I wrote this in late March as I was on a plane flying to Washington, D.C. where my best friend was about to give birth to her son. At the time, it was the rallying cry I personally needed to carry on through the uncertainty of traveling; at the time, which now feels like an age ago, it felt as though this was a temporary circumstance that would soon pass. Here we are five months on with no end in sight. In many ways, my thoughts remain the same: Carry on and don’t collapse. But it goes beyond that now. Our government is failing us – we as Americans are failing each other in a way that is both shocking but also unsurprising. It is up to each of us to hold ourselves up and do the right thing, which means wearing a mask, electing responsive officials into government, and supporting in any way we can – financially, electorally, and through advocacy – fellow citizens who do not enjoy the benefits of being white in a privileged society. So. With that preface, a post from March 27, 2020:
On September 11, 2001 I woke up to a world that was disintegrating. Like so many other people, I watched on the news in disbelief as planes collided with towers and crumbled into ash. As news anchors like Tom Brokaw and Dan Rather cried openly on TV so did so many of us in our homes – some of us because we knew we had just lost loved ones, and all of us because even without having all the information, it was clear that everything in the world had just forever and irreversibly changed. Do you remember the days that followed in September 2001? The days when our entire country came to a screeching halt and we walked like zombies through our lives trying to make sense of what had just happened? When the airports closed and our skies went silent? When we watched the news together thinking “this cannot be happening” but also what does it mean that it actually is? All while trying to manage this overwhelming suspension of disbelief and the sense that everything felt so incredibly wrong and out of control…
What I remember distinctly about this time almost 20 years ago, is the feeling that nowhere and nothing felt safe. It was like being followed around by an invisible, noxious fog that kept creeping into my brain and my heart to remind me that I could be hurt at any time, or worse, that the people I loved most in this world could be taken away and there was nothing I could do to stop it.
Fast forward to yesterday, when I found myself bursting into tears, overwhelmed with waves of panic and fear about me and others getting sick and dying, and engaged in a barrage of intrusive, negative thoughts about the future, my finances, work, and just this general tirade of unsteady wrongness. As I was chastising myself (“Jesus, Demitz, pull your shit together”) I suddenly realized that this is a place I have been before. This is a place a know.
While a pandemic is not a terrorist attack, it very much feels like one. It feels like living in fear of an enemy you cannot see but that you know wants to hurt you. Worrying about the economic toll this will take or whether you’ll be able to finish school. Afraid for the safety of your family and friends. Watching as the streets empty out and America stops going about business as usual…
Fear is one of the most out of control feelings in our emotional dictionary and it will gleefully fill in the cracks in our souls and our hearts and our armor if we allow it to run unchecked. Fear is eager to give us permission to lose our shit and unhelpfully freak out. It will jump at the chance to politicize itself for those who would take advantage. It will silently weave itself into the way we look at resources and human beings and privilege as we use it to justify decisions that seem reasonable at the time but don’t pass the history sniff test later on.
So, your PSA for today is this: I am not doing this again. Cities may be closed for business, the skies might be slow, and the uncertainty of the future may permeate everything we do for the next weeks or months but fear? FEAR CAN GO FUCK ITSELF. To all of you out there who feel the weight of fear in your chest like a bowling ball these past few days, FEEL IT but do not let it run amuck in your life. We’ve been down that road and this time, let’s take a pass. Harness it instead. Listen to it. Activate it. Let fear be the superpower we need to make the changes in the world that we must.
And if you’re not there yet, just remember that love and gratitude even when things are the WORST are reminders that we are bigger and stronger than this one moment we are living through. Love and hand washing to all.