Related Articles

Conference Keynote: Breaking the Ceiling

The theme for this conference is “Breaking Barriers”. You know, there are so many barriers to break in acupuncture that it was really hard to choose which ones to talk about for this speech. But since I’ve spent so much time talking about classism as a barrier, I thought it might be fun to shift gears a little and talk about numbers.


  1. “…Where non-profit jobs mirror for-profit jobs and both end in take-out and television. Where we mirror the lives of our opposition; long hours of work, eat out, come home drained, watch television, collapse, repeat. Replacing the television in that cycle with yoga or bodywork does not address the alienation at the core of it… ‘

    Fascinating article. The idea of self-care as an artifact of privilege is wonderfully subversive. In my clinic (hell, in my life!), I refer to its effects as “the tyranny of SHOULD”. There are all kinds of things we know we SHOULD do but don’t. We should lose weight, we should eat better, we should exercise, we should work harder, yadda, yadda, yadda… Lots of people beat up on themselves for not doing what they’ve been convinced they should do, but relatively few of them are aware of the extent to which they are drained and devitalized by the demands of the very machine that set those values in the first place. When everyone feels like a failure, they’re much more easily manipulated. The ironies pile up quickly!

  2. I think B is saying some important and useful things here, but that overall the article sets up a false dichotomy. (You can’t knit your way to revolution? Who the hell ever said you could? And yet: if I can’t knit/fuck off/fuck/take an acunap/ask someone how they’re doing without having to “fix” whatever is wrong, then I don’t want to be part of your revolution.)

    Some really excellent conversation has come out of this, though. Two great responses:

  3. one of the most awesome people I have met since moving to New Hampshire has spent many years as a grass roots organizer on top of being a single mom and property manager and contract laborer.

    This summer she was offered an organizing job in Colorado. This was it, a chance to get paid to do what she loved. Instead of being paid fairly for her work, she came back drained and exploited by a liberal organization. The hours were always longer than she and her fellow organizers were told. She was supposed to be offered hotel room, but ended up sleeping in a hotel lobby. As she quit this liberal super-pac she had to fight for her paycheck.

    This “well intended” organization was hoping that they could cheat their workers out of some pay (and SOME SLEEP0 hoping that they were more dedicated to the cause than they were to, um, say take care of themselves.

    I don’t know what Katherine does for “self-care,” but after that experience, the least I could do was buy her a strong margarita.

  4. When I lived in Berkeley I got to listen in to some folks reminiscing about the Black Panthers and growing up around that back in the day in Oakland. Know what they talked about? The breakfasts they ate before school. The martial arts classes they organized. The clothing drives. And how that stuff was replicated by Food Not Bombs in the present, who were feeding anybody who wanted to eat in People’s Park most days.
    This whole community care thing reminds me of how important survival programs are for an effective culture of resistance. Our communities are hurting, and we have a thing that can help folks survive. The more things break down, the more we need to get together and help each other heal. I know that I, for one, depend on community acupuncture to be able to work, to be a good parent, to keep going in the face of it all. I think we all know a bunch of folks who do too.
    Big up those repsonses that Nora posted, too. Really great ideas there.

  5. This was my favorite quote from Adrienne Maree Brown’s response here

    “how do we create communities where everyone can self-determine and ask for what they need, offer what they have to give, where the result is abundance?

    long blog short, i don’t think this is either/or. i think this is yes: more health, more care, everywhere. getting more people in more communities talking about what a healthy caring life looks like, how they are already living and caring for themselves and each other, and how we all support each other. and not just how generations from now people might live a healthy live, but how we are and can be practicing health, well-being, joy and justice in the here and now. ”

    I think the most useful approach here is a both/and perspective, because there is no such thing as too much genuine care: for ourselves, for communities. I like the way B’s post identifies the problems with talking about self-care as if that could be separated from people’s larger realities. And the responses clarify the ways that that discussion needs to be much expanded to include MORE realities. Either way, I think this discussion is so, so important.

