I have been feeling very sad and sore, quiet and tired. I’ve been doing a lot of digital puzzles, not to avoid the feeling but because I didn’t know what to do with it. Actually, I see that making some art would be the best expression, but I didn’t think of it. It wasn’t until I was reading some words from Pema Chödrön — words of advice for difficult times sent out by Sounds True — that I realized that what I was feeling was tenderness. a grieving tenderness. Pema Chödrön says it’s what you feel when your heart is broken open by pain. I knew that my PTSD had been triggered by George Floyd’s murder. I avoided looking at the videos, knowing that I couldn’t bear to see what was done to him. But I saw a transcript of his last words, written out like a poem: “please… please… I can’t breathe…” I didn’t read the rest, deleted, moved away, but it was too late. I too was alone, unable to breathe, calling for help and getting no answer.
As I sit with the tenderness, I realize that I don’t just feel it for George Floyd and all the Black people unfairly impacted by our capitalist system and also by COVID-19, but also for all the white people who’ve joined the protests, standing with the Blacks. I saw pictures of the protestors, and it lifted my heart, but didn’t change the grieving quality of the tenderness. Then I realized that I also feel tenderness for the White supremacists and police officers. They also have been badly hurt and don’t know it, won’t admit it, hurt other people to keep from feeling their own pain.
That last understanding came from what happened as a result of a performance of Journey Into Courage.
In the audience were quite a few children from a camp that is an alternative to jail for juvenile offenders. We went there the day after the performance, and met with them at their usual community gathering. They asked us questions, and then they shared similar events from their own lives. The counselors said they heard some of those stories for the first time. One young man said he was at camp because he had sexually abused younger children, and now that he knew what his victims suffered he wouldn’t do it again. It was a pivotal moment — someone who might have gone on to become an abuser had been turned around.
It was a pivotal moment — someone who might have gone on to become an abuser had been turned around.