It kind of feels like 2016 is on fire.
At least, to me. I know that most of my friends have felt the same sort of heaviness of this year – and it’s a bizarre thing to think that seven months ago we were all looking forward to a year in which maybe everything would be better. Was it naive of us to think that things could get better?
I don’t know.
I don’t know.
I do know that right now, working in communications really sucks. Every time there’s another shooting, another attack, another mass murder, every communications professional in the world is trained to react to it not with heartsickness, but with calculation. We write the condolences and statements. We pen the thoughts and prayers sent out by public figures and companies. We organize the speeches and rallies led by social justice organizations. While the world is mourning, we are working.
But in 2016, aren’t we all communications professionals?
Aren’t we, with our curated news feeds and thoughtful Facebook posts, unconsciously marketing something? Don’t we all have agendas, well-intended as they may be?
Sometimes, I feel like I’ve forgotten how to mourn. Last week, I felt that way. I flipped through my Twitter feed, numb. In the early morning after the shooting in Dallas, I woke up to a text from my boyfriend that read, “Please be safe tomorrow,” and I rolled over and went back to sleep, because I knew that in a few hours, I would have to go to work and write another response for our organizational Facebook page. My roommate and I later had a conversation about how hard it’s become to grieve and heal when we’re surrounded by media-boosted atrocities slamming into us from all sides all the time.
We want to look away.
But we can’t.
And then we’re supposed to move on and be okay the next day.
But we’re not.
This Saturday morning, I woke up slowly.
I went into the kitchen. I made coffee. I stood at my window and stared, mug in hand, for a solid twenty minutes. Then I decided to make pancakes from scratch.
You guys, I made so many damn pancakes that I had to use two plates to hold them all. It didn’t even matter that I was the only one in my apartment. It was like something took over my hands, and suddenly their sole purpose was to pour and mix, grease and flip.
When the batter was gone, I sat down and stared at the stack of brown sugar pancakes on the table. I wasn’t even really hungry. I wonder if we all have a deeply human need to create something with our hands, especially when our minds are tired and our mouths are out of words. I wonder if in the middle of feeling voiceless, making can help us find purpose again. I wonder if that’s what my open-wound heart is searching for.
I tweeted today that my faith feels very small right now. I haven’t been writing a lot outside of my day job because I’ve felt like I have nothing to contribute to the conversations that are happening all around me. Nothing but sadness. If I don’t have anything more to say than that, I thought, it’s better to let someone with solutions fill the space I might have wasted with my sadness.
I invalidated my own voice long before I had the chance to figure out exactly how I felt. I suspect that many of you did, too.
So today, I want to have breakfast with you. It doesn’t matter that it’s 1PM. 2016 is on fire, and we’re doing the best we can. But if there’s anything I’ve learned from working where I do, it’s that secondary trauma is real, it happens when we witness terrible things online, and it’s made worse when we feel helpless to change them.
Self-care doesn’t mean shutting down empathy; sometimes it means holding hands and quietly feeling emotions together for a little while.
So I just want to ask you how you’re doing, because most people probably haven’t. I haven’t even asked myself.
Let’s sit over a stack of brown sugar pancakes in my empty apartment, and I’ll remind you that I love you. Because even though my faith feels small, I do have like twenty pancakes that I’m not going to eat alone. I can offer us that.
How are you doing, love?