Yesterday afternoon, my mom and I took the kids to a peaceful protest. I wasn’t sure what to expect. Will it really be peaceful? Will people maintain social distancing? Will it be well attended? On the way there, I shared my limited knowledge with my kids. “Guys, I am not sure what this is going to look like. There might be SO many people, or there might be just a few. We know it’s going to be really hot so I’m going to bring your water bottle. We are going to something called a protest. We want to show our support that everyone should be treated with respect. Everyone should be treated equally, no matter if their skin is light or dark.”
Susan David, author of Emotional Agility said, “One of the greatest human triumphs is to choose to make room in our hearts for both the joy and the pain, and to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.”
I was definitely feeling uncomfortable. Will there be other little kids there? Will it be safe? Should we have stayed home?
So many emotions
As we walked across the parking lot, my emotions overcame me. I was flooded with emotion. Tears streamed down my face, hidden by my mask and sunglasses.
The turn out was incredible. Families, high school students, groups of friends, and young and old were all in attendance. The peaceful protest supported the Black Lives Matter movement. It was a protest to speak out against racial injustice and inequality. Posters were proudly displayed, speeches were given, and call and response chants rang loud, despite being muffled behind masks. The flier said “masks required” and sure enough, every single person I saw had on a mask.
Last week I noted how I was feeling uncomfortable. And I still am. More accurately, I’m also feeling uneasy, disheartened, restless, motivated, and privileged.
While identifying our emotions is a valuable first step, we don’t have to stop there. We can learn from our emotions. David says to ask yourself “What is the purpose of this emotion? What is it telling you? What does it get you? What’s buried underneath that sadness, frustration or joy?”
Emotions are teachers
I still have a lot of work to do. For myself, and for my kids. Recognizing, labeling, and trying to understand the complexity of my emotions is challenging as an adult. When my kids are experiencing their own strong emotions, I need to offer them more compassion.
While I don’t “practice mindfulness,” I am attempting to slow down and tune in. Not shutting down or suppressing the less pleasant emotions but sitting with them. Labeling them and learning from them. As David says, “Once we stop struggling to eliminate distressing feelings or to smother them with positive affirmations or rationalizations, they can teach us valuable lessons.”
David goes on to talk about courage. She says,
"Courage is not an absence of fear; courage is fear walking."
Last night, Keener was terrified of another thunderstorm. While I am planning a follow up post to address how I am specifically helping him with that, it hit me last night. As I validated how scared he was, I realized we all are trying to find courage. To walk with our fear, one step at a time. To have courage, to walk and live with our fears, be it thunderstorms or addressing racism. No need to wait for the absence of fear; model for your kids what “fear walking” courage looks like.