Bearing Witness

Before we begin, please imagine me face down on the couch, head smooshed into the grubby cushions, cereal shrapnel and muddy dog prints decorating my periphery. That is where I metaphorically am. I am not sitting upright at my desk typing. I am using telepathy from my frazzled, stuttering brain. Nothing is happening in a linear fashion around here. No thing. It’s all illusion and mirrors. I am stuck on the couch now, and here I shall remain for all eternity because getting up would require energy and I don’t know what that is anymore.

Friends, the world has imploded. We’re all underwater with culture shock. Violence is on the rise, the pandemic numbers are spiking again, we’re headed “back to school,” and people are responding the way people respond to this type of upheaval. With grace. With flexibility. With denial. With love. With kindness. With hatred and vitriol. With compassion and understanding. And with pride and elective deafness. Sometimes all of the above. 

We are running a race, and we don’t know where the finish line is or whether it’ll materialize at all.

We are learning who we are under stress and duress, and we’re learning what our communities are made of. Some of what we’ve found is stunning and beautiful as we stand for and with each other. Some of what we’ve found is a hellscape of exclusion and pain.

And through it all, we’re plugging away. Trying to work. Trying to parent. Trying to reach out a hand to lift up each other. Trying sometimes just to stay afloat. 

I see you.

I see you out there one-foot-in-front-of-the-other-ing it. Wading through the sludge. Looking for goodness and light. Sometimes sinking below the murky surface. Sometimes clawing your way back to air.

I see you with your slippery feet trying to find purchase and wondering where steady ground is.

I see you watching the news and trying to stay informed and awake and also beside me, face down in the cushions singing LA LA LA at the top of your lungs to drown out the noise because it’s trying to smother you.

I see you and your masterfully patient self who didn’t say the mean thing your tired brain and weary heart held out for you on a silver platter. And I see you when impatience won a battle and the frustration fell out of your mouth for others to see. You still get credit, friend, for all the things you didn’t say that no one knows. I see you. I see you’re trying.

I see us, edgy and exhausted and shaky with adrenaline and willing to fight because we finally see the harm being actively perpetuated against our brothers and sisters.

I see us, using our words and our bodies and our brains to shift the status quo, pulling and straining at the ship’s wheel, hoping our efforts are turning this behemoth culture toward kinder waters before we run aground on treachery. 

I see us working our dozens of jobs, most of which are unpaid labor, as we worry about cash flow and mental health and whether that’s hope coming over the horizon or just a cloud of murder hornets and fire tornados. 

I see us mourning so many we’ve lost. To COVID. To gun violence. To cancer. The pile of our grief is as high as Mt. Everest and feels as insurmountable. 

I see us. I do. I see me and you. 

And I don’t have a solution. Or a magic wand. Or comforting platitudes. 

But I want you to know I see you. I see this time and space we’re muddling through. I know you see me, too. And there is power in bearing witness to all this. Don’t discount it. Don’t dismiss it. There is power in bearing witness and in SEEING and telling. That’s our job now. One of the most important ones. 

Eyes open, friend. 

Even if you’re face down on the couch.

In this together,





Image credit Edi Libedinsky via Unsplash

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13 responses to “Bearing Witness”

  1. Happy Birthday Mary. I remember a birthday like that. Right foot, left foot, right foot, left foot……..round in circles.

  2. Yes, thank you Beth! I feel bombarded and sad and mad about all the THINGS! We live in a time where too many things are colliding all around us. We question which ones we can or should ‘take up’ and whether we’re able to do any of them. When we have to work so hard and we’re still not getting by, it feels like our brains and bodies just can’t function. Yes, Beth, SEE EACH OTHER and then say or do something that might be helpful. Dwelling on one positive thing can help us find balance from the hurtful, the loss, the disrespect. Let our brains rest. Goodness, kindness, love, and rest give us a helpful break. REST for our weary souls.

  3. *hugs*
    I was feeling very unseen yesterday.
    The fam forgot about my birthday entirely. Since it fell on the day directly after my husband’s abdominal surgery, it’s not madly surprising, but the lack of acknowledgment stung just a tiny bit.
    The lack of sleep isn’t helping my pity party. Nor is his pain level, which thankfully is going down.

    We’re one-foot-forwarding it right now. And trying our best to hang on.
    Take care of yourself Friend.

  4. I’ve been bouncing back and forth between LA LA LA (binge watching), protesting (with my fellow Mennonites), and making (I sew). And working and parenting and partnering. On a good day in regular times, it’s tiring. But this is a whole other ball game.

    Yesterday, my son asked if his friend could borrow the car, and I was about to say yes when I remembered that the tags look like they’ve expired (technically, the registration is up to date, but thanks to brain fog, I put the new stickers on the wrong vehicle and the replacements haven’t come yet). I ran downstairs to talk with my son about why we couldn’t let his black friend borrow the car. I had to explain that I hadn’t worried about my son being pulled over, but I was not about to put his friend in that position.

    Tomorrow I get to spend who knows how long calling the DMV to see how long it will be before the replacement stickers arrive…

  5. Totally beautifully articulated piece, as always. Thank you for continuing to share your words. The world (and me) need them more than ever before.

  6. Yesterday School started in my employment district. Most of our learners chose 5-day face-to-face, but we have some 2-day a week hybrid learners, and the rest are virtual learners. Multiple times a day our front office notifies us of changes between all 3 learning venues. My approach is to take today as it comes and not to even think about tomorrow until it is “today.” And my mantra is, “I’m doing the best I can with what I’ve got.” Plenty of La La La going on here too. I appreciate your efforts my friend

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