Recognizing that everything is terrible.

Summit School student, 1935
Summit School student, 1935 flickr photo by Seattle Municipal Archives shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

This has been a long, traumatic year for everybody.

The pandemic, the reckoning for centuries of racial violence and oppression, the global economic collapse, neo-fascism, the unfolding climate collapse, and the building sense of isolation and despair. (Or maybe it’s just me.)

This week has been overwhelming with these compounding stressors here in the United States. Many families are still without childcare. Parents (mostly mothers) are trying to help their kids go to school remotely while also trying to work and hold the household together. That is if they are fortunate enough to still have a job. So many have lost their jobs or had hours reduced, but still have to pay rent or a mortgage. Business are going under. People are hungry. That’s aside from the the fact that COVID-19 is continuing to spread throughout communities, with thousands getting sick and dying every day. The level of tragedy is staggering.

So as the pressures we face continue to pile on us, it’s important to recognize how powerless we are as individuals. I feel fatigued from trying to carry on during a pandemic, where everything is uncertain. The grace and emotional labor I could carry in March is waning due to fatigue, but also the normalization of working through deeply traumatic times. I hate it. I hate knowing that my fear about my personal situation echo so many others.

This week I felt my own anxieties and worries come to a head — with news of the campus budget coming out, impending furloughs, discussions of our upcoming academic review cycle for librarians (how do you review somebody’s work during a prolonged global catastrophe?), not being able to see family for the holidays (a blessing and a curse) — and it hurts. But what hurts more is seeing the fears of anxieties of others — my friends, family, colleagues, union siblings, neighbors, basically all other humans — and feeling some of their pain. It’s overwhelming. We’re all collectively overwhelmed.

The thing that I sit with, other than everything really is terrible and we’re all freaking out to various degrees, is that there isn’t much we can do about it. I can listen and I can empathize, but I can’t fix anything. The people who can fix things won’t, and so we keep looking around and pointing the finger and hoping for something to change and it won’t. I’m not writing this to despair or say there’s no hope. I’m writing this to recognize and affirm that this is a dark and chaotic time, and that we all have understandable free floating trauma and pain that will be hard to remedy. I refuse to normalize this pain. To pretend business as usual will work. It hurts to say that because I love actionable solutions, but it’s good to remember that we’re all in this together and this is bad.

So I’m going to continue to feel the weight of this year on my shoulders and the hell continues to unfold, be thankful for my good fortunes, and try to help others. I just wish everybody else could remember to carry empathy and grace with them throughout their actions.

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