” If you want people to listen to you, you have to listen to them.” – Gloria Steinem
So here is my truth. I encourage you all to share yours in whatever capacity suits you.
I hate being political. It makes me, in the words of my college days in Massachusetts, wicked uncomfortable.
When I was a teenager, my brother-in-law enjoyed asking me about my stance on such “hot button topics” like abortion. He grew up getting in heated discussions with his family, I did not. And I hated every minute of it. I did not possess the confidence or often the knowledge to back up how I felt.
What happened over time was in order to protect myself from feeling stupid and embarrassed, I started getting quieter and quieter. I never internally questioned my strongest convictions, but I didn’t want to discuss them out loud either. I hated being put on the spot so to speak. I would feel “too” emotional, “too sensitive” or maybe I took things “too” personally. Often, it felt antagonistic, almost as if I was being bullied.
I made the mistake of thinking that if I didn’t know everything about an issue being discussed, that maybe I wasn’t entitled to an opinion. But we are all entitled to an opinion. Our feelings are valid, our points of view, important, no matter how many articles we have read on a subject.
If it’s important to us, we’ve got to speak up even when we feel uncomfortable and have difficulty locating our voice.
As a child, I remember standing up to bullies. And it was hard. I hated every minute of that too. I would get red, my heart would pound but I did it anyway because every fiber of my being was screaming at me to do so.
I still despise confrontation and arguing. Even if it is a topic I am familiar with, I would rather not “get into it.”
So the other day when I posted something on my wall on Facebook about a college starting a program where professors read books about social justice issues to children, I was gobsmacked that my nephew took offense to it. Once again, I didn’t want to get into it but here I was.
Contrary to what some people say, we don’t have control over our thoughts and feelings. We do of course have control over what we do with them. My nephew, much younger and most likely smarter, is of course entitled to his opinions too. But I couldn’t help feeling misunderstood and confused. Certainly, he couldn’t disagree with the idea of exposing children to people and issues different than themselves, I thought. I responded to his comment which just furthered his fire and squelched mine.
Clearly, we weren’t going to see eye to eye on this. So I dropped it.
Once again, I told myself that it was okay to have differences in opinion.
And that it is okay to disagree.
However, it is not okay, in my book anyway, to do so in a disrespectful and bullish manner. Life is fragile. And while we argue, there are people battling vicious diseases and cleaning up tornado toppled houses.
So on Saturday, when I joined millions of people around the world, and marched in the women’s march in St. Pete, I hoped it would be peaceful and respectful. Unlike the protests the day before.
Part of me was exited to attend and part of me had my reservations.
I really wanted to spend a quiet Saturday at home with my family. I also felt fearful about being public about my political beliefs. (Lindsay, remember you are not good at this, I heard). I feared photos from the day leading to another spat on facebook. I feared being in a big crowd. I feared feeling stupid when someone mentioned a name of a newly appointed cabinet member I hadn’t heard of yet. I questioned my intention…I am all about love and peace, why do I need to do this? Maybe I could just stay home meditate and pray instead.
But the same me that stood up to the kid in high school who was always picking on the kid smaller and not as athletic or as good looking as he, said hell no. So my face hot, my heart beating hard, I went anyway. Going with a group of fabulous and supportive women helped too of course.
And this march was everything I hoped it would be. It was the antithesis of hate. It was peaceful. Hopeful. And loving. I felt like I was being carried in a sea of supportive, super humans who shared concerns for the planet and for each other. I spoke to an 81-year -old woman there with her husband who marched her whole life for causes like the civil rights movement and nuclear arms. She told me, “You can’t hug a child with nuclear arms.” I saw an older woman with a walker. I listened to a 12-year-old girl sing, “We Shall Overcome.” I saw a little boy wearing an anti bullying message around his neck. And lots of wonderful and brave men. It didn’t feel antagonistic or divisive, it felt humane and unifying. It was heartening.
So while some of us disagree with what is happening right now in our government, some of us are supportive of it.
And I want you to know, whomever you voted for, whatever you think of this current feminist movement, that I love you and I want to work with you no matter what. I will try my best to listen with an open heart to your opinion if done so in a kind way, if you promise to do the same.
Even the one vocal Trump supporter I saw at the march was kind. He held his Trump sign but he smiled and didn’t shout at us. And according to another account I heard on the news this morning, he even said, “Thank you ladies”, as we passed.