The Haunting

Like much of America, we got a Coronatide puppy, long-legged and rambunctious. It is my job to walk him first thing in the morning so he doesn’t chew the table legs while I’m conference-calling. It’s a work-from-home season, and he doesn’t understand I have four more Zoom meetings to go.

It’s October in Michigan, and I’m walking through the neighborhood in the early autumn morning. The air is cold, and a slight breeze is lifting the ghosts and goblins awaiting trick-or-treaters who may or may not come this year. Even they are okay with the breeze slightly lifting them, welcoming the dawn.

Decorations aside, walking in the dark has always felt like a race against a haunting, as if something was coming that I couldn’t see, and maybe could not outrun. I can hear the dog’s paws against my own sneakers hitting the pavement. I feel tense. I feel a rant rumbling inside of me.

I don’t know of another time or season in my life when I’ve felt the same. The impending end of something. I can’t even call it a depression, as it would simplify the complexity unfairly. Much like the fabric of phantoms swaying in the wind, I am fighting something that is simultaneously being blown in and carried off by the wind. I feel pressure gripping me, all the time.

I take a deep breath of cold air. Once upon a time, even in the midst of all the things happening, I could balance the weight of the things that just were, as I tried to live in a space that just was. Even if I was the only woman in the room, it was okay to use humor to anchor that I was there. If I was the only person who came from not much, I could challenge with good questions and kindness. In addition to being Latina, I could choose to go the high road, and it was seen as a strength.

Now, unless I am angry, hostile, outraged, it is not enough. I am not enough.

How can I choose joy or kindness when there’s so much injustice? 

If I am not burning down the system, am I weak? It is the ultimate dictation of who I get to be. I cannot be hopeful. I cannot exercise the fullness of who I am. Unless it is hard, unless my emotions are weaponized, militarized, they are wrong. If I am not angry, I cannot be anything else. Hide your good news. Don’t reach to the other side. If you are with us, you are angry. If you are not angry, you are against us.

I remark to the dog, “I don’t know what’s scarier, the skeletons or all the election signs.”

I ascribe to a faith of a table-flipping Jesus. As people are so often quick to elevate, he chastised those in authority – white-washed tombs, sons of Satan. Let us make that into a T-shirt. Can I have this made into a bumper sticker? I am firing back on social media. Hold my beer while I torch my neighbor.

Yet somehow they miss that he was meek and lowly, gentle enough for children. Challenging, and always invitational. But now?  It is the end of that Jesus. He is now god made in our outraged image. And if I choose meekness, I choose evil. If I lead with kindness, I have already lost. If I am not roiled in rage, then I have not properly ascribed to how the world is choosing to reframe me as well. I do not get a seat at the table.

Who are we to name which virtues get to exist in the places we are? Not only do we get to name people for how we decide to frame them, we also get to assign their level of anger? Their level of fear? We get to tell them how to show up, how to be? How is this even so? I am groping for autonomy, identity.

I should not have to choose to be myself or not, somehow shoved into a sliver of the fullness of who I am, how I love and challenge people. If I want to be on the right side of history, politics, medicine, people, then I have to behave in a way not guided by my own proclivities, compass, or even faith.

I turn the corner and am caught off guard. The sun has come up, and I am surprised by its beauty. I am arrested by nothing but dawn, breathing in its smoky red and oranges. I turn off my flashlight, stopped in the middle of the street. I feel the dog lick at my fingertips. I can feel something coming. But I am stuck. I am stuck.

Eliza Cortes Bast is a fierce and honest follower of Jesus. She is a pastor and denominational executive, dedicated to helping churches think missionally. She lives into her passion by connecting people, advocating for the community, and helping organizations think strategically so they can be healthy, vibrant, and sustainable. Eliza lives in Michigan with her patient and handsome husband EJ, and their two boys. Her loves include her home country Puerto Rico, her interracial marriage, a good steak, salsa dancing, writing, empowering emerging leaders, making the impossible possible, Diet Coke, and mentoring. She is not a big fan of anger without action, generalizations, basketball, and saying you can’t live without coffee. She believes you can because she believes in you.