NOTE: This post was actually written Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017, but it had been so long since I posted that I had to wait until my husband (a.k.a, personal IT guy) returned from a weekend trip to help me.
Today was supposed to be the last day of StillADancingQueen.com. My URL was up for renewal and it had been one year, five months and one day since I had written my last post. Sounds a bit like a confessional and perhaps in a way it is.
For a month, I had debated whether to keep the site alive. It made no sense to spend the money if I wasn’t going to write any more. I could blame a full-time job and motherhood and a host of other reasons for not writing. Yet, in my heart those reasons rang false. After all, I had plenty of time to scroll through my Facebook feed and watch The Great British Baking Show (oh, what a delicious show!).
Truth be told, public writing had lost it’s appeal, and more to the point, I felt had lost my voice. In the cacophony of the world this past year, who really cared about anything I had to say? Frankly, most of the time, I didn’t give a shit about what I had to say. I’ve felt lost, disconnected, overwhelmed, helpless, frustrated and angry by the state of the world. I’ve spent months questioning who I am and who I want to be. Try as I might, I’ve struggled to find joy. Perhaps you know the feeling.
A deep and sorrowful sadness has taken root in my heart, and writing would only serve to let it out where I would have to face it. Who wants to do that?
So I was ready to let my blog site go. Then yesterday, I had a rare Skype call with a friend in Switzerland. She’s a writer and our conversations meander from the mundane to the philosophical. We talked about the world and our anxieties. I expressed my growing feeling of not doing enough, of wasting my life by not making a difference in the world. We lamented that the plethora of information available has made us feel helpless; we are witness to the world’s problems in their entirety and yet cursed with little ability to change them. We contemplated the benefits of thinking globally but acting locally.
And we discussed passions. She reminded me that I’m a writer. And it’s true, writing fills my soul even if no one is reading the sentences I craft. I began to question the demise of my blog. After all, it was writing that helped me find my voice five years ago, and lately that voice has started chattering again.
That voice whispered in my head all evening, so as my husband packed for his trip, I asked him to renew my URL. I still wasn’t sure why.
This morning, I headed out for a six-mile training run. For the first time in months, my brain began writing. I reflected upon the turbulence of the past year, my sadness over the hurricanes pummeling the earth this past month, the conversation with my friend about passion and making a difference. And then, I thought of my grandfather, who died last February.
The weeks leading up to his death were brimming with intensity. On a national scale, I and many others were reeling from what felt like a daily assault on our values since the inauguration of 45. On a personal level, I was trying to be emotional support for my mother as she came to terms with her father’s impending death.
The night he died, 30 of us (his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren) surrounded his hospital bed, listening to Johnny Cash. None of us can listen to Johnny Cash without picturing my grandfather. At his funeral, my sobbing was uncontainable. My husband and daughter on either side absorbed my grief and kept it from consuming me.
The extent of my sorrow shocked me. I loved my grandfather, but I didn’t truly know him. I envied my aunts, uncles and cousins who had a wealth of stories to share. Not epic tales but little stories about ordinary moments.
My grandfather was not famous, but he was a legend in our family. He was not wealthy, but in what matters, he was so very rich. He could command a room with his piercing whistle. He laughed contagiously until tears streamed down his face. He was generous with his time and his. He was a friend to every person he met.
In short, he made a difference.
Mid-run I had to stop. You can’t run when you’re sobbing. I cried for my grandfather, for my country, for the thousands of people affected by recent disasters, for my feelings of helplessness. I let the tears fall, but they didn’t consume me. Instead, I accepted them. And then I kept running and a remarkable thing happened. I noticed the way the sunlight sparkles through the trees. I saw a man helping his two small daughters cross the street on their bicycles. I heard my voice loud and clear, saying: “Stopping trying to find yourself. You know who you are. You just need to start being who you are again.”
It was hot and muggy, and I thought I might collapse at the end of the run, but I finally felt alive again. My tears were a salve to the numbness I’ve been feeling.
For months, I’ve been struggling to figure out how I, someone so insignificant on a global scale, could make any difference. I’ve beaten myself up because I don’t call my senators, and I didn’t go to the Women’s March, and I haven’t done enough to protect this group or that group. The weight of the world has been crushing me. It’s left me questioning who I am because I’ve looked at others and found myself deficient. As I watched a bumble bee crawling along my purple aster, spreading life in its own small way, I felt a kinship.
I am not an advocate. I have never been one to shout my opinions. I am simply me, and yet, as I thought of my grandfather this morning, I realized I can make a difference in so many small ways. The best way for me to help the world is to be true to who I am.
I cannot single-handedly stop climate change, but I can compost and recycle and bring canvas bags to the grocery store and limit my reliance on my car and reduce my consumption of disposable things. In fact, I do all of those things.
While I can’t stomach the thought of running for office or canvassing a neighborhood, I can and do vote. I can start attending the board meetings in my community and in doing so affect change in the place where I live.
I cannot rebuild the Caribbean, but I can donate to the efforts. And I can volunteer at a building revitalization project in Milwaukee, which I will in two weeks.
I can’t befriend every person I meet, but I can call out “good morning” to passersby on my run rather than staring blankly ahead. I can bake treats for coworkers and be a voice of optimism during a time when we are significantly short-staffed.
Every day, I can choose to affect the people and the world around me in a positive way. Some might say that isn’t enough. That now is the time we must all do more. For those who make their voices heard, who run for office, who publicly advocate on behalf of others, I am truly and deeply grateful. I am so profoundly thankful that you are you.
Today, I realized that I am not you and I cannot be. If I am to function at all in this crazy world right now, I can only do what is authentic to me. For me, that means I try to follow in my grandfather’s footsteps and be a beacon of kindness and hope in a world that seems increasingly cruel. Maybe that doesn’t sound like much, and yet if each of us served as beacons of kindness, wouldn’t we change the world?