WHAT THE FUNDRAISING
55: Nonprofit Healing Takes Community Healing: Learning to Move Through Discomfort Together with Rebekah Giacomantonio
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“So much of my journey was tending to old wounds. Burnout yes, but it was so much more than my burnout. It was my whole story collapsing.”
– Rebekah Giacomantonio
In this episode of What the Fundraising Podcast…
The brittleness, burnout, and even breakdown that so many of us in the nonprofit world experience isn’t just an occupational hazard. It’s symptomatic of a much more far-reaching cultural framework, which is why my guest on this episode of What the Fundraising is all about disruption. Rebekah Giacomantonio, a facilitator and community healer, took a necessary pause from her career in restorative justice to restore herself. And she’s sharing with us how living into the fabric of Guatemala’s culture and ethos reshaped her entire life orientation.
By taking a hard break from working and living the American nonprofit gauntlet, Rebekah was able to step into a model of healing that works on collective, interpersonal, and systemic levels. A small community of liberation theology-oriented missionaries helped her understand at the deepest level that there is no right and wrong; only the messy. She learned to pause, breathe, and notice what was in her body. Most of all, she came to understand just how deeply entrenched and reflexive privilege can be.
In today’s episode, we dive into Rebekah’s journey and her work today, focused on her Interdependence Incubator – a program that supports white women and nonbinary people who want to free themselves of toxic conditioning and harmful behavior patterns. We talk about how to work with shame, disarm defensiveness and sit with ourselves in fearful or reactive moments. The work involves a lot of curiosity and questions but results in expanding tolerance by rewiring our brains, settling our nervous systems, and practicing radical self-acceptance.
Rebekah’s passion for this work is palpable and the tools she offers are an invitation to look at what’s uncomfortable. There is a lot inside the episode that might be a completely different paradigm shift for you, but we invite you to go there and see what comes up in your body and mind.
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TIPS AND TOOLS TO IMPLEMENT TODAY
Get to know Rebekah:
Rebekah has received a bachelor’s in Culture and Deviance from John Jay College and a certificate in mediation from the New York Peace Institute. She is a trained yoga teacher and facilitates restorative justice, talking circles, and transformative justice processes. Her Interdependence Incubator offers support for white women who want to free themselves from toxic conditioning, harmful behavior patterns, and shame. The goals are to expand tolerance, rewire our brains, settle our nervous systems and practice radical self-love.
Click here to learn more about Rebekah and her work.
Nonprofit AF, curated by writer and former nonprofit executive director Vu Le.
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I teach nonprofit fundraisers to bring in more gifts from the RIGHT donors… so they can stop hounding people for money. Fundraising doesn’t have to be uncomfortable.
Mallory Erickson: Welcome Everyone! I am so excited to be here today with Rebekah Giacomantonio. Rebecca, thank you for joining me on What The Fundraising.
Rebekah Giacomantonio: Thank you so much. I’m so excited. I love the title of this podcast. It’s so fun. I’m really happy to be here.
Mallory Erickson: I hope it always sets a good tone that we’re going to have fun, even when we’re talking about really hard things that we’re going to bring some lightness and levity and realness to the conversation. So why don’t we just start with you introducing yourself to everyone sharing a little bit about your background and really what brings you to our conversation today?
Rebekah Giacomantonio: Yeah, totally. Yeah, as Mallory said my name is Becca or Rebekah Giacomantonio. I am originally from Maine, which is the unceded territory of the webinar nation or confederacy. And I have spent the last decade and a half working in nonprofits specifically around ending mass incarceration and decriminalizing, just decriminalizing our society. I worked a bit with exoneration and things like that. And that work really brought me to restorative justice and transformative justice work, which is where I spent the bulk of my time within the nonprofit industry.
I was also an accidental fundraiser which is something I’ve heard you say Mallory, that I was like, oh my God, yes that is exactly what happened. Oh, Hey, you’re a good writer, why don’t you just write everything for us forever now, like that’s part of your job. But anyways, I spent a lot of my time as I mentioned doing restorative justice and transformative justice work which is very much at its core about healing in community. And always felt really moved and interested and invested in what would it look like for us to actually heal as collectives, like on the personal, interpersonal, and systemic levels that we can create the change in the world that we’re like hoping for, the vision of the world. That was always the piece of the work that most inspired me.
