Please don’t go back to sleep

It would be a whole lot easier, wouldn’t it, if systemic racism didn’t exist? As a basically white person, it’d be a whole lot easier, and a whole lot more comfortable, to just go on as before, ignoring what I’ve seen play out over the past month. It’d be a whole lot easier to ignore the thinly veiled but heavily defended racism getting posted on Facebook right now. The distortion of truth, the picking apart of black individuals’ characters, the diminishing of human life against an overinflated consideration for public property.

I can understand why I’ve heard gaslighting getting talked about so much in anti-racist conversations, because it’s starting to make me feel crazy. Sat on the bed earlier, I thought about what it might be like to be a black person seeing what I’m seeing right now. I’m not seeing the worst of it in my social circle, and neither am I seeing the best. But I’m already viewing almost everyone in my life with suspicion. People who were quick to disavow racism at the start of this are now changing their tune to disavow unruly protests and whatever else allows them to deflect from the problem, and nearly everyone else is silent. I guess it’s just the same old story, but, man, is it bleak.

I’d be sleeping much better if I was silent too. Multiple nights recently, I’ve gone to bed not long after seeing a hateful comment or deliberate misinformation online. Whether I’ve had time to address it before putting my phone away or have saved it to look at again later, it echoes around my head while I lie in bed. Not because I’ve seen it, exactly, but because I have accepted the responsibility of addressing it. I’m not even doing this that often, but the burden is still significant. So I can see the lure of returning to (wilful) ignorance.

For that reason, one of the people in my life I am suspicious of is me. Putting aside all of the resistance that anti-racism work is met with, both internally and externally, diving deep into a subject for a period of intensive engagement only to abandon it and move on quickly after is kind of my M.O. So, based upon that, I’m not a good horse to bet on. I guess my saving grace may be that the one thing I have always stuck with – with admirably dogged determination if I do say so myself – is trying to be a better person, and there is no way to extricate anti-racism from that.

This is too big a problem to even wrap our heads around, and new distractions are popping up every hour of every day. The system wants us to forget about it. I’m starting to understand that most of us probably will. But I need to find a way to make sure I don’t.

Aft agley

At the beginning of lockdown, I started finally ‘bedding in’ to my flat. I started putting things on the wall, and growing plants in the garden. I started assuming I would be here for a while, and acting accordingly.

I’ve rarely lived in a place for longer than a year. Often shorter. I have a habit of not ‘fully unpacking’, whether that be physically or just mentally. But, with a two year old and no reason to go anywhere – no better prospects – I figured it’d be nice to fully exhale into the space I found myself in.

Now, it looks like it’s time to move on. Which is kind of a pain. But also exciting. I was exhausted by the idea of moving again a few months ago but, as I scan through property listings now, I feel that familiar sense of new possibility piquing my interest.

So this wasn’t the plan. But my restless heart won’t mind.

I’d always instinctly felt that my relentless movement was a symptom of my restlessness. But I do wonder, now, whether my restlessness was in fact an adaptation to necessity. Because I didn’t want to move, but, now that I need to, I want to.

The mess

Life is messy.

I’m sure I’ve talked about this before. I wholeheartedly support life being a mess. I believe it is really the only way for it to ever be beautiful.

And so, many times, I have made it a point to embrace the mess…until the overwhelming compulsion to clean up the whole debacle has overtaken me.

I’ve been working to soothe my flash-sterilising tendencies over this past year. And I haven’t had any uncontrollable urges to paint the whole thing white and start over in a good long while.

But there is a certain mess right now that I may or may not be trying to prematurely organise. Morality and self-worth are tied up in it, and so I am needing to examine whether my inclination to keep things straight and tidy is, on the one hand, a wholesome desire to uphold my integrity or, on the other hand, a simple discomfort with letting it hang where it is until it’s dry.

Sometimes things are what they seem. Sometimes they are not.

Underwhelming realities

For me, there’s a tension to everything right now. I’ve been having new conversations, and people have been disappointing me. No-one is meeting me where I am, and I’m tired of having to do so much legwork. And I wonder if it’s worth it, or if I’m walking the wrong way.

Confronting reality is often disappointing. That’s why so many of us avoid it. The truth is usually less palatable than we’d like. But we can’t change a reality that we can’t see, which is why finding the courage to air it all out is important.

So I know all of this low-grade strain is for a good cause. I know it is a prerequisite for a better reality.

But still, it would be nice to, just for once, simply, be pleasantly surprised.

The extended debrief

I’ve been involved in some verbal conflicts over the past few days. It’s quite unusual for me, but I have been realising lately it’s something I need to get more accustomed to. The online space is one thing, but face to face, in real time, conflict has a greater effect on my heart rate than I would like.

I spent quite a lot of time and energy deconstructing each conflict; trying to take all of their lessons with me. In the past, I have considered this habit to be harmful or weak. The fact I couldn’t stop thinking about it. But I’ve come to realise that if I allow my thoughts to naturally progress, being careful to keep them in balance, they lead me, in due course, to a natural conclusion. And if I commit to being present for that journey, there is a lot to be gained from it. And then next time it takes far less effort to regroup and recover and regain a steady beat.

Sometimes I think we forget that discomfort and even mental anguish can serve a purpose. They aren’t to be avoided any more than they are to be dwelled in; they are to be understood.