Whatever you’re feeling is OK, and the work you do is important


sand-937387_960_720 (1)Hi everyone. It’s been a tough week, as you probably have experienced. I’ve been thinking of Philando Castile, Alton Sterling, the police officers in Dallas, and all their friends and families. I’ve also been thinking of the hundreds of innocent people killed by bombings in Baghdad and Bangladesh and other places, and the desperate refugees drowned trying to escape war and poverty. Between the horrific videos, the fights on social media, and our own sense of sadness, anger, and helplessness, it just seems that all our strength and efforts just are not sufficient. The tide of injustice is too strong for us to swim in.

I’ve been dreading writing this week’s blog post. Mainly because I have no idea what to say that won’t sound trite. And also, I just wanted to spend some time with my family, feeling once again just how fragile everything is. So, I don’t have any analyses or potential solutions to offer this week; I am not even sure if the rest of this post is going to be coherent. I just want to reaffirm, to you but mainly to myself, that whatever you’re feeling is OK, that the world is not as awful as it seems, and that the work we do is important.

The events of the past few days are horrific, and many of us get into this line of work because we are empathetic by nature. That means that often we will feel things acutely and also absorb others’ emotions like a sponge. In light of all this, we should take a moment to acknowledge:

  • If you’ve been feeling angry, sad, or helpless, all your feelings are valid, and you’re not alone.
  • If you want to do something, but you have no clue what, and you feel like crap, you’re definitely not alone.
  • If you don’t even know what to feel, and you’re just numb or confused, that’s valid too, and you’re not alone.
  • If you’ve been watching the videos obsessively, losing hope in the world, your feelings are valid, and you’re not alone.
  • If you don’t want to watch the videos at all, maybe because you don’t think you can handle it, your feelings are valid, and you’re not alone.
  • If you’ve been frustrated by the lack of civility and thoughtfulness as people talk about these heavy and complex topics, you’re not alone
  • If you want to say something, but you’re afraid it may be taken the wrong way, you’re not alone
  • If you don’t know how to comfort your colleagues, it’s OK, all of us are trying to figure out how to best support eacch other
  • If you fear for the future, your feelings are valid, and you’re not alone
  • If you want to share your stories and thoughts with others, that’s appreciated
  • But if you don’t want to talk about it at work, or on social media, that’s OK too
  • If you’re emotionally exhausted and just want to take a break and maybe re-engage later, that’s OK too
  • If you’re a person of color, and you’re tired of explaining to and comforting allies, your feelings are valid, and you’re not alone.
  • If you’re a white ally, and you’re feeling guilt, confusion, and helplessness, your feelings are valid, and you’re not alone
  • If you made a mistake and said something you didn’t mean, or should have said or did something and you didn’t, it’s OK, you’re not a bad person. Learn and move on. 
  • If you need to take time to process everything, it’s OK to do that
  • If you just want to just focus on your work, that’s OK too
  • If you take comfort by being with others, that’s OK
  • If you cope best by being by yourself, that’s OK too

The world seems awful right now. It’s been hitting a lot of us pretty hard, because for so many of us, so much of our lives is tied to our work of making our community better. And lately it just seems like we’re getting nowhere.

But we can’t give up hope. Despite the suffering and death we witness each day, our work is making the world better. I see it all the time. I am motivated every day by learning about the amazing programs you make possible, and by getting to know the kind of people you are and the kind you inspire others to be: thoughtful and compassionate and hilarious, full of hope and love and joy and creativity and the belief in a world that is possible. Our community is becoming stronger and more beautiful because of you and all you bring to it, even during difficult days when none of us know the answers. We must keep trying, even when we don’t know all the right words or all the right actions, even when we make mistakes. 

Today, as you wake up to face another long week, made longer by the emotional, psychological, physical, spiritual, and existential toll of seeing injustice, remember that your work is lifting up families, creating connections between people, addressing the causes of inequity, preserving our environment, finding and nurturing the good in everyone, and so much more. Your work is making our world safer and happier. And while it often seems like the tides of injustice are too strong and will just wash away our feeble footprints, history can vouch for how the actions of individuals like us, working together, can push back against these forces time and time again. 

You are all awesome, and I am grateful for everything that you do in this complex field of ours. Take care of yourself as you take care of others.

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