Relief is Not Joy

There is an old joke about seeing a man repeatedly hitting himself on the thumb with a hammer. You ask him why he’s doing that? “Because it feels so good when I stop!”

I was reminded of the joke earlier this week when I woke from a nightmare. Those few seconds when your brain realizes the nightmare wasn’t real – the relief sweeps over you. You exhale. Oh, thank god, you mutter.

The last four years, it has often felt like we were being hit over and over with a hammer. This last year, with covid, even more so. We are not in the “After Times” yet, but some relief has arrived. We have a new president, who is willing to turn to experts, and has plans for making things better. We have vaccines, and most of us know someone who has received at least the first dose, or we have, ourselves. We have hope that the nightmare will soon be over.

Feel the relief.

Exhale. (Well, exhale within your own home, still social distancing and masking when in public and …)

Relax your shoulders. Unclench your fists. Stretch. Yawn.

Maybe even sleep.

I understand the concern of those who worry that if we relax, we will shrug away all the knowledge that has been revealed these last four years, and we will go back to complacency.

But we have been in a national situation like no other, where norms – good, healthy, mature norms – were ignored, and we were on edge always worried about what would happen that day, and with good reason. Bad things happened. They have to be made right.

But I will take the relief I feel beginning to seep into me.  I now have hope that we not only can fix much of what has been broken, we can even begin fixing the longer-term issues that worked to block people from justice, served as barriers to their progress.

Today, I feel relief.

Relief is not joy. But for now, it is enough.