Oh, you guys. It’s been a rough few weeks. The kind of weeks where I say, “I’ll just live with this pain for awhile and then write about it later.” But whenever I sit down to write about it, I realize that OF COURSE the most important thing I must do AT THAT MOMENT is cut my toenails. Or research wine clubs. Or alphabetize my books. (Just kidding – my books are already alphabetized, of course.) My writer’s block probably means a) it’s the end of the semester and I’ve got nothing left to give and b) the pain is too raw and I’d rather keep avoiding it, thank you very much.
Remember that great advice my chiropractor gave me a few months ago when I was coming back to work? Be gentle with myself. I’m channeling that during the holiday season, too, spending time “working from home,” usually sitting near the Christmas tree with a pot of tea and a warm cat or two fighting to lie across the keyboard. But even then I’m impatient, restless, beset by anxieties old and new. And as I wrote to a friend the other day, even though I’m much better equipped to recognize my anxieties, thanks to a lot of therapy and meditation, simply noting them doesn’t make them go away.
Just like noting the pain doesn’t make it go away. And oh, there’s so much. I feel like the batting has been ripped away and I’m pressed against the cold reality of racism, bullying, greed, and disrespect. I live in a world that says again and again that my amazing, talented, funny children are not valued. I live with the fears that they will be gunned down for the “sin” of being Black in America. I am so choked with fear and grief that I can hardly stand it. Seriously, how do people stand it?
There’s more. I went to the funeral last week of a young family member and I watched her parents sob over her casket as it came to its final resting place. I cried for them. I cried for her. I cried for my own children and I wished I could create a world where every single damn person is safe. I wished I had magical powers just for one day, and I’d go back and undo all the circumstances that led to that moment at the cemetery where we had to say goodbye.
There. I’ve started writing about the pain. And it doesn’t make it better or make it go away. Our lives are such that there is always grief ahead and it rarely comes with a warning label. Maybe this is trite, but there’s no way around pain and grief. It’s like the refrain from We’re Going on a Bear Hunt: We can’t go over it. We can’t go under it. Oh no, we’ve got to go through it.
So I’m working my way through it, mindful of those who are going through much bigger pain than mine: the family of Michael Brown, the family of Eric Garner, the family of Tamir Rice, my aunt and uncle.
The desktop on my work computer cycles through several pictures of cemeteries. I watched the cycle the other day and found odd comfort in the images of the gravestones. Every grave is a monument to grief, the grief of those left behind. There’s also the grief of those in the ground, the hardships and struggles of their lives. It reminds me of the interconnectedness of all things, that if I’m feeling grief, you’ve felt it too. And if you’ve experienced hope and support, so have I, even if I don’t feel it yet. Like my son said a year and a half ago when we visited a cemetery: “The dead are underneath us, holding us up.”