I said aloud in the last few days that I was looking forward to it all being over. I woke today to a world that feels more desperate than it did when I went to sleep. I thought there would be relief to just get past it. A break in the mounting tension would be good for us all; a moment to catch our breath and let the anxiety subside. This was all so ugly and vicious and diminished us all with its profanity and disgrace. Win, lose, or draw, surely it will all be better tomorrow, I thought. I was wrong. I woke up this morning and people around me feel worse. Before the sun was even up I encountered tears. Fears. Anguish. Panic. Where there was simply stress there is now outright sorrow. My community is in mourning.
I can soothe no one. I have no words of comfort. I can think of nothing to do about it yet the American spirit dictates that I am not permitted to do nothing about it. Being born American means you’re obligated to use your freedom. Being born an American woman means you’re obligated to honor the privilege of your birth and the legacy provided by generations women who shaped that privilege. Somewhere back in time there is also an immigrant who put me here; whose sacrifice and bravery consecrates my nationality. I don’t get the luxury of squandering that gift. I can’t just sit here in shock. It’s ungrateful. It’s dishonorable. It’s un-American.
But what I can do? I feel small in the shadow of this massive despair. It goes millions of people deep. What can I do that will really matter? What can I do that doesn’t feel traitorous to my accountability, my responsibility? I have no money. I have no power. I have no people. I have no platform. I can hold hands with keening women and hold space with gutted souls but surely I was given these divine convictions for some divine purpose beyond simply being a witness to tragedy. Was I not?
I took these questions and I went to my mat. I went to the silence and solitude of my practice. My breath and my heartbeat and solid ground beneath me. I searched within and waited for something constructive to form in the saline periphery of my awareness. The message I found:
It is critical that we make ourselves well. Right now.
Radical change is afoot. We need to make ourselves as well as possible to endure, transcend, outlast, facilitate–whatever our individual callings may be. We need to be prepared to answer those callings from a place of wellness. If you don’t know what to do, start with making yourself well. Right now, don’t wait. Don’t watch to see what happens. Get up and get busy getting well. Start—just start and then build momentum. No, it won’t solve everything right away and yes, it may feel like too little but nothing else we identify as an action or discover as an antidote will matter if we aren’t well enough to carry it out.
If you are one of the millions of Americans grieving, you need to make yourself well. If you are shocked, outraged, terrified, or heartbroken, you need to make yourself well. This is as basic a first step as first steps come. We’ve learned enough history to know what comes next. Some will protest. Some will fight. Some will run. Some will surrender. Some will join movements and begin plotting revolution. Some will catalyze their pain and anger, turn on each other, and make it worse. Some will pivot from this point of resolve, galvanize their evolutionary instincts, and make it better. For all of these things—for any of these things, you need to be well to be effective, or at the very least, survive.
Get yourself well because you’re going to need to be well to go on from here. That’s the message coming through to me in the wake of the day after; in the hush of concession. Get yourself well.
I’ve said for years that being well is a civic responsibility. I’ve challenged myself and the people around me with the notion that maintaining optimum health is a civic duty, not an option. People have called me a Communist for suggesting it but I believe it all the way to the bone. It’s an essential contribution to society on par with paying taxes, teaching our children good values, and protecting our liberties. Whatever we hope to do or undo as a nation, the minimum that we should require of ourselves as citizens is wellness. Now that we are inarguably sick, broken, scared, vulnerable and floundering it seems to me that getting ourselves well ought to at least rise to the level of common sense if it’s not going to be accepted as an aspect of patriotism.
I feel you out there. I do. I’m with you. My heart hurts too. I also don’t want to be told that everything is going to be okay. I know this is not okay. And yes, it’s probably going to get worse before it gets better. But I’m not absolved of my commitment to live up to my birthright and neither are you. Cry the tears you need to cry. Go ahead. You’ve earned it. This has been awful. Be sad. Be hurt. Be pissed. Feel all the feelings. Voice the fears that need to be confessed. Vent the frustrations. Throw the tantrums. Wallow. Fret. Pray. Take the time you need to get it out and get it acknowledged.
But then get off your ass.
Get real. This is shitty but it is not, in fact, the end of the world. The sun came up today. Maybe bad things are going to happen but meeting those things with bent heads and broken wills gives us little chance of being anything other than victims.
Get yourself together.
Start getting yourself well. Get yourself well enough to accomplish whatever comes next.
Maybe you’re like me—no money, no power, no people, no platform—all I’ve got is my words. I’ve got 26 letters to arrange and rearrange until they make sense. I’ve got an unconquerable desire to organize the world around me and within me with language and I can type. I can influence and inspire with words. I can first and foremost be well enough to do it, well enough to stand it, and I can put words into the Universe. I can do the work and I can write about the work. That’s what I can do today.
Whatever it is that you can do to supplement my contribution, the world surely needs it now more than ever. Get yourself well. And then get to it.