The people I love most are in excruciating pain and fear. Hate crimes are on the rise.
We are all stressed out to the max, and it means that it’s hard to carry on.
We want to act, but everything feels stupid and small and pointless.
It can feel so defeating.
You post something thoughtful on social media, and someone you used to love tells you that you’re breeding hate. You want to be an ally, but you just got yelled at on Huffington Post for the safety pin that you thought was showing solidarity. You try to listen to the other side, and your heart breaks but your brain remains confused. You gave money, but someone told you that giving money is a cop-out. You tried to volunteer, but then you remembered that the 6.7 seconds of free time in your week should probably be spent making food for the tiny humans who live in your house.
Last week I wrote about how true kindness is not the same thing as niceness. It is not being a doormat. True kindness is fierce enough to step in when someone needs help.
Hatefulness has been given a big fat permission slip, and it’s our job to keep our eyes open and say, “Oh hell no– not on our watch.”
It’s our job to step up and step in, even if we’re afraid of saying the wrong thing or being embarrassed or making things worse.
But what do you do if no one is being harassed within your peripheral vision? What if you can’t volunteer right now? What if you’re scared to pick up the phone? Does it mean you’re a failure? How do you be part of the Resistance when you’re still just scrambling to keep all the people in your house clothed and fed, and plus you feel like crying all the time, except that the fact that you feel like crying is just one more sign of your naivete and privilege?
You do what you can do.
If you have two hours to make calls, make calls.
If you have twenty minutes, set up a recurring donation to a helpful organization.
If you have two minutes before the hurricane walks in the door, take very deep breaths.
If you work with kids, talk to them and love them and help them be brave.
If you have a neighbor or coworker who’s scared, walk her to her car.
If you are experiencing flashbacks, fiercely tend to your own heart.
If you see someone in trouble, go help them, even if you’re afraid you won’t do it right.
We can only do what we can do.
But when you do those things, you get bigger.
And then you can do bigger things.
Stop beating yourself up for not being able to do bigger things, and get to work doing the things you can go ahead and do right now. (You’ll be amazed at how taking small actions will inexorably make you capable of bigger and braver actions. Especially as compared to wringing your hands. That, it turns out, is not very effective at all.)
I’ve been watching my amazing friends rise up with renewed vigor, even though they thought that they were just one last push away from the finish line.
It’s like a woman who’s in labor, and she finally pushes a baby out, only to be told that she’s actually carrying giant octuplets and it’s time to double down.
My friends are doing fantastic things, and I feel grateful– but also guilty.
They’re submitting their names to join the board of their local NARAL chapters. They’re planning marches. They’re listening deeply to try to understand people I’m too angry to look at. They’re creating digital pledges. They’re writing letters and making phone calls. They’re doing doing doing– and I feel like such a loser in comparison.
But I was on the phone with one of these amazing women, and she was saying how hindered she feels by the fact that the nature of her job (where she has the capacity to do immense good) means that she has to be very measured in the public comments she makes. Whereas I am under no such constraints at all and am free to shoot off my mouth any old time I please. So we agreed that she would join a local board, since she is in the US, and I would spill my very personal life all over the internet, since I am free to do that, and we would both strive to do everything we could do from right where we stand instead of beating ourselves up for not standing somewhere different.
Wherever you are, do the best thing you know how to do right now, right there.
Someone will tell you it’s not enough; so be it.
Someone will tell you that you’re doing it wrong; so be it.
Someone will tell you you’re being hateful; so be it.
Someone will tell you you’re not spiritually evolved enough to see the gift in this; you have my permission to go aaaaallllll Joe Biden on them.
Someone will tell you you’re complacent and late to the party. Tell them they might be right, but you’re here now and you’re not going away.
There is a great frenzy of energy at this present moment.
That’s not a bad thing.
But we are here for the long fight. We are readying ourselves for a lifetime of solid action, not just a brief reactive emotional response that flames right out again. That means taking care of yourself. It means healing old wounds so you can show up your strongest, most whole self. It means equipping yourself with the tools you need. It means resting when you are exhausted. It means tuning in, and it sometimes means tuning out. It means looking at the world right in front of you and showing up with all the fierce kindness you have inside you. It will start with kindness for yourself, but it certainly won’t end there.
Want to be brave? Start with what’s in front of you.