Staying With The Trouble

  • Post comments:0 Comments

Staying with the trouble. It’s a book by Donna Haraway, subtitled “Making kin in the Chthulucene”.

(The Chthulucene is a way of looking at the world where humans are not the most important beings or actors, rather, we are just one part of the ecology in the same way all other beings (animal/ plant/ other) are).

She writes, “Staying with the trouble means making oddkin; that is, we require each other in unexpected collaborations and combinations, in hot compost piles. We become – with each other or not at all“.

We can speak and write and dream about collectivism all we like, but at some point, we need to dive into those hot compost piles. This is where we will find the sustenance we are seeking. But then, of course, we must face the mortifying ordeal of being known.

(I’m reminded that Lola Olufemi writes, “If it’s going to take all of us, give me sticky, sticky relation”, and the ways in which this both thrills and repulses me, lolz).

Something that’s come up in some of my Study group conversations is the notions some of us have around introversion. I’m not saying it’s not a real experience- I am certainly someone who prefers being alone to being in groups most of the time- I dislike most parties, events, nights out- generally, I feel drained by and dread at the prospect of mixing with people. Or do I feel drained by and dreadful mixing with people within the confines of our social norms?

I hate small talk, I love “oversharing”. I like BIG topics like how we organise our lives, and I like well worn in-jokes and references that have mutated several times such that it’s hard to remember how they started.

I used to adore my work as a Care Assistant for people with dementia- the realness of it. And my time working in acute psychiatric units, also relationally rich AF. (We could get deep into how problematic psychiatry is here but I’ll save that for another fun filled feminist note for you…).

I love, and feel enlivened by being with people on protests where we skip straight to real stuff without the usual performance of politeness, appropriateness and respectability.

Yes- I like space for myself- for peace, for rest, for creativity. But would I crave it so much if the rest of our lives weren’t so thoroughly accounted for, utilised, contained, managed, limited, shaped by convention that keeps us separate to some extent?

People close to me often joke that I really love people for someone who hates people so much.

Can you relate to any of this?

Have you perhaps, like me, fallen into the trap of believing that being around others is undesirable, when it might actually be the ways in which we are permitted (by social norms) to be around others that you do not care for?

What do you get out of identifying as someone who doesn’t like people? (If you do!) And/ or what is at risk when you consider the prospect of connecting with others on a more authentic meaningful level? Lots of us will have had wounding experiences of friendships, particularly groups of friends and all the dynamics that can go on there.

Perhaps the extent to which we avoid rejection reveals something about the potency of our desire for belonging. Perhaps we’ve even accepted that it’s uncool to admit what we are yearning for.

For whom is it convenient (profitable even) for us to believe that we hate being in other people’s company, or that the risks of forging connections are too great? For whom is it best for us to be unbonded with our neighbours, to keep our acquaintances at arm’s length, to know one another less and less and less…

How might we spend less, strive less, worry less, suffer less if our relation was characterised by those hot compost piles?

There’s something else she writes that captures something that’s been coming up in my group work this week too. Something connected to our capacity to keep going…

She describes approaches to progress that seem to imagine that “only if things work do they matter”, or worse, “only if what I and my fellow experts do works to fix things does anything matter”.

Do you notice this creeping in? How might our attachments to facets of our identities like being

successful people,

clever people,

realistic people,

winning people.

discerning people,

accomplished people…

be showing up in our resistance to staying with the trouble? To carrying on?

What if we are not exhausted by it, drained by it, ruined by it, but by clinging to our former sense of self as we stay with it?

What if we are being invited, urged, compelled to dive into those hot compost piles and to release our grip on knowing where we end and others begin? What if holding these edges is the demand we can no longer meet?

I see it in my group work with clients and I see it in my community activism- when we relax into the sort of interdependence that acknowledges that we make and unmake one another- that you change me and I change you, and that this IS a part of liberatory progress… people breathe more easily.

The experiences we are having in navigating this period of instagrammed violence and injustice are not nothing. Our actions, insufficient though they may be in assisting Palestinians in liberating themselves, are necessary and significant. Lola Olufemi also writes about being willing to lose, and lose, and lose again… are you? If not, you won’t last long in solidarity.

What might it take for you to feel resourced to endure such losses?

Who will walk beside you?

What’s the cost of avoiding losses?

How could you expand your capacity for grief?

I hope you find this exploration of these ideas supportive. In love and solidarity, Keri x

Leave a Reply