I talk about killing and dying a lot. I realize my preoccupation seems dramatic to some and ominous to others. I’m Ok with that. The criticism doesn’t stop my preoccupation. I understand, from personal and professional experience, how important it is to get to know scary thoughts and feelings very well (and put them lovingly in their place). We need the knowledge (and power-to-put) in order to live more fruitful, peaceful, empathetic lives.
Here’s how killing and dying work:
First: Killing is the initiation of death. It’s active (even when it’s passive). It’s about starting something.
Second: Dying is the process of death. It’s active too (even when it’s passive). It’s also about finishing something.
Although lots of killing and dying happens outside of you (think: microaggressions), I’m primarily talking about the killing and dying that’s happening inside of you (these are still microaggressions…in my research, I call them “terrors”).
So, to be clear, I’ll recap.
Killing is an initiating action. When killing is triggered inside of you, it looks like being called on in class and not knowing the answer. Dying is a procedural action. When dying is triggered inside of you, it’s about feeling embarrassed and small when all eyes are on you and your vacancy, or ignorance.
Killing is an initiating action. When killing is triggered inside of you, it looks like texting the person you really want to talk to and being ignored. Dying is a procedural action. When dying is triggered inside of you, it’s about feeling frustrated and rejected when the phone is absent of buzzes from that person.
Killing is an initiating action. When killing is triggered inside of you, it looks like going to the holiday party without a date (again). Dying is a procedural action. When dying is triggered inside of you, it’s about feeling sadness when you go and irritation while you’re there.
Killing is an initiating action. When killing is triggered inside of you, it looks like getting into bed alone when the last thing you want to be, is alone. Dying is a procedural action. When dying is triggered inside of you, it’s about feeling the engulfing loneliness as you try to sleep.
Here’s another important point to factor in: Killings and deaths increase with intensity (and often, frequency), depending on your identity, developmental stage, resources, and experiences.
When harder kills are triggered inside of you, it looks like your son or your daughter over dosing and struggling to live. The dying happens while feeling the helplessness that comes with that experience and wondering if your child (or you) will survive it.
A very, very hard kill happens when you’re diagnosed with a scary illness and you’re left to figure out what to do. The dying happens while feeling the fear coursing through your body and imagining how it is rebelling against you, failing you, and wasting away. The dying compounds with the realization that there’s little, if anything, you can do about it.
Take all this in. Take it very seriously because, I happen to know that right now, someone is trying to kill you.
- There’s a person you care about a lot who does not want you in their life anymore. They’re calculating ways to exterminate you.
- There’s a person you work with who doesn’t like you and there is no apparent reason why. They’re figuring out how to create distance between you.
- There’s a person gossiping about you mercilessly, intent on ruining your reputation. They’re creating energy to demoralize you.
- There’s a person who thinks you’re an idiot, or you’re corny, or you’re inferior to them. S/he can’t see your gifts at all and they’re keeping you drenched in negating energy (even if it’s unspoken).
When someone consistently attempts to mar your reputation, or remove you from the narrative of their life, they are essentially trying to rid your presence from their world. They are trying to kill you off as a character in the narrative of their life. When this happens, no matter how difficult it seems, try not to interrupt.
If you can, go ahead and die.
Feel every part of the grief of the loss, the offense, the rejection, and accept the elimination. Take your time and do it:Feel the pain. Mourn the loss. Process the energy. Learn the lessons. Release the shock, offense, defensiveness, guilt, shame, and sadness.
Then, get used to a new normal and start a new narrative.
Not interrupting is very important.
Not interrupting does not mean not fighting for a generally healthy relationship, through those inevitable rough spots.
Not interrupting does not mean not standing up for yourself when you must.
Not interrupting means respecting – as often as possible, whether you think they “deserve” it or not, regardless of if you think they’re “right” or “wrong” – the ways people need to move through their journeys, learn their lessons, create objects of disdain, villains, and perpetrators in the scope of their stories, or necessitate the end of a bond for their own health and well being (which, can, with openness, turn into a blessing for everyone involved).
Not interrupting means release. It can lead to new freedoms, if wisdom and courage can be centered in your soul.
In my book, The Revelations of Asher, I talk explicitly about the acts of killing and dying in the souls and bodies of Black women. Whether you read the book or hear me speak, there are a few more things you really need to know about how you’re dying as you’re living (because you’re doing both, whether you know it or not). Get in touch for more insight. You’ll be glad you did.
Jeanine Staples is Associate Professor of Literacy and Language & African American Studies at the Pennsylvania State University. Her book, The Revelations of Asher: Toward Supreme Love in Self, is an endarkened, feminist, new literacies event (Peter Lang, spring 2016). In it, she explores Black women’s terror in love. She produces research-based courses and methodologies that enable marginalized girls and women to realize internal revelations that fuel external revolutions.
Dr. Staples’ next book details the evolution of her acclaimed undergraduate course, The Philadelphia Urban Seminar. In it, she explores Supreme Love in schools. She shows how she generates curriculum and methodologies that incite anti-racist, anti-sexist, anti-ableist pedagogical stances among teachers interested in urban education and equity for all people in schools and society.