Last night while sitting on the plane waiting to head back to the bay area, I checked into the news-- I hadn't really been online all weekend, except for instagram-- and heard about the shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh.
It is a weird, weird thing to be sending messages to friends with pictures of cosplay and congratulating each other's costumes, then switching over to Facebook and reading friends' heartbroken posts about their community, people they know, being actively attacked. There's an emotional whiplash. It feels wrong to feel joy while others feel so much pain.
I felt guilty, and I felt angry, and I felt tired. I'm tired of checking out from the world for a day or two, to do something fun or just for a needed self-care break, and the inevitable punch in the gut of catching up on the shitty things that happened while I wasn't paying attention, be it mass shootings or bomb threats or our govt pushing legislation that's intended to further harm marginalized lives etc etc etc. The never-ending barrage of scandals, shitty legislation, hateful quotes from our country's "leaders," it's all exhausting and demoralizing and draining.
While browsing an airport bookshop in Seattle and I saw a table of recently published nonfiction. There was a book about Trump and Putin, and right next to it was a book about finding joy in the small things in life and celebrating them. I don't know if that placement was intentional or not, but it struck me as significant and symbolic. We can't be solely focused on the horrible things happening. We need to also look for and embrace the joy that still exists around us.
This is what I'm striving for but struggling with... Knowing that it's ok, or even necessary, to feel joy amidst utter bullshit. To be ok feeling happy even while horrible things happen. And yes It's important to not turn a blind eye, to not turn away for too long, to still keep fighting against oppression and hatred and bigotry. There's a fine line, sometimes, (and that line is different for everyone) between escaping for self-care, and digging our head in the sand and ignoring reality because reality is too painful to bear. But perhaps the only way we can survive the pain is to embrace the joy when it comes. Maybe otherwise we just become puddles of despair, unable to cope with the horrors of the world let alone to do anything to change them.
I got home last night and read Laurie Penny's latest Patreon essay, and apparently she has impeccable timing because she said a lot of what I needed to read in that moment. Go to her Patreon and sign up to read her content, but the last paragraph of her essay goes like this:
"Simone Weil says that attention is a form of prayer. I think the key to making things while the world is on fire is to take as much as possible of the attention you currently give to the relentless catastrophe pageant - not all of it, but as much as possible - to give it to your own work, whatever it is. Attention is prayer. Do not pray at those dark altars. Work as if you lived in the early days of a better nation."Maybe taking part in an event that is unapologetically diverse and supportive of people of color and lgbtq+ people, is itself a form of resistance. I spent my weekend putting my attention and my money towards supporting the kind of world I want to see. Maybe that is one way to push back against a system that seeks to erase those populations. It's not enough, of course. It often feels like nothing is. But, it's one thing.
Check here for a list of ways to help the victims of the Pittsburgh shooting.