Victory

Jenn is a Republican.

Her wit’s sharper than a Lego at 3 o’clock in the morning, but her heart’s softer than the lightest feathers you’ve ever touched. You’ll never find out the latter if you can’t embrace the former.

She met my family a couple of weeks ago. Living on opposite ends of the U.S. West Coast as we do, she’s followed from afar my transition from anti-marriage, kid-phobic adventurer to married mom of two as I have followed her own transitions from afar.

I don’t remember more than a thing or two we said over burgers, but I remember how it felt to be sitting across from her and my five-year-old, Li’l D. Listening to her talk to my husband as if the two had known each other forever.

It felt like home; like I had just fallen into orbit after being long adrift. 

As I drove away, I thought about our politics. I’m so far from Republican, I wondered how such different people could be such good friends.

I knew something was wrong with the question, but I couldn’t figure out what.

jenn

My godmother, Anna, is a Republican.

She was there from the moment of my first breath, and she’s been here for almost every breath since.

She’s known me through everything and loved me through it all, even when I was the surliest, eye-rollingest of surly, eye-rolling teenagers. Her eyes sparkled with love even when she’d sigh and shake her head at my unwise decisions, which have been many through the years.

I chose her to give me away when I got married, and felt buoyant surrounded by her love.

The last couple weeks, I’ve wondered how such different people can be so close.

I knew something was wrong with the question, but I couldn’t figure out what.

Today I commented on a silly non-issue on a friend’s blog.

Another friend saw my comment and demanded an explanation.

I saw the demand and laughed, from mirth, not meanness. “If I’m going to argue anything, it’ll be how to ensure we never again have to fear another death like Sandra Bland’s! Not this. Never this. There’s not enough time in one life.”

Suddenly, I understood what was wrong with my question.

These days, beliefs are often treated as if living, breathing things.

One must only log in to Facebook for twelve seconds to see this exemplified.

“I must protect this belief at all costs! I must defend its sanctity and show the world that it is–that I am–right!”

Looking at that comment demanding an explanation, I was flabbergasted by the oddness of this: that our fur bristles and hackles rise when we encounter ideas that strike us as wrong. That we allow our feelings about ideas–shifting, weightless thoughts floating through our minds–to dictate our feelings about people: breathing, substantial people with love-wrecked hearts and eyes that cry all the same.

How could such different people be so close?

My question’s premise was all wrong.

We aren’t so very different at all.

Our ideas are different,

but we are not.

We grow to hate each other over ideas, I breathed to myself. Especially when physically removed from each other, we let these ethereal sentiments grow in our minds until the ideas overshadow what’s really important: each other, and these actual acts of love we work in the external world we share. And these ethereal things, these ideas, they end up hurting us by separating us. By shielding us from recognizing how alike we are.

I thought about Jenn.

I thought about my godmother.

And I whispered, “I don’t give a fuck what you believe. I care what you do.

When what you do is love, and support, and nurture, and tend, and bring laughter to the gloomiest of times, I care.

When you laugh at how silly I used to be, with love interwoven through every fragment of that laugh, I care.

When you walk me down the aisle, I care.

That is when I know who you are;

not by the thoughts that drift

through your head, or

across a screen.

I care about fixing things.

I don’t care much for being right for its own sake. What does rightness alone accomplish? Very, very little.

If I argue, it will almost always be because there’s a good chance my words will help effect actual change. (Occasionally, against my better judgment, I’ll weigh in on a whim. This is becoming less frequent the more I deal with the aftermath of such weighing-in. This is also why I left Facebook, where the best of friends sound like the worst of enemies.)

It will not be to claim the title “victor.” It will not be to show I am better. It will not be to show I am so, so very right.

I’m none of these things. I’m just a person,

just like you. Like Jenn. Like Anna.

Seeing what I have seen today, I will be even quicker to walk away from needless argument.

Ideas will run rampant on this earth as long as people walk it. But people, individual people with individual heartbeats? We are here for only so long.

We are worth protecting. We are worth loving, and holding up, and fighting for.

I don’t fear difficult conversations.

I tried talking my mom into voluntary commitment.

I stood tall against my abusive dad, and felt the peace of doing so in love, not anger.

When my mom was dying, I saw how her best friend’s presence riled her up. I saw how my mom’s paranoia worsened as Anna sat by her bedside. No matter why, my mom was not calmed by Anna’s presence the way my siblings and I were.

So I spoke some of the hardest words I have ever spoken: I asked Anna not to visit Mom anymore. I asked her to say goodbye to her best friend from a distance, because that was what was best for Mom. Because whether Mom’s emotional pain was rational or irrational, she didn’t need one little bit more pain.

Anna respected my request.

Later, when I thought how terrible that must have felt for Anna, I apologized tearfully.