  6. Here’s a quote from that last one, written, interestingly enough, by an acupuncture student.

    “There is a way that self-care in privileged communities can manifest as resource hoarding. I think about how much I learned in the predominantly-white DIY anarchist communities I used to be a part of about how to take care of myself outside of the medical industrial complex, about herbal medicine, how my body works, how to care for it in meaningful and self-determining ways. I think about how many others that I know from those worlds continue to learn and learn about healing work without ever facilitating the spread of that learning beyond a small, insular, and relatively-privileged social world. We learned other peoples’ traditional medicines and then we only shared with others like us. It’s not that those of us with privilege shouldn’t value our physical, emotional, spiritual, and mental health—it’s just that it is deeply embedded in our psyches that our individual health is 1. not related to the health of our community and 2. Of a higher priority than anything or anyone else.
    “So right now, I’m thinking about how reparations and resource redistribution apply to self-care and community care. How asking questions about what care reparations and healing resource redistribution can look like allows us to challenge our privilege as we transform how care works in the world. I want those of us who experience privilege to actually learn how not to over-value our well-being compared to the rest of the world’s. This plays out in subtle and intricate ways: because of how much privilege invisibilizes our position in the world, we may not see the many ways we CHOOSE self-care AT THE EXPENSE OF community-care.”

  7. You guys, there is SO MUCH amazing stuff in these conversations.

    I realized today that I had read some of the responses too fast, just trying to get an overview, so I went back and read them slowly enough to absorb. And there’s this one paragraph from — I just lost it. Every time I read it I start crying. It’s like she just summed up my entire work life, why I do everything I do, and the stuff that I struggle to explain no matter how much I write:

    “There’s something deep I want to tease out here- about working class and poor folks and work. We work so hard. We work so much. We don’t sleep. We don’t stop. We have a somatics, sometimes, of toughness and sucking it up and making it happen. And this can be a gift. And it can also kill us. AND, there’s so much deep to unpack here about how hard we work to say fuck you to everyone who says we are dirty and lazy. AND there’s so much in here about care and sensitivity and being able to breathe being coded as luxuries for the wealthy. AND, what about folks who are on SSI, unemployed, too sick to work? About the complex interplay between labour and pain and our bodies and how poor and working class bodies are supposedly too tough to feel anything? Yet we do. We do deeply. And in much talk about sustainabilty and somatics, there’s not enough talk about how we, as broke/disabled folks, do it- what sustainability means to us.”

    Anyway, I’m going to thank her directly, but I wanted to put that quote here too. This conversation goes right to the core.

  8. Lisa, I love that quote as well. I have met Leah (brownstargirl) and happen to know that she receives community acupuncture. Makes sense to me that she totally gets this stuff and has so much wisdom to share.

  9. Korben, I was thinking the same thing when I was reading these: “must print these out for a class for POCA Tech.” Essential conversation – and, evidently, to a lot of people. Catching up on all the more recent posts now – thanks to everyone who’s shared links.

  10. Wow, I love all these blogs. Thanks everyone for sharing all these links.

    Disability and work issues hit very close to home for me. I am in healthcare because of my family history. My parents worked and worked all the time, all year round, no family vacations or even two days off together, ever. Our family went to the Bronx Zoo every summer for a day. That was our family trip together. My father lost his diner after developing a terminal illness. He worked until about a month before his death at another diner (twelve years after his diagnosis and eight years after losing his business) because disability benefits were not enough to feed and clothe four children. He had never purchased disability insurance because it was too expensive- do any of us running our clinics have it? My mother worked two and eventually three jobs just to cover the cost of his hospital visits and medical equipment. From middle school on, I almost never spent time with either of them. They were always exhausted and withdrawn at home, and frankly extremely unhappy.

    The take-home lesson for me as a young adult was that work made you miserable and wasn’t worth dying for. And the jobs I held to support myself through high school and college, working at large supermarkets, were basically soul-sucking and joyless. The idea of working all the time in such places, just to get by, horrified me, and after college I decided I’d avoid mainstream culture altogether and live as off-the-grid and self-supporting as possible, even if I had no money at all. I’m proud to say my social security statement puts my highest annual earnings during those years as $7,500. I made $4.50 an hour at a co-op, ate for free during my shifts, shared a cheap apartment, and spent hours reading about how to make herbal medicine at the library so I would never (ideally) have to spend all my money on medical care like my dad.

    While I’ve come a long way from this time, especially now that I have work that I love, I still have an immediate negative reaction to the concept that being committed to a movement means working all the time. I immediately get that claustrophobic feeling I had as a kid, home alone in the empty house, or tiptoeing around the house while my dad napped on the couch before going in to work. I feel a huge resistance to ever giving my kid that experience of her mom being too tired, too busy working to read to her or take her for a bike ride. I wish my dad could have just stayed home when he got sick; I hated that he still worked six days a week. I hated watching him take a half hour to just get out of the car when he got home. And I can’t support an ideology that says, anyone who wants time off to heal is just falling back onto middle-class values.

