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Can anything warm my cold, dead heart? (yes, and it’s Michelle Obama)

Updated: Jan 21, 2021

Watching the inauguration from the combined virtual classroom-social hour-netflix binge-source of news and all human life, also known as my computer, did not stir anything in the empty cavity of my chest.

Am I being dramatic? Perhaps, but 2020 isn’t the only drama queen in the house. The truth is that as the virtual world of my facebook feed lights up in excitement over the transition into a Biden-Harris presidency, I feel absolutely nothing. If anything, I am tired. I have been teaching middle schoolers virtually since March of 2020 and I am beyond burnout. Tired isn’t a word that has any meaning to me anymore.

Exhausted? Well, yes, of course. Being exhausted exists with the same foundational truth as the fact that my heart is beating and my eyes are blinking. When people ask things like “how is it going?” I don’t have much to add about it anymore. Even complaining is tiring. Have I slept well in months? No. How are my snacking habits? Bad. Too much. Salty. How are the students handling this? Not good. They’re sad, they’re angry, and I’m worried for them.

As Lady Gaga belted broadway to ol’ fly-on-his-head Pence, as J Lo cast a lilting, sparkling spell, and even as Amanda Gorman spoke brave and powerful truths, I watched with no internal response. All I could think about was how I would still have to wake up the next day and find a way to address my students. My students have been witnessing the violent police responses to Black Lives Matter protests in their Bronx neighborhood for months now. My students are worried for their parents, who have mostly continued to work in person. My students are confused about the homework because their internet connection is spotty and they can’t hear most of the class sessions. My students are hungry for food and attention. My students wonder if they will ever feel connected to each other again.

So, no, watching a president who I voted for out of pure survival did not bring me joy. Well, I thought, are you going to create a system in which all of my students have access to the internet? Are you going to replace the shitty computers that the Department of Education sent them? Are the essential workers who have been stocking our grocery stores going to get the vaccine first? Because they are so important and we are so grateful,right? Are you going to pay teachers fairly for the hours and hours we have spent walking people through virtual classrooms? Are you going to replace my eyeballs when they fall out?

Dramatic, sure, but I think my wariness is warranted. As much as I miss hugging my friends and being able to do things like nod and smile at a stranger, I also value this moment in time. We are at a raw and open stage where the racism and colonialism of our country is utterly exposed. As much as I want to go back to the conceptual “normal” I don’t want to lose this opportunity to create some real foundational change. Like many of us, I have lost people in the past few months. In addition to several friends, I rang in this 2021 by losing my grandfather to COVID19. I simply see no point in experiencing such pain if not to actually do some damage to this broken and corrupt system. If not to look honestly at ourselves and our history, and begin the spiritual and practical steps of creating an ecosystem where resources are shared equitably.

I feel a twinge guiltiness at my lack of enthusiasm for this historic moment. What will I tell my future grandchildren? I should try to remember something to tell them about this for their history project or something. In this theoretical future, I imagine my future grandchildren go to school in a giant suspended greenhouse school that is somehow powered by mushrooms. A girl can dream right?

Anyway. What I am saying is I want to be hopeful at this moment, but all I can think of is my friends, family, and students who have been harmed for so much longer than this year. All I can think about is how I’d rather never go back to normal again because normal is what brought us to this year. Normal is not the future I want. The future I imagine involves things like a school where my students can safely drink the water and don’t have to worry about lead paint chips falling in their lunches. One where maps include Native American tribes alongside our state names. One where pharmaceutical companies aim to heal.

I could go on and on (I know you’re just dying to hear more!), but, I won’t because it is right around this thought train when the ramblings of my cold, dead, heart, are called briefly back to life. It is right around here when a magenta-warrior-butterfly-queen of a person emerges through the throngs of grey. Who else but Michelle Obama. Michelle. In a magenta one piece with a belt that demands a level of respect that no title could ever compete with. Michelle, who drops into push up mode as quickly as she speaks fiercely and eloquently about the State of Things. Michelle, whose powerhouse of a spine and a soul never bends. In one swath of magenta, the message is clear and deep.

Like all of Michelle’s messages, in one simple act she shakes me back to life with a surprising, strong, yet tender, THWACK. Stay with it, her magenta says.

If Michelle can walk on to the stage in bright magenta and face this day, so can I.

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