By Theresa Sherry
In the pages of the journals I have written in for twenty-three years, there is a tracing of pain, a record of relief, and the stifled expression of thoughts too complicated to put into words. Meaning always seemed to be trapped in between the pages, in between the lines. A lifelong attempt to empty my mind of brain traffic in a way that another could someday comprehend has been fruitless, but I have long understood that the purpose of the words on the page is that in putting them there, I can quiet my mind for a period of time. It has served a purpose later when I look back at progress to counter my discontent and impatience about what still needs to be done.
In the journal pages there is heartbreak, there is heartache, and there is hope. I have been feeling these three things viscerally this past week, and in the past three months. In seeking a way forward from a sometimes-overwhelming world, I am trying to listen to my own words. Memories return when I read these journals, and I realize that they return to me for healing rather than for haunting. I fervently hope that this can happen for our country, and for the world, as we honor the memories of past injustice, take notice of wrongs in real time, and move towards health and harmony.
C.S. Lewis said, “You cannot go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.” We cannot go back and change the fact that our country was built on the backs of slaves, and a class system that continues to deliver abuse to so much of our population. We cannot go back and change the deadly delays in response to the pandemic- the gross missteps in sourcing PPE, and the unavailability of widespread testing for the masses of people who needed it.
But we can change our trajectory-our next- by starting now.
In the pages of my journals in the past two years, I find the answer sometimes in a radical action I took in response to something hard I was experiencing. Usually something radically different from what was comfortable, and what I wanted to do. Doing something that progressed movement forward, often took that kind of a jolt because of the dramatically low place in which I found myself at the time. Few people reading these words have earned the intimate details of what those low places were for me, but the relevance is in the lessons about listening for the right action to take, and making the movement happen.
During the “in between” moments, after that initially radical action, and before I was thriving again, the growth happened. Handling the tedious daily maintenance of a new lifestyle, responding to triggers, and addressing new challenges, took tenacity. I have drawn confidence from the “in between” moments I had as an athlete, and the ones I have watched happen in others. The work done between beginner and expert. The repetitions completed between poor stick handling and savvy. The miles run between an eight-minute pace and six.
We will all find ourselves in between extremes in weeks to come when we will be putting our commitment to change to the test. Law, order, healthcare, education, and politics- will continue with current norms if we do not care for the “in between.”
As Nelson Mandela said, “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”
We can learn to be better. We can lead to be better. We can use past heartbreak and heartache because there is power in the pain. It will take radical action initially, and it will take tenacity to sustain. There is always hope.