Empathy is Exhausting. And Yet.

Tired. That’s the best word I’ve got for this cluster-fuck of a fall. Sad. There’s another one. ‘Chunky frozen turdsicle.’ That’s another, but it’s really more of phrase, isn’t it?

Everything seems impossibly heavy right now, this fall of 2020. The realities of how cruel and vulnerable we are, and the stark differences in how we Americans assess fears and fairness, how we determine for ourselves who is the “us” and the “them,” how we define our community, our country…it’s staggering. It pulls me to the floor. Add the isolation/claustrophobia of quarantine, AND impending winter…it feels like too much. I want to curl up and stop engaging, stay inside myself, deal with mine and only mine; check out on the endless civil rights conversations, currently most of which center on power/politics.

I feel powerless…but I am not.

I’m not powerless in the self-confidence way- my voice DOES work, I DO know things, I DO have things to say, and also I’m not powerless in my social standing way. I have currency. I am wealthy, Christian, able-bodied, white, and cis-hetero in a time and place where those qualities are still prioritized. They grant me inate trust and a microphone (that’s privilege). There are very few demographics higher up the social ladder than mine. And I am registered to vote. (Cis-hetero=gendered as the sex I was born with, married to a man).

So, I do have power, and I don’t want to opt out of using it, just because I can, just because I’m tired and uncomfortable, just because feeling others’ pain in addition to my own, hurts more. Just because it makes me face ugly truths about myself, my people, and I have to deal with my ego. Too many white women like myself have opted out, using the protections of white supremacy even though its brother, the patriarchy, works actively against us. Complacency is complicity, and look where it’s gotten us. No women are safe from men, and BIPOC people aren’t safe from white people. And Black women are super fucked by both. We are in the static structure of white supremacy and patriarchy, and it’s harming them, it’s harming all of us. (BIPOC =black, indigenous, and other people of color)

So, what am I doing with my power, my privilege, my position? I’m paying to learn, humbly reading and following activists and teachers who do anti-racist work, then I’m giving my money, my time, my energy, my pain and courage, to do the work in my corner of the world. It’s small, but it’s a start. I’m leaning on our collective fear, hurt, anger and donating money, writing letters and cold call strangers (Lord help me), begging people to research (how you can help, broken down by state), to open our collective eyes and hearts and feel empathy for the whole of the nation, not just those who look and sound like me. And to vote. To vote like some of our lives depend on it, because they do.

Choosing to feel the pain and fear of others, when I don’t have to up here in my tower, is an act of trying to keep my soul intact and to encourage justice, fairness, love, for not just me or the people I know, but for everyone. My house might not be burning down, but my neighbor’s is, so WE have a problem. WE are losing. WE need to fix it. Ooh, and by the way, if my cousin SET that fire? Then it’s most definitely my fucking job to hold him accountable. If he gets away with it? It’s my job to change the system that allowed that. Because I’m the system. It’s mine. It’s built, mostly, for me. I have power in it.

So. Black and Brown people, LGBTQIA people being murdered by police, being neglected by healthcare, being set apart as unworthy in banking and housing and schooling and….all of our shared systems…systems that supports their killers and not them. It IS on me to figure out how to change it, and to share their fear, anger, disgust, and absolute devastating grief. I have no business backing out or giving up, and I’m not succumbing to the useless relief of white guilt. I’m not succumbing to my exhaustion.

I am reckoning with my people’s brutal treatment of Black people for always, and encouraging others to do the same. I’m staring down the hundreds of years and millions of lives tortured, traumatized, ended in the name of maintaining white power. We have prevented BIPOC from living free, safe, healthy, successful lives, and the MANY Black and Brown people who have still have, somehow, impossibly, thrived and lead and lived joyful, full lives, are not evidence that racism is over, it’s DESPITE the racism that still reigns. No one escapes these oppressive systems, none of us aren’t harmed by them.

So, I’m tired, but I’m activated. Please stay with me.

This year has given me both zits AND wrinkles, so that’s fun.




Frank and funny, Sarah writes the hard stuff of marriage, parenting, woman-ing. Ravishly, The Belladonna Comedy, Pregnant Chicken, & more. Twitter: @sarahzimzam

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Sarah Z Writer

Sarah Z Writer

Frank and funny, Sarah writes the hard stuff of marriage, parenting, woman-ing. Ravishly, The Belladonna Comedy, Pregnant Chicken, & more. Twitter: @sarahzimzam

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