These are dark days.
I mean, literally dark. Winter solstice and all that. In these northern climes, we just don’t have a lot of daylight hours right now. And I’d like to believe that this darkness is responsible for what I’ve been feeling lately. It is surely a factor.
I suspect, however, the looming possibility of living under a dictatorship plays a whole hell of a lot more into what I’m feeling.
I live in a racially and economically diverse city with an LGBTQ community center at its heart. Having the good fortune to attend racially and culturally diverse schools the majority of my life, I feel quite at home in such an environment. But these days, I’m around many people who are feeling sadness, hopelessness, injustice and fear. And rightly so.
Being in this open and accepting neighborhood, I also frequently encounter new-age, “just think positive” advocates who keep telling me to look on the bright side, be thankful for what I have and expect good things.
Aw, that’s nice. And with all due respect, it’s emotionally dishonest and it’s bullshit.
I get it. I’m a yoga teacher. I’ve doled out the same sort of well-intentioned advice in droves over the years. This is a different game though.
People are hurting right now. And they’re afraid. And to tell them to just stay positive and grateful is a gross oversimplification steeped in denial that completely negates their feelings.
Don’t get me wrong. I know there’s tremendous value in being grateful.
I am also far from condoning the adoption of an Eeyore complex of doom and gloom. That serves nobody.
And despite the fact that some percentage of the population (a number which is far from the current definition of land slide, by the way) has chosen a hate-mongering, racist, misogynist, megalomaniacal facsimile of a human to be the ultimate decision-maker in ruling the land where I live, this reality has not diminished my ability to be grateful.
But neither will I sit back and sugar coat the situation. Or rather, I cannot.
The experience of feeling emotions is real. It is human, and is not a sign of weakness.
There are vast differences from one person to the next in how each experiences emotion. But feelings are symptomatic of deeper stirrings. And they certainly shouldn’t be discounted. Not all of us are willing to paint on a smile and just “walk it off.”
Some of us don’t even have that option.
So yeah, I don’t know whether our newest president (not)elect will manage to do all of the hideous things he so proudly claims he’ll do. That remains to be seen.
And maybe you’re okay with the annihilation of the civil rights and freedoms for which so many people – veterans, one might say – fought. Perhaps you find it fascinating that entire species are driven to extinction every day. You might even be getting a real kick out of the third-grade antics of a morally corrupt billionaire (isn’t he a hoot!?) making fun of special needs people. If so, congratulations!
But for me and most others I know (white males among them), the sheer fact that so many people have no problem with this is disturbing, demoralizing and a compendium of other adjectives on a list far too long to put on this post.
A month ago I was enraged. I was hurt and angry. I shut off social media and turned inward to embrace the discomfort of those emotions and feel them completely.
Since that time I have moved into sadness and heartbreak. I don’t dwell there. Honestly, I don’t. But I do acknowledge that it’s a real part of what I FEEL. And I do so unapologetically. So please spare me the “happy thoughts” rhetoric because allowing myself to truly feel is how I am getting through this and arriving at a less emotionally charged place.
It is only from that place of being open that I personally can begin to enact change.
As Thich Nhat Hanh says, “It is important for us to stay in touch with suffering in the world… in order to keep compassion alive in us. But we must be careful not to take too much. Any remedy must be taken in the proper dose. We need to stay in touch with suffering only to the extent that we will not forget, so that compassion will flow within us and be a source of energy for our actions.”
As far as positive thinking, I remind myself that despite the ass-backward system that put a wealthy entitled white male at the helm yet again, nearly three-million more people actually voted for someone who espouses acceptance and change than he who praises the sort of Dark-Ages hatred and oppression that has NEVER made America great.
So that’s a start, I guess.