cultivating light as we lament

Like everyone else, this past month has me living grief to grief, horror to horror. Fighting against the apathy and resignation that press in after news of yet another attack, another murder. Trying to find the balance between awareness and lament and embracing what is beautiful. Feeling guilty that it might be dishonoring to the victims of police brutality or rogue gunman or terrorists to continue to share joyful meals with friends and play in the kiddie pool and occasionally lose a day to netflix and the laundry pile.

I am horrified not only by the fresh violence we wake to each day but also by the unfolding cultural shift from apathy to fear. For some, this fear compels them to defend and justify police violence. Others use the massacres as a platform to build momentum against all Muslims, embracing racism and religious discrimination as the only means to a ‘safer society’. I’ve watched as the bizarre theological justifications for hatred and oppression roll in, voices from the christian community shouting about God’s sovereignty as if it were a war cry. And then there’s this supremely sobering week spent watching the RNC where every fear or failing experienced in america is pinned on black or brown folks who are stripped of their humanity and painted as animals – violent, amoral, predatory.

My heart is breaking over and over and over again, for what is happening to the world and for how it is revealing just what kind of people we are. What kind of person I am. And I feel paralyzed by the task before me: to raise children who know not just to love but to actively seek out the forgotten, the beat down, and listen to their stories. To lament and love. How do you teach these things to a child? I sit at the kitchen table watching as black men are shot point blank by the officers they are supposed to trust and respect and my children sit across from me trying to bite and smack each other, fighting over graham crackers and blueberries. And the more I watch and read the more volatile I become, stressed and afraid and sorely lacking in patience.

And so from this worn-through place, nerves frayed by the darkness of life and also by the guilt at my ‘grief fatigue’ as a privileged white woman in the most affluent nation in the world, I’ve been reflecting on the meeting place of beauty and lament. I believe there is power in naming victims and pushing against both overt and casual racism and injustice. I believe there is power in educating those who don’t understand, sharing what I have been taught when I did not understand. I believe there is power in weeping and mourning and leaning in with neighbors as we grieve. But it isn’t enough. Without the opportunity to cultivate beauty and reshape our world, we are stuck here in this dark shadowed place. And so I wonder, what can creativity as lament look like?

I’m reminded of this wonderful professor in college who led free yoga classes each week. We would pack the largest rooms on campus, our bleach-stained towels laid out end to end as we sought refuge from the stress of frenetic schedules and unending to-do lists. We longed for rest and rejuvenation, and as soon as we began she would encourage us to set an intention for our practice. She challenged us to choose a person in our lives for whom we can offer our practice of peace and strength. I know some people write off this side of yoga and mediation as new-agey and bogus, but there is something powerful in intentionally spending an hour thinking about someone else and what it means to offer them peace and strength. Sometimes I thought of friends who were struggling with hard situations and sometimes I thought of people who were making life hard for me or others, people I was struggling to make peace with. Either way, for one quiet hour each week I was oriented towards this radical, mystical kind of giving. I need more of that in my life in these dark days. Maybe you do too?

I’ll keep thinking about what it means for me to make space for lament-birthed-beauty, and I would love to hear how your creative impulses lead you to bring light and life into our shadowed spaces. Tonight I plan to do yoga, for my own centering and for those in my life I am struggling to understand and love. I will shove aside the dirty diapers and scattered toys and lay my mat down on top of the carpet of crumbs. I’ll light a few candles and try to let go of all that I cannot control and set my intention upon that which I can: loving others. Unconditionally.