COVID19 life

Day 79: Everything is falling apart

June 2, 2020


It is hard to function right now. Not saying this to complain; it’s just an observation. It feels very odd (and weirdly inappropriate) to be thinking about meetings and ordering labs and casually chatting with coworkers when events are unfolding as they are.

I remember when we went to war with Iraq. I (obviously) remember 9/11. This time feels similar.

And I have been writing a blog series about my family, reading, habits and planners. So where does that leave me? Feeling slightly ridiculous. Feeling guilty. Feeling irrelevant.

I don’t know what to write right now. Saying nothing clearly feels wrong. Sharing my own (laughably minor in comparison) experiences with prejudice feels ridiculous and trite. Posting resources over and over again isn’t helpful now that we’ve all seen the same lists (and admittedly OMDG’s post made me self conscious, but I would argue that saying something is better than saying nothing right now, and also I did find some lists helpful and will be editing my own summer reading list). It feels like there are a million wrong words to say and so few right ones.

I recognize my privilege.

I am and will continue to be an ally and advocate for those living without this privilege. Particularly those with dark or black skin who live in a world that is completely unfair to them.

I will do this with donations. I will do this by educating my own children. And I will do this in small ways every day as I move around in the world. Taking extra time with patients that really need it. Making sure that everyone is offered the same level of care (bending backwards to REALLY level the playing field, because patients with privilege are able to be their own advocates). Continuing to actively recruit underrepresented minorities into our residency program (we are currently something like 60% and I am very proud of that).

All that said . . . I want to continue to blog about my life, too (privilege and all). Writing this series has been a source of comfort to me and I have received notice from others that it is for them, too. I can listen to news (in measured doses; I still maintain a 24/7 stream is untenable). But I will also continue to do other things. They are little things, but they are life right now.

I hope that’s okay.


  • Reply Grateful Kae June 2, 2020 at 7:01 am

    It is okay, Sarah. I had this moment yesterday morning too where I really just felt I couldn’t write a normal blog post about my fun-filled weekend when it just felt so….wrong. But I personally do think it’s okay to continue. So many of us have immense privilege and I don’t think the answer is to pretend it’s not there by hiding it or feeling “guilty” about it. I don’t think that will make all the other issues magically go away. You are acknowledging it, you know it’s there, you are actively doing what you can to be an ally and a force for change…this blog also serves a purpose in the greater good of the world, too, in its own way. You reach many people and brighten our lives. Keep spreading the light. 🙂

  • Reply Sara June 2, 2020 at 7:13 am

    Thank you for your kind and thoughtful words, Sarah. I feel very similarly about the situation at hand. I took a (much needed!) walk last night on a beautiful night and felt completely overwhelmed with the state of the world. I am not sure where to go from here other than to stay positive, support the people and organizations doing good in the world, and continue to teach my kids to do better than previous generations.

  • Reply gwinne June 2, 2020 at 7:54 am

    Sarah, yes. I agree with so much of this.

    I will admit I’m more than a bit confused about the criticism of book lists going around; books are resources! Buy books buy black writers and you are supporting black writers! If I look to books for ideas that doesn’t mean I haven’t had my own thoughts about what to tell my son about racism and race relations. It means I recognize as a white person I need to explore positions other than my own when it comes to race in particular. More than that, reading books and recommending books that grapple with equity IS PART OF MY JOB.

    There’s a protest (another one) in my own tiny town and I’m not sure whether I will go. Usually these are legit peaceful but things got out of hand (on all sides, I think) and there was teargas at the last one. I’m a single parent. Sometimes that means I need to protect myself, even if I find it ethically squicky.

    My own life does feel very small. This to me is much bigger than 9/11. The NYT cover says it all. Our president is arguably a domestic terrorist.

    • Reply Lucy June 3, 2020 at 5:49 am

      Hum, I’m not American, so I might be getting lost here. Didn’t 3,000 people die in 9/11? How can this be worse?
      Why does the federal gvmt matter in the current riots? I mean, understandable the frustration with Trump. But isn’t policing a city matter? Why aren’t people questioning the cities’ part in training them?

    • Reply A. June 4, 2020 at 7:50 am

      I agree with you.

      • Reply A. June 4, 2020 at 7:51 am

        I agree with Gwinne.

  • Reply Lisa of Lisa's Yarns June 2, 2020 at 8:48 am

    This past week has kind of gutted me as I live in Minneapolis. Things here are so bad. We have such a long history of mistreatment by police of POC, and there is so much inequality in our community so we have some serious work to do. My heart hurts for George Floyd’s family. My heart hurts for the business owners who saw their businesses go up in flame. The area that is most impacted is the most diverse area of our city and most of the businesses are minority/immigrant owned. Some don’t have insurance. So it’s hard to see that wonderful area of our city being rebuilt. But hopefully our city will find a way.

    I’ve struggled to know what to say, too. I completely recognize my privilege and am trying really hard to educate myself. My book club is reading “How to Be an Antiracist” for our June book. We picked it back in January but the timing of reading/discussing it could not be better. I’m also working on ordering some books for our 2yo son so we can have conversations with him and raise him to be an ally in the fight against inequality.

