Writing in a Time of Peril: September 20, 2020

Joy Is What We Do


The Johns Hopkins CSSE dashboard reported 6.69 million U.S. cases and 198,055 deaths as of 1:30 pm EDT on September 18, 2020

– From Johns Hopkins daily update.

On Sunday, September 20, 2020, the death toll passed 200.000 deaths in the U.S.

Notorious RBG

It’s been a hard few days for me. We placed purple ribbons on the trees in our front yard in memorial for John Lewis and planned to take them off after ninety days, the amount of time my family traditionally mourns our beloved ones’ passing. The color purple, in keeping with the Lewis family’s wish represents our rededication to supporting the search for cures and treatment of pancreatic and all cancers. 

The death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg has taken me out for two days. I turned off the TV and took to my bed, tea and toast only as I hushed out everyone’s fear for ourselves now that she is gone–all of us who wanted her to postpone her retirement and endure suffering while holding onto the job of a Supreme for us. That some of us lamented that she did not hold on, suffer longer for us, made me sick, literally. I held her as she passed. I sat in the garden and sang to her against all my wanting to clutch, to cling, to hold on.

I am not a Jew, yet she is mine to mourn. I am not white, yet she is mine to mourn. I am not straight, yet she is mine to mourn. I am not a cancer survivor, yet she is mine to mourn. I am not a Supreme Court Justice or a Supreme Court clerk, yet she is mine to mourn. I am not her family, her friend, or beloved to her, yet she is mine to mourn. Ruth Bader Ginsberg is mine to love and honor and mourn.

It All Makes Me Sick

I was not surprised that my gut revolted. I felt nauseous and needed only stillness and quiet in the face of combined assaults–Covid -19, the isolation and extreme care it requires of all of us, more than 200,000 deaths, millions sick and recovering with untold long-term effects, glaciers calving, hurricanes–double hurricanes–coming, hundreds of fires and toxic unbreathable air. And black lives, women’s lives, immigrants’ lives, the lives of people with pre-existing conditions, LGBTQ, all these lives not mattering. And the sowing of hate, confusion, and misinformation. And the intentional diminishment of the U. S. Postal Service for naked political gain. No wonder I am made sick. We are made sick. 

What do we do?

And we must mourn, during these times our government has chosen to allow Covid-19 to ravage our borders unmasked, untested, un trace and , we must count the dead a murdered. We must protect and preserve our lives and not forget the dead, the dying, the sick and those of us forever changed by Covid_19. Put aside a moments(s) each day y to acknowledge and be grateful for their time with us and grieve another thousand dead today and tomorrow, another child, mother, father, sister, brother, lover… gone, seventy–five percent of our beloved’s deaths preventable, all of us  devastated and in mourning. 

Tribute to Supreme Court Justice, Ruth Bader Ginsberg

And what else do we do?

Joy is What We Do

Now, right now, we must live our lives consciously, conscientiously, concretely, constructively, like the Marge Piercy Poem, To Have Without Holding. We must make life-giving use of everything in us that that struggles, survives and triumphs over that which hurts us, divides us, attempts to kill us. We mix the poultices, soups and teas from the herbs of our mother’s and grandmother’s gardens. We bathe and soak in the scents of healing salts and herbs. We pray, and meditate, and dance, and drum, and sing. 

We make our homes and our close circles as healthy and whole and welcoming and nurturing as womanly and humanly possible. We love each other and touch each other in every way we can. We listen to each other. We hear each other. We forgive each other. We reconcile with each other. We eat and move and pray and sleep and wake up in the arc of each other’s love. 

We take requisite care in every part of our lives that we have control of, our hearts, bodies, minds, souls, our work, our creativity, our contributions of money, time, and resources, whatever they may be.

We insist on joy–yes, joy– in these times that call out for us to go deaf, dumb, blind, and silent in self-loathing and hatefulness because of our complicity in our own undoing and death. 

We bask in joy every time the morning comes, a child laughs, our meals are prepared in love, our small circle of friends and family gather physically, but not socially, distanced, and every time nature shows herself vibrant abandon. 

We require joy in every privileged breath we take, clean water we drink, and safe passages we happen to have because of race, class, education, age, gender, immigration status, faith practice, affectional preference, however, relative they may be, and we gladly acknowledge our power and share our advantage with those not privileged by systemic racism, misogynoir, anti-Semitism, xenophobia……

We command joy in the presence of all that there is to rationally fear, despair, and give up on. 

We prepare, and make, and consume, and share this compulsion to live, to be the antidote, joy, physical, emotional, creative, sexual, sensual, psychic and spiritual joy, for and with ourselves and each other. 

We loving ourselves. We find the joy that is always as much available to us as are our rational fears, our past and current pain, and the disabling forces that besiege us all. 

Joy is an antitoxin, a serum, a counter-measure, a cure for physical and emotional violence and disabling disempowerment. 

Joy delivers breath to our cells and transforms our breath into fuel that awakens and enlivens us to create just and free lives and more joy.  

And what else do we do?

We write, we create, and we tell the stories.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg on The Heroic Visionary Women of Passover

And what else?

We Get in Good Trouble

Speak Up, condemn speech that is bigoted or hateful. Confront, acknowledge, apologize, and change these behaviors within ourselves, always, always, first, within ourselves.

Become a Racial Equity Broker

“If you are not at the table, you are on the menu and someone is eating you for lunch,” Shirley Chisolm said. She also said,” If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.” 

Never Give Up 

John Lewis taught us persistence. He taught us …”when a person has transformative ideas, they should not taper those ideas. Instead, they should persist. Simply because change is slow does not mean change agents have to move slowly towards it.” 

First and second and third, we must find ways to act in authentic, powerful, and productive ways to preserve and advance our own lives. 

Next and next and next, do everything we can do to positively, productively, lovingly and proactively impact the lives of our families, neighbors, communities, country, our world with the urgency and ferocity fuels our insistence on life and joy. Give thought, time, resources, and acts of assistance and resistance. Learn and use the tools of activism and the democratic defense of our own bodies, our nation, and our world.

We Vote. 

We research and know the rules and options in our state and town for voting, and we make a plan, and we make an alternative plan, and we make a backup plan to our alternative plan.

We vote early in person or by mail. We send out ballot through the mail or we deliver our ballot in person into a ballot box provided by our election board.

Or we vote in person on Tuesday, November 3, 2020, and we wear masks and stay physically distant and bring food and drink and needed medication, and an umbrella, and wear comfortable shoes, andwear to keep us warmed or cool, and bring something to sit on, and charge our devices fully, and bring an external charger, and bring all our family and friends. And those of us who are able volunteer to give rides and pickups for our elders and others needing assistance, and send gentle reminders, and follow up those reminders with another reminder with love and kindness, and do everything we can to be sure all of our votes count, because joy is what we do.

A Love Song for You

Allow this song in your body, mind and heart as if you are singing it you yourself and lifting yourself up. 

Me, Myself, and I, Randy Crawford. Randy Crawford & Joe Sample – Me my self and i – YouTube

I go down my to-do list of self-care: meditate, eat well, rest well, get exercise, connect, connect, connect, stay home–except for the pharmacy & the grocery & then only with a mask. Watch less TV, but stay informed. Read and study more. Laugh a lot. Channel fear, grief, and rage into expression, action, and art. I continue to chronicle these times.

In Joy and Doing,


© Andrea Canaan, MSW, MFA


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