Troubled Times, Our Process and Our Kids

If you're anything like me, you have been in agony over the events that have unfolded this week. Perhaps, like me, you were enraged. Perhaps you held your babies tighter. Perhaps you shut it all out and lived on as if nothing had changed. Perhaps you kept wailing, as I did, "What can I do???"

However you chose to process, however big or small or confusing (or all of the above) your feelings have been, I want you to know that it's ok.

None of us knows how to process what we've been facing this week, so if you feel lost and confused and scared, you're not alone.

And if you don't know how to talk to your kids about it, if you're stuck between wanting them to be informed and empowered, but not scared out of their minds, this too is common this week.

I don't have all the answers, but I can tell you a bit about my process as it unfolded over the last few days, and hope that in some way it helps you through yours.

When the news broke about Alton Sterling, I became enraged. A fire consumed me. I have long been an advocate for social justice and a voice for equality. I have always been an ally. I am known to be one of the fiercest supporters of gay civil rights of all of my friends.

I am vocal, I march, I sign petitions, I make phone calls... I get shit done. 

A few weeks ago, a friend's 11-year-old asked his dad, "Dad, how can you be the change you want to see in the world if you want to help gay people and you're not gay?" His dad responded, "Look at Kate! She's not gay and she fights for gay rights all the time!"

When I see oppression of any kind, I act. It's in my DNA. It's visceral.

So when Alton Sterling was killed, I acted. Loudly. All over social media. (If we're friends on FB, you know what I'm talking about.) I was in a social justice tailspin, and it was playing out on FB. My newsfeed was full of it, and it was fanning my flames. I was posting, sharing, re-sharing, cross-posting, commenting. I was on fire.

And then Philando Castile was shot, and, reeling, I once more took to social media. I saw the video. A sickness took over me. I got louder, more fierce, more active.

I was consumed.

And then a black man was found hanging in a park in Atlanta...and I broke. At that moment I could literally take no more. I was drowning in my grief and rage. My relationships were suffering, my son was asking questions I couldn't answer, my dad is visiting from out of town, and I could barely speak to him.

And at that moment, my internal brakes went on, and everything stopped.

{And then Dallas...}

Here's what I did in the last few days that helped me recover myself, and actually propel me into meaningful action:

