.” “A break from the too muchness of it all.” “Rain for the West coast.” “Breath.” “I have what I need. But the thin places are howling/hungry.”

What do you need?

And, because our needs are bound up in mutuality: what do you have to offer, in response to others’ needs?

I know I need spiritual nourishment for collective liberation. This means, for me, regular spiritual practice, to guide and ground me during these intense days and weeks. To focus my attention on all that I have, and all that I need; all that we have, and all that we need. And, I need a sense of shared practice, with others, because we need each other, and our liberation is bound up with each other. Our liberation is bound up with each other because our lives are bound up with each other. So, I offer you this spiritual practice, the Prayer of Examen. This version is recorded for use first thing in the morning. I invite you to practice with me. What are you grateful for? What do you need? Hear our prayer. May it be so.

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Rev. Anna Blaedel is theologian-in-residence at enfleshed. They bring an attentiveness to the intersections of academic, activist, and ecclesial engagement. Anna nourishes students through campus ministry for the University of Iowa Wesley Center and is enrolled in a PhD program in Theological and Philosophical Studies at Drew University’s Graduate Division.

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