Allowing Ourselves Grace in these Troubling Times

By Barbara Semedo
Note: this was originally sent to CLASP staff by Barbara Semedo, the organization’s deputy executive director for external affairs and strategic communications. We share it here because the message seems relevant beyond CLASP.
I’m sharing a reflection on these moments of uncertainty, pain, anger, and fear that, at times, seem to have no end.
As a career communications professional accustomed to sharing my opinions regularly, I’ve found it difficult over the past few months to articulate with clarity my feelings about all the moments of pain, confusion, and anger that seem to hit us daily. That is, until today.
Yesterday, I woke up to more deeply disturbing news that left me, again, angry–but also, again, weary, and tired. In fact, I told my family that I feel like our country has been infected with a poison, and the cure seems, at times, out of reach. That might sound too pessimistic or dramatic, but reading about the killing of Jonathan Price on Saturday by a Texas law enforcement officer on top of words “to not let Coronavirus dominate your life” and to just “learn to live with it” took its toll.
While Jonathan Price was described by people in his Texas hometown as a “pillar in his community,” his killing would have been horrifying even if he wasn’t. He was a city employee, a personal trainer, and just the latest example of why Black Americans constantly feel a sense of terror and fear. The police officer who killed him was charged with murder for taking “unreasonable” action in trying to detain Price.
I’ve been thinking about the sad and odd juxtaposition of the news and messages – anger, hurt, and outrage over the killing of another Black person and about Coronavirus – and then to be told to “live with it.” That’s asking a lot of the families and friends of the more than 210,000 Americans for whom Covid-19 was a death sentence and of the many of us left with anger, pain, and fear over the police killings. And both of these are particularly painful for many people of color. Enough is enough – those words have been with me since May.
In our Leadership Team meeting Monday, we talked about making sure to encourage staff to take breaks, pay attention to our own self-care during these moments. One of our director shared this word with all of us – GRACE – and encouraged us to keep it in our mind and hearts as we confront these (almost) daily moments of what she called “perpetual stress and fatigue.”
She shared with us this tweet:
“Mental shift: I’m not behind or unproductive. I’m doing as much as my mind and body are allowing me to do under perpetual stress and fatigue”
So, all of this is to tell you that as I work in my remote office alone and try to cope, today is one of those days when I finally decided it was time to share my feelings. I don’t feel as though I’ve been productive on behalf of CLASP as I try to be every day. But as my colleagues told me, that will happen, and it’s OK.
While I cannot control what happens around me, I can, at least, control how I react to it and handle it. So, this week – it is about GRACE.
Another colleague reminded me of a metaphor shared on social media a while back:
“Sometimes music requires players or singers to hold a note longer than they actually can. In those cases, we were taught to mindfully stagger when we took a breath, so the sound appeared uninterrupted. Everyone got to breathe, and the music stayed strong and vibrant…”