The Challenge of Holding Space

Is it just me or does it feel like, at least on some days, life is primarily about witnessing pain you can't resolve? I feel like this social trend in "holding space" for others, for their stories, for their pain, for their existence separate from yet connected to mine, is one of the most difficult things for me to practice. Now that I've admitted to myself that it's not healthy or possible for me to try to fix the pain of my loved ones (the real tricky one is not trying to fix your own after you're not distracted by the pain of others'), it is becoming a practice of mine to just hold space. When Black Lives Matter started, it was important to me to watch the graphic videos of black lives being targeted. A lot of people in my inner circle did not make that choice. And that was okay too. But I made that choice, not because I wanted to contribute to our culture's obsession with gratuitous, senseless violence, but because I wanted to be a witness. I wanted to try to witness that moment, accept that was real (that black lives bleed out on our streets no matter what I was taught to believe about race and fairness and police) and to stand in solidarity with the black community about the waste and horror of their ongoing reality. As a recovering minister and care-taker, witnessing horror and not being able to have the power, the simple plan (because it doesn't exist) or the experience (I had so much to learn, still do) to contribute to conversation or change, this was very difficult for me. I tend to be first to speak, rather than listen. It's a really not great part of my personality. I'm not in love with it, but it is my base nature. So shutting up, listening, watching the horror and just starting as a witness and validating the purpose and beauty of that was a process. I know that witnessing has value and it is something I can actually do. But sometimes witnessing feels like holding shit no one wants to hold and the toxicity of the shit is seeping into your soul. It's not fun. And it requires discipline to sit still, hold, touch, feel, listen. I don't want to do that work right now. 

I feel like January can be a bit of a shit storm emotionally. The high of Christmas is over. We usually feel fatter and worse physically than normal. We're often sick. We're exhausted. We've chilled out and now we have to get back to work. We feel pressured to fix and change everything we perceive to be wrong about ourselves and our lives. We promptly fail at many of the the things we want to fix, because they're actual problems that require real work and ongoing change, not just writing something down and wishing. And there are legitimate reasons we haven't done that work yet and maybe we're not ready to or frankly, we just don't want to. The weather is rough and there aren't twinkle lights to guide us on your way. 

In church, we talked about everyone doing their little bit to change the world, to make it better. That we need to guard against doomsday news outlets and doomsday perspectives. That good is happening even when it feels like Rome is burning to the ground. And I love that message. But my heart is a bit of a sinking ship right now and I am tired. I don't want to do my little bit. I don't want to hold space for the horror that can be life. I want it to change. And I'd love for it to happen while I sit at my table doing puzzles.

Is that really too much to ask?