Every year, I look forward to #optoutside day (the day after Thanksgiving)! It may be cheesy but whether it’s tackling a mountain or taking a walk in a neighborhood park, I love the idea of a large group of people across the country taking one day to get outside and appreciate the beauty around them.
There was something soothing in the fact that I was able to keep this tradition – getting some healing time in nature – in the midst of all the other interrupted traditions. And who didn’t need some time of collective healing in a year when we were constantly reminded of the fragility of life – whether as a result of COVID or for many Black people an unexpected encounter with the police that turned deadly?
When I’m outside in nature, I can let my mind wander to process things. This year, as I was huffing and puffing my way up to Annapolis Rocks, I wanted to hold space for all the lives lost in 2020. I couldn’t mourn them without also thinking about the systems and structures that are intentionally designed to ensure some lives are more endangered than others. Of course, this was also in the context of the prevailing hatred and lack of empathy so many in our country have towards anyone them deem different. While I like to think of the outdoors as my safe space, I also know a lot of these things seep into outdoor experiences for people of color.
While I was holding space for what was lost or could have been, I also embraced every little bit gratitude I had because grief and gratitude can powerfully co-exist for healing.
I embraced the joy of having a healthy body and the presence of people in my life that uplift me. In particular, I had so much gratitude for my mother’s health – she managed to wrap up chemo just as we headed into the shelter-at-home orders and her health steadily improved over the course of the year. I’m beyond grateful for a partner who continually demonstrates the power of unconditional love day in and day out. In a devastated economy, I appreciate not just having a job but a workplace that stepped out of its comfort zone and committed to a bold vision for centering explicit discussions of race and equity in our external work but also internal processes. In short among all the grief, there was also gratitude.
It did not escape me that safely spending time outdoors in the midst of a raging pandemic requires the privilege of health and resources (e.g., time, money, etc.). With each step I took, I was grateful that I had the privilege of being outdoors, my ultimate place of worship and healing. And that I was able to do this with thousands of other people across the country only made it that much sweeter!
Happy #optoutside day!