The Cycle of Encouragement / Rage

Every day since the beginning of the covid-19 pandemic I fluctuate wildly between the choice to feel encouraging and to feel deep seething rage. Indignation that our country has failed to properly prepare or manage this crisis and that we STILL not doing enough to stop it. A duality between the urge to be uplifting and to be so pissed off I could throw my hands in the air and scream.

I just don’t know how to balance the two extremes.

I know people need to have their energy shifted, to have their experience called into words, given expression, and then transformed. It's a central philosophy that guides the work I do, the classes I teach, and the kind of person I want to be in this world. People long to be given purpose, to have something to do. In a world that has our norms shattered people need something to remind them of our better selves.

It’s been 3 weeks since I walked out of class from what I did not know would be the last time I could see and feel the energy of students for the foreseeable future.

It’s been four weeks since I watched the leader of our country explain that all of this was a hoax, that it wasn’t a big deal, that we’d have it solved in a day or two, that we didn’t need testing, that we’d be fine.

It’s been 3 weeks since I went home and told my husband that we needed to have a 2 weeks supply of food in case there was a nation-wide quarantine. 2 weeks since the rumors started to come in, the ominous texts about what was certainly to come. Every conversation both begins and ends with “did you hear what’s happening in _____”. “It’s gonna get bad” then it kept getting bad.

It’s been 2 weeks since our college canceled in-person instruction moving everything online; since I started living in fear of the next update.

It’s been two weeks since the isolation, plus the mainlining of news and information, caused me to feel I had to stay hyper-vigilant and up to date on everything; to feel I needed do everything perfect, follow every rule, because to do less is to endanger your fellow man to an unseen enemy that could be lurking in your very midst.

Every cough is suspect, every sneeze a sinister sign of something lurking.

It’s been one week as I watched people belittle the advice of experts, remain going out and about their lives as if nothing was happening. I was called hysterical, ridiculous even. I saw people on my newsfeed quip that this was probably just population control or God thinning the heard.

It’s been one week since I had my first breakdown, when the anxiety came crashing down around me and I could no longer pretend that everything here was fine; that I was fine. A dear friend knew something was up and gave me permission to fall apart.

Since then, things have gotten better for me. I’ve settled into a routine and a rhythm giving myself the boundaries and adjusting to the structure. It helped that suddenly everyone else was taking things as seriously as I was weeks ago. Yet, I still fluctuate in extremes between wanting desperately to seek out joy and being filled with a seething resentment at the way we have yet to make a coordinated effort to stop this crisis.

I know what to do to help people feel uplifted, it’s the anger that I do not know how to transform or release.

What am I supposed to do with all of this rage?

Lately it feels like my life is a roller-coaster of highs and lows.

I post on Instagram of an image I caught on one of our long solitary walks. I am so angry at the president for STILL minimizing the scope and impact of the virus. I am furious that we STILL do not have a nationally coordinated strategy but a patchwork of different and competing guidelines.

I try to share beautiful images from people’s accounts on my story and compliment them. I am angry that we STILL do not have enough PPE to protect the people who are risking so much to help stop the spread.

I got the idea to volunteer myself out to parents suddenly stuck at home with multiple kids that might need, you know, a break. I am furious at reading about hospital workers being told they will only obtain PPE and masks if they’ve come in contact with a confirmed case even though we aren’t testing people to confirm them.

I watched piano recitals that were now not going to happen, saw kids smile and laugh and show off to someone they did not know. I learned dance routines from classes that would never be taught. I am angry that we do not have enough tests. STILL.

I took my group exercise class online and figured out how to live stream a dance party so people could experience something fun while they were stuck in their homes. I am rageful at the posts I still see of people going to the big box gym like there’s nothing happening. I am angry at the people more upset about the debates on the stimulus bill than over the lack of a coordinated plan or strategy to fight this thing.

My friend hosts a Sunday yoga class for free online and I started doing that to clear my head once a week. I am angry that we never care about making sure people can get the healthcare they need, that our system is so shattered and broken, that so many vulnerable people are scared.

My spouse and I have better conversations as we realize that we are the only forms of social interaction we will physically have for the near future. We learn better-coping strategies for loving one another. I am angry that businesses that were just barely getting by are now uncertain if they will survive and we STILL aren’t stopping the virus.

I am proud of my neighbor who has been diligently working on the city’s crisis communications team and helping give real info in the midst of a lot of misinformation. I am angry that while other states are doing daily press conferences, and senators and representatives are doing daily town halls to help communicate during the crisis my own representatives at the national level are silent.

We institute Friday virtual game nights with my best friends of 20 years. I am angry that the people who have plans and know what to do are not being listened to because we have to have a political system designed to let every city, county, and state make up its own rules.

I resumed talking positively in Instagram stories and made fun of the latest pop culture phenomenon. I am angry at the people who continue to support this man who desires to be political first and a human second wasted valuable time to prepare. I am outraged that some are beginning to suggest that we all just go back before Easter and sacrifice our vulnerable populations.

I attend a virtual church service on Sundays and pray to my lord for relief for a world filled with fear. I try to find solace and forgiveness in faith. I am angry when I see people shaming other people for only now caring because it is only now impacting them.

I wrote to students to encourage them to be proactive and manage the displacement and stress of moving suddenly online and mourning face to face instruction. I am angry that our world is drawn up into it’s classed experience, walled off from the front of the battles we aren’t even aware of what’s happening. I hear my sibling tell me stories of nursing friends who are begging for more help that may never come.

It feels good to do something to help other people even when we can’t do anything physically. I am wrathful that the only thing I can do is just stay home and be a further bystander and witness to these atrocities but without the ability to have that witnessing shaped and then shifted.

We need to be uplifting and hopeful. We cannot fall collectively into despair, but is there also a need for rage?

I keep thinking of the readings I read in graduate school by Larry Kramer, who in the midst of the first AIDS crisis would go into crowded theaters and scream about the people that were dying. He understood there was power in outrage.

We cannot be allowed to avoid our rage. Our rage is our transformative energy, it is the thing that wakes us up in the night to say “listen! Do this!”. It’s the reason people protest, why activists mobilize and agitate. But we can do none of that now.

While I have found a suitable release for the need for positivity, I hope we, collectively can find some function for the wraths that continue to linger. We should not let this moment rob us of our collective rage, rob us of letting the our systemic failure seep into the cracks and gaping wounds left by the shattering of social connections. We cannot forget this: so much of what we are seeing now was preventable. it still might be if we are willing to focus on stopping the virus then repairing the harms caused by what we had to do to stop the virus.

We cannot forget this.

I will not forget this moment, how I felt when I watched our leaders fail. Nor will I forget how we uplifted one another and shown ourselves to be giving and caring people of this world.

I just wish I knew how to square the difference.

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