Last Thursday evening, I went to a yoga class. Not everyone had the privilege to do something so ordinary, so normal, after the act of terror in Charleston the night before. I felt a pang of guilt. I should be doing something else. I let myself rationalize it - I had already arranged for a babysitter to watch Ada. I was exhausted and in need of alone time after a week with my husband out of town. Maybe it would give me some space to start working through the emotions of that day.
And the truth is, I wanted to do something normal. I wanted to pretend that something terrible hadn't happened. I had come home early from nido that day, 1. because I had a cold and a headache that wouldn't go away, and 2. I needed to grieve. I couldn't think straight, and I couldn't get anything done at nido. I came home, put my daughter down for her nap, sat down with my lunch, and started sobbing.
I was sitting at our living room coffee table. Ada's favorite book, Llama Llama Red Pajama, was lying next to me. I was eating something completely ordinary, wearing clothes I can't remember now. It looked so normal. And yet, everything had changed.
I am aware that the struggle for civil rights for Black people is alive and strong. Everyday racism, institutional racism - these are terrifyingly huge issues for our country. It didn't begin with the terrorist act in Charleston. But it does seem that something has changed. We don't know yet if this will jolt our country into action, or if it will be just another tragedy. But I do know, or at least hope, that things will never be the same.
So I'm left wondering what the new normal is. How do we do normal, ordinary things like cook dinner and clean our house after something so terrible has happened? How do we pretend like life is the same? How do we not talk about it? How do we not grieve? These things seem impossible, as they should. I find myself craving normal. I find myself wondering when the day will come that I won't be thinking about Charleston every minute. I shamefully long to reach that point.
I want to know how to carve out a new way of being in the world that holds tragedy and allows it to inform our actions and conversations. We can't pretend that these things don't happen and we can't pretend that our country is not sickened by racism. And at the same time, we still have to put clothes on, we have to get our children dressed for school, we have to go to work.
What is our new normal? What is a normal that honors tragedy and yet still manages to live life? I feel completely unmoored after Charleston; I cannot even begin to imagine what it must feel like to be Black right now, or any day. I hope for peace. I hope for a new, better way of life. I hope for change. And most of all, I hope I can find a way to channel grief and emotion in a way that brings us closer to a better way of living and treating one another. Suggestions are welcomed.