To My Friends Who Voted for Trump: I Don’t Understand You, but I Love You.

The truth is I am mourning today.

When I began yoga teacher training in July I read a brief overview of the Eight Limbs of Yoga. The first limb, the yamas, govern our relationship with others and the world. My teacher asked that I pick which of the five yamas came easiest to me and which was the most difficult. I chose satya, or truthfulness, as the easiest.

I have really grappled with this throughout the presidential campaigns. Because satya does not just mean to tell the truth. It means to speak the truth in a kind way, even when it’s difficult. It also means to understand when it’s best not to say anything at all.

I’ve had to block friends on Facebook because their angry political posts upset me too much. I know everyone has. I’ve probably liked and shared posts that are less than kind. Some have probably blocked me.

Many of my friends began Facebook posts with, “I don’t usually post about politics, but…” as if avoiding the topic is something to brag about. I probably did too. And I understand why so many do avoid the discussion. We don’t want to be that angry person. We don’t want to create rifts in our relationships.

Yet often we are that angry person. Even if only among like minded friends or inside ourselves. And I get that too. I feel that. Today I must acknowledge that. This election was an angry one. No matter what side we were on.

Where do we go from here? How do we connect? I mean, really, how do we do it? I hope that most of us at least recognize that we must listen to those we disagree with. We must really listen. We must see each other as human, as complex beings, with storied lives that build and influence our beliefs.

BUT HOW DO WE DO THAT?

I watched the clip of Trump casually alluding to the 2nd amendment people taking care of Clinton. I saw the video of the unfiltered voices at Trump rallies, full of racism, sexism and discrimination against other religions. People say they like how Trump “tells it like it is” so I’m not going to lie. I think to myself, “What the fuck is wrong with these people???”

Is this really “how it is”? Is this who we are as a nation? Racist, sexist, violent and angry? Angry, yes. We are angry. I am angry.

How do we fix this? Really, I am asking. How do we fix this?

I am asking this of myself today as I grieve. We overlooked a segment of our population that is hurting. Instead of pointing at them with a finger of “wrong” it’s my responsibility to listen and attempt to understand. I do not agree. I will never agree with this kind of behavior and ideology, but they are desperately yearning to be heard and we must listen.

And to my friends and family who do not sound like the unfiltered voices. Those of you who didn’t really like Trump but voted for him anyway because you couldn’t bring yourself to vote for Clinton, because placing conservative values on the Supreme Court was too important to you, because you wanted a change.

Here is my truth. Here is my best attempt at practicing satya.

I see you as more than your vote. I see you as mothers and fathers, loving and caring deeply for you children and families. I see you as friends, opening the doors to your homes and hearts, offering a shoulder to cry on. I see you as disciples, devoted to serving a higher good, passionate about bettering yourself and living a life that aligns with your values. I don’t always understand you, but I see you. I see and love your whole and beautiful self.

And I ask you. Please. Let’s get to know each other better. These sides of ourselves that we often hide for fear of discomfort. Let’s work together to end the hate. Let’s make that our top priority in all things.

Photo Credit: School diversity many hands held together by Wonder woman0731 is licensed under CC by 2.0.

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The kind of new parenting advice we’re too afraid to give

I’m getting a lot of, “Are you ready?” these days. I’m at that stage of pregnancy. I always wonder what exactly people mean by that. Is the nursery decorated and stocked with diapers? Is my hospital registration secured and bag packed? Am I mentally and emotionally prepared for life as I know it to change in every possible way?

I suppose it doesn’t matter much what’s meant because the answer is invariably NO, and I don’t think there’s really any more preparing I can do. Other than maybe buy some diapers, fill out the hospital paperwork (I really should get to that…) and write this post. So I can read it when my judgement is clouded by hormones and lack of sleep and be reminded that it’s okay. It’s all okay Laura.

1. Babies can be super boring.

A friend of mine with her first 5 month old texted me the other day. Something about how bored she was playing with her baby and, “Did you ever feel this way?” I almost laughed at the absurdity of that question. I guess that’s a good sign, because I certainly wasn’t laughing about it when I had a 5 month old. No, I was feeling like I should just love reading Pat the Bunny and singing Old McDonald Had a Farm, which meant I was also feeling overwhelmingly guilty that I didn’t.

Now I like to joke about how, “It turns out we don’t have the same hobbies!” My 3 year old isn’t into wine tasting and Mad Men, and I’m not all that excited about Play-Doh or pretending I’m a cat. Of course, I do have fun with her. Sometimes. In brief, beautiful moments. But if I’m going to be honest, a lot of the time I’d rather do the laundry.

baby-laundry-basket

2. Everyone flounders.

When my daughter was 2 months old I was accused of “having everything together so well!” About a week later I found myself sitting opposite a “crisis management” therapist. While I know not everyone that appears to “have it all together” is actually on the brink of a nervous breakdown, I do think most people put their best face forward. Especially via image marketing services like Facebook. In truth, no one really knows what they’re doing. We’re all just faking it and hoping no one notices.

