I have two girls in elementary school. Their school is a 15-minute walk from our house. Keep walking for another five minutes, and you’ll arrive at our local fire department. This should, and usually does, provide some peace of mind: when they are not home, I know I can get to them quickly, and more importantly, I know the fire department can get to them quickly.
And yet, the days after the Uvalde school shooting were terrifying. Every siren I heard was a shooting, and I found myself saying things like, “Please just be a fire somewhere else,” or “Let it be a car accident.” I still feel guilty for having these thoughts; they make me sick to my stomach.
The shock and outrage, the tenderness and compassion, the calls for action have receded from the headlines. If you read about Uvalde, it is finger pointing and debate. There have been 38 mass shootings since May 24. There have been 250 in 2022 so far.
How did we get here? Why are we ok with being here? How do we overcome this hopelessness?
In the days following Uvalde, I didn’t know how to talk to my girls about the shooting or the way I was feeling. I couldn’t help them process it because I couldn’t process it. This feeling of hopelessness is something I haven’t felt before, at least at this magnitude. It is overwhelming and pervasive.
And yet, I don’t want these feelings to go away. Not without some change. I will hold on to this anger so I don’t slip beyond hopelessness into apathy. I will hold onto this terror so I can stay connected to this need to act, to this desire for change above all else. In the face of this faceless enemy, nothing else matters. We cannot be ok with this.
Think about the last two+ years alone for our kids.
They have endured despite our lack of action, our debate and stalemate, and our general lack of empathy.
We couldn’t do much about COVID. It was going to run its course. But very quickly, we all agreed that the safety of our kids was a top priority.
We may not have agreed on how to protect them, but we agreed we needed to act, not just be content to react.
Fast-forward, and we’re learning to live with COVID. We’ll look back and second guess our actions and our response, but the important thing to focus on is that we are learning.
Regardless of why we think events like Uvalde happen, I struggle with our inability to learn, and with our inability to make school shootings a thing of the past. How can we not act? Where do we hit bedrock on this issue? At what point do we stop deflecting and address the issue head on?
This ability to act is a pillar of the American way. When I have struggled with the state of the world or the direction of our country in the past, our actions have saved me from the depths of hopelessness. If we are moving, if we are acting, at the very least we have hope.
This letter became something different.
As I sat down to write this letter, and as I typed the first sentence, I thought it would be a letter about how hard it is to see the good in us.
But then, I started thinking about what makes good, and who makes good in my life. And I started to see good everywhere, in everyone. I didn’t have to look hard or far either.
Take the time to get beyond the early pleasantries and talk of the weather with most anyone, and it won’t take long to unearth some need for help or some desire to help. When we are willing to help, or willing to ask for help, there is hope. And hope is the path to making good in this world, no?
Let’s connect within our fear and longing.
In addition to our ability to act, I see two other pillars of the American way we must lean into if we are going to make good here.
As Americans, we fear what we do not know. Maybe this is a basic human characteristic. I can’t say. For me, this defines our culture.
And, as Americans, we long for what we no longer have. We yearn for the good old days.
I’m also very aware that this is an extremely narrow scope from my perspective, and not one that reflects Americans as a whole.
But I think this exercise is still essential as it allows us to start the conversation.
If we started talking about our fear and our longing, I’m willing to bet we would find some commonalities and shared experiences that would make our conversations more civil and productive.
Start here: Consider what you fear most when it comes to your loved ones?
Next: Think about what you loved about your childhood? What do you miss?
Do you think your childhood experience and the things you love about this time are common to your community? To Americans in general?
Now: What scared you when you were a kid?
Do you think your fears as a kid were similar to the fears of other kids your age? How do those fears relate to the fears of kids today?
How do we maintain hope and make good together?
How do we overcome fear and transform our longing? We come together and talk about our fear and longing.
Another pillar of our way of life, at least in my experience, is that we suffer in silence most of the time. We want to remain upbeat and positive, which is a noble cause, especially for those that depend on us. But it can’t be all good all the time. We have to normalize talking about the good and the bad.
But right now, things have to get pretty bad for us to be ok talking about not being ok.
What if hope is on the other side of fear of longing? What if, in the process of talking through our fear and longing, we make good for our kids and our community.
