Written by Ellen Sanders
I have not been able to write an essay for months. I have tried over and over to sit at my computer and pour out the numerous thoughts going through my mind and each time, I have felt stuck. It’s not that I don’t know what to say or that I don’t have anything to say. The problem is, I have too much to say and I haven’t known how to articulate it. It feels so big and so forceful that at times I feel I will burst, but then I am mute because it is so big and so forceful that I just cannot write.
But today, I am trying again because I feel a shift. It’s inside me, but I feel it in the air too. I’m seeing it and hearing it in my friends when they speak. There is a need for truth, whatever that may look like for each person. And sometimes we need to be quiet to hear it, but sometimes we need to speak to find it. And hopefully the other side brings freedom.
So here is my truth today. I was afraid – for months. This fear turned into anxiety which turned into depression. Not the debilitating kind that keeps me from getting out of bed, but the one that looms over everything so that all my moments seemed a little bit duller. I had been less present in those moments and to the people I love. It feels like being lost even though I know I’m not really, but yet I can’t get back to myself.
It all started in the summer with the sentencing in the Stanford rape trial. Then, came the tragic shootings of civilians and police officers. This was followed by disturbing comments and reports related to the Presidential race. Each of these incidents have elicited strong reactions in people, including me, and have brought about further discord in our society. Lines have been drawn and they are distinct. I am not going to get specifically political here, but I am going to share how I have come to deal with my own feelings in relation to this climate of turbulence.
I have been afraid. Not for myself so much, but for my children and your children, for your grandchildren, and nieces and nephews. I am grappling with how I explain this violence, both in deed and word, to my children, especially my 7-year old daughter who cannot fathom it, but asks because it is so pervasive that she hears about it on the playground. I worry that my guidance is not enough if our society continues to move towards division. I worry that children will be pit against each other in a manner they shouldn’t be because we adults are so adamant about our positions on each of these (and numerous other) topics.
And so I have decided words are not enough. I need to truly act with love and not just say loving phrases. I disagree strongly with certain points of view. And in all honesty I have gotten angry with those who do not share my position. I have even made unkind statements about them. A couple of days ago, I stopped. And here’s why. I discovered that someone I care about and really like and respect for many reasons holds a stance that is opposed to the one I hold. My first reaction was, I can’t be her friend anymore. That was Fear talking. Because then I took a breath and thought about what I know about this woman’s life experiences. We all come to our beliefs, convictions, etc., based on what we have experienced in life and our perception of those events. It’s not about right and wrong all the time. And more importantly, it’s not for me to decide; nor is it for me to judge.
So, I will try to understand instead of condemn. I will try not to make assumptions about why a person believes what s/he does. I will try not to disparage the beliefs of someone else. I will try to step outside my own experiences, which led to my convictions, and respect that mine is not the only way. I will try to be humble and open and teachable.
And I will trust. I will trust that I don’t know what a certain outcome will mean or not mean. I will trust that something bigger than me, bigger than all of us, is at work even when it is not obvious to me. Because I don’t know everything.
This does not mean I will be mute as I have been. I will speak, work for, and support my viewpoints, but I will not assume these are more valid than another’s. And when I do speak my truth, I will honor that it is not the only truth. I will love instead of hate, even when fear wants to lead me there.
I’m not purporting that my ideas are revolutionary. I have been taught this through various channels my entire life, as I imagine many of you have, and have tried to live by it. The change for me now is that I feel it inside my soul. What I know to be true, is that unless I can love all, I can love none, including my family, my friends, and myself. And that I have to do so without expectation, without condition, without restriction. I do not have to like the acts of some, but to disregard the divinity even of those I dislike is to close myself off from my own light.
So, I wish you all peace and love. I wish that we not see this election, or any of these issues, as a competition where some of us win and some of us lose. I wish that we find a place to meet together and see the good that does reside in all.
Tomorrow night, I imagine I will be feeling quite anxious, because let’s face it, despite this transition I am experiencing, I am still human and realistic. So, I will tap in to this truth and below is one of my avenues towards it. Please use it for yourself also – for when I feel lost, it helps me to be found.
Metta (Loving-Kindness) Prayer
May all beings be peaceful,
May all beings be happy,
May all beings be well,
May all beings be safe,
May all beings be free from suffering,
And may the light within us see the light within all beings.