I’ve often been asked by people who know me professionally if I have an “off” button. If I’m ever not cheerful, happy, and positive. Yesterday, some of them saw the darkness that lies within me. Yesterday felt like one of the worst days.
The only way I can adequately put my feelings into words is by comparing it to other experiences. Few times in my life I have felt this numb exhaustion.
The first was in high school, when my first boyfriend broke up with me. I didn’t understand the feeling, and my mom compared it to the death of someone you love. Heartbreak is often the death of a relationship, and your body mourns that death. I barely slept. I couldn’t eat. And I found solace in a summer nanny job that kept my mind occupied and my body busy. Children have healing powers. But even then, I took to writing in order to work through my feelings.
A year later, September 11, 2001 happened. Three weeks into my freshman year at Bradley University and the world felt like it was crumbling. we collectively sat glued to our TVs, terrified, unsure, sad, and angry. We went to candlelight vigils and mass en mass. We prayed. And we cried.
The next time I felt that empty sadness was the first time (of three) my college boyfriend broke up with me. It was an old friend enveloping me in a dark cloud, and I truly wondered if I’d ever smile again. I lived inside my journal. Writing the same thoughts and feelings over and over in every way I could.
And then, a real and painful death shattered me. My grandfather died. My grandfather, who had lived in our home for ten years. And the raw pain I felt was guttural. I trampled across campus, tears streaming down my face, coating my boyfriend’s pajama pants in mud to find him in the engineering lab because I didn’t now what else to do. I just knew I couldn’t be alone. For months, I’d start thinking of him and just cry. I would think, I’m okay. And then I’d hear a song on the radio or someone would say something that reminded me of him. And I’d burst into tears. My body and mind exhausted from crying, from thinking, from worry. I felt the pain physically.
It has happened several more times since then, but every time I experienced that exhausting, empty sadness, I came out of it, alive. Stronger. With kindness, courage, and resolve.
This week, it truly feels like someone died. Maybe it was democracy, but only time will tell. I have to have hope. And faith. And belief that this is not the end of the world, but the start of a revolution. I have to do what I can, and I hope you will, too, to continue to fight for women, racial minorities, non-Christian religious or non-religious people, the LGBT community, refugees, and any people looking for the American dream.
Yesterday, we mourned. Today, we rise.