I’m not accustomed to feeling utterly overwhelmed by the ills of the world. Rather, I’m pretty well practiced at keeping a sense of perspective that allows me to function, even as I sense the despair of injustices, as I strive to do my part in addressing that which demands my attention. Of course, I’m also undeniably lucky that so many of those injustices don’t threaten my bodily safety or my livelihood. I have the privilege of examining them from a relative distance, no matter how deeply I care for those directly affected.
So it’s been strange for me to notice a pervasive sadness in myself recently. There’s so much heartbreak and bigotry and injustice that I feel incapacitated, not knowing where to turn. In my professional role, do I address the outrageous unfairness of the ongoing government shutdown? Or the immorality of the proposed border wall? Or the discrimination against transgender military personnel? Or the mistreatment of transgender kids in our school system? Or the obscene misuse of privilege by well-resourced white families to spin a news cycle in their favor? Or the gajillion other things that are also worthy of my attention?
It’s tempting simply to refuse to look at the news or social media. To stay isolated, to look only at what’s directly in front of me, to protect my own sense of “innocence”.
But my faith, my sense of connection and commitment to our collective well-being, will not allow me to do that.
For now, for a few (more) moments, I’m going to allow myself to feel the sadness. And I’m going to continue to talk with trusted companions — colleagues, friends, fellow staff & UUCC members, family, therapist — and remember that I’m not alone in navigating the way forward. To the extent that I have power to change things in myself, I refuse to remain stuck in an incapacitating sadness.
I will try to embody the wisdom of poet Wendell Berry’s The Peace of Wild Things —
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
And I will keep reading things that spark joy, like this tribute to Mary Oliver (“This is not the Mary Oliver memorialized by the masses.”) and the young adult novel I’m enjoying very much (The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy, by Mackenzi Lee).
I hope you, too, are finding things that spark joy, and that you are nourished and invigorated as we navigate the way forward, together.