And after severe burnout which led to a nervous breakdown, I moved to Guatemala, tended some wounds for a few years and just studied what it would look like to actually build a new world from some communities in indigenous Guatemalans that I lived alongside in that time. And I came back to the states and briefly reentered the nonprofit industry and was like, nope, not for me. And then started cultivating spaces for white folks, white women, and non-binary people to crave healing, to practice freedom. So that’s what I do now.
Mallory Erickson: I have also spent a lot of time in Guatemala and I had read a little bit about that part of your story, but I’m curious what did that experience or what were some of the biggest light bulb moments that overcame you both in community there but also in part of your personal exploration journey which are I know very connected.
Rebekah Giacomantonio: Yeah, totally connected. Impossibly. It would be impossible to separate them. I was raised conservative Evangelical in a very sort of black and white toxic church, not all churches are toxic. Mine was a hundred percent toxic and left me with some serious spiritual trauma as well. And so I say that because when I moved to Guatemala, obviously or maybe not obviously, Guatemala is a very Catholic country. They have really adopted Catholicism in many places. It’s like syncretism Catholicism so it matches with some of the indigenous practices and traditions.
But when I moved there, I moved to the second largest city which is called Shayla and stumbled into a community that was actually like a missionary community but they were not missionaries from other places. They were all from the town that they lived in. Like they were all Guatemalans from Shayla, just called themselves missionaries and we’re doing Catholic, like really liberation, theology work living among the four. And I think for me I had no example of a religious tradition that was like actually about loving and systems change and that was here for the conversations on like injustice and poverty and inequality and like actually really loving our neighbors and being in community and taking care of each other and knowing each other’s names.
And so for me it was so much of my personal journey at the time was also like tending lots of old wounds, like burnout yes. But it was so much more than just my burnout. It was like my whole story collapsing into that moment of a nervous breakdown and then in healing that required going all the way back and forwards. And time is not linear if you ask me. So it was everything all at once. And finding myself in that community, I didn’t know that I needed and they just showed me so many things but one of the pieces of it that felt deeply healing on a personal level and also deeply inspiring for me on my system change and change work was they were just totally in for mystery and non-duality and no one cared about answers.
None of them cared about knowing what the right answer to any question is. So I’d come to them with like my boatload of feelings and I’d be like, I need to know what is the meaning of life? That’s where I was, like really in it. And they were just like, oh, it’s just to be present, like just being here. That’s it and it just blew my mind. So summarize to boil that down, tt was like finding, stumbling my way into this community of missionaries that were liberation theologists and watching them live with such a deep commitment to earth and other people and just being present and loving, I was just like, oh, there’s a whole other way of being in the world that I just never knew about.
Mallory Erickson: Wow. What about your time there or maybe this goes back to the restorative justice that led you to that conclusion that I know is the foundation of so much of your work, which is that self and community cannot be separated, particularly when it comes to healing and liberation. Talk to me a little bit about that.
Rebekah Giacomantonio: Yeah. I think again it’s many different layers. But one of the moments for me that sort of put me on the trajectory of even being able to be open to the sort of things that I saw and learned in Guatemala was I did a lot of trainings when I lived in New York City. That’s where I went to college and then I stayed there and got trained in restorative justice along the way in parallel with my bachelor’s degree. I was in a training for restorative justice when someone said a snide remark about me in the check-in round.
So if you’re familiar at all with circles or restorative justice, there’s a talking piece and you pass the talking piece around and everybody gets to say something. And we do that to check in. So it’d be like, how are you arriving today? And everybody gets to answer. And there was a person who was sitting next to me and when she got the talking piece she said something like, I’m sitting in between the two texters, so I’m really frustrated. And it was total shade, like just total shade on me. And I felt really embarrassed. My dog had been in the hospital that day so I was checking in with my partner to see if the dog was okay. Whatever, it’s not something that I normally would do in a circle but in that circumstance, that’s what I was doing. And I just took it. I was like, it doesn’t matter. It was just a small comment. Nobody cares. It’s not a big deal. Just carry on a day. I didn’t say anything.
