Accepting the Uncomfortable Together
I had already planned on taking last week off from work. I was hoping to find a little of my own space to re-energize around work and my family life. Working from home isn’t so much the problem, as staying at home after. There’s nothing normal about days blurring into weeks.
The week in Minnesota started off rainy, so backpacking and camping were out. We decided to re-organize the family room, and spent 2 days reorganizing the garage. Spoiler alert: we aren’t done with either project completely yet, but it does feel so much better already! And then, in under nine minutes everything changed.
Last Friday I was out doing some safe errands, and since it’s been 3 months since I last got gas, I was obviously running on empty, and needed to find a gas station. It took me until the 4th gas station to find one that was open. At some caution tape was wrapped around the pumps themselves to restrict access. It was eerie. At first I was mad: why not put up a sign that says you’re closed?! But the inside wasn’t closed. It wasn’t until I saw the second and third closed gas station that I realized: it’s the GAS that isn’t available…because mal-intentioned individuals are using it to create explosives to destroy our neighborhoods. I felt lucky to find the one open gas station before I myself ran out.
As I continued directly home, I saw business owners and volunteers outside putting up sheets of plywood over their windows. I saw buildings with plywood already installed but with open doors and signs that said “we’re still open.” I saw graffiti – even on all these new plywood exteriors. I was in NE Minneapolis, a neighborhood where I have spent many of my days feeling safe and included, and yet that day I drove around feeling the opposite: it felt like the beginning of a war-torn city. And this was miles from Powderhorn park and the center of the protests.
As I’m writing this (6/1/20), our city still looks like this. Only worse. Buildings are on fire. Cars are on fire. Holes and piles of ash exist where local businesses once stood.
Nothing is normal.
That’s worth saying again: nothing is normal. It wasn’t normal before George Floyd’s death on May 25th. We’ve been living through very turbulent times – with so much unknown: when will this end? When can I go out again? When will our kids start school again? Is it healthy or safe to do anything? And for some: when will I be heard and equally respected?
I don’t know any of these answers. I sit here in the privilege of my own suburban home, job and skin color and question if I’m doing enough – and what else I can do for others. I ask how I have contributed to the riots and the unrest. Have I done enough to stay home to avoid the possibility of spreading this deadly disease? How can I be a better listener? Believer? Is it enough to ask these questions; questions that don’t have definitive answers? Yet still they make their way into my consciousness most minutes of the day, distracting me from my work, my book, my virtual happy hours and dinners on the deck.
The only thing that I have accepted is that it’s okay to not know. It’s okay to be uncomfortable. It’s okay to be distracted. It’s okay to acknowledge that nothing is normal when, indeed, nothing is normal. And: it’s okay to talk about it.As you log into your meetings this week, and in the weeks to come, I hope we can be uncomfortable together. I encourage us to talk about what’s on your mind and what hopes and fears you have, and how recent events may be impacting your life. Maybe together, through conversation, we can find a little solace in each other, and acceptance in the validity of our own questions and reactions. Maybe we can even begin to rebuild a new normal.