“Deborah,” she said in the slow, even voice that has been my anchor for almost 37 years, “everything you did, you did to help your mom. I can’t be mad at you for that.”

If I walk away from an argument,

feel free to call yourself the victor. I won’t care if you say you won, or if you actually did.

Ideas shimmer, shift and fade. I’m not too interested in protecting them for their own sake, nor too invested in your political affiliation.

I am interested in taking action to effect needed change. I am interested in love.

I am interested in protecting the mirror of you I carry in my heart;

the real you, the comforting you, the one who speaks

truest not in words, but–enduringly–

(and with rare exception)

in loving, lovely

action.

holding

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  1. July 23, 2015 at 8:59 pm

    I needed to read this. I’ve been struggling recently with feeling ostracized, outcast, berated because of my beliefs, and I couldn’t figure out the right words to say about it.
    I care what you do, not what you believe. That’s perfect. I can move forward with that…

    • July 23, 2015 at 9:03 pm

      I have a few thoughts on this.

      First, you are amazing. I don’t mean “you” generally, I mean:

      Amazing, you are. Belly-laugh make me, you do.

      I drove home yesterday wondering how on earth I can be so lucky to find/be found by people such as you.

      Generally, I am still just … “flabbergasted” doesn’t even cut it. For years, I’ve had this uncomfortable feeling in certain situations, but I’ve never been able to pin it down. Until this totally random comment, for which I’m thankful.

      What you do is awesome. Please, please keep doing it.

  2. July 23, 2015 at 9:16 pm

    Oh yes.
    Actions speak louder, and mean more then words or labels. The first may or may not be true, and labels rarely fit properly.
    What you do, how you do it, and who you do it to or for matter sooooo much more.
    A beautifully articulate post. Thank you. Again.

    • July 23, 2015 at 9:18 pm

      Thank you for this. I work in a realm that’s very, very concrete, so this felt … squishy … by comparison. And yet, for all its “squishiness,” it also felt exactly right and worth posting. ♥

  3. July 23, 2015 at 9:17 pm

    Thanks for posting this. I recently found myself telling my husband how strange it is that our best friends are republicans, we don’t see eye to eye on anything politically or religiously, yet we’re still best friends.

    • July 23, 2015 at 9:21 pm

      I feel like I’ve been drinking some spiked Kool-Aid, you know? Without even realizing it, I was segmenting folks out into “us” and “them.” I reject that division now. More than that, I rejoice the commonalities I somehow couldn’t see.

      I love the process of learning, though. I love looking back at something weird I thought and realizing I know better now, if only a little.

      (Also, I’m giggling because I remember my mom calling herself a Republican and Anna saying things like, “I sure haven’t seen it yet, Christine!” ♥)

  4. July 24, 2015 at 12:08 am

    Beautiful as always!

  5. July 24, 2015 at 3:35 am

    Amen. (Claps from the wings)

  6. NotAPunkRocker
    July 24, 2015 at 6:56 am

    Ditto the sentiment on what you do vs. what you believe. I have plenty of conservative, Republican friends who don’t mind my uber-liberal self. I know liberals I can’t stand because they are so combative, just like some of the Republicans I don’t get along with.

    It’s like religion for me. Deeply personal, effects how I act and make decisions, part of who I am as a whole but not something that is used as a weapon or label to put others down. Each person’s results may vary, ya know?

  7. July 24, 2015 at 2:24 pm

    Loved your post.
    This is what is wrong with ideas:

    http://9gag.com/gag/aQneDj7

  8. July 24, 2015 at 9:50 pm

    Yes, yes, yes! Let’s all start from the assumption that MOST other people are trying to get it right, just like us. And if we feel we must judge, let’s do it based on actions. I’m so sick of those who want full marks for spouting their good intentions, which we know are the favorite paving material for the road to hell.

  9. July 26, 2015 at 3:50 pm

    Yes, this I understand. Not everyone does and sometimes it makes the breaking apart so very difficult. I have family that stand on the other side of the abyss, I say to them I love you, I love your heart and and who you are, please don’t talk to me about your ideas and what you think about politics, religion, guns; don’t weigh in on my wall or what I post anymore because I will be forced to block you and I would hate to do that. I have a circle of friends who stand on the other side of the abyss, we agree we will never talk about our very real differences because the things that draw us together are so much more important.

    So yes, this is so important.

  10. July 26, 2015 at 7:46 pm

    Well said! It is what we do with our beliefs that matters and for my friends who go crazy during elections I just ignore or unfriend -depending on how psycho they get!

  11. July 28, 2015 at 7:39 am

    I’m behind, but I loved this post! So very true, and a good reminder of how I want to live my life.

  1. July 28, 2015 at 7:45 pm
  2. December 18, 2015 at 10:49 am

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