I posted this picture to Instagram yesterday, with the caption “Feeling stuck.” There is so much to do, to say, to consider, to resist. Sometimes I feel completely frozen.
I know that part of it is the overwhelm of our current political situation, and in particular a leader who is amplifying the oppression of anyone who isn’t white, cisgender, or male in a culture that already leaned that way. This past week was especially disturbing — the speech he gave at the Boy Scout Jamboree, inciting violence against people of color during a speech to a group of police, and banning transgender individuals from serving “in any capacity” in the US armed forces for the same sort of reasons that used to be used to keep women out of the military.
And it’s not just that. People I love are suffering. People I hardly know but love anyway are having a tough time. We all suffer, and in our hurt and confusion, we lash out, in ways large and small. We can get so caught up in the confusion of trying to feel okay, clinging to what we want and rejecting what we don’t, that we don’t even see the suffering we are generating all the time.
Yesterday morning, I walked past a women’s clothing store in Old Town Fort Collins with a chalkboard outside that read, “A dress should be tight enough to show you are a woman, loose enough to show you are a lady.” One might think that’s completely innocent or even cute, but if you look at it closely, it’s so harmful, oppressive, and ugly. And this from women trying to sell other women clothing! Internalized oppression is tragic — not only does the harm come from external sources, but lives inside us too.
I tried to start this morning without the noise of the news. I took Austin Kleon and Susannah Conway‘s advice and didn’t check Facebook first thing when I got up. I meditated and wrote instead. It helped a little, but the world manages to creep in anyway.
I tried to determine if I felt depressed or sad, and remembered the quote from Gloria Steinem that Susan Piver has shared before, “When you are depressed, nothing matters. When you are sad, everything does.” So, sad it is. I once heard someone suggest that if you want to know who you are here to serve, just notice what breaks your heart and you will find your purpose — but what if all of it breaks your heart? And what if you want to help everyone, fix all of it, where do you even begin?
Meghan Tonjes posted a picture on Facebook earlier today, and the caption gave me some insight into another approach, “Instead of focusing on the things and people I can’t fix, help, save, love through or give any more to, I’ve filled the entirety of my days with what I can control.” This reframe seems helpful — when I feel stuck, overwhelmed, helpless, I can ask myself “what can I control?” I tend to take too much responsibility for whatever might be happening, even though I know intellectually that there are layers and layers of conditions and circumstances working together in ways that I can’t know, can’t understand, and most certainly can’t control.
And if these strategies fail, I’m going to stare at this picture Janelle Hanchett just posted of George, because George is one of the reasons to never give up.