If there is a word that describes 2020 thus far it is the word crisis.
From Coronavirus to the economy, to the murder of George Floyd and the protests his killing has sparked, we have as a country and a world moved from crisis to crisis this year without taking a breath – and it’s only June.
There is no one I have talked to that is fine with it all, no one that is doing OK, no one that is unaffected. But I have noticed one group of people who are doing better than most.
I had started noticing them in mid March when we were in the throes of shelter in place orders and praying that our hospitals would not be overwhelmed. Those of you that I work with regularly have heard me mention this group as many of you claim membership in it. I have continued watching them through the protests, the demonstrations, and the grief, division, and hoped-for reconciliation that underlies it all.
Who are these people?
They are the members of our community that have survived trauma and abuse, long term illnesses, systemic oppression, domestic violence, drugs, and alcohol and they are the ones to watch right now.
This is ironic. How many of you, beautiful survivors, have I talked with and you have shared with me how, when the world seems sane and “normal” you feel anything but? My survivors tell me how they feel like such a hot mess all the time, how their inability to get it together, or keep it together (or at least fake it well enough to pass) has lost them jobs, relationships, and all kinds of opportunities on a regular basis.
Now look at you. The world is literally on fire in more than one quarter, it is burning. And yes, you are all affected by it, of course, you are, and yes, you are triggered by it, of course, you are, but you are also steady, calm, unwavering.
You, Survivors, are steering your ships with steady hands while others are flailing about and capsizing multiple times – why is this?
I think it’s because you know. You know these waters, you know what this part of the ocean holds. We are in crisis and you know, more than anyone else, what comes next because you have lived it.
I’ve written about this word before. Its ancient Greek root means “Crossroads” – its the place where we leave offerings to the Gods, where destinies are assigned, where you meet Old Scratch, and if he deems you worthy pick up no mean talent and the possibility of fame. The crossroads are where fate shows up because it is here we make our choices. For that is what crisis means, you have to choose.
This road or that.
Freedom or oppression.
Justice for all or justice for no one.
Standing together or falling apart.
Saving lives or taking them.
You have to choose.
Survivors know this. They survived because they got to the crossroads, knee deep in crisis, and they made a choice. To walk away, to confront and vanquish, to take the help, make the call, to dream of something better. Survivors know that crisis means you have to choose but they also know something more about the nature of choice itself.
Choice is not just about me, my wants, my desires, or thoughts or dreams. The choices I make are about my people and so they honor or dishonor my Ancestors, help or harm my fellow men and women, and creatures, they bless or curse my children. Every choice. There is not a lot riding on how we choose, there is everything riding on it.
Here is another thing Survivors know – trite but true: the only way out is through. No one gets to skip this part, no one gets to pick their road without first dealing a hand and getting one dealt at the crossing.
Ask any woman who has given birth and she will tell you about the moment when she hits the way and would strike any deal or make any bargain to turn that train around. But she can’t, she won’t, and she doesn’t because the fact is my loves, life demands our choosing again and again.
So we are in crisis, that’s the terrain right now. What is required is that we make a choice and choose well.