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Painful Embodiment

It began last November with a wound in my mouth.  As close as I can figure I simply chewed up the inside of my cheek while sleeping.  I, like many folk in my county, the USA, found last November a particularly challenging time as ideologies clashed, fury abounded, and tension mounted.  I seem to have manifested that inside my mouth with the traditional gnashing of teeth, unfortunately a large hunk of tissue, muscle, and nerves were also damaged in the process.  My dentist said she had not seen anything like it and suggested warm salt water rinses.  I was a bit oblivious to the extent of the self inflicted damage in my mouth and perhaps in the larger fabric of my country.


By April the wound was healing badly, leaving scar tissue hardening in a way that had triggered more clenching, TMJ, and my lymph nodes had begun to swell.  It was clear there were complications including an underlying infection in both my body and my country and that the 500 year history of racism, gender violence, and genocide on the North American continent needed to be addressed.  I worked with my acupuncturist, my local herbalists, and even reentered the western medicine world and took a course of antibiotics for the first time in twenty-five years.  The scaring and infection from years of wounding and complicated legacies from the long history in my nation were also becoming clearer even to folk who had benefitted from the injustice and trauma.  I engaged with folk on the full political spectrum:  locally, in my family, in my wider community, in my nation.  Those whose families had lived the traumas, as well as those who had benefitted from the trauma, all now understanding that there was a huge problem, but could not agree on the causes much less the solutions. 


By August the scar tissue in my mouth had hardened to the extent that I could no longer open my mouth wide enough to eat normally and was blending my fruit to drink it, blending my salad to drink it, and sipping mushroom and bone broth concoctions.  The scaring was making it difficult to open my mouth and I was noticing difficulty in my diction and ability to speak, and my lymph nodes once again began to swell.  I entered the vortex of western medicine and find myself poked, prodded, and scanned as the doctors try to figure out what is going on in my mouth, in my lymph nodes, in my body.  Nationally we seem to be in the same place, the scaring and infection making it harder and harder to speak with clarity, harder and harder to address the infection and all the complications that have arisen from the initial wounds and traumas no matter how much we poke, prod, and scan ourselves and each other.


I have no ending to this story - to either story - I am not on the other side of the wound and its complications - we are not on the other side of our national wounds and complications.  And so we persist, we continue, we struggle.  


May we find unexpected allies and help in the persisting, in the continuing, in the struggle, in the diagnosing and ultimately in the healing and moving forward.



Here is a list of online resources and books I am finding helpful in addressing our national wounds. 

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Lizann Bassham was both an active Reclaiming Witch and an Ordained Christian Minister in the United Church of Christ. She served as Campus Pastor at Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley working with a multi-faith student community. She was a columnist for SageWoman magazine, a novelist, playwright, and musician. Once, quite by accident, she won a salsa dance contest in East L.A. Lizann died on May 27, 2018.


  • Anne Newkirk Niven
    Anne Newkirk Niven Friday, 25 August 2017

    I am so sorry to hear about this ongoing health issue, Lizann -- and find your connecting it to our festering political/cultural wounding to be startling and revelatory. Thank you, literally, for sharing your experience and your insight.

  • Lizann Bassham
    Lizann Bassham Friday, 25 August 2017

    Thank you Anne - I don't often share personal pain publicly until I'm on the other side of it, but this just felt appropriate.

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