I live in a high rise building in downtown Chicago. I am abundantly blessed to have a gorgeous view of Lake Michigan from every window in my apartment, which I love. When I moved back to Chicago from Brooklyn, I promised myself two things: 1) that I would have more living space (NY square footage is no joke!) and 2) that I would live near the lake. Both are things I don’t take for granted – but in the hustle and bustle of a new job and a hectic life, I knew I was not appreciating either as much as I should.
For me, as for many of us, this COVID situation made me stop and think about all the things. Once it was clear that we were all going to have to soak in ambiguity and uncertainty for an unspecified amount of time, I decided that one thing that I would focus on was gratitude – to celebrate each day by stopping each morning, taking a deep breath as I looked out at the lake and promising to do my best to make it through what seemed to be such a weird time (when we were all wrapping our arms around the idea that we were meant to shelter in place for the forseeable future.)
In honor of that decision (and while I was trying to distract myself from the fact that I was missing the wedding of one of my closest friends due to travel restrictions which prevented me from flying to NYC), on March 15, 2020, I decided to #CelebrateEverySunrise.
I decided to take a picture of the sunrise every day. Sometime between 6 and 8AM, I walked to the window, looked out at Lake Michigan, took a picture and observed a silent moment of gratitude. After a few days, I began to look forward to that moment. And, as I shared my pictures on social media every day, friends shared that they looked forward to it as well.
Initially, I thought I would do it for 100 days. After 2 months, I started feeling I wouldn’t and perhaps didn’t need to make it to 100 days.
Why? Well, there was a week where it rained. A lot. And although I had taken pictures of sunny, cloudy, rainy, and snowy days from mid March to mid May, these were torrential downpours, and they blanketed a world that felt increasingly disconsolate. I didn’t feel like I was really celebrating the sunrises, merely documenting them. So, I allowed myself to stop taking and posting pictures every day (although I will never stop loving Lake Michigan.). The last picture I posted was on May 16th, 10 weeks after I began the project.
Then, May 25th, George Floyd was killed.
By May 29th, I had changed my Facebook profile picture and cover photo to black. I didn’t post anything for the next 3 weeks. I just needed to not speak. To process in silence. To figure out what I could do to make things better. People kept asking me how I was doing. I didn’t have a clear answer. So many things felt awful.
I started the #CelebrateEverySunrise project because I wanted to stay in gratitude as I grappled with what life would be like during the time of COVID (and, yes, because I like projects). But with the death of George Floyd and the amplification of the death of so many other Black people around the world due to police brutality and systemic racism, I found it nearly impossible to focus on gratitude. I felt an overwhelming grief. Even as I continued working, engaging, and living, it was all shrouded in grief. Covered in sadness.
Slowly, I have felt myself emerging from that grief. Slowly I am trying to move back to a place of gratitude. One thing that has helped is action. I am learning my way through this. I have found ways to contribute my time and my resources to people and organizations that are making a real difference in addressing some of the issues we are collectively facing in the world. I have started writing more. I am honoring those who fought for me in the past by activating my energy and fighting the exhaustion that threatens to try and take over.
And, this weekend, I decided to make a slideshow of all the sunrises I celebrated in March, April and May of this year. To remind me to continue to #CelebrateEverySunrise. Even in the midst of all that is happening. Even when this world feels like a dumpster fire. Because even though each day is imperfect, it is still a miracle. After all, the My 52 Weeks of Worship Project was born from a place of grief. And through that project, in a relentless pursuit of goodness, I have repeatedly glimpsed the face of the Divine.
Nine years ago, in the middle of May, I posted something to this site called “The Church of The Great Outdoors,” which was my worship spot for the day. Then, and now, I realize that for me, there is power in getting outside (especially in the midst of such a beautiful Chicago summer), and safely experiencing the wonder of the Divine made manifest in nature. No longer am I taking pictures from the window. Now, as often as I can, I walk by the waters edge. It fills my spirit.
Enjoy the slideshow. And don’t forget to #CelebrateEverySunrise. Because tomorrow is not – is never – promised. But every morning is a gift. Another chance to get it right.