The other day, my dear friend and I visited via phone while we were both out walking – she in Wisconsin and myself in Minnesota. I’m still marinating on some topics of our conversation, two days later. How grateful I am to have a friend who ponders deeply with me and wrestles with being human as I do.
My friend is also a writer, and participating in the March SOL challenge, so much of our talk revolved around writing. My favorite topic to think, talk and write about.
I brought up to my friend, who was such a generous listener, how much concern I have with how our writing might be received to a reader. In a prior post, I shared my intention of combing through my words after they are written to tease out any imposters of ego – victim, martyr, savior, prosecutor, preacher, politician, know-it-all, and on and on. I’ve played them all. If writing is authentic, we have to be real and true to who we are without these masks we wear to protect our fragile egos.
One of the more hurtful ways, however, that I think writing can impact someone is by being “tone-deaf” to what is happening in the world right now.
And, blind to our white privledge.
Yesterday, I wrote about capturing the memories of our lives that signify the delights, joys and small moments of relationships to save and reread later in life to experience these same emotions again and again.
This sounds lovely, yes.
But, I also worry about it being received by many people in the world right now as a “tone deaf” blabbering that touts the adage – focus on the good, ignore the bad, or that I might be suggesting to just put on your polly-anna rose colored glasses – don’t worry, BE HAPPY! All is well!
Contributing to the toxic positivity that whispers to put your blinders on and ignore the suffering in the world is easy if you are privledged. There is much suffering right now: individual and collective grief from the loss of loved ones, people unable to work, businesses lost or shut down, systemic racism, political division and a more common epidemic – loneliness and mental illness prompted by isolation and absence of human connection.
How easy it would be, for some of us, to ignore all of this pain. And, don’t get me started on climate change.
It’s like saying, “I don’t see color,” or, “I treat all my students equally.” or, “You just need to have grit or a growth mindset!” or “Just be kind.”
I wonder, “How might words be received by someone who is suffering from debilitating anxiety right now when I say collect good stories? Really? or when I describe the sequence and fussiness of my blanket situation or notebook specificity? Seriously. Like this is important? A person of color is attempting to walk into gas stations without being followed and accused of theft just because he is Black, or lives in fear of not using a signal light or coming to a full stop because of racial profiling. Asian Americans, Native Americans, Latinx and LGBTQ face trauma, worry and fear that plague their every day lives.
Filling up my car with gasoline today, the white man in front of me pays for his own gasoline, maskless. There are two signs on the front of the gas station that state the requirement of masks in the station. No one says anything to him. I should have said, “Are you covid-free?” or “Oops – mask.” or I could’ve have said, “Are you vaccinated?” Yeah – that’ what I should have asked.
But, I didn’t. He was big and had a goatee. The clerk tells him, “By the way, Billy Bob (not his real name), there’s a prayer chain for Bobby Sue (not her real name). She was taken to the hospital yesterday. Its’ her heart.”
Thoughts and prayers. Be kind. Don’t worry about your mask though. (sarcasm intended)
Somewhere, a blog post I think, I read that when we write about our blessings, or say we are blessed, and describe our healthy children, family or material things, a new job, vacation or blissful situation, we have to ask ourselves, “So, are those without those things not blessed?” I wonder if this is what God had in mind when he blessed people.
It just feels like if we aren’t thinking about the trauma and suffering the world right now, then we also probably aren’t doing anything to relieve any of it or acting in ways to make the world a better place for those who are not as privledged to be sitting here writing.
I’m not bragging. I need to remember this is life-time work, pay attention and do better. Be braver.
Get comfortable with being uncomfortable and speak up.
To help us all through this storm.
I am participating in the 14th Annual SOL 2021 March challenge. For 31 days, I will attempt to write and share a small slice of life from my days. If you’d like to read more of today’s slices from other teacher-writers, please head over to twowritingteachers, who have also committed to this challenge.