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Sometimes we need space
Reflections on the collision of work and life.
I usually send out my newsletter on Thursday mornings. I didn’t this week. THB, I didn’t even think about it, or much else for that matter, after hearing about the horrific shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.
This morning, my 10-year-old son told me that he didn’t sleep well last night. He told me that he’d been awakened repeatedly by nightmares. I asked him if he remembered the nightmares, and he said no.
But I can’t remember the last time he’s mentioned a nightmare — it’s been years. It isn’t a huge leap to think that his nightmares were triggered by this nightmarish week.
He lay in bed next to me, and I rubbed his back.
About an hour later, I opened the calendar where I plan all of my writing and realized that I had neglected my Substack. I immediately wondered how I’d let the date pass me by, since reviewing my upcoming work is something I do regularly.
But I know how it happened. It just wasn’t important to me this week.
Taking space and giving grace
On Wednesday morning, I woke up with the knowledge that 21 families in Texas were beginning their days without a loved one. Even if it’s true that “time heals,” it is a lifetime of uncelebrated birthdays, missed milestones, and an empty chair at the table.
Somehow I managed to get my kids out the door and on their way to school. A true act of emotional labor. I told them that I loved them, a necessary act for me. If something were to happen to them at school, I would remember my last words to them.
Then I couldn’t stop crying. I cried into my coffee as I sat down to reply to emails. I work at a marketing agency and finally sent my boss a Slack message saying, “I need to step away today.” He told me that was fine.
So I didn’t work. In fact, I lay in bed for most of the day. I wrote about my feelings but ignored almost everything else, other than hugging my children when they got home from school and feeding them dinner.
I write about remote work a lot. I’ve written before about how work sometimes takes a backseat to current events. What happened in Uvalde was soul-crushing. I was scheduled to attend two client meetings that day, and I couldn’t stop crying. I couldn’t put content marketing ahead of the physical response that I was having to the massacre.
And I felt safe saying, “I can’t do this.” I knew that I’d be met with nothing but support. I hesitated briefly in the morning, thinking, “Do I really need the day? Can I pull myself together?” But after about an hour, I realized that I couldn’t.
Work should never, ever be a place where people are forced to prioritize the work over being human.
When people join a revolution
A few days have now passed. I resumed work and resumed writing.
I saw photos and clips from the protest outside the NRA Convention in Houston yesterday. Thousands of people flocked to the convention center, including children wearing signs saying, “Am I next?”
History is easier when you’re not living through it. I keep waiting for action — I’ve been waiting since the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012. My older son was a toddler at the time, and my younger son was an infant. I distinctly remember hearing about the news in the afternoon, closing my laptop (at home) and being done for the day.
In ten years, nothing has changed. Yet I keep hoping that people will realize their own power. We don’t have to sit back and take this.
2021 was a worker revolution. Enough is enough of shitty employers who don’t care about people and treat them like commodities.
I hold fast to the idea that this has been a catalyst for change across many aspects of life. That people recognize their own power and do something with that power.
I have to keep clinging to that notion… because the alternative is that more people will die. My children will continue to be at risk. It will be even worse for future generations.
But I refuse to believe that.
A friend of mine, who is a historian, summed it up perfectly.
Even during a revolution, the tomatoes need to be staked and the linen needs to be washed. And it always takes more time than it does in the history books.
I usually share something that happened in the world of remote/flexible work, but I’m not in the mood.
Instead, I share a song from Ingrid Michaelson, one that I’ve turned to many times when the world feels overwhelming.
All we can do is keep breathing….