I’m going to be completely honest with you. There are some times when it’s hard for me to concentrate on writing a sex ed column. In those times, I struggle to pick a topic, to sit down and write, to send it to Matt here at Milwaukee Record, and then to promote it on social media. This is one of those times. Against the backdrop of this never-ending pandemic, there is the war in Ukraine, the leaked SCOTUS ruling, the shootings in Laguna Woods and Baltimore, and now the heinous murder of elementary school children…these things and so many more have piled on, one on top of the next, until I feel like I can’t make myself do this column the way it’s usually done. I know most of this isn’t new. We’ve been doing these same dances since the first colonizers set foot on this land. But today, these things are too much.
I’ve been tossing around the phrase, “the world is a garbage fire” since 2016. In 2016, a huge steel dumpster aflame with rotting trash seemed like an apt analogy. But today, it doesn’t feel like enough. “Garbage fire” feels like a glib comparison to the world we’re living in. It’s heavy around here now. The air is heavy. The mood is heavy. Our hearts are heavy.
Are you tired? I’m tired, too. Do you feel listless and restless at the same time? I’m definitely stuck in a loop of being unable to move or sit still. Are you pissed? I can’t remember a time in my life when I have been so chronically pissed off. Have you been crying? Or refusing to cry? My eyes have welled up repeatedly, too. Lump in my throat. Ache in my jaw. Tears just there, just sitting right there.
Your feelings, my feelings—all of these feelings—these are the appropriate response to the events of our world. This is the autonomic system pleading with you for a break (even just a small one). We can’t stop the Russians in Ukraine. SCOTUS is going to do what it does regardless of our feelings (or the will of the majority of Americans who actually support abortion rights). The shootings—well, something could be done to prevent more of those but nothing will be done. Again. But we can take a break. We must pause, breathe, look at something lovely or listen to loud music or walk as hard as we can until our feet are numb and we’re out of breath.
The world is a garbage fire, but there is still beauty. There is music and art and living children who laugh. Babies are born every day, and that is an actual miracle. People are still accessing abortion care, and that is also a miracle. There is still consent and there is still sex, and you get to participate in both. There is love—so many kinds of love—romantic, parental, filial, companionable, compassionate. Your pets love you. Your plants love you. Your friends love you.
It is heavy right now, but we are still here. We can access joy and sorrow, ecstasy and grief, mystery and mundanity. We have work we will do. And we will take pauses when we need them. If you need one now, take it. That’s what I’m going to do.