And the whole day passed. And at the end of the day, the last person to speak in our checkout round was moved to tears and started having this visible reaction. And she said, Harm happened this morning and no one said anything about it. And I just feel like the energy and the space was off and it made it really hard for me to trust the process. And she was talking about that one remark that person made to me and I in the moment was like, it doesn’t matter. It’s just me that was hurt. Nobody cares. And the whole day had been off for everybody in that circle. But no one said anything except for this one person because of that one comment that the person sitting next to me had said and we spent the next like two hours just processing this one sentence and how it affected all of us in the space.
And that was when I realized there is no defining between a personal experience and a collective experience. We belong to each other, everything that is in me is also felt and experienced around me. And we all have different experiences of that thing and our truths and experiences of that moment matter. And they’re different and they’re textured and they belong, they are worthy of being heard, and we all have an experience when one of us does.
And that was for me the beauty of restorative justice work is that you can feel the moment when the people who are in conflict start to see each other for the first time as they start to see themselves in each other for the first time. And the space just changes, the energy is just, it’s unbelievable. So anyways, being in that and seeing, experiencing before I could verbalize it, experiencing our mutual belonging and then seeing in Guatemala with all of my stuff, oh, I was just raw, completely raw. Like I was just an exposed human, like a naked mole rat. I don’t even know how to say it, I had absolutely no filters. Like everything was just stripped.
And so I was just watching the Guatemalans live in a way that was in alignment with this understanding that they belong to each. Which I had felt only in the context of restorative justice practices. So experiencing it and then seeing it lived out, I was like everything needs to change. Everything needs to change. Conceptually how we think about healing. We belong to each other and it’s going to change and the world that we’re trying to bring in, as people in social justice work or community work or change work, or whatever you call it like nonprofit whatever it is, the world we want to live in will require that we remember we belong to each other and start working from that knowledge, rather than from the individualism that we’re conditioned to live out as part of the dominant culture in the United States.
Mallory Erickson: So I really appreciate what you shared and I really appreciate that story. And I’ll be honest like until right now, I think I could probably pull a handful of experiences like that but that I’ve never thought about further, consciously at least or called out what was happening in the room or what wasn’t happening because things like that had happened.
But I’m really curious, we’ve talked a lot on this show about the structural challenges that might keep us apart or that make us forget that we belong to each other. What do you think on an individual level you need to talk about in your work, a lot of embodiment, and maybe even before we define embodiment what do you define as disembodiment? Is that, I don’t even know if that’s the right word for what is? How do you describe the disconnect, the disassociation that we have found ourselves in. And then we can maybe think about what does that mean in terms of where we go?
Rebekah Giacomantonio: Yeah. I think we’re really familiar with what disembodiment looks like actually because it’s everywhere. And we can, we know it, we were talking about it, oh, I drank too much coffee today and now I’m like jittery but then as they’re doing it they’re drinking more coffee. We’ve all had that moment at the cafe or at the banquet or at the conference where someone’s, oh man, I’ve had so much coffee, but they’re pouring themselves another cup.
And there’s this part of them that realizes their body is saying absolutely not. And then there’s just, I’m doing it anyway. I’m just on muscle memory. I’m not actually here. Like I, maybe I don’t even actually feel it. I just get the sense that I’ve had too much coffee or I don’t even know but we see it all the time. People saying one thing and doing another. Or just like having whenever we see people saying something and then doing something else, you have to be out of alignment or your body to be verbally recognizing something and with your body doing something else.
Or another example is like our bodies will show you. So if we have really dry skin or our hair is dry or our nails are breaking. Our skin is cracking, that is telling me that that person’s not in their body because their body is telling them I need some love. Like I need to put some lotion on my hands, like I need to get some collagen or calcium and whatever I need something here. And it’s clear to us. We can see that in other people but they can’t see it in themselves because they are actually not there.
And then there’s some other telltale signs which is something that I’ve experienced more personally is, especially within the nonprofit sector. I have worked with a lot of EDs. I’m in a position where I’ve been hired by board members more than once or hired because board members wanted me there.