  • Reply Rebecca June 2, 2020 at 9:14 am

    Thank you for this. I never comment, but this is needed and meaningful. I’d encourage you to donate to local and state-level candidates, too!

    • Reply Rebecca June 2, 2020 at 10:05 am

      And one follow up– I think that many (myself included) have seen the current situation as some sort of rupture with the past, so I found this a helpful corrective. For Black Americans, being subject to arbitrary violence is not a surprise or any kind of rupture at all: “people fear that this summer the us will descend into some kind of civil hell of violence but these people fail to realize that many black folk feel that they were there already. being subject to violence by those who should protect them is as american an experience as any”

  • Reply Anon June 2, 2020 at 9:25 am

    As a reader, I very much appreciate this post. At some point early on in the lockdown, I stopped enjoying blogs that were so inwardly focused, and as much as I appreciate you and your blog, Sarah, yours was no exception. It became really difficult when I could see the difference between your “lockdown” which included a nanny, continued work, and life that to the outside observer seemed only slightly disrupted, while many parts of the country and the world were suffering. Truly suffering. I don’t say this as a complaint about your content, but rather why a longish term reader finds it hard to read you now.

    Now that we are the midst of such upheaval where people are taking the streets to protest unjustices ignored for far too long, your previous silence or reticence to discuss felt very loud on the page. There are bloggers and readers who say that there is always space for good things and everyday life in the middle of terrible world events, and while that may be true, I find the opposite corollary also true – if not now, when? If the inequities brought to light by COVID and devastating deaths of Ahmaud Abrey, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd, don’t stop us and change our focus (how we use our space and privilege), what will? So when the country is literally aflame, and privileged folks (and let’s face it, there is a high percentage of upper class, white ladies) post cute pictures of their children, I think “well, now I can see why we have not made as progress as we should and why we are slipping backwards.”

    That said, your honestly and willingness to write a post like this will probably make me more likely to continue reading your blog once the world settles down again.

    By the way, usually, I allow for more nuance in my responses, but I think OMDG has it wrong. Nothing at all wrong with reading and using it to find ways to discuss racism with your children. I suspect the many African Americans and other POCs who have authored those books would agree with me.

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger June 2, 2020 at 9:42 am

      I ABSOLUTELY understand wanting to step away from a blog like mine at a time like this. In fact I fully support the break and I definitely acknowledge what you are saying. People’s needs for different types of media and content are going to change over time and that’s okay. Thank you for your honesty. The truth is that I write as much for myself as I do for others.

  • Reply Anon2 June 2, 2020 at 10:17 am

    I kind of read OMDG’s post differently-I’ve seen a LOT of white women on social media share one post about resources or #blacklivesmatter in between their #Overwhelm and #blessed posts. Or a lot of people who I know have engaged in various manifestations of bias (and as a non white woman in a STEM field, it’s amazing what people think is okay), who are now posting lists of resources.

    It’s awesome that you’re pushing for URM representation in medicine, and you clearly are committed to doing right. One thing I would point out-the bias and racial abuse by faculty and other trainees doesn’t stop because URMs walked into the door. And as a trainee who has not always spoken up because I was afraid of not being backed up, you may not know what’s going on. It’s tough, and you’re clearly doing right by your family and community, but that’s why , as OMDG pointed out, not being racist is a life long thing.

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger June 2, 2020 at 10:21 am

      All valid. I guess I still think it’s better for those #blessed posters to post SOMETHING rather than nothing and making people feel foolish for trying is not ideal. I don’t think that was OMDG’s intent though and I get what you are saying, too.

      As for URMs yes. Step 1 IS getting through the door but you are so right that is not the whole story.

  • Reply sophia June 2, 2020 at 11:45 am

    I read OMDG’s post differently. White people have the luxury to avoid thinking about race and racism while POC do not. Racism isn’t that complicated and can be explained to kids in simple terms without graphic details. Reading a few books is fine but we have to stop pretending that the issue is so complicated that we can’t do it justice and should continue to do nothing because we are too afraid of doing/saying the wrong thing. Thinking about racism as a white person and all the ways we have benefited from it is painful but necessary if we want a better world for our kids. Racism is not just a POC issue, it’s a human rights issue and won’t get better if white people continue to stay silent.

    Recruiting and retaining trainees of color is one concrete way that you can help move the needle as a pediatric PD. There are health disparities in every field of medicine and designing systems to improve these in your population is another.

    If you want a book, So you want to talk about race by Ijeoma Oluo is a good one as well.

