The world feels like it’s on fire. I’m not even in the places worst affected. I have been sitting here in Canada like a chump this week, watching helplessly while all my American friends panic. (Which is not to say that a sufficiently terrible American president cannot affect the entire world. But I am not in the epicentre.)
Hyperempathy is a thing. I have been very overwhelmed. I have wanted to say something, and I have said many things privately, but I have been publicly silent because everything is terrible and what the hell can I possibly say that will make any difference?
But – hiding and focusing on friends and self-care tends to have an effect. Namely, that after you do it for long enough, you are ready to come out again.
Here is what I want to say.
Please, please, if you are reading this and you are marginalized and terrified for the future, don’t give up hope. I am not here to tell you “it’s not so bad”. But when things ARE very bad, when the future is in doubt, that is when we need hope the most. That is when nothing but hope will sustain us.
Please, if you are reading this and you are marginalized and afraid, please remember that your voice matters. It always has. It always will. It matters in some ways now more than ever.
(Some people are going to be worse affected by the next four years than others, but I am not here today to split hairs about who is and isn’t marginalized enough. If you feel you need this post today then this post is for you.)
It is hard to believe in your voice when the whole world is shouting that you don’t matter, that people like you don’t matter, that your safety and self-advocacy doesn’t matter, that the whole nation already decided against your existence mattering, that you should go away.
It is so fucking hard. But your voice matters.
There are so many ways we can use our voices. There is no one way. All of them matter. Protest and political action is important. (Politics doesn’t stop happening just because the election is over.) Supporting each other is so, so important. Standing up for ourselves is important. Any way at all that we stay connected and believing in each other is important right now. If all you can do is tell bad jokes, as Ursula Vernon brilliantly said on Saturday, even that is important right now.
And art. Art. Please, if you are reading this, keep believing in your art, in your stories or paintings or songs or whatever it is that you do.
I and so many people I know have been struggling with art this week. Wondering how we can keep faffing about with fantasy worlds when the real one is on fire. (Other people I know have lit a flame in themselves, have doubled down and made their work bigger and louder and more defiant because they already know why their work matters now more than ever. If this is where you are right now, I support you.)
But the truth is. Art matters. Art has always mattered. If your art is defiant and angry and shines a light on injustice too bright to ignore, we need your art right now. If your art is full of hope or even happy fluffy escapism, if your art gives frightened people a way to imagine being okay, we need your art really badly right now. If you are marginalized and your art is anything at all, then we need your art. In the face of powerful people who believe that you don’t matter and should go away, all art that you make is defiance and all of it is powerful.
And if you can’t do any of this right now? If you are too overwhelmed, if you can’t speak out, if you can’t art, if you can’t anything?
You are still okay.
Please. Please believe this. Terrible things are happening everywhere all at once and so much is needed. It’s still okay to take care of yourself. It’s still okay to hide and heal. It’s tempting to say “so that you survive to fight another day” – but, you know what, honestly, fuck talking like that right now. You matter. You matter. That is the whole fucking point of all this. We are all trying to speak out now because we know that marginalized people matter. The mattering comes before the activism, not after. If you are too ill, too terrified, too in danger to do anything that feels like it makes a lick of difference for anyone else – you still matter. You are still okay. Believe me.
(Jill S. has a very good post on self-care, in this vein. I recommend it.)
Put on your oxygen mask first. If that’s all you can do, do it, and you have saved one person. You’re okay.
Even when things feel so urgent, even when they are urgent – let’s be real. It is going to take four full years to survive the next four years. There is literally no way around that. There will be time for everybody to contribute and there will be times when even the most spoonful of us need a rest. If you are struggling, take your time, do what you need to do for yourself, ask for the help that you need, because you matter.
Your voice will still matter when you are ready to come back out.