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When the World Seems Unloveable

Artwork by Kathleen Hodges

Artwork by Kathleen Hodges

In the last few years or so, after a devastating event takes place in the world, I see a lot of calls to love. Love more. Love harder. Be love. Let love in. Love Wins! And as the news sinks in and I resolve to love more, within minutes my kids start arguing. I wonder how I could ever expect the world to be a more loving place when I can't even manage to make my own kitchen a more loving place?

I decided to research love. I've been on the hunt for insight and guidance on how to love more in a world that sometimes seems unloveable. There is unending evidence that points to love as the antidote to hate, to fear, and to misunderstanding. Beyond a doubt, love is our most potent medicine.

Today it occurred to me that it's not love that I need to better understand. We are made of love. We were made to love. Love is at the very center of our beings. It's who we are. We are born little baby bodies of solid love. Love comes easily until we are hardened by our surroundings, but no matter what happens, we can always return to love.

So, what is it that we need to make more space for if it isn't just love?

The answer may surprise you.

the answer is anger. The answer is sadness. The answer is grief.

This is more obvious than ever in my lifetime as I witness the aftermath of Tuesday's election. I have seen more expressions of fear, hate, anger, and sadness than I've ever really experienced all at once. I don't think I need to describe it. I think you know what I'm talking about. The one thing I've noticed across the board is that this election riled something up in just about everyone. It's not just the people who voted one way or another, EVERYONE is feeling SOMETHING.

Many people are expressing those feelings. It's making many more people uncomfortable. Some of us are telling others to get over it. To move on. To just love more. Some of us are saying "You can be mad or sad, but keep it to yourself". Some of us are suggesting that others' feelings aren't valid. Some of us are just fine, but mostly we are all over the place. We are in a raging storm of emotions.

So, yes, let's love more.

AND, let's make more space for our anger and our sadness. Let's make space for this grief.

I know, it's uncomfortable. I know it's hard. I know most of us weren't taught to do that.

Nobody enjoys seeing others in pain. In American culture especially, we don't like it and we don't want to see it.

In fact, the only place where it actually seems acceptable for people to fully express their emotions is at a sporting event. For the most part, it's okay to let it all out there. We rage, we yell, we scream, we clap and stomp, and cheer. Some of us even wet our pants. It's all good.

But after you leave the stadium or turn off the TV, you better pull yourself together. And if we're being honest, I think this one place where we get a free pass for expressing ourselves mostly benefits men. And even then, only men who watch sports. I love you men and I'm glad you have this place because God knows you receive very little support for expressing yourselves emotionally, and at the same time I envy you.

For lack of better space to express ourselves, we turn to social media. Witnessing the outpouring of emotions on Facebook this week, can take a girl down. It has made me want to crawl under my covers and stay in bed indefinitely. What is the world coming to when even the people suggesting love and prayer are even getting shushed? I get it though.

Each of us is processing what is happening in the world around us in our own unique ways. 

And like it or not, it is all okay.

It is in service to no one to try to suppress your anger or your sadness. Emotions left unexpressed fester inside us. These emotions can and do manifest in stress, anxiety, depression, illness, and disease. Quite frankly, they are deadly.

We need to let each other be fully expressed, no matter how hard it is to watch. Fortunately, nobody is forcing us to watch. If we don't like it, we can turn the other way. Yes, let's take responsibility for how our expressions may impact those who see them. But let's not censor each other. Especially not now.

To meet other people right where they're at and to allow them the space to say what they need to say, that is love. If we want to love more, let's start by doing that. Love doesn't make judgments or have expectations of others. Love can hold space for whatever comes up.

Love yourself and let yourself feel every last bit of it. Expect cycles, waves, and spirals of emotion. Scream, cry, and let it all out. There is no timeline. There is no right way to do this. The only way out is through. Know that love surrounds you.

Love others and let them do what they need to do. Have compassion for their feelings and their need to express them (even in your kitchen).

Trust that by making space for anger, sadness, and all that is grief, we are also making space for more love in our hearts.

And the best part? Transformation. True change can only come when we get it all out on the table. No holding back. When we've assembled piles of all the pieces, we can rebuild. We will rebuild.

Until then, peace. xo


Who Is Served By My Silence?

America the Beautiful

America the Beautiful

When I registered to vote I was proud of myself for registering as an Independent. I thought I was pretty cool. Neither the Democrats nor the Republicans seemed to represent me completely. Plus, I wasn't political so I didn't want to be affiliated with a political party. Or, so I thought.

As I shared this with one of my dear, wise friends shortly after she also registered to vote, she looked me straight in the eyes and said, "Anna, you are political whether you believe it or not." We Americans, we are all political. Politics impact us at every level of our existence. We live in a country governed by a political system. Essentially, we are the system.

