Embrace the Opposites - By Omkari Williams
It’s December and we’re moving into the holiday season. Many of us live in places where Christmas, Hanukah, or Kwanzaa are celebrated. Even if we ourselves don’t observe a holiday it’s pretty well impossible to not notice all the hoopla around us. And then there’s the new year that is just a few short weeks away, closing 2020 and welcoming 2021.
This year we are confronted by opposites. We are moving into a celebratory season while navigating the unimaginable and ongoing loss that has been caused by Covid19. We may feel gratitude that 2020, with all its stress and drama, will be over, together with anxiety for what may be ahead of us. After all, no one I know had Coronavirus on their 2020 bingo card.
Here in the U.S. we are closing the books on one administration and moving into a new one that is, already, different than any that has come before. We finally have a woman, and a woman of color at that, in a position previously occupied only by men. This alone is reason to celebrate.
We are in the midst of enormous upheaval in our world and, at the same time, being home so much this year has created a rhythm that feels more human scaled than the external busyness of our lives before. It’s been hard and it’s been revelatory.
Those of us with school age children have a new and deeper respect for the job that our educators do. Those of us who have been working from home for the first time are wondering whether this makes more sense than commuting. At the same time, the isolation and loneliness that so many of us have experienced makes us appreciate the banality of our office coffee breaks. We find ourselves missing the face to face human interactions that might have seemed unimportant or outright annoying before.
One of the hallmarks of American society is our seemingly relentless dedication to putting on a happy face. We have songs about it; “smile though your heart is breaking” comes to mind. But that means that we deny ourselves the truth of our experience. We judge ourselves harshly for feeling sadness, grief, anger, frustration or all of the above. That relentless drive to putting on a happy face doesn’t give us room to experience that shadow side of life which, while it isn’t the most fun part, is deeply necessary.
There is depth that is created in embracing the shadow. Depth that cannot exist without that embrace. When we are grieving, we share our grief with those we feel will understand -- others who have themselves grieved. We seek those who know what that feels like so that we are seen and heard.
Likewise, when we are joyous, we don’t go tell the permanent grouch about our joy. We look for the person who has that quality of joy in them so that we can celebrate together. It is in the experience of those opposites that the richness of life lies.
This year has challenged all of us in ways that we never dreamed possible. We don’t have to like it, I certainly don’t. I want to be able to hug people and eat in a restaurant and, and, and…
Yet, this year has shown me things about myself that I suspected but didn’t know for sure. It has shown me that while I am indeed resilient, I do not do well without significant alone time. I had to learn to create that in order to stay on an even keel. It taught me to embrace what is true rather than banging my head against a wall wishing things were other than they are.
This year has shown the bigheartedness that we are capable of as well as the places where we are downright petty. And it’s all okay. We are navigating uncharted waters even now, months into this, as the holidays present their own set of challenges. So, cut yourself some slack if that’s what’s needed. Demand more of yourself if that’s what called for. Most importantly, be honest about which it is. Don’t stick your complex emotions and experience into a tiny box you would never create for someone else.
While 2020 may be nearly over, we’ve no idea whether 2021 will look more like a roller coaster or a lasagne noodle. Either way, embrace the opposites and give yourself the gift of emotional generosity this holiday season, starting with yourself.
Omkari Williams is a speaker, writer, podcast host, and certified creativity and life coach. Her passion is teaching people to use their stories as a tool in changing social policy. Omkari says, “Our stories are bridges between us and others and can be immensely powerful in creating societal change. Yet the stories of so many have been neglected. When we learn how to leverage the power of our collective stories we can create meaningful change and help bring justice to the world.”
On her podcast, Stepping Into Truth: Conversations on Race, Gender, and Social Justice, she interviews people doing activist work in areas from Abortion Rights to Zero Plastic Waste.
Her writing has been featured online by Elephant Journal, My Empowered World, Women For One, and Tattooed Buddha and in print by Savannah Magazine and Paprika Southern.