Nayyirah Waheed’s Salt is an intuitively rich initiation, one ripe with emotional depth, guidance, activism, and authenticity. Her collection of poems is a sort of autobiography, but one that extends beyond its focal point.
Waheed writes of flowers, of being a person of color, of the heart, of womanhood, of vulnerability, of authenticity. In doing so, she touches on something we do not often touch upon: that it takes strength to embody softness. She says,
your heart is the softest place on earth. take care of it.
Usually, with hardship, we hone in on the muscle and the action we see. We highlight how much grit someone has for facing adversity and difficulty. We forget the importance of de-armoring, of returning to what is rightfully ours: a body that is not full of stress hormones, a body that has a place to rest.
This can have unfortunate consequences. In highlighting someone’s strength, we often gaslight those who deserve care and nurturing and receptivity when speaking up about their pain. This is because we reinforce the need for armor.
Here is a perspective shift: it takes strength to give yourself permission to be soft when the world is reinforcing hardness. It takes strength to show up for those who are hurting and to hold them and to let them be held when they are hurting. It takes strength to show up for yourself and hold yourself and be held when you are hurting.
On this note, I invite you to set aside some time to do this writing prompt. I own the simplicity of what I am about to share with you, and I hope you own the profoundness of what can be borne of it.
Be kind to what comes up. Hold it. Love on it. Give it the attention it deserves.
Here’s what mine looked like when I wrote it, years ago. It is about my father, who killed himself when I was fourteen, and whose middle name was Bartlett, and who was shaped quite a bit like a pear:
If only a hand held softly the weight of the pear in its ripeness, wrought with sugar and water simple syrup, a lopsided hourglass its heavier half resting in the folds of fingers an interface shadow puppet ft. Two Palms Cupping and the last drop of sand plummets a speck of light in outer space softly