Look. I write to clear my head. To make sense of what I'm feeling. To understand things. To understand myself. To try to understand others.
For a good long while the topic du jour around here has been faith. I don't know if it's because I'm getting older and wondering what it's all for or if the many mistakes I make and keep making have me questioning whether I'm nothing but a mistake making machine. (I am. We all are.) It could just be that I'm no longer swallowing things whole cloth and am asking questions because things are not making sense. Not just in the world. But in the very institutions that are supposed to be the voices of reason, of hope.
Maybe I'm just angry. Angry at hypocrisy. Angry at the status quo and the powers that be. Angry that emotion and caring and frustration, if not perfectly executed to the listener/observer's liking, is met more often than not with, "shut up!" "You're talking too loud!" "Get over it!"
I think more people need to cop to being angry. I agree that yelling is an ineffective mode of communicating; but, so is not listening. If anger is indicative of something else under the surface, then yeah, I absolutely think more people need to cop to being angry. And more people, myself included, need to vow to being better listeners.
Telling someone to shut up and dictating how communication occurs isn't really helpful. Neither is my all time favorite - "going invisible" or stonewalling - a mechanism people use to withdraw from interactions, shut down and close off. Speaking from experience as a world-renowned stonewaller, issues accumulate when they're avoided.
So, that's one reason I write. To avoid avoidance! To avoid stonewalling and withdrawing. To avoid disengaging from my life and the people close to me. It's also why I went to the meeting I told you about in my last post.
I heard about the meeting via Facebook:
I was worried about attending, because as I said, I'm angry and anger, for me, often translates into loud. But I made myself a promise: attend and listen with an open mind and an open heart and a very closed mouth.
It was dark outside when I left for the meeting, but the super moon was bright. I took it as a good sign. I, along with about 25 other people were present. The vast majority of attendees were anglo and over the age of 55. A vast majority were female. A handful were younger than me, and at 48, I'm on the cusp of AARP-dom so can I really call myself "young"? It doesn't matter.
As church meetings are wont to do, we started with a prayer and song. And then the initial speaker passed out the paper you see in the picture at the top of this post and laid the ground rules: we are here to listen, to share; to discuss strategies for communicating as we head into the holidays and contemplate interacting with loved ones who often don't share our same viewpoints, our same lifestyles, our same values.
She made a point to clarify "this is not about the election, the candidates, or the issues." But then, immediately after she said those words, she asked us to turn the paper over so that we could all read the Archbishop's statement "regarding the election of Donald Trump as President."
I have to tell you, I was not the only person imperceptibly shaking my head at the...what's a good word here...double standard.
Leading with a double standard is not a great way to begin an open, honest, healthy dialogue, in my opinion. Especially when, to a person, almost every one in attendance was there because of the election (I say that because we were given a sticky note to write out why we came. These anonymous notes were read out as we began the meeting and 98% mentioned the election).
We broke up into small groups of four to do a few exercises. We each had the opportunity to look at the "I Dare To..." list and talk about the ones that jumped out to us. Within seconds, we were talking about the election and I didn't start it!
Somehow I was in a group with three other women (haha, God has a sense of compassion! Or is it humor?). Two were around my age and we immediately seemed kindred spirits. The other woman was in her sixties and was surprised, but open, about our viewpoints. The four of us had a terrific chat. I felt like I wasn't alone in my pain and anger and confusion. I felt like maybe I made two new friends and we exchanged phone numbers before leaving.
The meeting was nowhere near long enough to unpack the emotions so many of us were feeling, but, even if it began on an incongruent note, it was a nice start.
It's not enough, though. It's really not.
I don't know if I have a place in this church anymore. I have faith. I believe that I am here, we are all here, not as a result of some cosmic accident, but for a reason. And, for me, that reason is simply to serve each other and to love each other as we love ourselves. That's the teaching that gets lost in the noise of our egos and our politics and in family members telling each other to shut up and in just the day to day shit of the world. But it's the only thing that matters.
It's why I can't blindly follow a double standard without speaking what I think is truth to it. It's why I can't just sit back, passively nodding yes, when everything around me is begging question after question.
I made a point as people were leaving to pull aside one of the leaders of the church and of the meeting to ask him about the double standard of telling us - "we're not here to talk politics but please see the archbishop's message about politics."
He dared to listen and I dared not to be angry. Maybe the conversation will continue. I want to get involved, but I'm very afraid. My faith in the church (and there is a distinction) is hanging by a thread.
As I left the room, a slideshow was shuffling between quotes from Dorothy Day and Maya Angelou's Still I Rise. And I thought, yes, yes, up from a past that's rooted in pain I rise. These are the words I want to hear from the heart of people of faith speaking up, speaking out, not content to be mollified with a pretty slideshow that helps us feel good for a fleeting moment and then is forgotten in a flash as we shoot the finger to the lady in the parking lot who's just cut us off as we exit and spin our wheels back home. Back to busy. Back to the noise.
I don't know what to think when my church makes a call for peace and listening but does so with a double standard of "we don't want you to talk about the very thing you want to talk about, but check this out - we want you to hear the church's position on politics so here is the archbishop's statement...please read it and pray about it but don't talk about it here and by the way it's kind of not cool to call us on it because it makes me feel a little uncomfortable I'm just doing what I was told to do."
Especially when I juxtapose it with a voice like this: http://bit.ly/2fTsyHQ.
You can't be a light in the darkness by leading with a double standard.
I don't know...all of us try. All of us fail. And platitudes'll get me nowhere.
So I'll Dare To...
- risk understanding your beliefs
- listen even when it hurts
- think before I respond
- try and find common ground
- shut my mouth and open my ears
I won't always succeed. But, please don't give up. I say this to myself. I say it to you.