I used to be fun.
Fun, like silly and laughy. Kind of an entertainer.
I don’t think I’m that fun currently. That’s a hard statement for me to write , actually, because I feel like a large part of my identity has hinged on being happy and funny and joyful. In the last several months, I’ve felt myself sinking. I am like a little black cloud that will come into your conversation and shut it down with a discussion about the horrific affects of racism or sexism; with depressing facts about immigration and human rights abuses. (And if you ask me how parenting has been, I’ll give you the Truth.)
I’m a 1 on the Enneagram. If you aren’t well-versed with that, the only thing you need to know for the purposes of this blog is that I’m a perfectionist who externalizes her perfectionism. As in, I don’t necessarily beat myself up when things aren’t perfect; I look at the broken, disastrous world that we live in and feel a deep, primal need to fix it. Now that I’ve seen it, I cannot look away.
I carry the weight of the world on my shoulders and it is crushing me.
It is crushing me.
Within the past week, I’ve started to wonder if I’m actually depressed. Several people remarked that my performance this year in our goth-themed awkward family photos (see them here) was so spot on, it was almost scary.
I don’t think goth nihilism is much of a stretch for me, right now. Maybe I should start wearing black lipstick and eyeliner. I kept the fingernail polish, which is chipping now and feels strangely apropos (and it also creeps the bejesus out of The Kid, which I will admit, does give me a teeny-tiny bit of joy).
We live in a screwed up world that is terrible. Everything is a dumpster fire. It is a never-ending, relentless onslaught of shitty policies and horrific practices. Everywhere you look there is carnage and mayhem and oppression.
I am really, really sad. I go to bed at night with the images of screaming, traumatized children seared into my consciousness. I wake up in the morning thinking about my formerly incarcerated friends who struggle and hustle to find dignity in a world that shits on them. I wash dishes and think about inequality in education and how that will affect my son and the children of my adult ESL students and my neighbors of color. I fold laundry and think about sexism and rape and toxic masculinity and female objectification. Even in my personal life, there are days where I see nothing but bottles and feeding and diaper and therapies and doctor’s appointments and teenage angst. If you see me sitting quietly, thinking about something, I can almost guarantee you I’m thinking about some new injustice that just cropped up in my mind.
It is crushing me.
And I can’t just, “Let it go” or “Not care” because the perfectionist in me sees that it isn’t fixed yet. Also, good people care about other people. So if I let it go, then all of those people that are affected by the shit are left on their own to fix it. If I let it go, I abandon them. I cannot abandon them. I cannot “Tra-la-la! Nothing to see here!” my way out of this predicament. I will not stick my head in the sand and pretend everything is fine.
However, I think I’ve probably taken this idea too far, to it’s extreme, because it currently almost feels sacrilegious to feel joy. How can I laugh when my country, my state, is perpetrating horrific human rights abuses against humans? How can I enjoy a moment when someone else is being stripped of their dignity?
I used to be fun.
Now, humor feels like a betrayal to all who are suffering.
I’ve thought alot about this recently. I know that it’s silly. I don’t want to be crushed. Crushed people can’t change things. Crushed people can’t do much of anything. Crushed people wallow and give their power away to the oppressors. Little black clouds don’t have friends or family that want to be around them. Little black clouds don’t really want to be around themselves. People who are crushed let oppression win.
Enter two very powerful women:
Sarah Bessey has a blog that she wrote about joy as resistance.
Nadia Bolz-Weber had a very short sermon on joy as resistance.
Joy as resistance isn’t new. Many marginalized people already do this. They’ve been doing it for a long, long time. It’s a survival thing. They might not do it well all the time (and it stinks that they’ve had to do it), but they’ve had the chance to practice joy as resistance far longer than I have.
Enduring the vitriol of individual supremacists who want to see me and people like me dead exhausts me just as much as enduring the systems of supremacy and institutionalized oppression that I encounter daily. I choose to be fully human in resistance to the constant invalidations of my humanity. I choose to exhibit a full range of emotions in a world that wants to make black women two dimensional. I choose joy because I’ve been told all black girls get is pain. – Brittany Packnett
As someone who is new to the language and understanding of oppression, I’ve found that I’m not practiced enough to understand how to hold struggle and joy in tension. How do we balance fighting oppression and all of the terrible things that are in the world and not let them crush us?
I don’t know but I have some ideas.
- Go to counseling. Check. Already in process. Love it. Wish every single person in this entire world could have a counselor.
- Be honest and ask for help, despite my black cloud status. Truthfully, it has been hard to reach out to people precisely because I’m wary of shitting on people’s good moods. I don’t want to burden anyone else, family included, with the weight that I carry.
But you know what?
