What I’m Reading: Washington Black by Esi Edugyan
What I’m Watching: Every season of Taskmaster
What I’m Listening to: Today? Broadway Musical soundtracks. Yesterday, AJR’s OK ORCHESTRA Album. Tomorrow, probably a D&D Podcast.
@rodWe really yeeted back to tiger king era #2021 #quarantine #workfromhome♬ original sound – Rod
This has been a weird, beautiful, hard, disappointing, joyful, gut-wrenching, exciting, exhausting month. Life is so often so many of those things, but the reality of it all being smushed together has taken a toll. I semi-apologize as I use this Morning Buzz as a personal journal entry that may or may not be read by my boss (what’s up Dan) but sometimes, you take the opportunities you have to process emotions and thoughts, so here we go.
It’s a hard thing to live in all of those emotions at once. It’s hard to continue living in unprecedented times. This morning, I received an email with a press release from Oregon’s Governor stating that the indoor mask mandated would now also be an outdoor mask mandate. Upon reading, I looked out of the window of my home office and said out loud in the silence that is working from home, “I’m so tired of COVID. I’m so tired.” Sometimes, I feel like a petulant child wanting to throw a tantrum. To scream “it’s not fair” while I chuck things at a wall because I can’t believe we are still dealing with all of this. But, I know that I’m not unique in this regard.
In Anne Helen Peterson’s article, You’re Still Exhausted, she writes “I think the real problem is that life is still exhausting because the pandemic was and remains exhausting in so many invisible ways — and we still haven’t given ourselves space to even begin to recover. Instead, we’re just softly boiling over, emptying and evaporating whatever stores of energy and patience and grace remain.” She later describes the past year+ we’ve been living in the pandemic as “isolated, extended, slow-motion trauma.” I feel that description deep in my bones.
At times, it feels like I’m existing in two different worlds. During the past month, I’ve celebrated a childhood friend who became a father, I finished my Master’s program and reveled in the newly found free time, and I got engaged to a truly wonderful partner. I’ve found real joy this month with my family, friends, and in thinking about the future.
I’ve also felt a lot of anger and disappointment. James Baldwin once wrote, “I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain.” Working in local government right now, and managing local government social media accounts means I have a front-row seat in moderating the anger, disappointment, and underlying pain being felt in our community. A pain that currently has no outlet so it remains anger, an anger that’s polarizing us further apart.
The city where I work made national news this past month because of the actions of the local school board. And because I am a human who feels things separately from my job, I can say these actions left me personally feeling dejected, angry, disappointed, nauseous, and just plain upset. There’s a lot of justified pain in the community right now and at times, it makes it hard to focus on the aspects of local government we’re meant to do every day like infrastructure, planning, and creating a better community. While I want to choose sides and polarize myself further into my anger, in some ways being a local government employee provides the opportunity to not lose sight of people as individuals.
So now that I’ve lamented on all my feelings, is there a semi-inspirational point to this Morning Buzz? Sort of. The reality of local government means serving the whole community. Every resident who lives in a community needs to access services. There is no option to deny someone access to things fundamental to living. That forces us to live up close to nuance. It forces us to find compassion and attempt to understand every side. I’ve found a lot of solace this month in Brené Brown’s Braving the Wilderness, and I want to touch on a few of the lessons I’m taking with me each day to work
People are Hard to Hate Close Up. Move In.
“When we zoom in on our own life, the picture changes from a distant, raging, and atrophying heart to the beating pulse of our everyday existence.” It is sometimes easy to take our anger at a situation and apply it to entire groups of people, but Brown’s message rings clear “It is not easy to hate people close up.” Working in local government means working with a very diverse group of people. It is a privilege to learn from people who are different than myself. It is a privilege to have access to different viewpoints and reasoning. It is a privilege to be able to move in.
Hold Hands. With Strangers.
“We have to catch enough glimpses of people connecting to one another and having fun together that we believe it’s true and possible for all of us.” This pandemic has taken away a lot of opportunities for us to experience joy and pain together. Without the annual events that build the emotional infrastructure in the places we live, it’s a whole lot easier to feel disconnected from the people around us.
The question of how we hold hands with strangers while remaining six feet apart is one I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. But I also think this concept is the reason I cried every time I watched John Krasinski “Some Good News” at the beginning of the pandemic. As Brown writes, “Not only do moments of collective emotion remind us of what is possible between people, but they also remind us of what is true about the human spirit.”
With the new surge, comes reasons to separate from one another again. For everyone’s safety, we once again need to stay physically distant, but we can still remind ourselves of our experiences of collective emotion. Today, I’m acknowledging pain. Both my own and the pain of those around me. Everyone is exhausted, everyone is burnt out, and there is a lot of pain manifesting itself as anger every day.
But it is okay, and I am okay. Because I know somehow, we will continue to work through it all together.