And so EDs and I often have a stressful relationship because the board has been like, this is this girl we need Rebekah. We need Becca here to do some things. And so I have this relationship but what will happen, you’ll see folks in leadership or folks in the nonprofit industry who have gone to the workshops, they’ve read all the books, they’ve done the webinars, the professional development, the self care, the DEI, all this stuff. And then, they’ll actually be teaching other people, right? Sometimes they’re actually onboarding other staff members or teaching you. In my case I’ll be receiving lessons from people and then I’ll see them in another context do the very thing they teach you not to do.
And when you bring it to them they’re like, I would never do that because that’s just not my values. I would just never do a thing like that. And it’s, I just saw you, there’s an email. I could show you the receipts. You did it. You did the thing that you said that we should not do. I can show it to you. And if you get to a point where you actually do show them what they’ve said or done. It’s like they have seen a ghost. They don’t recognize themselves in their text and that’s when they’re just not there. They’re just not present. And yeah hopefully that’s a helpful answer to that question.
Mallory Erickson: Yeah, it is. And I feel like there’s so many different layers and levels of disembodiment. But I’m curious when folks are trying to become a more embodied leader, what do you recommend as the first step? Because I can imagine that it’s a scary process. And there are a lot of reasons why it’s happening that feel more comfortable in the moment, perhaps. So what, how do people start to dip their toe in this work?
Rebekah Giacomantonio: Yeah. One of the things I talk about in the group that I run which is called the Interdependence Incubator is that we have been told that mindfulness and meditation and embodiment, all of these things have to look a certain way and you have to sit in a certain position for a certain amount of time and do the certain kind of breathing and then move through these specific postures and all this stuff. And let’s wipe this out, no, first of all, most of that stuff was created by folks with the male anatomy and male body male physiology. So the postures that we’re getting into are actually meant for that specific physiology, which is not to say that folks with a female physiology can’t be comfortable in them but it’s just like hold that into consideration, right?
The history of yoga and mindfulness and meditation is a fascinating one for another conversation. But basically what started out as a women’s dance practice basically or movement practice got co-opted by men and then women were excluded from it. And then it became what it is today. That’s a very oversimplified version of the story. But what I’m saying is it was not created with a rigid structure on purpose and that is not going to work for everybody. And when I say that every space, body right? Like you to start becoming an embodied leader, just breathe, just take one deep breath a day. And be there for that breath. And then you can build out, maybe you do it a couple of times a day. I always tell my folks in the incubator, set a timer on your phone that just says breathe. And when the timer on your phone goes off, just take a deep breath. That’s it! Just one deep breath, whatever posture you’re in. I don’t care if you’re laying down or doing a handstand or whatever you’re doing. Just take a deep breath and be there for it.
And it really is, it sounds oversimplified but you get this it just becomes part of your practice. And then all of a sudden, every time we’re taking a deep breath you’re not sighing anymore. You’re taking a deep breath and you’re there for the deep breath. And it just builds from there, oh, can I actually just put my phone down while I pet my dog? Can I just be petting my dog? Just like me and my dog, petting, just like having a loving like a tender moment here. And maybe I can just look out the window for a second and notice the tree.
And it’s these little things that we keep doing them. They’re attractive, we are going to want more. They’re very addictive. I will tell you that, the warning label, petting your dog and actually paying attention to your pets. It’s a real, it’s a real delight and you’re going to want more of it just a warning. You’re going to want to keep petting your dog with your whole mind and your whole body. So yeah that’s how I would start. That’s how I coach my clients to just just begin where you are, like, forget the rules about time and posture just be in your body for a second, as many times as you can.
Mallory Erickson: There’s something that you said that I am thinking about now, I think you said, this might seem really simple. And I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately with practices like this around how if they don’t have a hustle mentality to them, or all the guidelines, or all the tips and all the things that we have this narrative like, oh, that’s just too easy. It couldn’t be impactful but it’s actually for that exact reason that it is.