  • Reply Anonymous June 2, 2020 at 1:15 pm

    I really appreciate all of your posts. My perspective: 1. I have been mostly avoiding the news lately for mental health reasons with COVID, so your blog is the first place that I saw George Floyd’s name. I’m grateful for that. 2. Again, you were the first place I saw that list of resources, and I appreciate it. I’m trying to do more than I’ve done in the past. I know I need to. 3. Just want to agree with everyone who said this is a source of comfort for them in these times 🙂

  • Reply Brooke June 2, 2020 at 2:54 pm

    Wow, I could not disagree with the OMDG post more. Had I not read and studied unconcious bias, I would not have recognized my own bias and taken steps to compensate for it. This is a life’s work. We will always be working for a better world that is equal and fair for all. Unconcious bias is not intuitive – if it was, it would be conscious. Everyone has an opinion on the “perfect” way to be anti-racist, even among minority groups. There are many ways and paths to better ourselves and our society – shaming people for not choosing “your” path/way never works.

    You mentioned and acknowledged what’s going on. It’s a-ok to not make this a focus of your blog. Life is multi-faceted. We can mourn and still laugh. We can do learn about bias and system changes and still do our day to day jobs and mothering of young kids. We can be outraged and still watch TV shows to zone out. Its ok.

    • Reply Elizabeth June 2, 2020 at 3:36 pm

      I agree with you. Maybe OMDG’a concern is that people read the resources but they don’t actually change? However, like you described, education through resources is so important on this topic (like many topics). I had no idea of so many kinds of systemic racism in the country and the history of racism until reading books about anti racism. Reading those resources and books makes me check my privilege over and over (a good thing!) and be able to talk about it with others.

      • Reply Student June 2, 2020 at 5:34 pm

        @Elizabeth That is actually how I read OMDG’s blog post…and while I’d like to think that most of us (and most of us here!!) will use these resources as a starting off point and think carefully about how we can enact meaningful change, I’m also cynical enough to believe that there are people who will just make a cute Insta post of books and then never actually change. I definitely have That Person on my feed.

        It’s a lot, and it is hard, and I’m not at all perfect at it. I also recognize that each person responds to everything in a different way, and there’s no one right way to process and discuss everything. I think Sarah’s post was a) necessary, as continued silence would have been deafening and b) heartening to know of what actions she’s committed to personally and professionally. And BIG YES to the 24/7 news being bad for anyone. I can barely manage 24 minutes before Fatigue.

  • Reply Shelly June 2, 2020 at 3:15 pm

    I think speaking out is a place to start. Reading books from a different perspective: POC, LGBTQ, Muslim, and many others are a place to start. Donating to organizations that make a difference in the fight for equality. Educating ourselves first instead of asking others what we can do. Calling out our government representatives.

    I work in education (adults) and we do a course on diversity awareness and one of the key messages is that it starts with ourselves. It starts with educating ourselves and how we show up for those around us. And I appreciate that you are sharing a journey of outwardness in this and that you did not stay silent. We will make mistakes but the biggest mistake of all is to say nothing.

  • Reply Ana June 2, 2020 at 4:20 pm

    While I will quibble with “falling apart” (it has always been broken), I also appreciate this post and your concrete examples of what you are doing in your role at work. That is AWESOME that your program is 60% URM, we are…nowhere close to that and fellowship and faculty is not at all diverse. And yes, reading others’ stories, and intelligent explanations of historical events that have contributed to institutionalized racism 100% changed my thinking. Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson and Te-Nehisi Coates’s Between the World and Me and We Were 10 years in power both shook me and made me reassess a lot of ingrained bias.

    • Reply Nicoleandmaggie June 3, 2020 at 8:14 am

      Agree, always been broken.

  • Reply Omdg June 2, 2020 at 6:52 pm

    The CEO of Merck spoke recently and had what I felt were some incredibly impactful words about concrete ways to help. He spoke of the failures of government and the responsibility of citizens and companies to go out of their way to help those who are disadvantaged.

    So many white people want to help, but only if the recipient of the help is sufficiently appreciative, only if the recipient doesn’t “take away” opportunities from some white (read: more deserving) people, only so long as it feels good and is easy enough. Real change comes from accepting sometimes your will be wrong, sometimes you will hurt, sometimes people won’t understand you, sometimes (horror) the person you help will outperform you and not act sufficiently gracious. It has to be done anyway.

  • Reply Lee June 2, 2020 at 6:55 pm

    I think your posts have been perfect. This one especially.

  • Reply Jan Miller June 2, 2020 at 11:38 pm

    Girl ! I just posted our old freshman year cheer photo and you were the only one I couldn’t tag on fb so I had to. GOOGLE you ! Found you !!! Send me a message J Miller :). Miss you!

  • Reply juno80 June 3, 2020 at 11:45 pm

    Different people need different things at different times. I am glad you addressed the issue as I was glad when you talked about covid.
    Look at the dolls/action toys in your home. Do they reflect the world where the majority is not N. European in coloring? What about the books you read to your children? What values are you teaching? Superiority, greed, kindness, curiosity, openness to differences? Children face illness, death, violence, war, prejudice at all ages. So at all ages all children need to know truths ~ yes, age appropriate explanations …. but truth.
    And for pure simplicity start with that old golden rule …. do to others as you would have others do to you. There is no qualifier in there about only if they look, believe, behave, are as rich as you, or anything else.
    Thank you for each and every post. You are appreciated.

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