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Monday, February 06, 2017

On Not Screaming

It's been a long and difficult couple of weeks-  almost like there's a line in my life  between "then" and "now"; "before" and "after".  In ways, things feel even harder than they did when the Giant Cheeto first came into power.  I won't try to reiterate all the facts and events of these past few weeks, because we all know I'm more about the aura of things than the blacks and whites.  Besides, we've all been busy (read obsessed) with consuming every variety of newscast reporting on the minute by minute mutiny by executive order and alternative facts, so you're likely at least as informed as I am.  Probably more, since my brain is similar to a colander.

I feel like I was younger and more optimistic two weeks ago when it felt proactive and almost entirely doable to attempt 100 days of kindness.  I still believe in it, I do.  But I feel more tired, more vulnerable somehow.  It sure didn't help to get hit with the worst flu that I can remember since being a little girl in my mother's arms.  It rendered me confined to bed for days on end, basically unable to do anything for myself, never mind others.

I'm scared.  I'm scared because these politics which are so obviously evil and divisive to my eyes and ears are for others somehow connected to their spiritual lives- intimately connected to people believing themselves to be committed Christians.  As in-  followers of Jesus who believe that defending Cheeto is standing up for their faith.  I've had my own long and lonely walk, working through thoughts and questions and confusions, hopes and desires around the faith I was raised in, and I still identify with Jesus.  The old testament stuff about genocide and violence and cruelty is terribly troubling to me, and I honestly don't get it.  But I'm not here to present my statement of faith because quite frankly, I don't have one and it doesn't matter much to me any more. 

I'm scared that people are identifying with the violence in the Bible.  I'm scared that they are metaphorically marching around the city of Jericho, hoping to bring down the walls- mamas and babies be damned.  I can't defend the Bible that way, and I can't ignore the thoughts of all the people languishing in detention centers and refugee camps.  And my own impotence makes me ashamed.

When my mind is clear, and I remember where my heart was at, I know what I meant by 100 days of kindness.  I meant that we all are responsible to be and do right in our own microcosms.  In our own life systems.  The way we raise our kids, the way we treat the cashier at Wal-Mart, the way we do our jobs-  all these things have a ripple effect.  When we raise kids who aren't (too) angry and frustrated, we make the world a little less ugly.  When we make eye contact at the store, ask frazzle haired cashier person "How is your day?" and mean it, we've at least not made their day harder than it had to be.  When we make an effort to stop complaining and start making a point of saying aloud the good we see in each other, we shine light into hearts and make the world a little less harsh.

It's a vulnerable feeling to suggest being kinder than necessary.  Vulnerable because one might think I'm setting myself up as some sort of standard.  One might read these blundery ramblings as "Look at me!  I'm so kind!  Be like Joyce!", and that's so not it at all.  I know what I intend, and yet my brain and body are pretty darned prickly and often downright spiteful.  So sometimes when people tell me they expect more of me (based in part of what I've chosen to be honest about here), I feel like maybe I painted myself into a corner.  It's important then to remind myself that I make myself vulnerable on purpose- its the way I've chosen to live my life.  Not everyone will understand or be particularly gracious.

When I wrote about kindness two weeks ago, I mentioned that sometimes being kind is going to mean not screaming out loud.  I had hoped that would be an occasional feeling and not sort of the predominant elephant in the room.  More accurately- the elephant sitting on my lap and stepping on my toes, its trunk wrapped around my neck and chest, threatening to shut off my air supply.

And I have managed not to scream.  I've managed to not call anyone an idiot in my out loud voice.  I've managed to do some intentional, kind things- to be deliberate in giving things away.  Giving to someone who will put what I can live without to good use.

In order to not scream, I've stopped following some people's posts on facebook.  They're people pretty far removed from my current, relevant life so its not like it'll fracture relationships or have any real consequences, outside of promoting less negativity and bullshit on my newsfeed.  But even this bothers me.  Why do good, upstanding citizens who I would call "friend" actually believe that Muslims want to remove our heads?  Why?  It breaks my heart and makes me furious.  These people are committed about their faith.  This is confusing for me.  Didn't Jesus have the audacity to say that we should LOVE our enemies?  not shun them?  I've asked myself very specific questions before cutting myself out of their newsfeed.  "Am I just unwilling to hear other points of view?  Am I being hypocritical when I promote kindness but want to pinch a "friend" from a million years ago?" So, before unfollowing, I've been honest with myself that I'm doing so to protect my grey matter, and my soul.

I don't think hating people is easier than loving people.  I think they both require a lot of personal energy.  I sure have been wondering though.  I've been extending a lot of energy reminding myself that we're all different and that I have to extend grace when people voice things that I think are ignorant, uninformed, annoying, or downright dangerous.  It's tricky and exhausting to decide when to use my voice, and when to keep my mouth shut.  And honestly, sometimes its shockingly easy to identify with the hatred route.  It's easy to think violent thoughts that require no grace, no "looking at things from another perspective".  Just- "People are awful and should go die in a hole".

Isn't that shocking and sad?  How many degrees separated are we from being cold blooded killers?  I'm sitting here in my lovely, warm little house with plenty to eat, and good people all around, and I wonder how many degrees of frustration separate me from murderous hatred.

It doesn't feel kind at all.

One of the things that makes me want to scream is when people suggest that we all calm down and just enjoy our lives.  That all this insanity is outside of our circle of influence and that we're just making ourselves miserable by staying informed and concerned.  I hear "Ignorance is bliss!  Be blissful!" and I want to scream.

Another thing that makes me almost scream out loud is when people suggest that the women's march on Washington was actually about being a loudmouthed, crass, skanky, nasty, baby killing bully who just doesn't know her rightful place as a submissive wife and mother.  Crazy.  Maker.  Way too simple.  Not in any way nuanced enough for all the complicated emotions, experiences, realities, struggles, victories, and desires of not only women, but humanity.  I'm even more annoyed now that the roads were bad that day and I could not attend.  Those marches hold historic significance, and it's disappointing that I was there only in spirit.

I feel existentially tired.

So what have I done to be kind and not scream?  I've helped feed some people.  I've sewn some things that help my mind to ruminate in productive ways.  I've refrained from swearing at people.  I've refrained from being mean online.

I'd like to hear what you have and haven't done.
I'd like to hear how your keeping your soul intact.
I'd like to know if you're having any trouble not screaming.
just like me.


janice said...

My life is so warm and easy, these days. Therefore it is easy to be kind. I have been working on disengagement from negative thoughts. I have been smiling at children and petting dogs and cats and recognizing goodness all around me.

I'm sorry for your illness.

I believe in the power of love and oneness. I believe it will prevail. I used to say that I cling to my naive optimism, but now I claim that love will prevail.

Thanks again for your inspiration, and raising 4 loving citizens of this earth. Thanks for loving all the children that spend their days at your house. That's bigger than hatred.

News seldom mentions kindness, but it goes on every day, all over the world.

Anonymous said...

I am so glad that you are writing on your blog again. I have missed reading your thoughts.
Yes, these are tough times. Sometimes I want to scream, sometimes I want to disengage from any kind of news media. Sometimes I remember what Mr. Rogers said his mother told him when he was a child about how to handle frightening things. She had told him to look for the "helpers." There is some grounding
in that.
You are a "helper" with your writings, with your caring for young children, your awareness of justice issues, and I am sure many other things that I don't know about.