On being ... a needed respite

By Ingrid Sapona

Many have commented that since January 20th they feel as though a weight has been lifted off them. I’ve been feeling the same way. The silence from the Twittersphere and the change in tone of words coming out of the White House is a welcome relief. I guess this is what it feels like when bullying finally stops. Still, it’s sad to think about the damage done to our individual and collective souls over the past four years.

I think much of the world felt reassured – if not relieved – at having witnessed the peaceful transition of power in the U.S. Though such transitions are something Americans had taken for granted for over two centuries, Trump had conditioned many to expect the unthinkable. 

Given that all I really wanted was a day with no violence, I certainly didn’t expect the Inauguration to be memorable beyond seeing Biden and Harris sworn in. But, like many, I was overwhelmed by the words – and wisdom – of National Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman. 

Over the past few years, I’ve written about my general loss of hope for the future. But seeing and hearing Gorman helped me feel that maybe there is cause for optimism. She made me think that maybe the youth of the world have the energy, enthusiasm, and intelligence necessary to change the world for the better. Maybe they aren’t as tired and weary as me… 

I’ve been pleased that others too have pointed to Ms. Gorman’s poem as a beacon of hope. Here’s a bit of commentary by three Canadian professors who wrote about the inspiring recitation: 

“Gorman moved many in a time of geopolitical uncertainty and a pandemic with the power of critical hope, something that combats hollow positivity. In the words of educator and literary theorist Ira Shor, critical hope asks us to ‘challenge the actual in the name of the possible.’.”  

So yes, over the past few weeks there have been bright spots worth savoring. But let’s not forget that there are still 7,000 National Guard troops in Washington, D.C. and CBS News reports the number will be drawn-down to 5,000 through mid-March. How sad that that many troops will be needed in the U.S. Capitol for at least six more weeks! That says a lot. And if that’s not troubling enough, the other day the Department of Homeland Security issued a threat bulletin due to the ongoing potential for violence, including concerns that Domestic Violent Extremists (DVEs) “may be emboldened by the January 6, 2021 breach of the U.S. Capitol Building”. According to the bulletin, the heightened threat environment extends “across the United States”. I want to believe that Gorman is right that there is always light, but I fear danger’s is lurking in the shadows.

And of course, Covid-19 hasn’t taken a breather like the rest of us. If anything, it’s working harder to prevail. Besides the ever climbing number of infections and the staggering death toll*, mutations are preventing public health officials, pharmaceutical companies, and front-line workers from feeling any relief in the pandemic war. 

Though the feeling of being able to breathe easier and sleep better that many of us have felt since the Inauguration is definitely welcome, let’s not mistake it for more than a welcome respite. And, though I hope we can ride this wave of positivity for awhile yet, keep in mind that, by definition, respites are temporary. In the meanwhile, however, let’s use this calm to refill our wells of compassion, patience, and creativity so that we’re strong enough to meet the challenges that lie ahead. 

© 2021 Ingrid Sapona 

*World-wide there have been over 2.2 million deaths to date and the U.S. the death toll has increased 100,000 in the month since I wrote: On being … too much in 2020.


On being … a roller coaster of emotions

By Ingrid Sapona

Sometimes the deadline for On being… approaches and I’m idealess. Those occasions are a challenge, but they’re useful, as they force me to reflect on my intention for On being…. Then there are other times when I get an idea for the next column pretty much the day after I publish one. That’s what happened this time. So, on January 2nd I decided today’s column was going to be called: On being … in check.

The idea came to me when a friend said to me – very sincerely – “Oh, you must be SO DISAPPOINTED” when I told her that my planned kitchen reno is officially on hold. The reno’s been in the works for awhile and the plan was for it to be done in March or April. I’ve ordered appliances and was getting ready to order the cabinets but, the day after Christmas, Ontario introduced further restrictions to try to control Covid. As a result, my condo board has advised that renovations that hadn’t been started must be put off.  

While it’s frustrating not knowing how long the delay may be (timing of ordering the cupboards was going to be tricky in any event), I wouldn’t say I’m disappointed. After all, it’s just a delay. There was nothing magic about March or April. Besides, other than the fact that my microwave and dishwasher are on the fritz, there’s really nothing wrong with the kitchen so waiting isn’t really even a hardship.

Then, after learning about my reno delay, Covid interfered with another plan I’ve had since this time last year. Friends and I were booked on a January 7th flight for our annual trip to Mexico. We knew from others who winter there that they feel safe thanks to mandatory mask wearing and social distancing restrictions in effect. But, given new restrictions added in Mexico and on our return, days before the flight we decided not to go. Major disappointment… But, hope springs eternal and we re-booked the condo and the flight for late spring.  

Given that 2021 feels it’s pretty much a continuation of 2020, on January 2 I decided to make a (belated) New Year’s resolution to help me cope with the inevitable disappointments that lie ahead. My resolution is to always “check in” with myself to assess whether the basis of a complaint or feeling of disappointment relates to a need or to a want. If it’s because of an unfulfilled need, I’ll give myself permission to be upset – and then I’ll try to figure out another way to fulfill it. If the complaint or disappointment relates to a want, well – what’s that expression about putting on your grownup pants?

So, in my mind, this column was done – I was going to write about being straight with myself about wants versus needs. And then came the events of January 6th. Like so many, I watched in amazement and sadness as the U. S. Capitol was overrun by a mob. I can’t say I was surprised – Trump has been rallying his supporters toward violence since his pre-election rallies in 2016. But still, the fact that the U.S. has descended into mob rule is unfathomable.

The next morning as I read newspaper reports of the events at the U.S. Capitol and the daily tragic news about the pandemic, I found myself overwhelmed with sadness. It seemed each article sent me on an emotional roller coaster with a flood of On being… topics coming fast and furious. As I’ve mentioned before, thinking in terms of On being… is one of my coping mechanisms – a way I sort out emotions. So, if you don’t mind, I’ll share some of the On being … ideas that have struck me these first few days of January:

On being … in denial – The only way the Capitol police could have been surprised by the mob that was carrying out Trump’s wishes is if they were in denial.

On being … allowed – The fact that the mainly white mob was not suppressed with any show of force is pretty clearly a sign of white privilege.

On being … a coward behind bullet proof glass – Convenient that when inciting the crowd at the rally on the 6th, Trump, Don Junior, and Rudy Giuliani were at a podium safely behind bullet proof glass. And then, after urging the mob to march to the Capitol, Trump and his pals were driven in a secret service-protected motorcade back to the White House. And of course, when Trump finally leaves Washington, he’ll be free to continue his ranting, lying, and inciting violence all the while he’s protected for life by the Secret Service. Such a hero…

On being … divisive – How dare the Republicans argue that bringing an impeachment action is divisive rather than healing! Reminiscent of the old pot and kettle adage, don’t you think? How is perpetuating a lie about a stolen election not divisive? And what have those lying Republican legislators who tried to overturn the results in various states done to try to heal the divide?

On being … a fortress – How sad to see Washington, D.C. turned into an armed fortress. While it’s understandable – in light of last week’s events and in light of the upcoming inauguration – it’s still sad. Just think of it, they’ve called in more than 20,000 National Guard troops to prevent Americans from harming Americans…

On being … too soon forgotten – My biggest fear is that in a few weeks people will lose interest. No lessons will be learned and no changes will result. How much you want to bet that by month’s end people will talk more about what Lady Gaga or JLo wore at the inauguration than about how to mend the nation?

What about you? What are you feeling these first few days of the New Year? Any On being … -type topics you’re struggling to come to grips with?

© 2021 Ingrid Sapona