Photo: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
As I write this, today is Groundhog Day.
I didn’t realize that when I woke up, but that makes sense if you’ve ever seen the movie of the same name. It’s about a man who is stuck reliving the exact same day over and over again, trapped in an endless loop that he can’t seem to get out of and trying to figure out how to change his fate. He keeps repeating the same 24 hours.
Today is Groundhog Day for me.
For many Americans.
Maybe it is for you.
I was struggling to put words into my feelings lately, and part of the reason is because I recognize how often I’ve felt this way before. I noticing how similar and repetitive these days seem to be. I sense a repeating pattern:
I wake up too early after a night of restless, interrupted sleep, because of some disastrous cluster—f the day before. When my head had last hit the pillow, I’d been thinking about how difficult and stressful and sad the day had been, but trusted it would be better tomorrow.
The next morning my eyes open, I realize I’m awake, and for a brief moment I forget. I feel a split second of hope and expectancy and optimism—but then the sameness sets in when I remember what we’re still living in.
I check Twitter or turn on the news and suddenly it seems to all be repeating again.
Once again I see that we’re in another Constitutional crisis, another national emergency.
Once again the bigots and the fear mongers and the supremacists are having a field day.
Once again justice is sidestepped, decency is cast aside, and compassion declared useless.
Once again Evangelicals are betraying Jesus for Supreme Court Justices and control over people’s bodies.
Once again America is becoming a white Republican dictatorship.
And with all that there is the muscle memory that comes with it: a repetition of grieving, a repetition of loss, a repetition of separation.
That is not a healthy daily diet.
I think that’s what is weighing me down: the pattern of attrition. Routine can be helpful at times, it can be stabilizing, it can be healthy—Structure is normally good, but when fear and grieving and conflict become routine, when instability is the norm, when inhumanity is commonplace—you can find yourself growing hopeless.
When people grow hopeless they give up.
When people grow hopeless they stop trying.
When people grow hopeless they believe the days will never change and so they stop trying to change them.
Someone who’d spent years as an activist recently said to me, “I don’t pay attention to anything political and I block people who talk about all that.” That is a person who has decided that way to not live the same horrible day over and over is to ignore it all.
I’m worried that too many of us have this same repetition sickness, that we are feeling so used to bad news that we are beginning to expect it as normal. We have lost the expectancy of the future and the possibility of being surprised by goodness.
Hope is the belief that somewhere off in the distance, things will get better; they will be right sided. Hope sees possibility despite the evidence arguing against it. It propels us into the day even when that day includes stuff we really would rather not deal with. And in days when cruelty seems to be gaining traction and so many people seem content with the upside-downness, we can easily grow hopeless.
Hopelessness is resignation: It believes that the way things are, is the way things will always be. This is what the hateful people count on.
So we are again at the beginning of a new day: with so many familiar feelings, such a similar sense of loss. Such a pattern of pain.
The question becomes how we live in such a way that we can shape a different reality, that we can escape the cycle of grieving?
They say that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result. I don’t believe that. I believe when the days are insane, you do the same things you know to be the right things: those “small acts of great love” Mother Teresa spoke about.
I think we have rather than always having your gaze fixed on the horizon and being overwhelmed by all that seems so wrong in the big world stretched out for miles ahead of you, focus on what is within reach.
This happens in the place you call home, the conversations around the dinner table, and the quiet, intimate moments with your children or your spouse.
In the friendships you’ve carefully cultivated over time, the ones that have endured and that transcend religion or politics or any manufactured barrier.
In the streets where you spend your days, in the churches and shops and neighborhoods you pass time in and pass by and know from memory.
In the lives of people whose names you know, whose stories you’ve participated in, whose journeys you’ve intersected with, in whose presence you feel at home.
In your family, your community, your church, your circle of friends—your adopted tribe.
In the way you choose to spend your resources of time, money, and influence—how you decide what is worth giving yourself away for.
In the work you come alongside other like-hearted people to do as you seek to be the kind of person the world needs.
And it will come as we support candidates and volunteer and register to vote and show up to the polls in one, massive unified voice that cannot be denied.
If we do that, even in the days that same to be repeating, we will slowly and surely recreate ourselves and the place we call home.
If we live well today, then individually and collectively we will wake to a new day that is not this horrible day.
Here’s to a slightly better version of America tomorrow.