Rebekah Giacomantonio: Yeah, a hundred percent. And when we forget all this hustle and schedules and computers are really new for humans. Most of our history, we did work really hard and then we chilled super hard. We spent a lot of time just sitting by the fire, chilling out, dancing or breathing. We didn’t always have technology. And like all of the information, we have way too much information right now. It’s so many stimulants and inputs and all this stuff, just keep it simple.
We are very complex beings and living in a complex world. Even the natural world is so complex but we can actually just tune in. And just be with it in simple ways and will truly be able to access that complexity and get into the flow better just by simply entering and we are in it.
It’s like the part of Finding Nemo where the turtles are in the whatever that thing is. And you have to psych yourself up to do a really simple thing, which is just swim into this flow. But then you’re like, you just, you got into it. And then you’re like, oh man, all I gotta do is. Maybe it’s more complicated in the movie. I don’t know.
Mallory Erickson: It’s so interesting though that you said that because one of the things I was wondering about is all of the things we do to cope with life. You’ve experienced really challenging dynamics in the nonprofit sector. So have I, so probably every single listener from bullying to toxic leadership structure, to harassment, and abuse and all of that. And I would say personally for me, I think when I stayed disembodied it made me feel like I could survive the other things. And when I would have those moments, those glimpses of full immersion in my life, full presence, in some ways they really freaked me out because it made it so clear all the other pieces that weren’t working. And so how do you support folks around that?
Rebekah Giacomantonio: Yeah. I think one primary thing and I was just reading Nonprofit AF by Boulay, champion of making jokes about the nonprofit industry and saying important things. And he wrote somewhere we take the work seriously but not ourselves. And I think there’s a piece of that feels really resonant because my whole thing is, that is we really need to start playing. We just need to start playing and experimenting and trying things on and seeing how they feel and taking a note. How did this thing feel? I tried embodiment on. I tried to take a deep breath and I was immediately hit with way too much. And then we just wrote that down, took a deep breath and felt too many feelings, went back to disembodiment, and that is what it is. Holding the both is like the absolutely primary first block of the work that we do.
We need to understand that we’re not going to have, there is no truth, right? There is no right, there is no wrong. There is just what is and every moment has its own unique set of conditions and opportunities. And all that we are invited into is to be in the moment and to make a choice. And to see how that choice goes. Does it work? Do I feel better? Do I feel more connected? Was it a protective choice? Was it a proactive choice? Was it value aligned? Was it where I want to be or how I want to be? And if it wasn’t or if it didn’t bring me closer to the world that I want to live in, is that because that’s what my capacity is right now. And I actually don’t have the capacity to make another decision. And that is totally real and valid and true. If that’s true for you, that is true in that moment. But it may not be true the next moment. So that’s the beauty of coming back and being like it is true that I want to live an embodied life. And it is also true that like right now I can’t do it because I have X, Y, and Z things. So maybe being disembodied keeps me safe for now. And that is okay but tomorrow it may be different. I think we get really set in this is the way that it is, this is how it’s going to be, there’s no other option, one way or my way or the highway. There’s a one way road and here I am and that’s it.
And with my clients, the work is everything is everything, Lauren Hill, right? Everything is everything all the time. And so how can we try on and play with just holding that truth, holding that idea. I just need to get comfortable with the idea that maybe there isn’t a right answer here. And my clients can spend weeks, months just playing with that. What would it feel like right now, if I just accepted that there was no right answer, right? Or there was no one truth. What if I just felt into that in this moment, in the beginning. And maybe I play with that for months before I get anywhere else.
There’s no other way. There’s nowhere to go except to just keep continue being. I find a lot of times that I don’t have enough words to describe what we’re doing or how we’re doing it, but it is really just getting comfortable with mystery and leaning in. I’m not going to know right now but I’m going to keep waking up and keep making a choice. I understand that I have many choices here and even getting to a place where you recognize that you’re choosing to stay disembodied because it’s keeping you safe is a step towards embodiment, right? Because my body and my being right now is keeping me safe and I would honor and respect and value that I am being kept safe right now. That is huge. And I’m going to be aware of it. And that is so counter-cultural you’re doing great if you got there.
