Oh my friends, I have been wondering what I could possibly write to you after this week’s attempted coup in the US Capitol.
I’ve swung from rage to exhaustion but mostly I feel so— um— what was I saying— DISTRACTED.
I’m jumpy, I can’t concentrate on anything, and I’ve written 47 drafts of this missive that make absolutely no sense.
In fact, I got so few tangible things accomplished this week that I truly think I would have been further ahead if I had just rested, meditated, and napped.
And yet I must write you, because this is how I show up in the world. With you. For you.
I’ve checked in this week with friends, clients, RichJuicyStarryBeauty✨ beloveds, and everyone is having intense experiences— but they vary wildly.
Some are heartbroken, but so weary at heartbreak that they feel almost nothing.
Some are shocked, shellshocked, and bemused that they are still capable of shock.
Some are truly surprised; a final line of decency has been crossed that they didn’t expect.
Some feel grimly vindicated, because they’ve been saying so all along.
Some are full of rage so big it paralyzes them.
Some are full of rage so big it focused and galvanized them into immediate, strategic action.
Some are retraumatized by such a public display of blatant hatefulness.
Some are shaky, in pain, and old wounds have been activated.
Some are just so, so exhausted.
So here is permission, first of all, for whatever you’re feeling.
(To be clear: I’m not giving us permission to look away or bypass the reality of what’s happening in our world. I want us all to end up at useful, sustainable, long-term action that shifts our society to a more just, equitable, and less embarrassing place. But if you’re deep in a trauma response, your path to action is going to look very different than someone who’s full of rage. If you’re full of cynical exhaustion, you’ll walk a different path than someone who feels like they are seeing a terrible truth for the first time.)
As much as I long to do so, we can’t jump past where we are. We have to start there. And the more we accept WHAT we are feeling, and make space inside ourselves for it, the more quickly we can move forward. We do this by breathing into the intense feelings. We breathe ourselves bigger and bigger, like a fucking cathedral, until there is room for the emotions to do their work on us.
Sorrow weeps us; we cleanse, soften, and start anew.
Rage ignites us; we stand tall and feel our power to make a difference.
Exhaustion presses us down into rest; we cocoon and regain our strength.
Heartbreak shows us who we are; we vow to be part of a better future.
All of these emotions can take us somewhere good.
If you have been doing justice work for a while, or if you are a person of color, especially a Black American, please treat yourself with utmost reverence, tenderness, and care. You don’t need to take care of anyone right now except yourself. And I suppose your children. If you can get help with the children, please do that.
If you are white, and especially if you feel shocked and utterly gobsmacked by this past week, please consider that many people have felt this way every day for the past four years— or for a lifetime. You are just now awakening to something that others have been carrying for you. Welcome. This is good work.
For me, this week’s storming of the US Capitol took me back most vividly to the night of the 2016 US Presidential election.
I had a breakdown that night. I wailed so loudly and wildly that night that my husband was afraid for my sanity. I wept and raged and beat things and tore our sheets. I was heartbroken— utterly heartbroken— that so many people would align themselves with such ugliness. Everything since then has seemed awful, but inevitable. Actually, I thought it might get worse. I’m pretty cynical for a life coach.
I am simmering with fury that has been at a low boil for more than four years.
On my tongue is the furious cry, I told you so!
We all told you so!
Unbecoming though that might be, that is where I am.
I am not shocked— though it is shocking— I am not even outraged— I feel grimly vindicated.
So there is a weird glimmer of relief in the fact that some sort of a line has been crossed, at least in some people’s minds. Maybe there won’t be as much pretending, going forward.
I’m seething at the hypocrisy. At the GOP people resigning, as if they’re shocked— shocked!— to find out who they work for. At the denial of what happened yesterday. At the distancing. At the minimizing.
I’m seething at the fear and trauma that some of my personal heroes— AOC, Ayanna Presley, Kamala Harris, Tammy Duckworth, Michelle Obama— must be experiencing.
I’m seething because Trump voters KNEW what they were voting for. I’m so sick of people telling me, wide-eyed, “Well lots of good people just didn’t knowwww.”
I’m seething because I have let myself be drawn into stupid arguments on social media that were not useful.
I’m seething because I feel so helpless to help the people I love who are shaken after yesterday; who are exhausted; for whom it triggered everything and anything.
I’m seething because all this was avoidable. Maybe?
I’m seething because I can’t imagine how anyone could lead the US forward from here.
I am seething at the love and light crowd who want to meditate away everything happening in the world so they can go back to their safe little bubble of privilege.
I am seething at law enforcement.
I am seething for those who love someone in law enforcement and are gutted right now.
I am seething not just about yesterday— but that we let it get to that point. That it took THAT absurdity to make people uncomfortable with what is happening.
I am full of such tenderness toward some, and fiery rage at anyone who would hurt them.
In other words, I am a roiling, conflicted, human mess.
So I am just breathing. Letting my rage rise and fall. Letting my helplessness release so I can be available to be useful. Letting my grim cynicism just be.
Currently my anger doesn’t have much use. There is nowhere to march where I live, no human wall to form.
So I am walking my anger to the ocean. I am breathing into the trees. And I am asking, again and again, to be shown how to turn my fury into action.
I don’t know the answers yet.
I do know that blind fiery rage is more likely to burn down the village than keep its people warm.
So here’s what I’m going to do right now, this weekend.
I’m going to ground into my body, so that I am steady. I’m going to look away from the news for a few days, to reset my nervous system.
I’m going to do the useful things I know to do. From here, that means checking in with the people I love and sending money to the groups that do the work I want to be part of.
We had big chicken coop projects planned for this weekend, but instead I’m going to read. I’m going to watch stories, shows and movies, because they help me digest life and find meaning in it and remember that I don’t know all the stories everyone is living. I’m going to play piano, very badly. I’m going to clean up my house, because when my marching order arrive, I want to be ready to go.
Here’s what I’d suggest. Do one thing that you know to be useful. (Donate; take something to a lonely neighbor; support an artist; buy a book to make you wiser.) Then, just rest. It’s been a long hard year, and it’s only the first week of January. The last four years have been a long tough decade.
We’re in the midst of big transformation, and it’s always messy. Some things are ending; some things are being born; some things are resisting their own death, which is always most painful. This passage is a kind of metamorphosis, and we’re all both along for the ride and creating it as we go.
The most useful thing I heard this week was this quote, by Valarie Kauer, who is a filmmaker, civil rights lawyer, and activist:
“So the mother in me asks what if? What if this darkness is not the darkness of the tomb, but the darkness of the womb? What if our America is not dead but a country that is waiting to be born? What if the story of America is one long labor? What if all of our grandfathers and grandmothers are standing behind now, those who survived occupation and genocide, slavery and Jim Crow, detentions and political assault? What if they are whispering in our ears “You are brave”? What if this is our nation’s greatest transition?
What does the midwife tell us to do? Breathe. And then? Push. Because if we don’t push we will die. If we don’t push our nation will die. Tonight we will breathe. Tomorrow we will labor in love through love and your revolutionary love is the magic we will show our children.”
I don’t know how to pray. And I don’t know to do love right now.
But I know how to breathe. And I know how to push.
So take a breath, dearheart. We have plenty of work ahead.
Rest, when you can rest. Vow to be ready for everything else.