A report on happiness seems really strange to write in the current state of our world. The last few days have been some of the saddest and darkest that we have seen in our lifetimes. I will never pretend to understand how our black community is feeling, or how they have ever felt. And to pretend to understand would be disrespectful and dismissive. We’ve all watched a million movies and television shows where people are murdered in graphic detail. But our world just watched a man get murdered on social media. Black people watched their brother get murdered. And no, I’m not naïve enough to think that racism doesn’t exist; I know it does; I’ve seen it and heard it and felt it. But we watched a black man get murdered on social media, and that’s not something we will ever forget. And really, we shouldn’t.
I am an empath. Some think it’s a blessing, a wonderful thing to feel such deep empathy for others. Honestly, it is exhausting. Because as an empath, it’s not as simple as “walking in someone else’s shoes,” you literally take on their feelings. You feel them deeply and intensely, and it sometimes makes me very tired. My whole life, watching movies and television shows, listening to stories, reading books, all while I have the largest burning tennis ball in my throat. It’s painful. Again, I will never pretend that I am feeling what our black community is feeling, because I am a white woman of privilege, so there’s no way I ever could. But I empathize with their words and their actions, and listening to their words and watching their videos in this current environment is painful. And really, it should be.
Closely coupled with being an empath, it takes me a while to process my thoughts and emotions, and then to sort them into words. The phrases shuffle through my head for hours (sometimes days) before I can articulate them correctly. This weekend, I couldn’t shut off the words and phrases. They kept coming in waves, and more and more information and resources flooded my screens. So on Sunday afternoon, I broke. I cried more than I’ve cried in months, releasing everything I was thinking and feeling, and it all just kept coming. It was at this point, I was able to start putting the words and phrases together. I felt called to share something publicly, but I was scared. Scared that I would get it wrong, scared that I would not correctly identify my privilege, scared that I would not honor our black community, scared that I would hurt anyone. No one needs to hurt more than we’re all hurting right now. Because although we’re watching fires burning on our television screens, the truth is, our world has been burning for a long time.
I texted my friend, Cassie, who is a beautiful woman of color, and I asked if she would read my words. I trust her, and I knew she would help me. Did I get it right? Is this okay to share? She called me and we cried. So maybe this isn’t the Happiness Report that I would typically share, but here’s what I wrote, and if we work together, we could create more collective happiness than we’ve ever known.
Our son is a person of color. You probably didn’t know that. I’m used to that by now. Every time I fill out a form that requires me to disclose his race, I mark the box. Most times, I’m advised that I “accidentally marked the wrong box.” And I explain that I did not, because he is Hispanic, which then requires an explanation about him being adopted and about his biological parents. To which they reply with some variation of, “He looks white.” And they think this response is safe, because I’m white, and they’re white, so somehow it’s okay. And those same people would probably never categorize themselves as a “racist,” but that response, and their bias, is a form of racism. The last 3 years of being his mama have been a constant lesson and reminder of white privilege and of systemic racism. When I met Jack’s birth mother, she told me that she wanted him to have more opportunities. And I take that responsibility very seriously. Because while one might think she solely meant financially, she also wanted him to have opportunities she knew were given to children of privilege and for him to live in a community with a more diverse population. We have been intentional about the books we buy, the dolls and toys we select, and the daycare we chose to ensure that Jack is surrounded by diverse cultures and backgrounds. We talk about love and kindness as often as possible, and the last thing he hears every morning before walking out the door is “Be nice to everyone!” I know that you’re used to me keeping it light and fun, but everything feels so dark and heavy. We love our black friends and family so much and don’t want to imagine a world without them in it. True change starts in our hearts and our homes. I am willing to do the work, and I pray you’ll join me.