Mallory Erickson: I couldn’t agree more. My coach certification is in something called energy leadership and there are these seven levels of energy and the lowest levels are filled with mostly catabolic energy. The highest levels are filled with anabolic energy. So a level one is really like victimhood, martyrdom, perfectionism, judgment, black and white thinking a lot of what you’re talking about. And the higher levels of anabolic or joy connection, mutual benefit, collaboration like those pieces.
But what I say a lot is like no energy level is that there are moments in our life where we want to call in that level one protective energy because we are so tender. Maybe we just need to like have a full pity party for ourselves and I do. But it’s all about conscious choice and just not being triggered involuntarily or in a disembodied way into that level one. But to choose it is so fundamentally different. It just at its core is so fundamentally different than experiencing that without that choice.
I’m curious, one of the things that I remember when I got yoga teacher certified in Guatemala actually, this thing I kept asking was how to find the balance between social change work which inherently feels judgmental to a certain extent, right? Because you are saying, this thing is wrong. This thing that is happening in our society, it is wrong. So there’s judgment there, right? Even we say this nonprofit culture is toxic. There are all these I feel like accepted forms of judgment. And then what I found to be so challenging was tapping in and out of that to that acceptance, it’s all gray. Lots of choices. Anything is possible. I do it in different ways in my work now but I just remember asking so often okay, but how do I accept something that is wrong? And they would be like there is no universal truth. And it really feels like these certain things in society are actually very wrong. So how do you, how do we grapple with that?
Rebekah Giacomantonio: Yeah, it’s messy. And the thing is we don’t live in a culture where being messy is acceptable. Like we just don’t, we don’t live in that. We don’t live in that world. We can! I’m like let’s build it! If we build it, they will come. I want to live in a world where I can show up with just questions. Here is the list of questions I have. And not not be expected to answer any of them. Can we just be in our bodies with our journals and our yoga mats or whatever it is for you? Like some dance music. Like sometimes I’m feeling most aligned and alive in the questions when I’m like breaking it down to Diamonds by Ariana. It’s just everything.
But I’ll say I was just listening to your podcast with Rhea Wong, and y’all were talking about how you’re just not going to be liked by everybody at some point, you’re mentioning that. And I think for me like one of the pieces that I also workshop with my folks is people are just going to feel a way about you being open to multiple truths. The reality is that much of the work towards social justice or liberation and system change, nonprofit, whatever you call it, we’ve also gotten really polarized is what I’m saying and you’re right. Like we’ve made decisions. This is good, and this is bad. And some of those decisions are important, like mass incarceration – bad, police violence – bad. And where I think that non-duality comes in, even making those statements. It is true. Like my dad’s a police officer, so I became politicized. My uncle was also a police officer and I spent a lot of time in the precinct growing up just at work with my dad. And so I know a lot of police officers like really intimately and there are pieces of that knowledge that I can’t unknow, or unexperienced, right?
Like I’ll always remember those people and know them as people who believed perhaps foolishly, I’m ready for that conversation. People who believed that they were protecting and serving and that their training enabled them to protect and serve. And I can pull up dozens of articles and lived experiences that prove that the work that they were doing was the opposite.They were not being, they were not protecting people and they were not serving people.
And I can get really angry and look at those statistics and be like, all right, this is what we need to do. And I can get a bunch of people behind me who think, yes, this is the plan. This is the one truth. This is the one way of handling the situation and everything else is trash. So I’m even going to polarize myself against other organizations doing work in the same field because this is the way and the truth and the light and anybody who does anything different is just not even worth the air. And that is not liberation.
That’s not what liberation looks like. That’s not the world that I’m moving towards. And so I navigate these spaces and always have navigated the spaces that I’m in, aware that people are not going to agree with me. People are not going to agree with me holding more questions than answers, particularly in the field that I was in with those restorative justice, transformative justice, which overlaps talking about mass incarceration and the criminal justice system. And non-duality is not a conversation that we’re having as a sector or a movement. And it really for me is the crux of the work. That is where I begin my work and journey is understanding multiple things are true about any given situation. And one of those truths is that there are going to be people who think that me holding multiple truths is trash and not great.
