I bought a new alarm clock; it’s one of those with the light, that starts at 10% of its brightness, thirty minutes before I want to be up for the day. It reaches 100% of its warm glow by the time NPR is telling me what’s going on out there.
Today I woke up to healthcare, and hopes that reasonable members of Congress, on either partisan side, can be the ones who’ll find a viable solution to our currently ailing healthcare system. Then Mexico, and survivors buried in rubble. I got up to do a little yoga, very gentle.
My son came downstairs for a snuggle, and found me in child’s pose and started to cry. Sleepy mommy means warm snuggles. Child’s pose mama–different and new. We crawled back into bed for a short snuggle, then a warm bath was poured, then pancakes and off to school.
I traded in my lucrative medicine practice for the scene I just shared. I’m still in medicine–just not in the business of healthcare. I’m watching, and I’m waiting. In the meantime, I’m becoming more aware there are no real sides.
There is no us, and there is no them. When we carve ourselves into likey-likey, matchy-matchy groups, we then have to explain to ourselves why we did that, right? We don’t do things for no reason at all. We need our actions to make sense.
We mull it over, and we emphasize our differences, and maybe we even amplify those. Sometimes, though, if we’re honest, a real doozie of a difference plops in front of us, and those we stare at; then we say, “See?!?”
Maybe, before you know it, you’re Representative Greg Walden, sending out a letter to some of the constituents of District 2 in Oregon, but not all of them. In that letter, you tell us you believe you need more money to combat things like “paid protesters” that are coming out against your increasingly disconnected partisan politics. And that letter sure doesn’t match up with the nice form letters, or occasional seemingly personal responses I get from him on email.
And that letter makes you look like a fool, to anyone whose life depends on your ability to at least try to listen and develop workable, common ground policies. Yes, to anyone who is tearfully, and with great vigor, protesting the fact that you stopped listening long ago, you look like a selfish, disconnected fool.
People say don’t swear, and don’t be too emotional or too transparent, because it decreases the impact of your work, or your point. To that I say, if swearing or transparency are enough to deter a reader, that reader might be looking for an excuse to turn away, and that is ok. I learned long ago that you can’t pull a donkey where you want him to go. You have to scratch his ear, and walk alongside him.
Walk alongside me, and show me where you want me to go. And I’m happy to scratch your ear, which means buy you coffee.
Do you know who taught me to swear, and share feelings and words without worry? People in pain. Adults or children who were contemplating suicide, or dealing with cancer…and of course not all of them swear! But it’s interesting what happens when pretense is stripped away, and chemotherapy has burned the lining of your bladder, and you can’t stop screaming, or you and your daughter can’t stop punching one another, and you never wanted to do anything but hold her face in awe.
I’ve been a Republican, a Nonpartisan voter, and a Democrat. I did contemplate Green Party for a very long time, a few times. I am made up of parts of each platform, so when you try to tell me I’m an us, or a them, or a little too noisy, I already know you’re only protecting yourself, or your image of yourself. I know that you’ve bought a story, and now you’re invested in it. Perhaps a “paid protester” story?
I find great comfort that people I know, from each decade of my life, are the furthest thing from matchy-matchy. My friends are all over the map on issues, and usually…usually, we can find a bit of common ground.
The one that squeezes my guts a bit, and where it gets hard for me, is in the face of another’s prejudice. There is no us; there is no them. Maybe it comes down to a different us versus them, and we get a little confused sometimes about what a criminal is. Some of us abide law, and honor life, and some of us do not. Even the most criminal, is still one of us (human); he or she is someone whose story went bad, and usually early, and maybe many generations ago.
Undeniable Facts: Police put their entire lives in front of our communities, every single day. Every loss is a complete devastation. And police make egregious errors, in which people die, who could have otherwise made it to their child’s next school play. Terrorists believe in their causes, and they are prepared to die for them, taking innocents with them. Criminals from Mexico, Turkey, and Connecticut are responsible for murders, rapes, and domestic violence. So are some of my neighbors.
I’ve heard friends draw partisan lines to try and manage their fears–of terrorists, gangs, drug trafficking, human trafficking, and all the violence that permeates each of these terrifying pieces of humanity. This is not a partisan issue. Republicans don’t hold the patent on fighting crime. Everyone wants crime under control, except those who profit from it, or indulge in it; and did you know some Republicans are criminals? There is no line. The line is a lie, and if Donald Trump tricked us into thinking he’s the only one who’s thought of fighting crime, I have to scratch my head and wonder about that.
