“Right now, it’s about showing up and not shutting down”. These words of wisdom were shared with me by a dear friend over a glass of wine and accompanied by an ongoing lament about the lack of stability in the world.
What happens when things we have come to count on, to consider unassailable, are suddenly taken away? Looking at the world right now, we may feel the weight of it all: the loss of relative economic stability, autonomy over our own bodies, representative democracy, a common interest in public health.
The lack of stability is being felt, in some form or other, by nearly all of us right now.
These shifts cannot help but engender anxiety, anger, a sense of unfairness, and, at least for me, a palpable experience of helplessness. I want to shut down. I want to turn away and pretend that values and rights that are dear to me are not under attack.
So how do we keep showing up in spaces where our deepest and most closely held values are being so gleefully dismantled?
When I first moved to Omaha from Chicago, I remember feeling so displaced and disoriented by the decidedly more conservative culture in Nebraska. My first response was to plan my exodus and return to a life that was familiar and shared with like-minded people. I’ll never forget when my good friend, Paula, leaned over and whispered to me “but if you move, who will change things?” If we shut down, who will keep fighting?
This is a more difficult route to be sure, but this is what having convictions means. We fight for them. Even when it’s hard. Especially when it’s hard.
I’m glad that I’ve stayed. My growth would not have been served by surrounding myself with those who view the world just as I do. But it has been hard. Friendships have been lost, sometimes because I wasn’t listened to, and sometimes because I didn’t listen enough.
So here is my plan. I’m going to keep showing up. I’m going to keep fighting for what I believe is right. I’m going to keep talking – and sometimes screaming – at injustice. I’m going to try to listen more. And the cherry on top, I’m going to try to keep my heart open and keep loving.
That is the ‘what’. The ‘how’ always comes back to the practice, to sitting on that damn cushion every day, so that I can more easily identify the ways in which I am distorting information to fit my self-righteous outrage or massage my ego. The ‘how’ is to keep talking, and listening, to those with whom we disagree. The ‘how’ is to observe the tendency to vilify the opposition and to not indulge it. It is not easy work by a long shot, but it is how we can continue to show up, even in times like these, and no one is served by shutting down.
Blessings on your journey,