Untrump Your World
This morning I drove to the store to collect something. Without thinking, I nosed out of an intersection in the parking lot, marginally more than I should have. Normally this minimal inconvenience, along with a small wave and mouthed apology, is met with a gracious smile and an ‘after you’, all conspiring to make us better humans. This time the sedan, like a compact flattened by a vast foot, came at me, aggressively accelerating around, and pushing past, to make a point. I followed it and flashed my lights like a maniac. Furious with the lack of grace in a Trump world.
It’s a small thing and I was clearly in the wrong, but this, and innumerable other incidents that happen in a human day, are an indication that we are living in a less civilized world. Dark forces are on the rise. The NRA have a powerful friend in the White House and bullying by all reports and on all levels of experience is on the increase.
I have to see how angry this makes me and address what that anger does to my mind, body and spirit and how that erodes not only my small space but my community and beyond. I have to face the unconscionable fact that every moment of my day appears somehow tainted by our Bully-in-Chief, that his much derided fingers have an implausible reach into our most private lives.
And I have to understand that below the anger lies a powerful, existential fear regarding the sustainability of my life, of life itself. I have to understand how this chronic anger is robbing me of something life-giving, something precious. I miss gentleness. I miss grace and generosity. I miss interactions with other humans devoid of a political narrative that separates and dehumanizes us.
We have to save ourselves. That means we have to get better at understanding ourselves. We have to survive and we need to do it step by step, breath by breath and not at the cost of others. We must resist in a way that sustains and nurtures, focus our precious energy on building a world that makes Trump increasingly irrelevant. We must be love, not hate.
Here are some thoughts on ways we can begin to untrump our world:
Anger: Understand the true nature of anger and what fuels it. Under anger lies trembling fear. You can’t address anger on the level of its self righteous indignation, you have to drop below it to the tenderness of naked fear. This means you look past the display that repels you, to the fear that needs you, reaches out to you. This is the two-year-old tantrum calmed only by being held, past the flailing arms, past the push away. A loving that won’t let go.
Rage: Go ahead rage for the sake of venting but recognize it as a biological, psychological necessity and not a truth to act upon. Rage privately with your pillow in your room or a friend who understands the physiological logic of this expression.
Rage, then take a deep breath and go out there unarmed. Don’t hurt anyone with that rage. Take care of yourself, under your rage there is fear and fear needs first to be seen and then comforted to diffuse it.
Connect: When faced with disparate and disturbing ideologies, choose to connect. It is subtle but possible to separate the two. The man in the car that I instantly despised is afraid, like me. Historically our fear has led to us killing one another. Place two scorpions in a hubcap and heat it up. There will be war, and there will be death.
That man looked like a Trump voter to me, and then he behaved like one. He probably thought I behaved like a typical ‘snowflake’. It’s not good enough though, this neat parcel, because truth can’t be summed up so summarily and then used like a blunt instrument. I want to catch myself earlier next time. I want to forgive him as he roars by. Not because it makes any difference to him, but because it serves me, at a most essential level it preserves what I love.
Despair: Despair encourages us to give up. Yes, we can give up. We have given up many times and lifetimes before. We come from families that dress giving up in all kinds of behaviors and addictions. Alternatively what we can do with despair is recognize and name it, even welcome it.
Despair is perfectly respectable, once you meet it. It is a potent side effect of being human. It can kill you, but when welcomed, it gains permission to be and move on towards resolution. Despair is an appropriate response to aspects of the situation we find ourselves in right now. We can feel it without giving up.
Trauma: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is not just evident in the more obvious documented ways. Versions of PTSD are present in many lives but we don’t recognize it and can’t fix what we are not aware is broken.
A world run by bullies triggers the latent PTSD in all of us. We move behind battle lines for safety leaving a gap only bullets and bombs can bridge. We cannot recognize where PTSD resides in ourselves until we are present and brave and kind enough to face our fears and the way a world gone off at an angle triggers them.
Slow down: Fear takes our breath away. We are on the brink of running, fight or flight. Slow down, engage the parasympathetic nervous system. Love your beleaguered cells and organs back into equilibrium. And, unless there is a tiger on the road, there will be time…
Panic makes us lose patience. Anxiety places us on a potentially dangerous continuum somewhere between irascible and murderous.
Be kind: Kindness is not a limp, flaccid hand shake, it is radical and immediate, a function of being present. It comes with loosening our grip, the thing we fear most. It possesses alchemical powers and it includes everyone. Yes, even, and especially, you. Kindness is not shy, it hones straight in on the unwashed, the undesirables. It starts there and ripples out.
This kindness is muscular and agile enough to face anger but only when you dare to see your own first. So kindness needs courage to exist and to do its work. It is not pity extended to you over there who are not me.
Be Present: In each moment pay attention to only what is here now. Be aware of how much your mind wants to control the moment, tie it up neatly with a ribbon or handcuff it to a litany of past experience. This single moment is wild with potential you cannot begin to imagine. Locked up in it is the seed of all that we need, if we are prepared to relax our grip.
Love: Boldly do things you love, knowing that this weapon is keen and sharp against hate, knowing that it carves out fear that fuels hate. Learn to love as though you are learning to fence, practice so that you can develop your loving into a fine art so deft that your opponent runs towards the slice of the blade for the sheer joy of being carved.
Heal: In a Trump world recognize we, as a society, are sick, terribly sick and that the only way to fend off death is to understand our symptoms as essential clues. We can begin with ourselves. You don’t heal by getting angry, waging war against illness, you heal by actively seeking out the parts of you that are still healthy, even if those parts seem invisible in the face of the disease. Close your eyes and sit quietly so that you can identify the smallest most microscopic signs of health, then focus on them one by one. As you attend to what is well, what is unwell naturally begins to transform. You’ll need love for this, and patience. Like any chronic illness it took a long, secret time to get ill, it takes baby steps, lots of them, to restore health.
Untrumping our world means we can no longer afford to be asleep. We must wake up. We must dare to investigate the deepest most precious things that sustain all that we love, not just the pretty ones. We must face our own capacity for trumpian reactions, plumb our unconscious motivations, drag them kicking and screaming into the light of day.
In a Trump world we are forced to face our own shadow, the anger and fear that, if left in the dark, festers and grows into an inner reflection of an outer reality.
We cannot afford the illusion that we are victims. We cannot control all the variables but we can control how we interpret and work with them. Saving ourselves and our world means taking responsibility for healing. A Trump world divides us from ourselves, moving us steadily towards the same inhumanity that birthed the greatest atrocities in history. We must not go there.