There is so much coming at us these days, it’s hard to keep track. It’s hard to know how to respond. And it’s hard to distribute spoons appropriately.
A few nights ago, United States Congressman John Lewis — a towering figure of the Civil Rights Era and continuing vocal proponent for racial justice — died at age 80. I’d like to use my spoons to honor his legacy.
And for the past several nights, after 50 consecutive days of protests for racial justice in Portland, Oregon — 35 miles from my house — we learned federal agents have been deployed here. They’re grabbing protestors off the streets in unmarked vans without cause. They’re not identifying themselves. They’re beating peaceful bystanders. They’re lobbing tear gas and flash bangs at the moms who’ve come out to try to protect the protestors. I want to use my spoons to rally for justice. I want to use my spoons to honor the folks who’ve been subjecting themselves to this treatment for weeks, hoping for a better city and a better world. To honor the Wall of Moms who will be out again tonight.
“We got gassed last night and it did suck, but we’ve all been through childbirth, IEP meetings, and long barf-filled nights. We got this.” Maureen Kenny Mimiaga, Portland Mom
And, of course, we’re in the middle of a pandemic and trying to figure out how/if/when to send kids back to school. We have a national election in just barely over three months, one that could not be more critical for our future, individually and as a country. And our economy is tanking with Congress stuck in gridlock and unable to act. Millions are unable to find work. Millions have lost health coverage. Millions are — or shortly will be — unable to pay rent and mortgages. The level of outrageous and deadly politics currently costing tens of thousands their lives and livelihoods is overwhelming. The confluence of crises is staggering.
And I only have, like, twelve damn spoons per day.
Early in the pandemic — mid-to-late March — I was worried about hunkering down, feeding my family, and staying distanced. I was focused on a new routine without external appointments. I was cooking daily. I was feeding my sourdough starter and making yogurt. I was trying to manage just two things — my mental health and my humans — hoping to emerge from this time with our hearts and our heads intact. Hoping to minimize the trauma. Hoping we would be the community we need for each other.
Now we’re mid-to-late July — four months in — and with no shortage of breakfast cereal at the stores, my family is on their own. Sourdough pancakes have left the building. They’re hungry? Good thing they know how to work a toaster and a microwave.
My twelve spoons are used to 1. Get myself out of bed in the morning (1 spoon), 2. Put on clothes and perhaps evaluate my personal hygiene (1 spoon), 3. Feed myself food throughout the day (3 spoons), 4. Work on anti-racism action in our school district (4 spoons), 5. Speaking to my family — mostly to tell them they may use their own brains for deciding what to eat as mine is at full capacity and has no additional resources to allot to things they’re perfectly capable of doing on their own (2 spoons), and 6. Getting myself to bed at a reasonable hour so I don’t steal spoons from the next day (1 spoon).
There just aren’t enough spoons to handle the tidal wave of crises demanding our attention, Diary. There’s a dearth of spoons. A severe shortage in the national spoon stockpile. A gross mismanagement of spoon distribution.
So, unfortunately, we’re left with doing what we can even while knowing it’s not enough.
Which is why we need heroes — people like John Lewis — to cast a light in the darkness and show us a way through it. To remind us we’ve been in places like this before. To remind us we’ve overcome great odds by combining our spoons. To remind us we can do it again and push the needle still further toward justice.
“Do not get lost in a sea of despair. Be hopeful, be optimistic. Our struggle is not the struggle of a day, a week, a month, or a year; it is the struggle of a lifetime. Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble.” — John Lewis