(In the interest of full disclosure, I registered as a Democrat after that conversation. Of the two main parties, I felt my values were most aligned with Democratic values.)

When I hear people say they aren't voting in the upcoming election because they "don't like either of their choices", it is like hearing my 8 year-old say she isn't eating dinner because she doesn't like what I made (only she is 8 so she doesn't yet know any better). Many factors merge together to make it possible for me to serve a meal to my family. Farmers, animals, truck drivers, sun, dirt, the person who stocks the shelves at the grocery, the cashier, my husband, his employer, and me. Meals don't just magically appear on our table.

The same is true for voting. The blood, sweat, and tears of many, many people built and sustain this country. Wars are fought. People die. All so we can vote. The freedoms we enjoy as U.S. citizens didn't just magically appear on our table. It is disrespectful not to honor the essence of this country by not voting. It is essential that we do our civic duty.

Let's be clear about what that duty entails. Our job is not to choose between two dudes we'd like to meet for drinks after work. We aren't looking for someone to meet us at Starbucks to discuss recent episodes of the Walking Dead. We're not hosting this person for Thanksgiving dinner. You and I, we might not ever truly "like" our presidential candidate. How can we? We don't KNOW them. We probably never will. Our duty is to use our votes, our voices, to hire the most qualified person for the job of President of the United States. We are not choosing a new friend, we are making a hiring decision. This is serious business. Now is not the time to stay silent.

And as for the candidates representing the two main parties in this election, I'm not here to share statistics or a political analysis. I'm only here to share from my heart. My opinion of Donald Trump is not born from news reports, allegations, conspiracy theories, or speculation. I base my opinion of him on the words I have heard come out of his very own mouth. Granted, there could be a little of what my dad used to call "TV magic" at play, but regardless of how Trump is portrayed in the media, I think he gives us a crystal clear picture of who he is. As much as I dislike him and all the hateful things he says, I must give him credit for bringing America's demons to light. He embodies every awful aspect of mankind.

My opinion of Hillary Clinton is somewhat shaped by the few moments we shared together when I met her earlier in the election. She was kind. She looked me in the eyes when we shook hands and I knew by the way I felt with her that I could trust her with the job President. Plus, I got a glimpse of her great sense of humor. And, whoa, with her years of service, expertise across the board, dedication, and ability to take command of a room, we should be thanking her for giving us the opportunity to elect her as our President. Have we ever had a candidate apply for this job who was as qualified as Hillary Clinton? No. I could go on and on. 

It is obvious that many, maybe even most, Americans are desperate for change in our political system. We would probably be better off turning it all on its ear and rebuilding it from scratch at this point. Much of the system is antiquated, and it doesn't work for a lot of people as it stands. We don't have much time though, so for now, let's do the best with what we have.

For the most part, there are two kinds of people are expressing the need for change. There are the people who say they want "things" to change, but they don't want to change along with the things. These people benefit from the systems that keep oppressed people oppressed and marginalized populations in the margins. That is, our entire system, by the way. These are the people who say they want change, but they actually fear change. What they really want is for everything to stay as it is, or worse, to go back to the way it used to be. 

Then there are the people who don't want to be part of a system that holds others back and keeps them down. They are not afraid of change because they believe there is a place at the table for everyone. They believe it's a really big table.  They see that the faces around the table now all look the same and the insights coming from the table lack perspective. They want to hear more voices and see more faces around the table.

The beautiful thing about American democracy is that we get to choose which kind of person we want to be. We get to decide what kind of change we're really longing for. Independent of our parents, our children, our spouses, boyfriends, girlfriends, partners, our schools, our churches, and our places of business, we get to choose for ourselves how we show up in the face of this election. We get to be the change we want to see (thank you Mahatma Gandhi)

More and more I hear stories of people saying things like, "I never thought I would (vote for a Democrat), but I cannot bear to vote for Trump." In the face of this election, we are doing things we never thought we would do. Some of us are breaking free from systems that owned and operated us for our entire lives. We are owning ourselves now. We are visioning a world with a very big table, and with leadership like we have never known. We are rooted in love and compassion. It is astounding what kind of change we can affect when we are making thoughtful, deliberate choices, rooted in compassion.

What are you going to do? Who are you going to be?

Wait. Don't tell me just yet.

Put your hands over your heart and close your eyes. Take a few deep breaths. Ask yourself, "What am I going to do? What is my heart telling me to do? What does the world need me to do? How will I represent my own values and those of the people who don't have a voice here in this election - people like our children - on Election Day? Who am I going to be?" Wait. Listen.

Q: Who is served by silence?

A: Nobody.