I was the grumpiest one at the parade. Maybe the only grumpy one? Everyone else was smiling and laughing, all decked out in their red, white, and blue outfits. But I was having a hard time celebrating America this year.
The last month has been heavy for me. The mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas broke and angered my heart. I was then deeply upset by the overturn of Roe V Wade and what that means for women in our country. This year, I felt like I was living in a country I didn’t recognize.
I left shortly after the parade was over, even as my friends and my children all clamored to go to the local fair to play games and eat corn dogs. I knew I needed to engage in self-care and re-set before rejoining the day-long festivities that is our country’s birthday celebration.
I went where I knew I would find refuge: the mountains. As predicted, after a few hours of hiking, I felt grounded and ready to enjoy the evening with family and friends.
As I hiked, I thought through my emotional experience with everything happening right now and had some important insights for myself.
I picture our current America like a dysfunctional family. There are absolutely parts that are not going well, parts that harm people, and those things need to change. There are also many things that continue to go right. I do experience so many freedoms and live in a land, community, and country that I love. I showed up for a protest rally right after the overturn of Roe V Wade. Could I also show up and celebrate my country’s birthday as well? I asked myself to hold this complexity and nuance as I started to cook for our BBQ celebration.
This complexity parallels so many of our relationships. Whether that’s community, family, friendships, or even our relationship with ourselves.
It’s easy to let the scales in these relationships tip one way or the other. Maybe we focus too much on what is going wrong. Looking hard at what isn’t going right, is important. We need awareness to shine a light in dark spaces in order to know what needs to change. But only focusing here can leave us depressed, overwhelmed, and helpless. In the week after the Supreme Court Roe V. Wade overturn, this is exactly how I felt. On the opposite end, maybe we look too much on the positive. And yes, you can look too much at the positive. This may feel comfortable, but doing so negates growth.
Every relationship is complex and dynamic. Indeed, every human is complex and dynamic. This is part of why I love my job so much. I love witnessing and supporting humans in all their complexity. I believe strongly in my personal responsibility to hold myself, others, and relationships, in that complex nuance.
That balance is chronically hard to achieve, and I absolutely don’t do it perfectly. Because of that, I try to hold myself lightly in the journey. After the parade, I gave myself space to feel my sadness and distress around the state of our country. And as I allowed myself that space, while simultaneously taking care of myself, I was able to come back to the place where I could hold my own dialectical experience: the joy and pain, together.
When I was too tilted into my distress, I fantasized about moving to Canada. I felt helpless and angry. Re-centered, I still hold my anger and distress, but I also feel compelled to show up in proactive ways. Because this is my dysfunctional family after all. When I hold my love for my country, simultaneously with my distress, I want to claim my country and advocate for change.
I want this lesson to deeply internalize to myself as well. When I get too down or critical about myself, I feel depressed, angry, trapped, and helpless. If I can hold myself in my complexity, which includes pretty great parts of myself too, I want better for myself. I want to show up for myself in proactive, healthy, compassionate ways.
We are all complex and dynamic. We are all capable of growth and change. As we journey, I hope we can all hold ourselves with compassion, honoring and holding that complexity, looking hard at what we need to change, and loving ourselves enough to show up in all our dysfunction.