If you aren’t familiar with Maria Popova’s site The Marginalian, go now. She curates hope and inspiration.
Struggling to find my footing in all of this, I came across an article she wrote about longing and the bittersweet.
“Longing becomes not the craving for perfection—for the shimmer of glory, for the myth of closure, for the happily ever after—but a kind of tenderness for imperfection, for the recognition that the place between no more and not yet is the place where the chance-miracle of life lives itself through us, and that is a beautiful place.”
I read her article when I got stuck writing this letter. That was the pivot I needed. That’s when hope was injected into this letter, when I saw the good in us. With Popova as our guide, here’s a few steps I think we can take to give ourselves a chance to access this “chance-miracle of life” from a shared perspective.
First, we focus on unity.
We group people and define boundaries, which hardens and isolates us. Instead, why not focus on the individual and their need for help, or their willingness to help? Why not allow that interaction to bring us closer. If we focus on each other, and our greatest collective threats, we can inspire unity and progress despite our differences.
Next, we listen and practice kindness.
We aren’t very good listeners and kindness comes with some caveats. We don’t give each other the benefit of the doubt. Instead of working to find some common ground and join forces, we look for opportunities to debate and play devil’s advocate. We consider what we get in return before considering the value of a good deed with no strings attached.
Let our first act of kindness be the act of listening without agenda or expectation.
Last, we compromise.
Compromise has become a dirty word. We allow ourselves to compartmentalize the good and the bad so we don’t have to compromise. When it comes to the health and safety of an individual, how can we allow ourselves to compartmentalize? How do we take the good and ignore the bad if it threatens the safety of someone else? How can we assume the way we see it is the absolute if it potentially harms another person?
Compromise is the key, but it requires sacrifice for everyone involved.
What would you sacrifice to ensure the safety of your kids?
If we get lost in this process, return to our longing.
I love how Popova frames our longing. I have come back to this simple line many times in the last few weeks. “Longing is momentum in disguise.”
If we can connect to our longing, we are moving, we are generating momentum, and we are headed towards hope.
Right now, I am longing for connection.
This week, we’ll officially launch our Breath Awareness Advocates program. We’ve been dreaming this up for over a year.
Our ultimate goal—with all our efforts, but most especially this one—is to deliver value to your daily feed. As you participate and begin to see this program out in the wild, please send your feedback. We believe the ability to connect and belong to a community like this delivers value, but this community doesn’t work if you don’t believe that too. Let us know how we can improve it, what you see that’s working, and where you want to see it go.
What is the Breath Awareness Advocates Program?
BAA is part breathing and thinking community.
We are creating a discord channel to connect all Breath Awareness Advocates. This includes our breathing experts, therapists, doctors, and more.
But most importantly, it includes you. Everyone is welcome. This is a space where you can come with questions, thoughts, insights, experiences, and ideas.
There’s just one rule: be kind and listen.
We want to create a thriving community of breath advocates committed to getting the word out: when you breathe better, you begin to think better and feel better.
Learn more about our Breath Awareness Advocates program.
BAA is part public service announcement.
We welcome content you create on your own and love to see how you incorporate better breathing into your daily routine, how you use it to think better, and how it has helped you feel better.
We will also have ready-made assets you can share in your network to help us get the essential breathing basics out there and increase awareness.
BAA is part loyalty and rewards program.
We also want to help you get the Shift and Rotezen in more hands (even if that means doubling up and stacking the necklaces or cuff for yourself).
We want to thank you for helping us get the word out. As you post, you’ll earn rewards for new products, gain early access to new product and content launches, and be the first to know about upcoming events, and all things Komuso.
BAA is part neighborhood watch.
We need to come together. Period. This effort starts on your street, in your building, at your school, in your place of worship, in your local coffee shops and stores and restaurants.
Be kind, listen, help your neighbors out. Whether you talk about Komuso or the Shift is not important. We just want to pull the strings on this community a bit, and this effort starts with you, in your town.
Please share your stories of connection. Let’s normalize the conversation around stress and anxiety. Let’s shine light on the ups and downs of our neighbors. Let’s commit to seeing the individual, and helping them breathe easier.
Help us connect and empower our community.
One slow inhale, one long slow exhale at a time, let’s connect and empower this community together.
Apply for the Breath Awareness Advocates program.