Listen, I’m afraid of drowning. I’ve had some close calls. I still swim, but it’s hard. I don’t bite my nails and wring my hands, I simply avoid water, even though I love it. Everyone’s in the pool–I’m like, yeah, I’ll get in. In a second. Thirty minutes later, I have to jump in, or I would avoid it forever.
I don’t need a lifeguard to make me feel safer in water. I need to work with my own mind, to get over my fear of water, and it’s complicated. Water’s gotten the upper hand with me a couple times.
Complicated. There’s pool water, and there are creeks. There are rivers, and ponds, and lakes, and then there’s the ocean. I have to respond differently to each one. I have to manage my fear, and enjoy my life, or stay out of water.
I’ll finish with a love note.
To my Black, Mexican, Asian, Native, and Muslim friends; my gay, bisexual and transgendered friends; my friends with mental illness and any type of developmental idiosyncracies; my old friends and my young friends, it’s ok. I’ll gladly be left behind by those who don’t understand you, even as I won’t even begin to pretend I understand anything at all.
To my friends who defy labels, and are just a little unsure about how, if, or where you fit–you fit. Please believe me, you fit.
To my friends whom I’ve not explicitly listed, you count. I used to be a perfectionist, and I’d spend an extra hour going through my contacts list, and my facebook friends list, and even going so far as to triple check that I didn’t miss anyone’s individual, self-identified human classification. I just can’t any more. I’m getting older. You know I am not forgetting you, even if I’m not listing you.
To my friends who don’t get my other friends, and don’t like being lumped into “intersectional justice,” I know, it’s very weird at first. Maybe you’re affected by racism, or nationalism, because people attack your skin color or language, but you don’t understand how or why advocacy for LGBTQ+ persons is really advocacy for us all. Let’s talk. Teach me where it breaks down for you.
My friends who skate on the thin veneer of white privilege or religion-based exclusion, it’s ok. I see you, skating just out of my reach, a little disturbed by my rants, and I miss you. I’m sorry my quest to learn more about Black Lives Matter or LGBTQ+ equity has made things complicated, or that you don’t know what to think about my activism work. Really, it’s the same thing I’ve always done behind closed doors. It’s mental health work, but without the medicine or secrecy, and on a bigger scale. For everyone.
I know it’s weird sometimes, but it’s also really fun. I mean exhausting. No, fun.
I still like music and chips.
To my friends who are so tired of being called a “white ally,” because in the same breath, and by the same people you are learning to support, you are being told you are a privileged white cis-pig and a racist: Yes, yes, I too have waded through the fiery, fierce, and seemingly hateful social activism orientation marsh. Do you really mean it, or are you just here to ring your own white bell of martyrdom and further exploit people? You do know you are a racist and likely internalized misogyny? Now admit it. Say it out loud!
It’s a mean place, and you better mean it. Thick skin, soft heart. Bring it. (If you don’t know what cis means, or aren’t sure about that privilege thing, let’s have tea, or music and chips soon.)
My friends who have reached out, and tone policed me through the last year, when I’ve been a bit too heated about Betsy DeVos, or any of the other ridiculously biased and filthy rich persons now in power over our children’s futures, it’s ok. I get it. It’s hard to see a friend struggle to integrate so much information, and look at so many issues, and care about too many things, and chase down the myths, all while raising new questions.
I’m sitting with the discomfort of knowing there’s so much heroin in this world, and so many of our kids are using it. Yeah, yeah, the pot is a huge problem too. I’m staying with the discomfort of knowing the statistics about my little rural, predominantly white town’s horrifying rates of addiction, mental illness, and abuse–beneath the shiny white veneer. There’s a tap root. Very deep. You’ve seen my reactivity, when the kettle must blow steam. Thank you for your warm hugs, wrapped in tone policing. I see you seeing me, and caring. I am literally working in the mud here, searching for clarity. Thank you for tone policing me; it means you haven’t left me.
To my friends who’ve reached out, and said you enjoy my ability to see both sides. Thank you most, for being open-minded, even in the face of so much to be terrified of. You are my anchors. You keep me believing. You make all this messy work worth it. I am comforted by your presence, your ability to use discretion around the prejudices that you might carry, and you are what is keeping us all afloat–curiosity, and effort.
Would you like a bucket?
Unfamiliar, or different, does not equate to criminal. I think we’re confused, on a massive scale. In real life, or at least the life I’ve lived, outside of our minds, the greatest tragedies have occurred despite our best defenses. Sadly, we cannot anticipate when a criminal will strike, just as there are sneaker waves and undercurrents.
We need friends on all sides, because there’s really only one side. Let’s keep talking.