Metal Fatigue: On the Use of Love in Times of Stress


Blessed be these times. Blessed be our communities.
Blessed be the strength in our hearts. Blessed be the power of love.

Don’t let the alt-right/misogynists/fascists/racists/plutocrats/ableists/transphobes/queer bashers/white supremacists/anti-Muslims/anti-Semites/anti-immigrants/jerks/bullies/shamers/oppressors grind you down.

Don’t let the world itself stress and bend you until you finally break.
Seriously. Don’t let it happen.

Metal fatigue.*
The process of constant stress and pressure applied repeatedly in cycles until an object finally cracks and breaks.

Metal fatigue.
It’s happening. To bodies, minds, and souls.
Right now.
Every time you open Twitter. Or Facebook. Or glance at the news. Or for some of you, every time you go to a restaurant, or shop, or a park, or go to work.

There it is! Another terrible thing happening! Another thing attacking you! Another thing you aren’t sure what exactly if anything you can do about. Another thing you are weary of countering.
And another!
And another!
Rend! Rip! Bend! Press!
Hundreds of tiny injuries are inflicted on your psyche. Repeatedly.
Tiny tugs. Tiny bits of pressure. Here. Then there. Then here again.
These seem inconsequential at first, until your whole being is bowed and bloody with them.*

You begin to collapse from the weakening of your life force. The leeching away of your power.
You crack.
You crumble into yourself.
Sometimes you look for distraction in the usual ways…only to find that there is little distraction to be had.
This stuff is everywhere you look. Always creating more fissures in your heart.

Fatigue failure happens over time, because of repeated stress cycles. Fatigue failure occurs even when an object has not reached it’s strength limits.
Fatigue failure is caused by consistent stress and pressures that wear an object down.

So what do you do? How do you interrupt a stress cycle? And how do you build in resilience before the stress cycles begin?

One way is to consistently invoke love.
The love that feels like bedrock.
Or the love that feels like interstitial flow.
The love that takes your breath away, and fills your eyes with tears of gratitude.
The love that gives your life back.

Not romance. Not heartbreak. Not selfishness. Not co-dependency. Not limerence. Not...any of the forms love can be shaped into. Invoke the original force.
Love. Connection. Empowerment. Ease. And perhaps a dash of revitalizing lust.

When hundreds of tiny assaults are bending and pressing and bleeding you dry, take a breath. Feel the pain. Tense all the way up with it. Then exhale. And let it go.

Then ask yourself: How can I best invoke love right now?
Then ask: what feels closest to my heart, or most aligned with my abilities?
Focus on that love.
Then do that thing.
Don’t wallow in the awareness of all the things you cannot save.
Don’t continuously batter yourself from the inside with the things that strike at you from the outside.
Offer the help you can.
Receive the help you can.
Offer the help you can.
Receive the help you can.
Offer the help you can.
Invoke more love.
Every day.

The slices and assaults will still come. But the next time? You’ll be able to say: “I feel you. And today, I’m doing this thing to help build or preserve or protect the things that feel important to me, and I’m calling on love to help me.”

Then remind your friends:
They love something, too.

Love builds. Love repairs. Love is strong.

And a bunch of tiny invocations can increase the strength of love: Art. Music. Laughter. Food. Sharing. Mutual aid.

Supporting acts of love counters our fatigue.
Embracing acts of love increases our endurance.

Help shore up the things that matter to you most, and help your friends and community do the same.

We build from there.

Stay in love. Always. Or for as long as you can.

T. Thorn Coyle, December, 2016

Some practical suggestions in no particular order:
-Unplug from phones and computers for set periods of time.
-If possible, set computers/phones to red tones instead of blue.*
-Get out in trees, or water, or desert, or rain…anyplace outside if you can.
-Talk with friends and loved ones.
-Pay your bills.
-Eat nourishing food.
-Listen to music, look at art.
-Remember to ask for help.
*Thanks to a scientist friend who reminded me of this term when I was casting about for a good descriptor not based on racist idioms (the kernal of this essay began with “death by a thousand cuts” which has racist roots).
*For those who don’t experience it, this is similar to what many marginalized people experience consistently with what are called “micro-agressions.” The tiny insults, slights, and actions that…add up over time, until the person is made sick by them.
*This suggestion comes from a friend trained in Traditional Chinese Medicine


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4 Responses to “Metal Fatigue: On the Use of Love in Times of Stress”

  1. seeley

    indeed, appreciated! including your starred notes on reference.


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