The day it all shut down

The migraine started around 2 a.m., following a late-night 3-hour drive. I took the pill I’d been prescribed and fell asleep. In the morning, I went for a massage. Some of the tension eased. Still, the bright lights flashed. The pain shot through my eyeball. I came home, closed the curtains, swallowed another pill, and went back to bed.

I woke up hours later, not so much refreshed as hollow. Hollow and mostly pain-free. I decided to take it.

You don’t have to study trauma to know that the body-mind can only take so much before it shuts down or at least hits pause. I have no doubt that’s what happened to me that Monday morning. And unless you’ve been living in a cave, I doubt I need to re-hash all the traumas our society has collectively and individually suffered these last months, weeks, and days, chief among them the novel coronavirus and race-based violence. (Am I the only one who thought that by comparison, murder hornets seemed a relatively manageable risk?)

When everything’s an SOS

I don’t know about you, but to me, it feels like everything is both urgent and undoable. I have been fighting racism on behalf of my children and other BIPOC for years, yet I feel like we have to do more of everything–protests, anti-racist training, petitions, calling elected officials–RIGHT NOW, while we have the world’s attention. We need to combat every conspiracy theory on social media, unfollow or unfriend “those people” NOW. Those of us who work in education have to plot and plan and master new technology NOW…never mind that we still have no clue how the fall term will actually be. We buy masks, sanitizer, bleach just as soon as they hit the shelves, not always knowing if the products are the right ones, if they will offer enough protection. Through it all, we reassure our children, parents, colleagues, and friends that we will do our best to keep ourselves and others safe, even when we’re not entirely clear on what all that entails.

Before the migraine hit, my body-mind had been trying to tell me to slow down. Sometimes, I listened. I started walking without my phone (until the day I saw the bear poop…then I started putting it in my pocket, albeit on silent, with notifications off). My dog and I started taking forest baths. Before bed, I would sit on the front porch, listening to and looking at nothing except the frogs, night birds, and stars. It helped…until it didn’t. One of my kids ended up in a scary crisis of unusual proportions (which is saying something in my family…). It turns out I had just about enough gas to get us through it before my system did a force quit. I’m lucky it only took hours to restart.

Faire une pause

In French, pause means “break.” In elementary French, students learn that faire means “to do” or “to make.” While faire une pause is usually translated as “to take a break,” if we want to get super literal about it, we might say faire une pause is to “do a break” or “make a break.” This adds an element of intentionality that personally, I like.

What if we looked at the month of July as an opportunity for a collective, prolonged pause? COVID-19 cases are on the rise, which gives us more than enough reason to stay close to home. We can’t know yet what fall will bring, so what if we took time away from obsessively planning and just (re)learned to breathe instead? Rather than frantically try to take every possible action to combat racism all at once, could we also sit in quiet reflection and discern what is ours to do, which steps each of us needs to take? The world has irrevocably changed. We need time to get used to that. 

What about you?

With this post, I pledge to use July to sit on my porch and enjoy my phone-free walks. Yes, I will keep fighting racial injustice. Yes, I will think ahead to a coronavirus-inflected fall. But that won’t be all I do. I’m going to read poetry, talk to friends, and meditate. When I feel overwhelmed, which I inevitably will, I’ll remind myself to hit pause.

And now, dear readers, I’d love to hear from you. What are your thoughts on this coming fall? How are you coping with overwhelm…or are you? What are you doing to care for yourself and others? How can ATN show up for you? Leave a comment on our Facebook page, or if you want to contribute to the blog, send me an e-mail and we’ll talk.


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