How do we carry on just now?
How do those of us who have spent our lives worrying that the world is an awful place, and that hatred and injustice can’t be overcome, carry on?
How do those of us who have suffered vicarious trauma, and never really been able to feel happy because somewhere else in the world someone else is suffering, make sense of it all?
How do we teach our children that the world is a safe and secure place when it doesn’t feel like it is?
How do we feel ok in a world where people who lie and bully and hate are in charge and a beautiful man called George Floyd has been murdered and racism is still as bad, if not worse, than ever?
How do you show your face or speak up, if being white makes you feel existentially guilty?
Stop reading if you want. If these questions make you uncomfortable.
But if, like me you are asking these questions, carry on.
If, like me, this feeling isn’t new but you don’t know what to do with it, carry on.
People may tell you that you have mental health issues.
“You want to the world to be a place free of prejudice, violence and hate. You have mental health issues.”
“You speak the truth when others want to lie. You have mental health issues.”
“You try and live, as an adult, the life that you teach your children to want and know that they deserve. One of love, safety and joy. You have mental health issues.”
So if that is the case, I celebrate my “mental health issues”.
But I am also aware that this is a way of being that can sometimes lead to becoming overwhelmed.
That feeling the pain of the world in this way can become too much, exhausting, dangerous.
I know that just now we need not to forget about George Floyd, about racism, about what it is to be a person of colour in certain countries in 2020.
But I also know, and would remind you, that you and I have to self-regulate and that you must allow yourself to take care of yourself so that you can keep going on this long journey. That the visceral impatience and despair you feel is something you need to manage by taking care of your body and recognising when it needs a rest.
And that whenever any of us try to numb the pain of the world and switch it off for a while, we are trying to find a way of coping. Addiction is almost always an attempt to numb pain, whatever social class the addicted person is in.
You can’t change the world on your own right now. But you can keep doing your bit. Using your voice. Asking questions and challenging the status quo in a respectful way. Teaching the next generation by living and sharing love. Resolving to set an alarm each day at a time when you will spend half an hour doing something to protest/support/use your voice to share the voices of those who need to be heard/use your power and influence for good.
Taking care of yourself so that you can take care of others.
I wrote this a while back and it appears in my book but today, I need to keep reading it.
I hope it might help you too.
“Posted on June 5, 2017
A message to my younger self.
Bad things happen but you worrying about them won’t make them stop happening.
Nuclear weapons could and might wipe out the world. So shout your slogans and march your marches. Support those Greenham women and do your best to make Reagan and Gorbachev listen. But don’t let the fear take away your sleep. Don’t forget that the world is full of peace loving flower and rainbow children like you.
You were hurt by someone who should have known better. You did nothing wrong. You must feel no guilt or shame. And you must talk about what happened so that we can love and help you, soothe your pain and dry your tears.
The IRA has taken too many lives and needs to be stopped. But their actions are the actions of a misguided minority. You do not need to worry anxiously about your loved ones every minute of every day.
You are so loveable and you do not need to live in despair and pessimism. The world is a good place with bad moments, not the other way around.
Let’s repeat these words to the children of today, to suit their context, so that they may live in the light.”