5 June 2020 — The COVID Diaries: Staying Sane in a Time That’s Not

 

Dear Diary,

Is there a kind of tired we’re not right now?

That’s the only sentence I wrote all week. In the back of a spiral notebook I was using to make lists and organize details for my parents’ move.

Is there a kind of tired we’re not right now?

Jotted between moving boxes and assigning jobs to my children and reading the news about pandemic updates and protests across the nation and the president alternately hiding in the basement of a White House gone dark and sending military force to remove priests and parishioners  from church steps to pose with a Bible for a propaganda photo-op to pander to the Religious Right.

Is there a kind of tired we’re not right now? 

Is there?

If yes, I don’t know which kind.

Intellectually? Tired.

Spiritually? Spent.

Mentally? Exhausted.

Physically? Sore.

Emotionally? Weary.

Socially? Wary.

Politically? Drained.

Generally? Consumed.

And I’m WHITE, Diary. How our black brothers and sisters, our neighbors of color, these precious humans made in the Very Image of the Divine are even upright right now — much less putting one foot in front of the other and continuing to fight so relentlessly for justice, a slog of centuries, a marathon so many of the privileged refuse to acknowledge — I do not know. I can not fathom. But I will say this, Diary — I’m in awe. And I’m heartbroken. 

I’ve spent my week the way many in America have, listening to the cacophony of injustice. Watching. Learning. Believing. Grieving. And, last night, finally, protesting in person. 

I didn’t think I’d be able to do it. Not from a lack of longing to march. Only because my family and I moved my parents this week from one home to another, and, since we’re in the middle of a pandemic — one that targets folks my parents’ age — we had to stay isolated for their safety. We quarantined starting three weeks ago, and we maintained it until we finished the move, yesterday afternoon. Just in time to race home, make signs, gather the kids and our face masks, and head toward our little downtown where hundreds — hundreds, Diary, in a city of 20,000 — gathered peacefully to protest the murder of George Floyd, and the murders of other black men and women before him, at the hands of authorities sworn to serve and protect. 

At the demonstration, I witnessed black speakers — my nephew and niece among them — eloquently tell their stories of growing up in rural, racist Oregon. Because sadly, Diary — horrifically, unjustifiably — Oregon’s history of racism is rampant, extensive, and also not “history” in the “it’s in the past” sense. 

Racism is our present reality.

It always has been.

It abides.

Whether we see it or not, like the air we breathe. 

And then we lowered ourselves to the brick pavement for 8 minutes and 46 seconds of silence — the amount of time it took a police officer to choke the life out of George Floyd. When it was over, my middle child, the one who is ENDLESSLY proud of her Latin, Native American, and African DNA, AS SHE SHOULD BE — tugged on my sleeve to get my attention and asked whether she could lay her “Justice Now” sign down at the hasty memorial erected for this man we didn’t know but whose story is too familiar. 

Of course, I told her. Of course you can. And that moment in the sunshine, breathing our own sweaty air inside our masks, watching her walk to the front of the crowd in her sparkly blue shirt and put a piece of cardboard in front of a painting of George Floyd’s face, was holy. Holy as in sacred. Holy as in full of lament. Holy as in a pure offering of her heart. 

Then we marched. And she sometimes held my hand even though she’s eighteen. Even though she’s not much of a hand holder. Even though she’s more reserved and reticent than her more gregarious siblings. 

A white man in a truck drove by and flipped us off. 

Another white man in a truck tried to push slowly through a crosswalk, into our friend, Liz, who offered her body to stop him from reaching the others.

A white man on the sidewalk — a businessman in our community — yelled at him to run her over. Those were his words, top of his lungs. RUN HER OVER. 

I moved into the street behind Liz with a few other protesters. A physical symbol of the crowd he’d have to push through to keep going. And my kid walked into the street beside me. 

You don’t have to stand in the street, I told her. You can go back to the sidewalk where it’s safe behind parked cars, I said. But she shook her head, defiant. I’ll stand here, she said.

So we did. Until the truck with the angry white man turned down a street that had been open to him the whole time. 

Other cars honked their support. 

Bystanders cheered us on and were kind and smiled and encouraged.

It was, by all accounts, just about as peaceful as a protest can be.

Mostly supportive.

Most of the noise made for justice.

And my baby girl cried when we got home. Because the ricochet of cruelty in the midst of injustice is loud. And it takes hundreds of voices to drown it out. 

Thousands.

Millions.

Which is why we continue, tired or not, with our solitary, meager voices.

We hope to add our drops to an ocean of protest, to create a tsunami of change. 

 

 

 

P.S. If you want to watch my stunning niece and incredible nephew rock their statements at this rally and share some of their stories, you can click here. The whole thing is worth watching, but Shali’s comments begin at minute 12:53 and Kaream’s at 18:49. Their bravery, honesty, and conviction are breathtaking, and I’m so proud they’re both part of our family now. 🖤 

P.P.S. My absolute favorite photo from the protest is this candid I caught of Kaream adjusting his niece’s face mask.

How adorable are they?? SERIOUSLY. Be still my heart. And THIS IS WHY WE MARCH. 

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ABOUT BETH WOOLSEY I'm a writer. And a mess. And mouthy, brave, and strong. I believe we all belong to each other. I believe in the long way 'round. And I believe, always, in grace in the grime and wonder in the wild of a life lived off course from what was, once, a perfectly good plan.
9 comments
  1. Oh Lord, I love you Beth. I love you and your tribe. Please keep on keepin’ on. Your posts give me light and hope. Every. Single. Day. You are the light. <3

  2. Thank you.

    1. Beth, let Aden know the shrine now resides at the Chehalem cultural center.

  3. Beth, thank you for moving into the street to stand with Liz. I was in different part of the march and was not there to see it happen. Thank you for standing with my daughter for justice. Thank you.

  4. Thank you for marching!

  5. Your words always help me. Thank you.

  6. Thank you. Wonderful piece, as always.

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