What's new? 5 steps to "reading the comments" without losing it entirely
When you encounter someone you haven't seen in a month or two and they ask, "what's new?" what runs through your mind? Should you mention the funeral you went to last week and the cloud of sadness surrounding it? Should you open your camera roll and narrate the antics of your kids' daily lives- the sweet, the infuriating, the mind-boggling, the silly, the mundane? Do you share how in a moment of vulnerable neediness, the little one accuses you of loving your computer more than her? Ha - how's that for Work Life Balance! (Also a clear violation of #3 of these 10 most helpful routines to strengthen parent-child relationships... hoping I balance it out with an over-index of hugs... ) Where or how to begin? The reflexive socially acceptable response is, "Not much... you?"
Tonight is Book Club with the Tranquil Souls Yoga tribe. We've read One Thousand White Women: The Journals of May Dodd. I appreciated that the author didn't take up a stance that one group was entirely malicious; the other pure and wholesome, through and through to the core. Instead, the complexities of the human race revealed how people are always doing the best that they know how with the resources that they have available to them. (It is unavoidable, of course, to cringe at the White man's role in terrorizing the Natives and the Land that binds us.)
Since my last post, unthinkable events have shaken up so many lives. Seventeen people went to school on Valentine's Day and didn't come home alive that day. It has been over a month now since a teenager killed 17 fellow human beings at a school. Parkland, FL is the same size as the community I live in. Unthinkable, unimaginable, yet, sadly, not unheard of. This happened, and I didn't have words. The sorrows on the Internet already run deep. My healing power comes from the ability to find goodness in people and promote it; we lift each other up and I am a mouthpiece for peace. And yet, I didn't have the words.
I was briefly heartened when I watched a gun-owner post a YouTube destroying his weapon, a drop in the bucket but a symbolic, hopeful gesture. And then I read the comments. (Never read the comments! That's the sage advice when you would rather not feel sickish at humanity. But if we're to approach our problems eyes wide open, we must understand one another first. And then sometimes, the best course is to shut off the media channels for bit... and, yes, don't read the comments! Until you have the mental fortitude. Then blink open and buckle up.)
I was and am inspired by student-led activism to bring about change. Following Emma Gonzalez on Twitter (with over 1 million others), I cheer on our youth for sparking a #NeverAgain movement in spite of death threats (death threats!?!) for speaking up.
The comments usually reveal how we like to put people into tidy little boxes. You are a "good guy" or a "bad guy." If you are a "good guy," you may own a gun. That's the logic. The "bad guys" are also "mental health" issues. The part that baffles me is where and how we get the idea that someone is purely good or thoroughly bad, and that they have always been that way and always and forever WILL be that way. The false logic that someone with a clean bill of mental health can't one day become one of those "mental health issues." We generally accept that today we may not have a cold or the flu or a headache or cancer; yet, tomorrow, we might (hopefully not!, but we generally accept, our immune system could fail us someday... even briefly). But when it comes to mental health, we seem to believe our sound, stable mental condition is unwavering. A clean bill of health for life! Permanent and unshakable good guy status!
It's convenient to put people into boxes. But, it's not helpful in bringing about any real understanding, or when necessary, any real change.
A friend of a friend shared her story "My High School's Tragedy Actually Led To Change" which illuminated a stark and revealing contrast of response in the wake of an unthinkable event at her school compared to Parkland and others.
If my power to help and to heal comes from seeking and sharing hopeful signs of a peaceful harmonious humanity, then so does yours. The power comes from understanding (and seeking to understand) where each of us is coming from, so that where each of us is going doesn't feel so far apart.
So go ahead...
- Read the comments
- (but only a little.)
- Ask "where are you coming from?"
- When you apply the filter (not the SnapChat kind; but the mindset filter): we're all doing the best that we know how, with the information and resources we have, then what sort of human truth does the answer to #3 reveal?
- Recognize that #4 applies to you, too.
- (bonus step!) Shut off your computer for a while so that a little young person doesn't falsely believe it means more to you than she does. :-)
Spring represents a time for new. A new cycle to begin. Suffering comes when you deny that change is always happening. The youth are fired up. They're doing their best.
Each moment, a new opportunity to ask "what's new?"
And listen for the answer.