I don’t know about you, but this week has felt tough for me. Yesterday morning I showed up at the awesome yoga class taught by the inspiring Kate Counts, and as she thanked us all for showing up and referenced the two women who had been shot dead at the Tallahassee yoga studio the tears started. And I let them fall. I let them fall on my mat as I held my head in my arms in child’s pose. And I let them fall as I practiced my peaceful warrior. And as I wobbled on my toes, I listened to Kate’s words that the wobbles are OK. That the strongest people she knows have wobbled the most. That the wobbles are part of the journey. And even as I lay in our final Shavasana I let the tears fall. And I let them be ok. Because they were what was real for me at that moment. There is so much to cry for. Including the man who felt so angry and desperate and full of hate that he turned a gun on innocent people and then on himself.
Tomorrow our country votes. It is a right and a privileged and I hope you all vote. No matter what “side” you are on, I hope you vote. But after you cast that ballot, whatever side you may feel you are on, I want to challenge you to look across the aisle, and have a moment of compassion for whomever you see as the “Other.”
There is so much fear right now. Fear and judgment. So much. I feel it. I felt it when a pick up truck swerved in front of me, inches away from the front of my car, with an aggressive intentionality that I could not deny. Was it because I drive a prius and have an old faded Obama bumper sticker? How dare I have the audacity to do so in South Carolina, the state I now call home? I felt the fear and the judgment as my tears fell during yoga and some looked away, uncomfortable with the rawness of my emotions. I get it. My emotions make me uncomfortable too sometimes. Some days I wish I could hide them. Some days I run from them. But I have learned that some days I can’t, and to hide them only leads to feeling more separate and alone.
I feel the fear as I think about posting this publicly. As I think about the possible backlash of being so vulnerable in a place as public as the internet. From strangers, but also from those who are not strangers, as I have chosen to walk a path rubbing shoulders with many who are different from me.
Most of my readers are liberals. Not all, but most. And as you read this I imagine you may want to come to my defense. And thank you, because it isn’t easy to be me some days in this world. As I am sure it isn’t easy to be you. But I challenge you to also ask, what is it that made that pick up driver feel so threatened by my existence that he tried to run me off the road? What is it right now that is allowing for such a strong illusion of separateness?
That feeling I have had of wanting to curl back up under my covers in the morning and hide from the world, that this is not a world meant for people like me, that feeling of wanting to hide and make myself small… You know the feeling I am talking about. We all feel it some days. And I can only imagine that the people driven to acts of hate must feel so separate, so alone, so desperate, and so threatened by a world they perceive as not for them.
Is there not enough room for all of us on this Earth? Can we find a way to coexist? Without asking another to make themselves smaller? Can we focus on our commonalities rather than our differences? The common sorrows of losing a loved one? The common joys of watching a child take their first steps and speak their first words? Can we celebrate what makes another human’s soul light up, even if it is not what lights up our soul? And can we have compassion for what breaks another’s heart, and let it break our own heart open? Can we recognize how we build our own walls of separateness? How we let a difference of how one chooses to connect to God, or the great Divine Mystery of one’s understanding, create a rift that does not need to be there? Can we have the courage to sit with what makes us uncomfortable, with that which seems different, and scary, and triggers that part of us that wants to judge, and be curious about it? Yes, be curious about the judgment. Can we befriend the enemy?
So tomorrow, go cast your vote for what you believe in. Then put yourself in the shoes of the “Other,” and listen to each other and see the humanity in each other. Be curious about that person you want to dismiss. Be curious about the person that makes you angry or uncomfortable. What keeps them up at night? What makes them cry? What are their fears? What brings them joy?
We don’t have to agree. We may never agree. But can we still love and respect one another? Can we still find ways to smile and laugh and cry together even as we make different choices?
I don't know what will happen tomorrow. But it seems no matter what the outcome one side will feel betrayed, hurt, and angry. How do we begin to heal this and end this cycle? How do we begin to create a world where we all feel safe to be who we are? Where, one person at a time, we begin to shatter the illusion of separateness?
In peace, with humility, with love, with fear, but also hope, from one human to another, that is the question I leave you with.