  1. I shut down social media. I deleted the FB app from my phone and installed a Chrome extension that kills my newsfeed, but still allows me access to the work groups I manage and those I am in. Someone described FB this week as a "virtual bonfire," and it hit home for me. There are a million and one ways I can be informed that don't involve an incessant stream of pain and rage, and images my psyche doesn't know how to process. People need to express themselves on social media and that is 100% their prerogative, and there is some good in that. But it was becoming toxic to me, oozing out into all aspects of my life, and I needed to stop—for my own sanity, and for the preservation of the important relationships in my life.
  2. I went internal. My morning routine, for as long as I can remember, has been to grab my phone and start scrolling through FB as soon as I wake up. While coffee is brewing, before my son gets up (or while he's doing his strange pre-teen thing), I'm on social media. But last night I replaced the FB app with a meditation app, and this morning I made coffee, meditated for 20 minutes, journaled, and read my light (but important) book on peri-menopause (because, yep, that's happening, which, according to this book, could be why I've been so consumed by all of these emotions—but that's for another post). Then I went to the gym. Along the way I got my news from NPR. It wasn't good news, but it was relevant and important information, without rage, grief or scarring images. Just the (all-important) facts. And then I exercised, and my feelings were released through movement and lifting heavy weights.
  3. I talked to people. Preaching to my own choir on Facebook isn't actually taking action. It isn't changing the lives, hearts and minds of anyone; it just looks good. I had a few days of feeling pretty good about myself and my voice on social media, and even got a few mentions from others thanking me for my voice and service. Until I realized I was full of shit, and a coward. So I broke out of my comfort zone and had actual conversations with some people who didn't see it all the same way I did. I was actually able to change some hearts and minds. A close friend didn't acknowledge privilege, so I showed it to him. He did some more research, talked to other people, and thanked me for opening his eyes. I called my best friend, who is gay and black and a Buddhist and his unique perspective helped shift mine from anger and inflammation to compassion and a greater love, without abandoning any of the realities at play.
  4. I refused to watch the videos. The decision to turn off social media was spawned in part by inadvertently seeing the shooting of Philando Castile. Before FB created the "This is graphic content, click to watch the video" notification, I was scrolling through my feed and it was just there, playing, because someone I know had posted it. It rocked me to my core. In the last few days, I did a lot of research, and here is what I have learned: No, we don't have to watch the videos in order to get the full impact of what's going on in the world. Yes, it's vitally important that the videos are out there, that people are capturing a very real problem on video so the right people can be brought to justice (God and our justice system willing). Black men being killed by white cops is nothing new; video proof is, and it's important. That being said, overplaying videos like these is actually a way to desensitize us from the horror of it. During the Rodney King trial, the defense played the video of Rodney King's beating over and over and over again in an effort to desensitize the jury to it's horror—and it worked. Luvvie Ajayi (Awesomely Luvvie) called these videos "state sanctioned snuff films," and I agree. But most important of all is that our psyches are simply not built to handle and process these images in any kind of healthy way. Doing so can do serious damage, and in many cases, cause PTSD. I could find no argument that watching these videos was in any way good for us. (This applies to the news as well. I don't have cable, so the news isn't running in my house, but if it is in yours, consider turning it off.)
  5. I talked to my son about privilege and race. I'm raising a white boy, and I don't take that responsibility lightly. I don't have to worry about sending my son around the corner for milk for fear of him being targeted and shot; I have friends who do. I have black friends raising black boys and I have spoken to them this week about their fears. I have white friends raising black boys and I have spoken to them as well. But it's not enough for me to know that my son is privileged. If you know anything about what I do and what I believe in, you know that I take this very seriously; that in order for us to raise healthy, happy, successful children, I believe we have to do some deep work on ourselves. But it doesn't stop there. We have to talk to our kids in healthy, productive and developmentally appropriate ways. For information on how to talk to your kids click here and here and here. Or seek professional help here and here.
  6. I have committed to taking action. My boyfriend challenged me last night (in a pretty intense way, I might add) to put my money where my mouth is. He challenged me to decide on one thing I can do to effect real change, and to commit to it. I told him to back off, and that I needed a minute to go inside and process, but it opened up an important dialogue, which is actually the conclusion of this email, and my biggest takeaway from this week:

We must find the delicate and tricky balance of going internal and taking action.

We must dive deeply within ourselves—through meditation, silent contemplation, yoga, chanting, journaling, walking...whatever your personal process is of connecting with your deepest self, now is the time to grab it by the balls, to anchor yourself in your spirit. (As an intense intellectual who really prefers to be in action, this is my deepest challenge.)

But we must also take action. It's not enough to post on social media; it's not enough to meditate on the state of the world. We have to get into action if we are to effect any change whatsoever. That being said, your action should be whatever drives your passions—and that may not be racial injustice or anything in the news. My boyfriend realized last night that his passion has always been towards the elderly. He used to volunteer in nursing homes, and he let it lapse for one reason or another. While he's been on a deeply spiritual journey for much of his life, he realized last night that he's been a bit self-centered about it all lately, and that in order for him to really effect change, he needs to recommit to volunteering with the elderly. This is a real gift that he has; it's his unique light to share with the world, and he can't do it just by meditating for 20 minutes each morning.

So what is your unique gift to the world? Where can you get into action, today, tomorrow, next week? Grab that by the balls too—and share it with your kids. Open their eyes to the possibility of being the change.

These are some of the most trying times I personally can remember in my lifetime, and as a mother I feel the weight of it extra-heavy; I'm sure you do too. But we are not powerless. We are, in fact, deeply powerful.


Kate Anthony

Kate Anthony is the incredible mom, coach, and personal development superstar behind “How To Not F*ck Up Your Kids.” Kate uses her 20+ years of personal and professional experience to help moms stop losing their shit on their kids, and raise happier, healthier kids. With both her group and 1:1 programs, Kate offers her clients a breadth of expertise, tools, and skills for customized results that make the greatest impact on their lives. Check her out and say “hi” over here.