What is community, if not a way for us to carry each other’s burdens- literally shouldering some of the weight for those that we love? My friends and my family can handle my big feelings, my sad thoughts. I’m certainly trying to do it for others. My friends and my family would do so because they love me. I can’t carry the whole world by myself and I refuse to buy into the lie that I have to anymore.
3. Practice rest. My Jewish friend told me that when she practices the Sabbath, she remembers that the world keeps spinning without her. It doesn’t all fall to pieces because she takes a break from it.
Geez, there is such wisdom in that. In my head, I know that worrying endlessly doesn’t really solve much but my perfectionist heart has a hard time letting go. So, I’m going to take periodic breaks from social media.
4. Be present and celebrate the small things. I will resist the urge to make EVERYTHING so serious and life and death. I will try to find a way to celebrate your pregnancy or your engagement- truly celebrate it, not give you a sad smile. I will try to find a way to be present in the lives of my kids, not lost in a labyrinth of dark thoughts about the depressing state of things.
More importantly, I will try to view this joy, this small, brief rest from carrying the weight of the world, as resistance and not weakness.
In an effort to include you, my readers, in my joy as resistance, I commit to blogging about something stupid or funny or uplifting every other blog for the foreseeable future. I will remind us that community and laughter and brightness are not a betrayal; they are not abandonment of the hurting; they are a resistance to the forces and people that are trying to crush us. We need each other.
Our joy is resistance.
Love always, Beth
Love you Beth! Thanks for sharing, I really needed to hear this. Been feeling crushed myself between kids health issues, my own stuff and all of the injustice I see in our world. Thanks for the reminder to be joyful as we work forward.
I feel like parenting alone could crush anyone. It’s ROUGH!
Your comments reach right to the heart. Whenever I feel crushed or in a black mood, I start looking outside myself and try to DO one nice thing for someone else. It sounds simplistic but it allows me to feel in control in a positive way. It may not change the world but it changes me for a time and allows me to breathe. Love you. Mom
That’s good advice, mom.
Firstly, I’ve been reading your blog for a long time. I love it! You are so honest and thought provoking.
I also love what your Jewish friend said and want to encourage you further in that. I am also very much a perfectionist and worry about the plight of the world, but God deeply humbled me when I taught in Irving in a Title 1 school with many, many injustices. He reminded me that I am not Him. Has he given me a voice and money and all that I have to help those in need? YES! But ultimately it is not me that can save them from all their troubles. I am not that powerful. And to think that I am is placing God in a box that looks like mine.
Like you, when I was humbled, I kept picking it back up and worrying that I wasn’t doing enough or worried about what was going on that I couldn’t fix and being so at war with the feelings or humility and lack of power. But God reminded me of 2 Corinthians 10: “I, Paul, myself entreat you, by the meekness and gentleness of Christ—I who am humble when face to face with you, but bold toward you when I am away!— I beg of you that when I am present I may not have to show boldness with such confidence as I count on showing against some who suspect us of walking according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete.”
For me, that passage was a reminder that I was fighting a spiritual war more than anything and what I needed to DO was pray to a God much bigger and more powerful than little ole me. After all, what was one teeny tiny 22 year old high school math teacher going to do? Absolutely nothing without God’s power.
When the thoughts came up that I could take over this or that, I took those thoughts captive to the power of Christ and asked Him what HE wanted my role to be.
I didn’t do anything news worthy or that many people would recognise as exceptional, but I loved those kids with all of my heart and gave my best according to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. And you know what!? It was so freeing! And I could visibly see the Spirit at work for the first time.
I don’t know if that is just rambling to you, but I felt like God put it on my heart to share with you.
Keep writing! I love it whether rain or shine.
Thanks, Marissa. I appreciate that. I think partially my struggle has been trying to understand how spiritual warfare and activism to change things go hand in hand and how to hold those things in tension. Jesus didn’t just pray- he reached out, leaned into suffering, alleviated suffering. But he also rested and shared dinner and had friends. I’m struggling to find that balance.
I’ve really learned alot from my Black friends who are politically engaged. They seem to be able to balance that tension between joy and suffering better. I really loved what Nadia Bolz-Weber had to say in the sermon I linked to above. She’s pretty profound.
Anyway, thanks for the encouragement! I really appreciate it.
You’re a bright spot in my world, even in your painful moments. I hope you can experience real rest soon. Let me come over sometime so Coralie and Aiden can play beside each other (let’s face it, toddlers don’t really play together, ha). Caleb can help me cook something for dinner while you take a break!
Thanks, Brookie. It would be great to see you! C is actually doing a summer camp at the elementary school by your house in July so maybe Aidan and I could come hang.
Seriously, fuck that though.
If your friends can’t handle your grief, they’re not friends.
Love you, Bum!
They can. Sometimes, I feel like I have to be strong all the time and that’s a big ole fat lie.
You probably already know it, but ‘being strong” and “being aware of” are different.
My perfectionism sometimes blurs that line.