I’ve been feeling a lot of tension lately.  In my jaw, my neck and shoulders. In my rapid heartbeat and racing thoughts. Maybe you have, too.

There’s newfound COVID etiquette and COVID stigma. There’s the fact that many of our neighbors have lost their jobs and that open (and, keyword: safe) positions are few and far between. And among much more, there’s the elephant in the room. 

Are we collectively holding our breath until the election results are decided?

Am I holding my breath until the next time I see my parents, with whom I disagree politically? Yes, I am.

I dreamt last night that I was small and my parents were taking care of me. They were taking care of me, and we were going on a journey together.  And I felt safe, and I felt loved. And I looked up at my beautiful parents, and I wanted nothing more than to never let go of their hands, to cherish them forever.

From behind the many plexiglass barriers atop the children’s desk, I look up and see the smiling faces of our inaugural Kid President (and Kid Treasurer) candidates residing above the children’s collection like patron saints of civic engagement, all of their hopes for our community on paper, a sight to behold. It’s almost impossible to remain in my own personal pessimistic cloud in this environment.

I cast my vote by mail last week. And I cast my vote by Google form today.

When I do see my parents, what exactly will prompt me to start breathing again? I’m not sure. I’ve taken up residence in a frame of mind in which our relationship is beyond repair. But that can’t be true, can it? Then, tell me, why is my worn couch over there in the corner behind my coffee table piled with books, and why do my cats roam around in this space, in this world where my parents are erased, where I am erased?

Will I walk into my childhood home and burst into flames, will my lungs disappear, will my lips be sealed shut, or will my jaw hang loose? Will I smile, will I cry, will I scream? Will I greet my parents and act as if nothing looms between us like a sea of grief—no—like a pasture on fire? Yes, a pasture on fire—that’s what it feels like. I stand here and my parents there and between us lies a great pasture set aflame by hate. And I imagine my parents looking at my just-born body, anxiously waiting for me to take my first breath.

If you, like me, are looking to release some tension, try some of these resources.  A few are new to me, others old favorites.

-Mary Wahlmeier Bracciano is a Youth Services Assistant at Lawrence Public Library.