Throughout the month, I jot down ideas for my BK Love Letter essay. I look for inspiration everywhere because it can be found in the tiniest of things and simplest of moments. According to the dictionary “to inspire” means to “fill (someone) with the urge or ability to do or feel something, especially to do something creative.” I scribble down notes throughout the day, wherever I go, so I don’t forget the little things. I’ve taken notes about good times I’ve shared with special people; some aha moments I have had during my recent therapy sessions; the joy of having Aidan back home after his first year of college, in which he shined, shined, shined; the medicine that I’ve found live music to be, at Cormac’s concerts and the shows we’ve attended; and, the many great restaurants at which I’ve had the pleasure of dining with great company in recent weeks. But then on May 14, 2022, there was a racially motivated mass shooting in a Buffalo, NY grocery store that left ten Black people dead, followed by a second horrific mass shooting on May 24, 2022, at a mostly Latino elementary school in Uvalde, Texas that left nineteen children and two teachers dead. For those of us who are governed by love, compassion, and empathy for humanity, these actions have broken our hearts, our collective hearts. Now I find that none of the notes that I’ve jotted down, none of those magical little moments are inspiring me to write anything light, funny, or uplifting because my heart is heavy, and I am not okay.
You’ve probably heard me say this before, if we know each other in real life or if you follow me on Instagram, or you may have read it in a past essay that I’ve written - It is okay to not be okay. In my reflections of events of the past two weeks, I’ve come to realize that even that sentiment does not truly capture what I am feeling right now. Not only do I think that it is okay to not be okay, but I don’t think that we should be okay. I think that being okay, in this moment, would be an insult to the thirty-one people who died in those two gun-related, violent incidents, to the others who were injured on those days, to those who were traumatized by witnessing and surviving those atrocities either as bystanders or rescuers and to the love ones, the family members, friends, colleagues and communities of the victims. And if we are to truly consider all the ways in which all of us are connected, if we actually allow ourselves to be fully aware of our collective humanity, then we would have to see how we are all impacted by these tragedies. We would then have to acknowledge that those ten murdered Black people were all of US or someone we know and love, and those nineteen children were OUR children and each of our responsibility. And, those teachers were the teachers that we far too often criticize and barely pay a living wage, and yet expect them to supervise our children and prepare them for life and careers for six to eight hours a day, five days a week, nine months a year for most of their childhood and young adulthood.
I cannot be okay with talking to you about notebooks and pens right now because my heart aches. It is an actual physical ache. It is an ache for all of us, an ache for humanity. When I am not engaging with my sons, friends, colleagues, or students, I find myself most needing to be silent, so as to feel and respect the full impact of that ache. At first, I thought how depressing, how sad, how bleak, but I think it is necessary to acknowledge the importance of all that has happened and is happening, and to understand the very real necessity for collective action instead of acceptance and complacency. This feeling is not dark, in that it is hopeless, but rather, it is an urging and driving catalyst, the force that is needed to move us forward, to make us, as human beings, want more and need more and to do something to create a better world. This adversity is what makes hope necessary and also feeds our creativity, so that we can find solutions and evolve. With that said, it is more than just okay to not be okay, it is imperative for us to not be okay and to sit with our discomfort.
Our discomfort, just like our anger, is something that we’ve been designed to feel because it is part of our evolutionary process, necessary for our growth and survival as a species. If and when we feel comfortable, we do nothing because we are good and safe in that static state. When we are uncomfortable, we know that we need to facilitate change of some sort, so that we can return to a state in which we feel comfortable, but not in a temporary way, but a long-term way. We are uncomfortable when we are unsafe. And so, while an essay about notebooks and pens, and I just use that as an example, might be distracting or provide some sort of entertainment that might make you feel temporarily happy, it will not change the energy for any sustainable period of time because it will not move humanity forward, and that is what we need. We need action and we need change.
I believe that distractions have made it harder for us to hear our inner voices, to pay attention to patterns and human needs, to create lasting connections to one another, to honor the grief that we need to experience to make our adversities meaningful, and to be deeply grateful for the good moments in between that nourish our hope. This is where silence and reflection and writing become necessary to me. For me, writing is organized thought, it is thinking made tangible. It is how I deeply engage with my observations about the world around me. And so, I do not only “journal” or write about my life, my internal world, in fact, right now that is the least of the writing that I do. Instead, I write about the observations I make about the things around me, the external world, so that it becomes a part of who I am, making love, understanding, compassion, and ACTION possible. What is writing to you, my friend?
While I realize the tone of this essay might be different than my previous essays, I hope that you can appreciate the appropriateness of a more somber tone and this message, as you consider what role(s) you might play in helping to push the wheels of progress, so that we can continue to hope and harness our collective power to make this a better world for all of us.