A couple of weeks ago, I boldly declared that my overarching goal for this year is to roll into 50 like a badass. I spent Winter Break preparing. Like a good Virgo, I approached the project methodically. Armed with brightly colored sticky notes and my favorite pens, I set about creating a plan. I didn’t concentrate on specific things to accomplish or bucket list items to check off. Instead, I focused on how I want to feel at the end of this year.
Q: How do I want to feel at the end of this year?
A: Impactful, connected, creative, strong, joyful
I thought about the major areas of my life and the things that matter to me: the way I take care of myself and others, my work at Gateway, my impact on the world around me. With those in mind, I created a set of goals and intentions for the year. I worked hard on my Badass 2021 Plan. I was excited about the days ahead and looked forward to the milestone of 50.
And then January 6th happened.
I woke up early that morning, as I do every day and went downstairs with my dog Cody while it was still dark. With Cody on my lap, I closed my eyes to listen to my morning meditation and think about the day ahead. When I opened them, the sunrise outside our windows was spectacular. I decided to check the Senate results in Georgia. It had been too close to call when I went to sleep the night before. YES! With Democratic victories in both races, Georgia had elected a Black man and a Jewish man to the Senate. I felt hopeful that the day would bring even more good news.
And, then, boom!
A flurry of texts.
- Pro-Trump protesters were marching towards the Capitol.
- Rioters were challenging police.
- The Capitol had been breached and rioters were inside the Senate Chamber.
- Legislators had been whisked away to safety and were hiding in the basement.
- Confederate flags. Tear gas. Gunshots. Insurrection.
That’s the thing about crisis. You think you are having a typical day, or maybe even a good day. And then everything changes. The world spins differently. Life just moments before feels impossibly far away.
I felt sick to my stomach. I spent the next hour glued to my television and news feeds. I watched in sadness, anger and apprehension. After the initial shock, I went into to-do mode. School was in session as the insurrection unfolded; teachers were sorting out how to support students in real time while simultaneously processing their own reactions to what we were all witnessing. I wanted my community at Gateway to feel supported, safe, and seen. The racist and frightening images we saw on our screens needed an answer.
Over the years, I have had to write too many letters to my community about school shootings, violence against the black community, homophobia, attacks on immigrants and more. Each letter is emotionally and intellectually challenging. These tragic events shake our faith in humanity’s goodness and turn us against each other in fear and anger. I try to focus my messages on safety, our shared values and commitment to each other, and our dedication to change. That said, writing about the violent attempt to overturn our presidential election and the siege on our Capitol shook me like never before,
Suddenly, I didn’t feel like such a badass. Over the next few days, I was obsessed by the news. I kept waiting for more dominoes to fall. More violence, more arrests, more evidence of a planned insurrection, more of a sea change in Washington, D.C. I went on Turncoat Watch. (Who would finally denounce Trump?) Impeachment Watch. (Undoubtedly he’d be forced out of office.)
During those few days, it wasn’t my work that suffered. It was me. My commitment to myself dwindled and my motivation waned. No daily walks as I had planned. I stopped writing. Not much reading. My Badass 2021 Plan fell by the wayside. And, then the most devastating thing happened. I turned on myself. Suddenly I was the bad guy, and you should have heard my inner critic: “I wasn’t a strong enough leader. I was letting people down. I had no willpower.”
Thankfully, I am learning to recognize my inner critic and talk back to her. I was upset about events in the world, so why turn on myself? I deserve as much compassion as I show others. I am allowed to be upset about something as horrible and huge as the insurrection. It’s okay to be derailed for a few days. Even the most thoughtfully created plan must leave room to react and feel, to be here now.
This morning, Cody and I watched the sunrise again. Outside, the wind was blowing fiercely. The house moaned and the trees bent and swayed. Winds of change are blowing. Today we are sandwiched between two powerful days: the celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. and the inauguration of President Joe Biden. I wonder what Dr. King would say if he could address us now. How would he respond to the racist and hate-fueled uprising we witnessed two weeks ago in Washington, DC? I think he would have reminded us not only of our failures, but also of the slow inevitable march of progress. Perhaps he would have told us that “Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” Undoubtedly he would have implored us to act and to do so with courage and love.
The last couple of weeks have been an adventure in badassery, and I expect the adventures will continue. This chapter has been about self-compassion. It’s been about learning not to confuse my emotional reaction with my ability to make a difference. It’s nearly impossible to be a badass – to accept and celebrate my own accomplishments and gifts – when I don’t allow myself to feel the enormity of the challenges at hand. We have a long way to go, but as Martin Luther King, Jr said, “The time is always right to do what is right.”
Badass 2021 Plan back in action.