“We have a lot to be thankful for,” my husband said last night. I was lying in bed at 9:30 pm, the night before Thanksgiving, depleted and sad. “I know,’ I said. “But it doesn’t feel like enough, that WE’RE ok…for now. There are so many people suffering.” Our dear friend and my longtime yoga teacher Wayne Vijai Wilansky’s 21 year old daughter Sophia is undergoing her third surgery to try to save her arm from amputation after police hit her with a concussion grenade at #StandingRock. (See Wayne’s Democracy Now interview here). It’s Thanksgiving and Native Americans and peaceful protesters trying to protect the earth are getting hit with rubber bullets and freezing water by police who should be protecting them. Hate crimes are on the rise, leaving many of us in a perpetual state of suspense. It’s like having a Pre-Trauma-Stress-Disorder. The violence and stripping away of rights are coming, we can feel it in our bones.
UGH! What dark and despairing thoughts to have at Thanksgiving! There’s a turkey to be cooked, laundry to be washed, relatives to greet at the door. Then I remember, once at the Albert Ellis Institute in NYC during a live psychology demonstration for students, a woman got up on stage and shared how she sank into a deep depression after losing her job and being out of work for a long time. John Viterito, the counselor on stage, challenged her assumptions that not having work was a loss of identity, a loss of a reason to live. “You can be very concerned and even worried without being destroyed,” he said. She had a husband, a grandchild, she had meaningful volunteer work and job skills she could improve upon. It was a choice to think exclusively about what was wrong instead of what was right, and to be paralyzed as a result.
It’s that tension I sit with now, giving thanks for all we have, and dedicating myself to doing what I can about all we may lose. I have to agree with Viterito that deep concern is okay, especially if it spurs us to act. Prolonged despair and exhaustion are not – they help no one. So today we cook with love and care, we pray for mercy and for strength. “If you pray for an easy life, God will not give it to you,” I tell G and R all the time. “If you pray for strength, he will give it to you every single time.” We choose to think about what is right. And allow gratitude and courage, and not just fear and anger, to fuel our activism to come.