3. It’s okay to get mad at your baby.

Babies cry. A lot. We all know this. Duh. We also know that sometimes they will cry inconsolably. Sometimes we will try everything and nothing will work. But it is one thing to know this and quite another to experience it. Imagine listening to a baby scream at you for 6 hours straight and you’re powerless to stop it. Now replace baby with adult. How would that make you feel? Frustrated and angry are perfectly acceptable answers here. Calm and empathetic are a nice idea but complete fantasy.

crying-baby

4. You might not love your baby at first, and that’s okay too.

Let’s, again, forget that we’re talking about babies. Do you believe in love at first sight? (If you do, you can go ahead and sit this exercise out.) That’s right. No you don’t. Because it takes time to get to know a person, to build the kind of trust and connection that is the foundation for love. Now I’ve heard of mothers who fall desperately in love the very instant they first lay eyes on their babies, and I suppose a tiny part of me believes they aren’t lying. But for me it was a slow and steady process.

Once during happy hour a mother bravely confessed that she didn’t love her son until he was a year old. “YES!!!” I shouted and kissed her square on the mouth. What I mean is I loved her so much in that moment I wanted to kiss her.

Now at age 3, I love my daughter immeasurably. Sometimes I look at her and think, “Holy shit. I freaking love that kid so much.” Can I say that without turning this into a disclaimer? Because we should be able to talk about the unpleasantness of parenting without tacking on an obligatory, “Of course I love her to death!” or in this case, “But now I love her.” I’m adding this last little bit only for the sake of the parent out there wondering if she will ever love her baby. Yes, you will.

I would also like to stress that while my experience was probably influenced by a postpartum mood disorder, I don’t believe every parent with delayed love onset has a mental illness.

5. You do have instincts. They’re just camouflaged by guilt.

I was often advised to “follow my instincts.” This sounded like a super idea, and I was all geared up to do just that after my daughter was born. Only problem was I didn’t have any. Or so it seemed. It took me a long time to translate “follow your instincts” into language I could actually understand:

Do whatever makes things easiest for YOU. 

For me this meant letting my daughter nap with a boob in her mouth until she was 11 months old. It was just so easy. She loved it, and I didn’t have to explain why I spent nap time watching TV and dicking around on the internet. You know, instead of doing something productive like cleaning the house.

sleeping-baby

Of course, it took me awhile to fully appreciate the ease of it. At first I just felt guilty. I knew plenty of moms who nursed to their babies to sleep, but it seemed as if they all pulled out at some point. Surely I was doing something wrong. I was creating bad habits. She would never sleep on her own. I suppose I have to credit my therapist for helping me see the decision to boob-nap for what it was. Following my instincts. It’s what everyone needed.

So now this is the only piece of advice I ever give anyone expecting a baby. Do whatever makes things easiest for you. LAURA. The baby will be FINE.

I forgive you, Boston Marathon Bomber

Jason, my husband, generously offered to watch the baby for a few minutes this afternoon while I took a break from parenting. I fixed myself an iced coffee with plenty of cream, cuddled up under a blanket and tapped open the Twitter app on my iPhone.

And there it was all over my Home page. News about the Boston Marathon explosions. I was floored. First because I am human, but also because I am a runner. A long distance runner at that.

I have the calluses on my feet to prove it. Hardened skin etched over miles of asphalt, mud, dirt and cement. I wear sun sprinkles on my cheeks, tan lines on my legs. I know my way around town only from running. People ask me, “Where do you run?”

“All over,” I say. All over.

I know what it takes to show up at the start line. It takes heart, literally and figuratively. I know what it feels like to finish. I’ve done it so many times.

San-Francisco-marathon-Golden-Gate-Park-start

And even though I haven’t run the Boston Marathon, I KNOW. I understand in the way every runner whose been around the block a few hundred thousand times KNOWS. It’s not just any race. It’s THE race. It’s the moderately-competitive-recreational-runner’s crowning achievement. Once you’ve qualified for BOSTON, you’ve made it. It’s official. You’re the real deal.

Which is one of the (many) reasons why today was just so sad. It was an attack on the notion that with hard work comes great reward. On the idea that all we must do to experience joy and triumph is endure the pain. It was an attack on hope.

And now our nation is grieving. Some the very poignant and incomprehensibly real grief of loss, I’m sure. Be it life or limb. Some are grappling with a renewed sense of insecurity and lack of control. Are we ever safe? Are our children ever safe? This was my thought as I watched my baby running around in the back yard, equally thrilled with the bird perched on our fence and A ROCK. She and my husband will be waiting for me at the finish line of my next race a month from now.

And so we all want to know WHY. Why would anyone take away our lives, our limbs, our security and our hope?

The more I think about that question, the more I think there can only be one answer. I think you must have to lose hope before you can take hope. I think you probably have to feel profoundly hurt before you can so profoundly hurt another. And all this pain and sadness and loss of hope are just too much for me to bear. So I am prepared to do the only thing I believe is capable of breaking this cycle.

I forgive you, Boston Marathon Bomber. We are all more than our most terrible deeds. I offer you my love, so that it may heal your hurt and you can join with the rest of us again – in hope.