What are we doing?

I find myself wondering lately about what we’re doing. How soon can we get back to normal? What is normal? Should we be trying to get back to normal? How can we go back to normal given the horrible fault lines and ugly attitudes displayed lately.

Am I a bad person because I’m thinking about missing vacations and restaurants and getting together with friends (in person)? I know it is the height of privilege to be concerned about when my kids will be able to go back to school in person, but these are the things that occupy my mind on a day to day basis.

This dissonance between the every day worries of my particular circumstances and the bigger societal implications of our collective problems and concerns makes it difficult to relax and enjoy a beautiful, sunny morning in Texas.

I can’t get the idea of force out of my head. Why have we created and armed a police “force” that will go to war on us and I find I can’t get it out of my mind. The war on drugs created an idea that the police were to go to war with Americans on behalf of the government. That their job was to enforce and to create order rather than to keep all Americans safe – even the ones who use drugs or engage in speech or actions they don’t like. A person spray-painting a building is still a citizen in need of safe passage and treatment as a person.

Why are we arming police officers to go to war on us? Why are we militarizing them? Why are we giving them heavy vehicles and body armor and cannons?

What are we doing?

I read an article this morning that broke my heart. 10 years ago in Minneapolis a man with some cognitive and mental health issues went to a YMCA to play basketball. Because he had some cognitive and mental health issues he could be perceived from time to time as a little bit strange – particularly by teenage boys not known for their acceptance and tolerance of difference. One such teenage boy reported that he was making him uncomfortable to the front desk of the YMCA and they called the police. Two officers responded. They tased the man five times and knelt on his chest and legs until he died. (WashingtonPost Death of David Smith)

The man was black. The officers were white. They were allowed to continue serving unpunished, un-reprimanded, unchallenged.

What are we doing?

What were they doing?

The kid was uncomfortable, I get it. Why couldn’t the officers hang out in the gym for a bit to make sure everyone was safe but let the kid learn that we don’t get to be free from discomfort in a free society. We can expect safety if someone is genuinely threatening us, but it doesn’t sound like that was what happened here.

What were those officers thinking when they got out the handcuffs and the taser and listened to that man gasp for breath because he didn’t immediately comply with their orders to leave the gym? Why was he ordered to leave the gym?

What are we doing?

When did we decide that our comfort is most important. This is where I struggle because aren’t I putting my own comfort first when I worry about my daily concerns like school and restaurants?

What are we doing?

I’m genuinely struggling right now to engage in the daily self care that I need to engage in so that I can function as a wife and mother, while feeling swamped in feelings of despair to hear people like Tucker Carlson lionize a teenager who strapped on a gun and went looking for a fight and then shot three people.

What are we doing?

Where were his parents?

What was he doing?

Why do we think order is more important than the safety of ALL CITIZENS.

It’s incredibly difficult not to despair and to become overwhelmed by these kinds of thoughts. I get that people want to be distracted and to go back to normal. To focus on the here and now rather than the questions that feel too big to be answered.

I tell clients to focus on the next right thing because the big picture can be so overwhelming and stressful. It can cause despair and hopelessness because the big ideas can be so much.

So on a regular day I’m trying to focus on the next right thing. Seeing the next client. Finishing the next note. Dealing with waking the kids up. Running and putting one foot in front of the next for four miles.

But I don’t want to look away from the bigger questions. I want to contribute and to do what I can, but I also accept that I can’t do everything. If we could ALL spend some time each day on the bigger picture, we might be able to effect change – but we can’t all look away collectively all the time.

My advice to individual clients is good, but if we all ONLY focus on our feet and the next step forward we’ll start crashing into each other and, goodness knows, these days we want to avoid crashing into strangers in the street.

Published by alexm1008

I am a Licensed Professional Counselor practicing in Houston, Texas. I specialize in helping clients develop skills and strategies to feel more in control of their emotions and behaviors. I am also a wife and mother of two who loves to run and travel (particularly to Disney World with my kids and without).

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