And I know in my body, I remember what it felt like to be in that polarizing place because that’s where I was. I was so hateful and bitter and angry and resentful and it just destroyed me. It literally destroyed me. My nervous system shut down. I was not able to function the same way. And I really believe that is the natural end of all that agony and suffering. And we’re seeing burnout happen everywhere. It’s happening everywhere and nobody knows what to do. So people are leaving this work, movement work in droves, they’re going anywhere else. And they’re just getting their corporate job and surviving, like finding a place that pays them well so that they can just numb their way through and do their obligatory donations here and there.
But that’s not what I want. That’s not what I want for us. I want us all to be here with our whole selves making change and creating a world where every single body is free. And when I say every single body, police officer bodies too. Hopefully they’re not police officers, then they’re just there’s something else. But they’re like those people who normally wore police uniforms are also in a world where everybody is free. And so what is it going to take for us to get there. And I don’t have an answer. I have a lot of questions and I am ready to sit in those questions and just explore and try things on and have them fail. Sometimes I try things on and it’s just a complete flop and it did the exact opposite and I have to do lots of apologies and learn a lot more before I can try something else on again.
Mallory Erickson: Yeah, first of all, I will just say I’m so sorry to hear about your health experience and just your experience in the sector. And I share so many pieces of that too and the way it just wreaked havoc on my body when my mind wouldn’t connect. It was my body that finally got so loud. It was just like, if you are not going to listen to all these subtle ways we’ve been telling you this is not okay, then we’re just going to literally destroy your nervous system until you can’t feel your hands and then you probably can’t send another email.
Rebekah Giacomantonio: So many signs, there were so many signs.
Mallory Erickson: There were so many signs but it’s so unfortunate to me that it takes, I hear I’m sure you do too, I hear so many stories like that. And so it’s just like that to me that breaks my heart and I think also demonstrates the necessity of the work and the piece that, yeah I think what you’re talking about is really scary. I’m just going to say that. And I think that the thing we have to remember is that the reality is also really scary. And it’s that whole devil that we know, devil that we don’t know. I hear people say all the time, that sounds so uncomfortable. I’m like how uncomfortable for on a scale of zero to 10 do you feel in this present moment? You’re not very comfortable. So it’s yes, this is really uncomfortable but also we’re all suffering, you’re suffering now. And so that is just something I wanted to double click on for folks who maybe had some of those feelings around that reality sounds really scary, is just that it’s an unknown potential pain being compared to our very real current pain.
Rebekah Giacomantonio: Yes. Here’s the thing, particularly in the US, particularly white folks are conditioned to seek comfort at all costs and to avoid discomfort. And it’s not just that we like to seek comfort and avoid discomfort, but we seek comfort and avoid discomfort because we were literally given zero skills, no skills to be uncomfortable. And it’s not forced upon us, that’s privilege. We get to opt out of discomfort. So this reality that we’re living in is like not great for anyone.
But it is really awful for folks that don’t have my social position as a white woman. Like it is terrible and it has been terrible for those folks since they were born. So they didn’t have a choice. They couldn’t opt out of this discomfort. And I’m thinking particularly of my colleagues who are black women, there was no, Yes please, I would like to take the comfortable path. Let me just stop. That was just not an option like it was for folks of a different social position. And class matters here too. I’m going to name that, right? It’s not just race, it’s also class matters.
So there is a huge piece of this work for us, for me and the folks that I work with in my program, the incubator is figuring out how to be able to settle my nervous system. Which is why embodiment is so important because if I don’t even know what’s happening in my body, there is no way I’m going to be able to handle it and name it and settle it enough so that I can sit there and receive feedback. If I can’t even name the thing that’s happening, if I can’t show up to that thing, forget about it. Which is why we see so many folks go through trainings and workshops and they’ve read the books and they can quote it back to you and they can tell you all of these things. And then they do these outrageously harmful things.
