How are you doing?
I mean, really. How are you really doing?
It’s been a few minutes since I’ve shown up here because…
I just haven’t had any words. Chuck Wendig had some recently that resonated: “…I suspect that anybody with one iota of empathy and a few braincells banging together will likely feel caught in a miasma of anxiety and depression, either bearing the brunt of it and smashing themselves like a soup can in a car crusher, or they’re disassociating so heavily that they feel disconnected from everything that makes them want to write stories or make stuff in the first place.”
I haven’t feel “caught in a miasma of anxiety and depression,” but feeling disconnected from everything that makes me want to write–that struck home. Which might mean that I have, actually, been caught in a miasma of anxiety and depression and just haven’t really acknowledged it. Because I have maybe been in the numb stages of it.
I started to write a post about abortion and the overturning of Roe, but it felt pointless. My words aren’t going to change the trajectory of the train barreling toward us, are they? And what can I have to say about it that really matters, anyway? Especially here, where the only people reading are likely those who already feel much as I do?
I have been working to adjust, again, to my changed and changing understanding of our shared reality. I have been trying to figure out how to respond to it, how to be in it. Remembering my responses in the face of Trump’s campaign and election, I cringed at my naivety, my lack of understanding about our country and how it works and has always worked. My lack of understanding of people. I abandoned the post, not wanting to make meaningless gestures or participate in actions that don’t actually do anything or write something that will make me cringe five years from now.
No other words, about anything, came forth.
Wendig’s arguments for writing got me to take another go at the abortion post, but I ended up letting another Sunday pass without sharing it. The words weren’t right, and besides, putting my words out in the world felt akin to spitting in the wind.
(All I have felt like doing is sheltering from the wind.)
I once believed, to my core, that the sharing of stories can be life-saving–that it was stories that saved mine, that of a lonely, often sad girl who had no idea why she felt the way she felt or what to do about it until she read and heard the stories of others like her and of others unlike her who provided models and hope. Story is the thread connecting the pieces of my life’s work, and my faith in their power is fundamental to the reasons I became an English teacher, a librarian, and a writer.
(I’m no longer an English teacher or librarian and I long ago abandoned being a traditionally published writer. I suppose there’s a story there.)
These past weeks, though, I haven’t been able to help wondering if such ideas about storytelling are frivolous, indulgent, wrong, and perhaps harmful. Are they ideas for a different kind of time? Do they keep us from doing other work that more directly saves lives, or keep us from seeing how things actually are? Are they just ideas that people like me like to believe in so that we can justify and feel OK about what we do (and don’t do)? What if they are just something we tell ourselves to feel better about dire circumstances, to feel some sense of power, to keep hope alive–and the feelings, power, and hope are false?
A few days ago, I shared my wonderings with a friend, who gave me these words in return: “(My daughter) asked what she could do and I reminded her that a load is always lighter when carried by lots of hands. Your post might not feel like you are lifting enough but your words are bearing part of that load. It all matters and we all have different strengths. This is a time for us to dig deep and use our superpowers!”
I had to sit with that for a bit.
For awhile, my self-deprecating bio on Instagram was: “I write things that make people cry. Not the superpower I asked for.”
There is so much I don’t know, but I’m pretty sure the answer to most of my questions (always) is Yes, and.
Yes, sharing our stories matters, and there are other things we need to do as well. (What are they? I’m not sure. I’m working on figuring that out. Letting go of thinking that any individual actions are going to stop the train is surely one of them.)
Yes, stories can be harmful, and they can also save us.
Here, I think, is what I do know: Truth is what saves us, and stories are a powerful way of truth-telling.
Isn’t it, perhaps, reason enough to tell a story if it does nothing more than help us know we are not alone in a terrible truth–so that we can know that what we are experiencing is both terrible and true and not specific to us alone? So we can counter the forces constantly working to gaslight us? How much of where we find ourselves now stems from the spreading of stories that are lies? Aren’t hope and community and good feeling grounded in truth necessary for all the other work that needs to happen now? Storytelling alone isn’t enough, but storytelling as a foundation for other action–that might be just what is needed right now.
Perhaps it is more important now than ever to throw our stories to the wind (even if our wind is just a tiny breeze, nothing more than Krista Tippett’s “quiet conversations at a very human, granular level”). Out in the world–in the ears, hearts, and minds of others–don’t they have some chance of doing good? They do nothing if they remain in our heads or our drafts folders, where they can provide no comfort, connection, or hope to anyone else.
I’ll share the abortion post next, most likely. It’s still not ready. Or I’m not ready. (And that’s OK, too. Probably.) But soon, most likely. In the meantime, I’ve linked to other stories below that feel worth sharing–stories that contain both hard truth and hope. (Maybe there’s more than one way to be a librarian?)
Take care of yourself, and if you feel so inclined, please do tell me how you’re doing, what your story of the past few weeks has been.
(This is me enduring/recovering from a wicked afternoon headache the other day–which is a fuller, truer story than the one I shared on Instagram with this image. Hope you are all finding ways to take care of yourselves.)
Dots (connecting them is encouraged)
Christian nationalists are excited about what comes next (“Breaking American democracy isn’t an unintended side effect of Christian nationalism. It is the point of the project.”)
I’m a Christian pastor. Evangelicals have to be defeated in 2022 (“I’ve been a kind of undercover Liberal in an increasingly extremist movement, that while once relegated to minor fringe noisemakers is now at the precipice of Roman Empire-level power. They are less than two years away from having a dominance that they will wield violently and not relinquish.)
Attorney General Merrick B. Garland statement on Supreme Court ruling… (“The Supreme Court has eliminated an established right that has been an essential component of women’s liberty for half a century – a right that has safeguarded women’s ability to participate fully and equally in society. And in renouncing this fundamental right, which it had repeatedly recognized and reaffirmed, the Court has upended the doctrine of stare decisis, a key pillar of the rule of law.”)
What to do when the world is ending via Jill Seeger Salahub’s excellent Something Good, which she shares every Monday (“But while there are some things about this moment that feel unique, I remind myself that the experience of the world ending is not new. Whether due to a prophecy or a very real looming threat, many of our ancestors also likely felt that the world was ending. And in many cases their worlds did end… . Facing loss, despair, uncertainty, and death is as much a part of the human experience as anything else.”)
Sometimes writing is a place to put all your rage, sorrow, and even joy (“And readers may find what you put there useful in the same, or almost the same, way. They too have things to unpack and unravel and examine. And sometimes they just don’t want to feel alone. The story is a signal to them, an echo they hear that reminds them that they are not the only ones feeling this way.”)
Krista Tippett wants you to see all the hope that’s being hidden (“I see the disarray. I see the broken power structures. I see the damage and the pain. I also see people tending to that. At the heart of some of these national-level or community-level conflicts, there is space to move below the radar and start stitching together relationships and quiet conversations at a very human, granular level. We’re going to work on quiet conversations that will not be publicized. That feels to me like a power move in this world.”)
Heather Cox Richardson’s Letters from an American, July 8, 2022 (“Today, Biden reached for the power embodied by the Fourteenth Amendment for the federal government to overrule state laws discriminating against citizens within their borders. But he also echoed the electoral fight to put that amendment in place when he told Americans: ‘We need two additional pro-choice senators and a pro-choice House to codify Roe as federal law. Your vote can make that a reality. I know it’s frustrating, and it made a lot of people very angry. But the truth is this…. [The] women of America can determine the outcome of this issue.'”)