I ’ve been having a hard time finding the words this month. Words give shape and meaning to my experience and create a bridge from my internal world to my external world. The recent turmoil has left me searching for the words I want to say.
On the morning after the results from the election came out, I arrived to work feeling fragile and raw. One patient was in shock and disbelief and asked for some words, “a sentence or two”, to help navigate the difficult news. I searched my mind, but what welled up inside had no words, just waves of grief and emotion. Throughout the day, there were a lot of tears shed between my patients and I.
In the days following, I put all my energy towards showing up. It was very difficult, but it is my medicine to show up as I am. I’ve traveled from grief to rage to cynicism to despair to exhaustion. In these states, I focused on putting one foot in front of the other without denying or acting out my feelings. I sat with my patients and listened. I saw my emotions reflected back at me through the tears, the disillusionment, the anger, the fear, the hopelessness.
Many people were compelled to leap into action, organize, protest, strategize. Others found it hard to get out of bed and felt guilty for feeling defeated. We live in a culture that is fixated on action and doing. The desire to fix something and do something is so reflexive in us, that we barely feel the edges of discomfort before we are off to find solutions. It is not so easy to sit with confusion or fear or pain or despair and not impulsively shut it down, run away from it, hide it or do something about it.
We think that through action we can put out into the world peace, justice and wholeness despite feelings of anger, fear and disconnection. We fail to see the impossibility of the situation, that we cannot give what we do not have.
We can’t wallow and let hatred take over the world. What is to be done?!” When I’ve been asked these questions, I can feel the fear and the anger behind the insistence on action. And I think it’s best to pause. And that pause, that willingness to acknowledge and sit with the discomfort of our own fears is the best “action.” Because in that pause, we’ve refrained from putting more fear and anger into the world and then perhaps there is a space for true healing to take place. Healing takes into account the whole picture, the shadow and the light and integrates and connects into our personal and collective beingness. It takes intentional presence and patience to acknowledge all the disconnected parts and to allow the healing process its due course.
The healing process may not look like what we pictured. It may look like tears and confusion and anger. It may feel like pain and despair. It may be without energy or words. But in our willingness to be compassionate with it, to acknowledge and affirm our own suffering, we are affirming ourselves. We are giving ourselves the love, the patience, the confidence, the wholeness that we want to see in the world. When we can give that to ourselves, then it becomes a true and natural extension to others.
My gratitude is extended to you, my community, for showing up for me, for doing the work of healing with me, for sharing in the collective grieving that acknowledges our wholeness and our resilience. May we continue together on this path of healing and may we meet any form of anger and fear with compassion for ourselves and for one another. And if in our grief, we find no compassion, may we walk away, seek help and care for ourselves until once again our strength returns and we can give and receive love and healing.
Heal Yourself, Heal Your Community.