Waking Up is Hard to Do
And so you wake up, and you face the hard truths, and you see both the shadow and the light, and the space in between.

First, you wake up to your own oppression,
to the ways you’ve been silenced,
to the many little stories you carry about why
your words are worth less than those who
benefit most from the old story.

You wake up to the truth that
your view of yourself wasn’t only constructed by you.
It was shaped for a purpose–to keep you small,
to keep you silent.

Then you wake up to your own anger,
to the fierce determination not to obey,
not to listen to the stories,
not to stay small.

But then, one day later on,
after you’ve learned to speak,
there’s another awakening.
You wake up to the fact that
your frustration taught you to adapt rather than to rise above.
You shape-shifted to be more like them,
to work in their hallways of power,
to survive in a world that didn’t want your voice.
You became one of them to be heard by them.

Your view of yourselfYou wake up to the truth that your view of yourself wasn’t only constructed by you. Image: John Noonan

Then your anger wakes up once again,
and you have a new determination.
This time, you speak with your true voice
whether or not it is heard.
You begin to live in the centre of your true life
whether or not it is acceptable to them.
You risk dismissal and disdain
because you are no longer willing to go back to sleep.

But then, one day later on,
you realize that there is something else going on,
and this will require yet another awakening.
This will require that you look with more clear eyes
and speak with an even more clear voice.

You begin to wake up to other people’s narrative,
other people’s oppression, other people’s silence.
You begin to see that those whose skin
is different from yours,
whose gender and love is different from yours,
are waking up too,
and their waking up is asking you to be uncomfortable.
Their waking up
is asking you to look more clearly and unblinkingly
at your own life.
Then you begin to wake up to your own privilege,
to the ways that you have benefitted from their oppression.
You begin to wake up to the pain in them,
and you begin to hear the cries of the silenced,
“We want to be heard too!”

This waking up is the hardest,
and you want to ignore it,
to resist it, to deny what you now see.
You want to return to your own narrative,
to your own uprising,
because in that you can feel victorious and liberated.
In that, you don’t have to face the truth
that maybe you, even you, are holding the keys
to someone else’s chains.

Unlock their chainsMaybe you are holding the keys to someone else’s chains. Image: Toa Heftiba

But finally, you can deny it no longer.
Your awakened eyes see that you are only truly free
if they are free too.

And so you wake up,
and you face the hard truths.
And you feel the hurt
when your micro-aggressions,
and white fragility are pointed out.
And you do the hard work to peer with unwavering eyes
on yourself,
and to see both the shadow and the light,
and the space in between.

And when you are awake,
you begin to see it all,
and you can’t look away.
And finally you see,
that when you are truly awake
and truly honest about your place in the world,
it is no longer threatening to stand by those
who are also waking up.

And your anger burns anew.
And your fierce determination rises up once again.
And this time, your love is big enough,
to hold their hurt along with your own.
And this time, your voice is strong enough,
to speak their truth along with your own.
And this time, your courage is deep enough,
to let them speak a truth that is
different from your own.


What is evoked in you as you read this? We would love to hear your thoughts, feelings, or experiences in the comments below.

With love and heart-opening awakening.


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7 months ago

Thank you for laying out the stages of awakening so clearly and with honesty. I take heart that – as herd as it is – it is the sure knowing that we are profoundly of one essence though of many forms that will save us. We celebrate both when we can call forth the finest in ourselves.

Noor Jawad
Noor Jawad
7 months ago
Reply to  Bibi

It spoke to me, because it spoke about me.

7 months ago

This is the best eyeopener offered uptill now, Thank you.

cletes volk
cletes volk
7 months ago

If it’s all the same with this author, i’ll continue to empathise with others suffering without needing to castigating myself for alleged wrongdoings they are convinced i have done.

Kathleen McCabe
Kathleen McCabe
7 months ago

So much truth here! The truth is we all play a part in all that unfolds within and around us at this time. It is only when we no longer separate ourselves from both cause and effect that there is hope for true transformation required for real change. The transformation at hand now needs to move us to be our best selves with eyes wide-open to our complicity in so much that now threatens all of us. This has potential to take us deep enough to tap into our very essence as cooperative social beings connected to the entire web of life. This awareness of interconnection with all is perhaps the key to the Great Turning needed to allow all life to heal.

7 months ago

This is magnificent. Thank you, Heather. What it brings to awareness for me is the levels of consciousness (awakeness) that take us from a Me to a We, from separation to connection.

7 months ago

This speaks to a deeper place within all of us. I felt the white fragility was a narrowing of the scope behind the intent and left out a greater portion of the population also going through this. Awakening is not limited by ethnicity nor anything as superfluous as the color of one’s skin. This is a profound event that is sacred in every way imaginable and should be shared without limitations.

Traci Jones
Traci Jones
19 days ago

I always thought by me staying asleep would be best for everyone. However a big part of me died along the way. Taking the first step towards what the heart has always wants and desperately needs. Well it is scary.

Kellie Barry
Kellie Barry
19 days ago

Thanks for this. I am by nature a quiet person. I feel almost daily that I am being pushed not just to wake up but to speak up. To face both the darkness and the light.

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