I’ve been noticing lately that I haven’t had a lot to say. My eye is so often fixed on the state of humanity and right now I find myself baffled. I have no idea where to begin to jump in on the “larger discourse.” Feels a little like double dutch… I was never good at double dutch. It seems like all of my thoughts, hopes, and aspirations for us add up to little more than entertainment. One of my mentors recently told me it’s like those of us still wanting to generate change in the world are like butterflies just flapping our little wings off but the effect won’t be anything we’ll ever perceive.
I took a little solace in that. I do believe in butterflies. I once heard Mata Amritanandamayi tell a story of a little squirrel and his group of forest animal friends watching some humans build a dam to stop a flood at the bottom of a hill. While all the creatures sat atop the hill, the squirrel was making himself nice and sandy by rolling around in the dirt, then he’d run down the hill and shake the sand off between the large rocks and boulders being placed by the humans. The squirrel’s animal friends made good fun of making fun of him. “What do you think you’re doing??” The squirrel just said it was doing its part.
So I’m willing to be a squirrel in the world, even when I find myself unsure of what it means to do my part.
It’s becoming clear to me that I’m experiencing this moment of social chaos we are in right now as the part in the defensive pattern cycle where everything gets inflamed. I mean, if you think of the fights you’ve had with a parent, child or significant other, aren’t they always the same fights you’ve had before? Haven’t you been there again and again? Haven’t you had the underlying thoughts a million times and burned many calories anticipating antagonistic responses? Then something happens: a trigger, a breach, and you just can’t take IT anymore! So you say your thing and they say their thing and there you are again…and again…and again…….
Then at some point you read a book, attend a seminar or (god forbid) get some therapy, and learn that when you get triggered, you can take a breath, stop making up stories about the other, and find out what’s really going on below for you. And often when you let the person on the other side know how you’re feeling and what you’d like to feel instead, the other side can soften and meet you somewhere closer to where you both want to be. The truths you share are tender, and you avoid sharing them for a reason. They are hard to say because your tenderness is at stake, and they are hard to hear for the same reason, but in the end, more often than you might expect, putting tenderness on the table changes the story.
Right now, everywhere I turn I see people doing their respective “thing,” judging, defending, defending, judging. I mean, what’s the point of the litany of condemnations aimed at Roseanne Barr? I’ve even reached my fill of accusations and analysis on the person occupying the Oval White and the ilk/henchmen that surround him. There are so few mysteries there. There are so few mysteries presented by the folks who defend him, at least not for me. It doesn’t feel mysterious because we’ve been here before. We’ve heard all of this before, if not on television, then by neighbors or friends. We’ve all known folks who’ve done dirty deeds and tried to get away with it by any means necessary. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s just me but I think I’d find it more interesting if we stopped pointing at the others and started being clear about how these actions make us feel.
When I see all the condemnation posts flood my FB feed, I wonder what my friends are feeling underneath their outrage. I imagine they’re afraid. I know I am. I imagine some of that fear has to do with the uncertainty that this level of chaos brings with it. I imagine there’s anxiety around the fact that it’s hard to tell who “cares” for the day to day experience of the average human in this country, much less those on the more vulnerable ends of the spectrum. I imagine there’s also anxiety related to feeling distant from the grounding texture of “truth” with so much alternative information flooding our field. There’s mass hypnosis, mass hysteria, gas-lighting en masse! We’re all susceptible, we’re all exposed. What now?
How do we hold on to our experience without blaming the “other.” It means folks like me would have to find a way to say “Roseanne, when you said that thing, I felt small. I felt invisible. I felt hopeless. I was reminded of my fear that no matter how hard I try or how much I accomplish, it will never be enough. I want to feel like my best is good enough. I want to feel like we’re in this together. I want to feel like a team. I want you to know that I respect your needs, even when I can’t meet them or get them met, and I respect your perspective even when it varies wildly from my own.”
It might mean that we might collectively need to find a way to say things like “Donald, when you continue to lie and are verbally abusive in order to defend your lies, it makes us feel afraid. It triggers our collective nervous system because we’re aware that the words are not aligning with reality, whether or not we’re able to prove it. Over time, the anxiety brought about that level of uncertainty makes it difficult for us to be clear in our thoughts and deeds. It takes up too much space in our consciousness to be able to accomplish productive things for our families and communities. Therefore, we need to set a clear boundary. It doesn’t even matter if you are in fact innocent. What matters is the space you consume. We have real concerns, goals and aspirations that we simply can’t accomplish while managing your chaotic display. Thank you for revealing to us parts of ourselves that we were in denial about, and now again, thank you for revealing to us that we still have the power to say no, this won’t do.”
There are things you say when you’re sane, and things you say when you’re inflamed. Sometimes that thin line hangs on the balance of a breath.
Right now, the wings I’m flapping are hoping we can find a way to breathe…together.