I had a boss once tell me, a white woman who was the ED, tell me to mentor on how to be more professional and their communication patterns. And my colleagues were two black women who were fresh out of college. So there was an age difference and there was a race difference. And I just looked at her and I was like, I’m just going to repeat back what you asked me right now. I’m going to reflect back this question. And this boss was so disembodied that she was like, yeah, I don’t see the problem there. When she would just go on about how other organizations were totally harmful, like you can just imagine. But my point is that she had no skills. So her body upon hearing me reflect that back to her went into defense mode immediately and just denied that it didn’t happen. Because that thing that you’re reflecting back to me doesn’t match with how I see myself so I’m just going to reject that it even happened and basically tell you that you’re wrong and make you question your perspective. Which is hello, gaslighting. And it happens all the time.
But all that to say like the work is just being able to first accept failure, like we’re gonna fail. It’s gonna keep happening over and over again for the rest of our lives. And it’s good, it’s growth, it’s change. Like the butterfly was a caterpillar before. So just let it happen and see how you can just be like, okay, I’m going to fail and when I fail, here’s what I need to do to be able to stay present in that moment. And we make strategic plans. We make all these different plans. We never planned for failure in our relationships and in our work and we’re just gonna mess up. And when we do, we should have a plan. We should know, hey, when I mess up, here’s what I do, I will attack myself externally, I will bow down and just be, you’re so right, like a dog who’s done something wrong, oh my God I’m a terrible human. Bbut I don’t say any of that out loud. I just bow down and like cower and internally there’s just like a shame shit storm that’s just like twirling around.
But knowing this is what happens in my body, I’m going to write it down. Like someone comes to me with accountability, I’m going to, I know this is what I do. And so that when it happens I can be like, oh hey, there you are, I see you, we’ll get to you later. We’re just going to put you aside for a second. I’m going to be present in this conversation. I’m going to take it in and I’m going to apologize.
And I wrote an article for Community Centric Fundraising on this very topic because I was like people need a guide, I needed a guide. Having those steps and that plan to move through makes it so much easier for us when we can’t really be in our body to be, okay, I know this is going to happen. So first I do this, and then I do this, and then I do that. And then I do that. And then as we become more embodied and more able to be inside our body, we can trust our intuition, we can trust our body to help us move through it organically.
But in the meantime, absolutely have a plan because you are probably like me, you weren’t given any skills to handle conflict or discomfort or accountability. And without a map, we are lost and likely to make harm much worse than it needed to be. So make it easy, make a map, have a map on hand, and then just keep using that map until you can be in your body enough to be in the moment and move organically from there. But I think just expecting failure and knowing what happens in your body when that happens and just having a plan for it is some of the best things we can do especially for folks that live in bodies that have a social position or access to things that other bodies don’t. We don’t know what we don’t know. And that means that we’re going to do stuff that’s harmful, it’s just going to happen.
Mallory Erickson: Okay. I could keep talking to you forever but we want to get you out into the Austin sunshine. Thank you so much for this conversation and tell everyone where they can find you and the best way to connect with you.
Rebekah Giacomantonio: Yeah. So first of all I’m on LinkedIn a lot. LinkedIn is my playground. I don’t really have any other social media that I use but I’m there. And you can just search my name, which you should probably look at the show notes for because it’s really long, hard to spell. But yeah search my name in LinkedIn and you’ll find me and I’m there a lot.
Please send me a message or a connection request. I’m down for community always and building relationships and just answering questions. And that’s really the best place with all the information that you need is on LinkedIn. The Interdependence Incubator is for white women and non-binary people who have done the work, have engaged with DEI work have, are trying to learn and feel still overwhelmed, maybe they’re feeling like they’re burning out. There is so much information and so much to be doing. I don’t really know where to even begin, if you’re there or if you’ve been trying to begin and you’re just hitting lots of roadblocks and walls and just feeling still living a value-aligned life is hard and maybe even impossible then the Interdependence Incubator is for you. And we do all the things that we’ve touched on in this conversation and more to rewire our neural pathways and get inside our bodies and build a world where everybody can be through the practice of freedom, really.
Mallory Erickson: Awesome and I will include links to all of that below as well as links to the article that you wrote for Community Centric Fundraising as well. And thank you so much. Thank you so much for this conversation.
Rebekah Giacomantonio: Thank you. Thank you.