The following text is a post I shared with friends. Originally, it included a photo of me at the hospital, waiting for my mastectomy. In the photo, I was lying in a bed reclined back at about a 45 degree angle. My body was snugly tucked under white sheets, and my head was propped on a matching pillow. A light blue bouffant cap contained my thick, long dark brown-black hair. I wrote it this morning to reflect on the anniversary of my mastectomy. It goes like this:
Here is a photo of me a year ago in bed at the hospital, waiting for my mastectomy. I am happy that the surgery went well. You know this was before COVID hit my city because I am not wearing a mask.
It is days like this that I am grateful for whatever health I have; it is also days like this that I do not apologize for being as vocal as I am about the need for healthcare, health insurance, medical leave, and other systems—in the United States and around the world—to be more centered in justice and equity—in a concrete way.
I remember how scared I was on this day, and that is why I empathize with anyone who has endured an individual trauma during the collective trauma of this pandemic.
As I type, there are people suffering loss due to COVID, racial violence, power outages, recession, and so much more. Despite all of this loss, many of us will get up and go about our day without acknowledging this collective trauma.
There is something really cruel about that.
We should be sending aid to people devastated by loss, demanding new policies to prevent these tragedies from happening again, or spending time to mourn these losses in community … but many of us will not.
If we’re fortunate enough to have a job, we’re going to do our assigned tasks and projects and will likely engage in no conversation or action that addresses the immediate needs of our country or our world. Many of us work in environments where our leaders do not have the skills and tools to lead through loss, and it is as apparent as ever.
Whether we have jobs or not, there is so much messaging in this country to … BE PRODUCTIVE, BE PRODUCTIVE, BE PRODUCTIVE … and for what?
What purpose can I find in quickly completing assignments while my country, my world, is experiencing loss? … Oh, I know: it’s my pay, my benefits, my health insurance … At a time that I want to do something more significant and needed in this world, I am living in a system that forces me to be more selfish.
When you go through a health scare like cancer, people tell you that the experience will show what matters most in life; they never tell you though that the rest of the world will catch up to making that realization as well. There’s a good reason for that: the latter statement would be a lie.
Today I am holding both gratitude and grief. My grief does not subtract from my gratitude, and my gratitude does not lessen my grief.
I hope all of you are able to hold both your gratitude and your grief.
Love is sacred. Love is everything. Part of love is mourning when there is loss. Mourning is healthy. Mourning is as sacred as the people, things, and experiences we have lost.
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