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On Despair

I feel despair these days.

Something happened this spring & summer. Perhaps a culmination of the tenderness that I’ve been holding since the beginning of the pandemic, when I felt in my body for the first time that capitalism wasn’t some inevitable thing we’d have to live through until we died, but was actually something quite fragile, that we could set aside in order to care for and about each other. And in these long years of turning back towards brutal systems, ordinary people taking their cues from the people in power, no matter the political orientation, I have felt more rage and grief and despair than ever before.

In organizing and activist spaces, despair is a thing we’re constantly girding ourselves against, exhorting each other not to feel, not to give in to. It was present in my christian upbringing too - always find the silver lining, trust that what is happening is somehow for your benefit, etc etc.

I can’t read any more thought pieces about school shootings or white supremacist violence or uteruses or the people ravaged by the pandemic or how we should feel or what we should learn or or or or.

I can't pick myself up right now, orient again and again toward the future, toward the possibility of something better.

And — I say this last part with all of the hopelessness in my body — I’m learning, these days, that it’s possible for me to feel deep despair about the present and the future and the past, and to show up where I’m needed. Despair is not binary.

I feel hopeless, and still bring the food, or the thermometers and rapid tests, drive someone where they need to go, hold a beloved while they cry from exhaustion and rage. I am weighed down, and still I light the candles on my altar. I feel the heaviness of this society and culture, our violent past and present, and live, show up where I'm asked, oriented towards care for those I love, and those I don’t know yet. Things still matter, still need tending, even when I don't have hope. Maybe especially then.

Despair is a weight, and a place I can float.

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