Coming up for air after 2 years of COVID
Diary of a Baba
Posted on January 8, 2022
2 years ago, we came back from Vietnam… then COVID hit and our lives completely transformed in all kinds of ways. The last few weeks have been a reminder of how far we’ve come. I’m appreciating these precious times and all the good people around me.
Over the break, in between parenting shifts, I made some time to reflect on the last 2 years. From the 2020 election, online kindergarten and a brief moment of relief to 2021, the delta variant and now omicron, there seems to be a pattern here. Things are not going back to “normal” but these times will keep changing and will be a portal for change.
As an annual practice, I reflect on my purpose and priorities, what I did and how I practiced my purpose. It turned into a 14+ page document (which I’m not going to share here) but here are 3 key reflections.
1. The difference between being calm and being numb
I re-read this line in one of my blogs from last year which said that I can be “remarkably calm…” I was like, “Huh, was I being calm or was I just numb?”
As a cis man and the oldest son, I’ve been trained to be “calm” (or “numb”) but sometimes it is hard to discern. To me, being calm is being grounded in purpose and connected to others; being numb is uncentered, empty and isolated.
I can present as quite “calm” but inside I can also feel empty and alone sometimes. In this pandemic, I’ve joked that the isolation has been good because I’m more of an introvert but this is an unhealthy dose of isolation even for introverts. I’ve become numb without really knowing it but it was through community and connecting with others that allowed me to breakout of this isolation.
2. Finding Allies: The Pet Club
As you all know, I’m constantly learning from Collin, my now 7 year old son. This week, as we were walking to school together (a precious 10 minute slice of my day), he shared why he and his friend started their own “Pet Club” at their school.
For more context, Collin has only been in (in-person) 1st grade for about 6 months but it has felt like at least a year. The first 3 months were hard with social and emotional adjustment issues and some kids picking on him, which I expected; then the next 3 months he and his classmates started a “Pet Club” where he is technically the “owner”. There are a number of pets, mostly kittens but also dogs, hamsters and a tiger. (Note: this is not a typical role for Collin in pretend play games)
After 3 months, he finally shared why he and his friend started the club. One day his friend was being chased and bothered by another kid during recess and then they decided to find “allies” from their class and formed the pet club.
When I asked him, “what is an ally?” He paused and said, it is, “Someone who you can trust and will help each other.” Enough said. Go on Collin and the Pet Club!
And… much love to the public schools and teachers, especially the special ed teachers for all the support the last several months.
3. Tending to myself like I tend to others
As part of my Chinese Confucian and ironically my movement training, being a martyr and serving others is romanticized and sometimes glorified. I tend to deplete myself for others and that does not serve anyone, even the people I’m trying to support. Can I tend to myself like I tend to others?
This is not all out of altruism either, sometimes it is just easier to focus on others than myself tbh. I can easily escape into a mountain of tasks and get sh*t done. Regardless if it is troubleshooting Collin’s social and emotional issues or throwing down on a new campaign or project, this shows up evenly in my parenting and movement work.
In 2022, I’m gonna take my own coaching advice and say YES to me, my purpose and my commitment to do right by the good people around me. Here’s to more time and space to tend to myself and make assessments along the way. It is not about doing more but doing what is necessary to win.
Finally, I feel incredibly grateful for my somatic practice. (PSA: Everyone should have a healer in their lives, especially if you are a cis-man.) With the new year, there is a tendency to be very extreme and say YES I’m gonna go BIG or NO I’m gonna cut that part of my life.
Somatics reminds us that it is not “yes or no” or “do or don’t” but about HOW and WHY? It is about the process to get to greater discernment, it is about the generative (and principled) struggle with yourself and others to find that path. A big part of the how is having good people around me for that mutual support and collective accountability.
The beginning of 2022 is already a reminder for us to stay focused and undistracted. From COVID and Jan 6th insurrectionists running for office to massive disinformation and the 2022 midterms, the authoritarian right wing is more and more emboldened in these times. AND, unfortunately, there will be more fracturing and pain inflicted from within and across… 🙁
SO let’s stay on point and keep building our path to power from the tiniest unit of change – ourselves and the good people around us – to our communities and movements. Let’s keep calm, purposeful and find our allies like Collin said and keep building that squad.
2022 here we go!
Tagged: calm, COVID-19, generative somatics, martyrism, numb, portal for change, purpose, right wing, the Pet Club
Great blog post. Excellent insights.
Thank you Rachel!!
Loved reading this
Thank you Pam!
love the story about pet club and allies and your reflection! so much wisdom from collin 😀
Thanks for the love! The little ones have a lot of wisdom <3
Thank you Alex for your candidness and honesty. I come from a martyr background and even in retirement, struggle with feeling “selfish.” I love that you are open with your peers about your feelings. I (thankfully) had a very understanding African American therapist the last twenty years (she retired the same year I did) but wished I had peers in my 20’s and 30’s to share my feelings with, but that was the height of martyrdom in the revolutionary movement. I still have trauma from that period that I am just starting to talk to peers about.
Thank you Joyce for sharing this. I always learn a lot from you all and have been thinking a lot lately how to sustain my own activism and organizing as long as you all have. It is so grounding to hear that you had a therapist and are still on your healing journey. Many young people think that they can “fully heal” and then get back into the movement but it is a constant process of healing and doing the work with different moments of intensity. Martyrism is still a very prevalent tendency without a very strong or vibrant left so there is something here we need to figure out in our overall movement culture.