How are you doing these days? I have to admit, I've been struggling. There are moments when I buckle under the weight of the news and the violence pervading our society, when I don't know how to bear our collective anxiety and suffering, as well as my own anxiety and fear. Moments when my prayers, my words, my actions, feel utterly insufficient in the wake of such great injustice.
Earlier this week, In response, I did what I often do. Wrote a poem:
Feeling Powerless in the Face of Everything
Out of nowhere a massive meteor passes
between earth and moon bypassing
all our space aged tracking systems
nearly obliterating the planet and all of us on it
Out of nowhere in the course of a week
in three U.S. cities three young white men steeped
in hatred wield automatic weapons and open fire
on festivalgoers, shoppers, friends out for drinks
obliterating dozens of families and futures in mere seconds
Out of nowhere officials of our government
raid cities and towns ripping parents from children
creating chaos and inflicting wounds that will never heal
families obliterated under the guise of law and order
Out of nowhere a helicopter thunders overhead
one evening while I wash the dinner dishes
I step outside to see an orange bucket suspended
from the copter dip into the bay yards away
than track its flight toward a plume of wind-whipped smoke
billowing from the steep hillside less than a mile from my home
Out of nowhere a can of Diet Dr. Pepper falls from my hand
hits the floor, punctures the aluminum, and through the tiny hole
a thin virulent stream of brown sprays the wall, the curtains
the cat food in its bowl, the kitchen floor
Deadly interstellar debris hurtling through the solar system
assault weapons available more readily than birth control
human dignity destroyed by fear and false power
brush fires caused by human carelessness extinguished
only by herculean human efforts
a leaking carbonated can…
It is the soda catastrophe
too infinitesimal on the scales of tragedy to register at all
that I curse, that I attend to
that brings me to my knees, wet rag in hand, head bent in sorrow
trivial minutia over which I feel a modicum of control
the only disaster in which it seems my response has any impact
I also admit that when I'm feeling fearful, anxious, and my reserves of hope are low, that writing a poem seems like a frivolous and completely insufficient response. I should be protesting and circulating petitions and arguing for my beliefs and demanding change.
I have done all those things before, still felt inadequate, and often more anxious awaiting longed-for results.
What do we do when we feel powerless and want to avoid toxic responses like blaming and demonizing others, self-medicating, or living in denial ? How do we empathize with the terror and suffering our sisters and brothers are experiencing without being undone by it? How do we keep from succumbing to existential angst?
What gives you hope? Where do you draw your strength? These aren't rhetorical questions. I ask because I'm looking for connection in my wrestling and questioning, and for inspiration—if you have any. Please join me in conversation by leaving a comment here or on Facebook, or sending me a message. We're in this together!
As for me, I'll keep turning to small acts of creativity as an antidote to destruction, to see the beauty that exists along with the violence, remembering to remind myself that every act of intention contributes to the greater good, no matter how small it seems. Writing a poem—even if it's a poem about powerlessness—and taking photos of the beauty around me are what I can muster right now. How about you?
I began blogging about "This or Something Better" in 2011 when my husband and I were discerning what came next in our lives, which turned out to be relocating to Puget Sound from our Native California. My older posts can be found here.