    The idea of my old school Greek immigrant dad at a yoga retreat is absurd. I was annoyed at the way B referred to that as the sort of default self-care option, at the mindset that anyone in the activist movement is automatically going to be at home at such a place, or see it as their go-to place of healing. But I could absolutely see my dad at my clinic. I wish I could, in fact, I wish he was still here to see it.

    I am hugely grateful to read (Leah)brownstargirl’s blog. I need to thank her too, because I didn’t even realize why this stuff was making me so upset until I read it. I do the work I do right now so that no one has to be alone when they’re sick or dying. The loneliness and isolation of my family in those years was inhumane. That we could not gather together to be a family and hold loving space for my dad because he and my mother were working all the time was inhumane. That people who are disabled cannot have community in their times of illness is inhumane.

    I am probably a bit incoherent in this comment because of all that this is bringing up for me; I guess my point is, we can just never assume we know what other people need. Maybe someone from a middle-class or upper-middle class background does need to value work more. Maybe someone from a working-class background needs to value self-care more. But we all win if we value the idea of community care. I love that phrase. I feel like our POCAfests and gatherings are community care for all of us in this movement. Self-care for me doesn’t mean a yoga retreat or some time alone. And it doesn’t mean working myself to the bone for the CA cause. It means sharing the work, knowing I can ebb and flow in my clinic and in POCA because everyone else is ebbing and flowing too, and we will all cover each other. This is why I love having multiple punks and volunteers and staff in my clinic; this is why I love our POCA circles and the volunteers who move in and out as they can. That’s the balance for me- not time resting versus time working, but sharing the work and the rest.

  11. Demetra, you’re not incoherent at all. I love and echo your last paragraph.

    Leah’s put the word out to folks who appreciate her article that she is uninsured and has to pay out of pocket for an ultrasound, so if you liked her article and have $5, you can send it to her via Paypal. There’s a button on her website

  12. Demetra, your post moved to tears. And thank you for writing this. Thanks everyone for this great conversation. The other day I was rebooking an appointment for this elderly new patient. I told her the times available between 12-2…(it’s a 10-3 shift) And she said “I hope you are taking a lunch break. Just block off 30 min. for yourself. You need to take care of yourself so you can take care of the rest of us.” I just smiled.

  13. Another one moved to tears by your comment Demetra.

    I didn’t really get some of the responses to the original blog, especially picking up that we should all work harder and do more. One of the main things I really resonated with in B’s blog was his inclusion of parenting with movement work. That and the need to integrate care into every day life and regular communities. I’ve got a 2 year old daughter and a 3 month old son. I’m the sole source of income for our family. My lady works her butt off all day and night every day with the littlest kid, and when I’m not punking, I’m hanging with my daughter and/or trying to give my lady a break and some support. Since I’ve usually got two arms free, I do most of the cooking and cleaning too (I guess that makes it easier to make sure I eat a few times a day, since I have to make sure everyone does). When I am punking, my lady is holding it down with both kids. There is no time off and no opportunity to take a “self-care” retreat or whatever. If I make it to the gym, it’s to splash around in the pool with my daughter, not to swim laps. The plus side is I don’t have much trouble falling asleep anyomore. I also really love that I get to spend serious quality time with my kids every day.

    So this idea that care has to be integrated into daily life really hits close to the bone with me. I mean, carving out an extra hour every week to go in to work early or stay late to get poked has been a thing. But it has to happen, and so does childcare. Just this week, I’ve started doing yoga again. I feel like the only way I can create some more space (and time) for myself to exist is to make it inside my own body. I wake up my daughter and we stretch and move in the living room together. This morning I tried to remember some of my old routine from back when I really had time to do stuff like that, and she turned on one of her musical toys and had a dance party around me. I think we’ll keep trying to do something like that. Maybe she’ll think it’s funny if I try to meditate in front of her; maybe she’ll want to sit on my lap.

    So yeah, his whole “the work is the rest” approach really got me.

  14. Here’s another article that doesn’t directly belong in this thread of pieces, but makes some really important points about solidarity/comunity as health/survival.
    Make sure you copy the whole url here.
    “We want to put forward the suggestion that solidarity, taken as the “just communion” of humanity, is best served not by an emphasis on analysis and strategy, but by a prioritization of what was once the traditional work of women, work that can and should be shared by all people. This is the work of homemaking, parenting, physical and emotional care of an extended family, mentorship, unconditional acceptance, fair conflict resolution, comfort, moral guidance, empathy, education — all shared, within a community of caregivers”