Seeking Joy In A Week Of Grief.

24.03.19

In the first 24 hours following the terror attack in Christchurch I wanted to read everything. I compulsively consumed every piece of journalism I could find: I wanted to know about the victims and their families, I wanted to read stories of survival and letters from young Muslim women in the TTC community, I wanted to know about the brave policemen who took down the gunmen and people like vascular surgeon Adib Khanafer who spent three hours operating on a toddler with gunshot injuries. I felt it to be my duty to know. To dive into this tragedy head-first.

48 hours after the terror attack, I felt paralysed by my grief. I’ve always been someone who feels things deeply, but this was a sadness so profound that it shocked even me. After all, I was never the one in danger. My very existence automatically excused me. As Nigel Latta put it, “We were not all attacked. This was an attack against the Muslim community. If I had been standing outside those Mosques, the person who did this would not have shot me. He had not come for me.” And it was this realisation that sparked my intense guilt.

72 hours after the terror attack, my job – this one right here – felt small. The usual stresses of life felt inconsequential and petty. I couldn’t stand seeing trivial, ego-driven fights erupting on Instagram. Quite frankly, those people could F*ck. Right. Off.

And finally, 96 hours after the terror attack, I had to stop. I couldn’t read any more. I couldn’t read one more “take” on what had happened. Not another tweet. I knew I’d be grieving this tragedy for the rest of my life anyway, and so I now needed to pull myself out from under the duvet of darkness I’d wrapped myself in and start seeking joy again. I needed to find moments of levity. And I did.

I read Lena Dunham’s incredible piece for The New York Times, “Call Me Cozy”, in which she examines how her battle with chronic pain has shaped the way she defines self-care, “hygge” and coziness. I was shocked to read Emilia Clarke’s essay for The New Yorker in which she reveals she has suffered two brain aneurysms since being thrust into stardom as Khaleesi on “Game of Thrones” in 2011. You’ll laugh out loud reading The Cut’s, “Black Turtlenecks Are The Biggest Scam of All Time”, in which they point out that from Jordyn Woods to Elizabeth Holmes and Michael Cohen, “it’s become the official getup of those with something to hide.” Omg tea. And I loved this CNN interview with transgender supermodel Nathan Westling, previously known as Natalie Westling, who announced he had transitioned from female to male over the summer since walking his last show as a women back in October at Paris Fashion Week.

I finished reading Johann Hari’s novel, “Chasing The Scream”, about the war on drugs and how everything we think we know about addiction is essentially wrong. Hari spent the better part of three years travelling the world to meet with drug addicts, doctors, prosecutors and scientists to understand where the war on drugs began and how race and class have played such a significant role. This book blew me away and completely changed the way I look at addicts and the criminal justice system. You will love it. I also finished reading a book called “My Sister, The Serial Killer” by Oyinkan Braithwaite which is as outrageous as it sounds. The fiction novel made the long-list for the Women’s Prize 2019 and is equal parts witty, frightening, sexy, binge-worthy and, quite literally, bloody. It’s also a short read (only 240 pages), so if you’re a fast reader you could easily chew through it in a week. Next on my list is “Ordinary People” by Diane Evans and “The Pisces” by Melissa Broder. I’ll keep you posted on both.

If you too find yourself seeking joy this coming week, look no further than season three of Queer Eye For The Straight Guy on Netflix. The humanity these four gay icons bring to each episode consistently moves me to tears. Their decency. Their heart. The hand-holding. JONATHAN (!!!!). Heaven. All of it. Thank you and good night. Also joy-provoking on Netflix is every and any episode/season of Ru Paul’s Drag Race (except for the episode when I realised I’d never be as pretty as Valentina). I mean if it wasn’t enough that Ru finishes every single episode by declaring, “If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell are you gonna love somebody else? Can I get an Amen.” Or when plus-size Drag Queen, Ginger Minj, described herself as “Neat, petite and ready-to-eat.” After watching approximately six consecutive episodes you’ll start looking at every long corridor as a potential catwalk and wonder how you might incorporate “Snatched to the Gods” into casual conversation.

These are just a few of the places I’ve found respite in the past week (not mentioning the long conversations, walks, tears and evenings spent with girlfriends). Seeking joy in times of grief isn’t just okay, it’s a crucial part of the healing process, and I hope you find some soon.