I’ve been under a lot of stress lately. No, not that kind of stress. Not the kind of stress where one has six projects due at work before the end of the week, a flat tire, (though mine does have a leak), sick children who need to get into a doctor, marital issues, and whatnot.
No. Not that kind of stress.
Thank God our tire is somewhat alright and we’ll get into a shop soon enough to repair it.
Our girls are healthy as can be. Suspiciously healthy, actually. When kids are running around the place breaking things and laughing at your face when you confront them about it I suspect they’ll do just fine in the not-too-distant dystopian future world.
I’m married to my best friend and as amazing as that can be sometimes I bore my wife and other times she bores me but what is life if not boredom persevering? We’re content. In love. All that stuff that doesn’t happen on the Bachelor and Bachelorette. None of that drama.
Yes, of course, I annoy my wife, with frivolous consistency, and it’s second nature at this point but my marriage isn’t an area of stress for me. Not that kind of stress.
I’m stressed and this stress has welled up in me long enough for it to cause conflicting emotions.
I’m stressed and yes, I’m angry, frustrated even, at how much trauma I have been exposed to in my short thirty years of life, but more so, and in-depth, in the last five years.
Audible trauma, stories revealed in podcasts. Men, women, and children, hurt, and their stories haunt me still.
Situational trauma at the news of people I knew, people I learned to love, who had a full and healthy life ahead of them being swept away from our world by murderous intent. Homicide, so vibrant, alive, and efficacious, seeping into my circle of friends and family.
The trauma of having family members pass from cancer while others are incarcerated because they drink and then they commit domestic abuse. I’m glad they’re paying for their crime but they’re family so it doesn’t reduce the pain felt.
The trauma of being verbally diminished and spiritually reduced by a body of believers I had come to trust and love. My race, to them, a mockery. My hair, to them, a mockery. My past and continual hurt, to them, unimportant and dismissed.
Relational trauma of watching white, black, brown, and yellow bodies collapse under the weight of gunfire.
Gunfire in the streets from pistols, rifles, shotguns, and homemade bombs. Their bodies flopping to the floor, unable, though willing, to get back up.
Gunfire at the hands of those sworn to serve and protect them, those who patrol our streets ready at a moment’s notice to offer their help, their protection, their service are the same who give chase, then stop, then aim, then fire and kill.
I am traumatized, continually, by conversations, imagery, audio, and written material of people succumbing to violence and it is a dangerous place to be, mentally and spiritually.
I’m heartbroken by conversations I have with some, online and others, in person, where hostility is present in their stance and if not there, then in their words.
I’m more aware now of history and perhaps this awareness is killing the kindness in me.
The more I read, the more I venture to learn, to seek to find and be found by my history; by our history, our shared history, the more pain I feel.
I’m not sure how much longer I will be on this adventure, this escapade, this avenue of research and understanding concerning me, my people, my history, or western society’s history before I come to a point where I am either numb or incensed.
I try, as hard as possible to shy away from either/or scenarios but I am crumbling under this weight myself.
Numb or incensed.
Numb or enraged.
The danger in me becoming numb is that no matter how much more trauma I am exposed to or how much pain I am privy to I will act robotically, without sympathy, empathy, and compassion. I will be the product of time plus matter plus chance without a greater scheme or purpose other than breathing, functioning under the whims of my chemistry, and ultimately succumbing to my existential nothingness at the end of life.
Becoming numb, at times, can seem enticing. Feeling nothing in the face of pain and suffering is an escape, a defensive mechanism within me to protect the deeper me, the unrevealed me from further hurt.
Or, perhaps, I may find comfort in rekindling the flame of activism, movement, pressure, and force.
Will I become another name on a poster, a face on a shirt, a name on a list as the result of my rage?
Rage accomplishes much you know.
It was rage against the British tax that led to the American revolution.
It was rage against the encroaching Union that led the Confederacy to secede and then face an embarrassing loss in the American Civil War.
It was rage that led American souls westward of the pacific to nuclearize Japan in the name of life, liberty, freedom, and the pursuit of happiness.
Rage pulled the trigger on the pistol that ended Hitler’s life.
Rage is the fire that burned Dresden, Berlin, and Tokyo to the ground.
Rage reduced an already reduced Middle East to dust under the thermobaric bombs of US Airforce fight planes.
And rage led nearly two dozen men to plot the world trade center terrorist attack.
Rage led young white men down Charlottesville streets with torches and violence coursing through their veins until one of them point the front bumper of his vehicle at a group of protestors.
I’m stuck in between numbness and rage in the face of continual abuse of power, denial of trauma and racism, denial of the legacy of racism and trauma, denial of abuse all around.
My head is throbbing from it all. A cycle of pain and then it’s denial by the same perpetrators.
I’ve been taught my entire life, taught by my parents, my faith, my literature, my bible, and its moral compass that numbness and rage are to be dismissed because there is more to life than these two alternatives which are no alternatives at all.
But I’ve seen nothing, in history that is, but rage from those who brought Christianity westward and numbness in those who were forced to come westward under the threat of death.
I trust that I will spend the year 2021 in this research, seeking, further, to understand why, when, and where it all went wrong concerning these things, these hostilities, the animosity from one group toward another, without cause or instigation.
And come January 2022 I hope that I find relief outside of numbness or rage duality I’m stuck within.
I don’t want to be paralyzed by numbness as a means to cope.
Nor do I want to be driven by rage as means to devastate.
Both lead nowhere. Both lead somewhere.
I pray for comfort in this pursuit but if comfort is lacking I pray for sustenance and grace to continue.
I know it is not in vain. It can’t be.
I know that I can rely on a Creator whose providence is more able to understand these things, these sequences, these events, these atrocities, and monstrosities, and I know that my limitations are evident.
But for now, as I learn and listen, as I watch and give witness to so much trauma I struggle with my emotions. And there are days, days like today, where I feel that my emotions will become the driving force deciding my next steps.
In light of the pain, the hate, the trauma, the loss of life, and the dehumanization I am continually exposed to daily, I find comfort in God. Comfort in my wife’s embrace. In my kids tearing our house down. In my newborn’s smile. In conversation with friends. In reading a forgettable book. And later, an unforgettable one. In Danish pop music and German hip-hop.
I pray I finish this task, unscathed. It’s impossible, really, because the wounds have already been made to my heart.
So at this point, I must simply finish.
Come 2022 I’ll study cheese. The history of cheese. Or maybe I’ll take a break from learning anything history-related for a time.
Cheese history sounds interesting already.