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  • Alisa Stamps

What Happened to July 4th?

July 4th used to be my favorite holiday. Fireflies. Fireworks. Good food. The best part of the magic of summer, all rolled into one event. I grew up in a small town in Wisconsin right along the Mississippi River. Every 4thwe would take our blankets and reserve our spot while everyone else in the town did the same thing. There was nothing like seeing the sky illuminated in reds and blues, with the backdrop of the river’s edge and the feeling of absolute contentment.

This 4th is the opposite of that. There is no contentment, no fireworks I will be attending, and no river to look at and set my dreams upon. I am disheartened and disgusted. I am infuriated and exhausted. I don’t know what to do and I am ready to take action. I am certain I am not alone. Yet another time in this two-year period, where my clients and I are all going through the same thing at the same time, and it’s my job to make space for them, while I hold my own thoughts and feelings and try not to let them intrude in the session.

You name the collective trauma and we’ve endured it. We haven’t had a moment to catch our breaths, before yet another horrifying macro event—pandemic, insurrection, war, racially motivated mass shootings, overturning of Roe—has come right on top of the next. How do we survive? How do we care for ourselves in these massively troubled times? How do we get out of bed each day and carry on with our ordinary lives with the backdrop of all this?

I think self-care during these times looks really different for everyone and I believe it can vary from day to day. Prior to 2020, I was transparently not a big fan of allowing distraction to be our friend. I would often offer the idea of “sitting in our feelings”, rather than figuring out ways to escape. While I still do believe that the best way out is through, I also know, both personally and professionally, that we need to find ways to take breaks from this oppressive world. Today, my break will be honoring a time old tradition in our family of watching the movie Meatballs, which is something that we do at the beginning of summer every year. We get to laugh together, recite familiar lines, and for fans of this movie, “pick up our Chrysler Cordoba from Morty’s office after winning the mystery meat contest”.

Other days call for action. Find ways that feel comfortable for you to get involved in a cause that speaks to your heart. In 12 step programs, service work is a huge component of living a purposeful life. Giving back to others can benefit us in so many ways and can give direction to feelings of anger and rage, with outcomes that are far more reaching.

Don’t underestimate the power of breath, nature, and rest. Take time to literally stop and smell the roses. Engage your senses with all the things that are stimulating and beautiful in this world. Noticing a new type of plant, taking in the shrill songs of the birds, inhaling deeply the smell of freshly cut grass. Utilizing these things to help you ground and come back to your Self. And rest when you need to. We cannot do anything when our cup is so depleted or has completely runneth over that there is nothing left.

I will leave you with what I found to be a comforting quote from the Talmud, the primary source of Jewish religious law and theology. I hope that it will bring you some comfort and again let you know that you are not alone.

Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly now, love mercy now, walk humbly now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.

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