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Stories, Healing, and Becoming Better

My Dear Friends,

This week is a hard one. This week we will experience a status check point on where we really are as a country. This is when we will see what the majority’s voices are demanding. We will see corruption and lies and we will see many people - many of us – fighting for all of our rights. What we are seeing is a country woken up, a country participating in its Democracy, perhaps more than have participated actively in decades. Yes, there is a shit-ton of conflict going on right now, but conflict shows people care. People are paying attention and forming opinions, and this time period right now is an opportunity for us to work to make our country better. We are living in a transitory, revolutionary time. It is messy. It is heartbreaking. It is hard. It is so hard to hear all the pain from everywhere and everyone. But listen. Listen to me now. Beyond the pain we hear strength. We are seeing people stand up and fight for equality that have never stood up before. We are being forced to come out of our disconnected lackadaisical cocoons where we could just ignore everything because it didn’t apply to us. And this is hard for us to deal with. It’s scary that we can’t ignore things anymore. It’s frustrating that we have to have discussions with people who we disagree with – people we once ignored because “it didn’t matter what they thought”. But if nothing else, this year – the last 4 years, has taught more people than ever, that it does matter. It matters when someone treats another person like they are not fully human because they don’t have the same skin color, the same gender, the same abilities, the same financial status. It all matters and it always has. It’s just that now we are reaching a breaking point. Now we are climbing to the highest reaches of the mountain that for decades we have been pushing our way up in order to allow ALL people’s voices to be heard, to protect our human rights, our air and our water, to fight to be treated as human. My friends, hold on and keep fighting – keep working hard in your own way, your own small part of this crazy world, to make it better.

Right now, we may not agree on things but we are hearing each other yell, (listening could use work), and we are all at the table now and that is a huge achievement for a society to reach. Even our children are paying attention. What we do next, how we handle this week and beyond, will be critical – for now and for the next generation. We must not only hear each other yelling, but we also must try harder than ever to listen to each other. We must try even harder to understand WHY we are yelling – why we are angry. Because there is so much pain and anger right now. There is so much frustration and sadness and fear. Here is what I want to tell the world in all of this: I hear you. I can see that you are feeling angry and sad and afraid right now. I can see that you are hurt and feeling frustrated and hopeless. And that’s okay. It’s okay to feel these hard feelings. I can understand why you feel that way. We don’t like to feel hard feelings and we have been taught for hundreds of generations to bury these feelings and that you’re “not good” if you feel these feelings. Every day still we are told that we can’t be angry and if you are there’s something wrong with you. But people – there is nothing wrong with you. That anger, that fear, that sadness is there for a reason, so let’s look at the reasons we feel these things. Do not just ignore those feelings and push them away and look to the future. We must work through the “why” before we can move forward to the future. Please just stop and pause and try to empathize with each other, try to understand why someone is so angry. Listen. Really listen to each other.

One of the things we humans are very good at is creating stories about each other and convincing ourselves that the stories about a person are truer than the actual person. Think about this for a minute. I am certain you have experienced this. Here is an example of this. When I was a small child and as I grew, my parents didn’t like certain things I did as a child – disagreeing with them, questioning things, doing things differently than they did. As I grew older and became and adult this only became more difficult for them. They wanted me to be like them, to think like them, to behave like them. When I didn’t – because naturally I am not them – they began to create a story of who I am from their perspective. And that story became more and more negative, more and more demeaning as time went by. And it became more and more apparent that I would make different decisions than them – that I would think differently than them – because I am not them. But this story they created grew into a monster. They constantly shared their story about me with my siblings as a warning of what not to become. They convinced my siblings that this story of me – this version of me - was so true in fact, that when I tried to show my siblings who I really was, they refused to believe me. And my parents didn’t do this just to me. They have stories for my sister, for me, for my brother and for my youngest sister too. And they told anyone who would listen these stories – these very negative stories, because then everyone would believe them about how good they are and how bad we are. Now, even as adults, as my siblings and I strive to have adult relationships with each other, we struggle to see each other as we truly are, rather than through the distorted negative lens of the stories we were told. This way of interacting with each other, of believing what someone else tells us about a person rather than listening to the person themselves, is incredibly damaging. It is so difficult to get through to each other, to realize what is going on, and to not let these stories impede our vision and ruin our chances at true connection.

This is what is happening all over our country right now at an individual and at a societal level. It is happening between family members, co-workers, neighbors, and strangers. It is happening between belief systems, between entire races and cultures and genders, and most definitely between political affiliations. We have told each other stories about each other, demonizing each other because we are too afraid to accept that someone is different from us. We are too afraid to accept that we might not be right and we might have to change how we see things – and that means we might have to admit that we are wrong. This is the crux point – admitting we are wrong. This is what has nearly destroyed my family and this is what is destroying our country right now. Our pride is more important to us than treating other people as human beings. Stupid rules we have created ourselves, black and white boxes, are more important to us than treating each other as human beings.

Here’s the thing: human beings learn and grow and change. We do this so much in fact that we once lived in caves and hunted mammoths with spears to survive, and now we live in very comfortable homes surrounded by incredible science and technology. We have learned and we’ve changed how we live, how we eat, how we sleep and heal, in so many ways we have changed since humans first walked this earth. Can we change and grow and become better people emotionally too? Is it possible to evolve and accept that we have complex emotions and having one emotion over another does not make us bad or good? Can we acknowledge that we might not know everything and might have screwed up? Can we admit that we don’t know everything or that we were wrong and now know better? Could we acknowledge that we see each other through stories we’ve been told or made up, instead of actually getting to know each other? And in doing so, could we admit where we went wrong and move forward really listening to each other?

For decades now, our country has become more and more divided. We have been told where to look and what to believe. We have been distracted from the true source of our troubles many times over. We have been struggling with making progress for our people to increase income, to increase equality, to improve living conditions, to fight racism and all the isms, to ensure freedoms to love and freedoms to care for our bodies. We are in the midst of the fight still. The past is trying hard to sustain itself and keep thriving – it’s rearing its head and fighting for all it’s got – because the past knows it’s in the past and it doesn’t like to admit that. The past knows it’s losing its power and that true freedom and equality and love are winning the day for humanity. This is the point where, as individuals and as a society, we acknowledge that our stories have been driving us, and we admit we were wrong, and we figure out how to move forward to make it better. We are here now and we will do this together. Do not lose hope my friends. You are not alone. We can make mistakes and learn from them – even at a societal level. We have learned many good things over our history as humans and this is one of the most important things: We are all human and we can and will do better.

“I have found that those who do achieve peace never acquiesce to obstacles, especially those constructed of bigotry, intolerance and inflexible tradition.

~Benazir Bhutto

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