Wednesday, December 30, 2020

feeling complexity

 One of the most important lessons I've learned, and that I have tried to teach my children, is that you get to feel your feels. Our shared experience of the cycles of grief since their father died seven and a half years ago has been one of sadness and fear and anxiety and concern and anger. Those are the expected feelings for people experiencing tragedy and loss. 

But our experience has also been joy and wonder and laughter and love. 


This is, I think, a lesson that bears repeating, and even shouting, right now as we come to the end of 2020.

This year has been one tragedy after another. The world has battled a pandemic caused by a novel virus with no cure and little effective treatment. Fascism has reared its ugly head in the US and elsewhere. The systemic violence of white supremacy has shattered the lives of more Black folks, Indigenous Americans, and other people of color. Unemployment and precarious employment have destabilized our lives, threatening access to health care, to housing, and to food. Natural disasters have ripped through communities. Some threads of commentary on social media hold that despair is the only possible response. 

Certainly, 2020 has been a year of mourning and lamentation. Fear, anxiety, sadness, anger--all of these are valid responses. It feels like just surviving this year is an accomplishment akin to running a tough mudder. As we arrive at the end, we bear the visible marks of our endurance. 

These are, however, not the only valid responses to the year.  

Even as the world has borne trauma after tragedy after trauma after tragedy, people have gotten married, babies have been born, relationships have been strengthened, birthdays have come, personal milestones have been reached. It might feel strange to celebrate during a shit year for the world. Some might say it's a bit like fiddling while Rome burns. 

Let me tell you, though, you deserve to celebrate your wins. You deserve to feel joy. You deserve to smile and laugh. Marriages are sacred, birth and birthdays are magic, relationships and milestones are hard won. Whatever your feelings are, take the time to feel them without shame or judgement. Then, and only then, reflect on the actions you can take to make 2021 a better year for you, for your community, and for the world. 

It's difficult, I know. Americans are, on the whole, terrible at nuance and complexity. But I believe in your ability to feel two things at the same time. 

The pandemic caused by the novel coronavirus, the epidemic of violence caused by white supremacy, and the wave of storms and fires caused by global climate change are awful. We must acknowledge these realities, and we must commit to taking action to change these things. At the same time, though, we can celebrate our lucky wins and our hard-fought ones. 

When you share cake with your household on your birthday, you also know that thousands of Americans will die that day. When you toast your personal milestone with special treats, you also know that some people in your community will be going to bed hungry. When you congratulate newlyweds, you also think of the newly widowed. Don't shy away from the contradictions. 

As you reflect on 2020, if your year has been pretty good on the whole, if you have your health and your investment portfolio and your job, given thanks. Then, examine the luck and privilege that play a role alongside your hard work and look for ways to increase your giving to the established organizations in your community that are helping those who haven't had your luck and privilege. Be grateful for the joy you have and use that energy to work for the change your particular community needs. 

In 2021, resolve to feel all your feels, including the complicated, bittersweet, contradictory ones; and resolve to let those around you feel all their feels, too. 

1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much for this posting, Kate. Wonderful to hear your voice. Thank you for these wise, carefully chosen words. Miss you!