I haven’t written in a while, and with everything going on, am struggling with where to start. To steal shamelessly from Julie Andrews:
“Let’s start at the very beginning
A very good place to start
When you read, you begin with A-B-C…”
When I started this blog, it was intended to bring forward some life lessons I’d learned from coaching and apply them to life more broadly, and perhaps if I was lucky, be a bit inspirational now and then. I need to depart from that format for a while in an effort to try to make sense of what is going on in our world, and perhaps through talking it out, find a way to move forward in a way that feels positive and productive.
I read recently that Kansas has passed a law banning transgender girls from participating in girls’ sports…a law that apparently affects ONE person in the state. One. In a state of nearly three million people, THIS was the issue that rose to the top of the priority list for the time and attention of the elected officials of the state. THIS was the most important need to be addressed. Not the educational system (ranked 27th in the nation, with over 497,000 students in public school), or improving state-maintained roads and infrastructure (over 10,000 miles worth), but something that affects a vanishingly small percentage of the population. Really?
When I look at this, and at how legislators across the nation are spending their time and political power, I can’t help but wonder “why?” Why is so much effort being expended to stop people from expressing themselves freely, exploring new and different ideas, or taking care of themselves and their families in the ways they see fit? Why is this level of control being exerted?
When I was coaching, the teenagers always wanted to wear “technical suits” for their championship meets. These are suits that provide some degree of compression and water resistance, and the kids believed passionately that they wouldn’t be fast without them. No matter how much I assured them that it was the work they had done to prepare their bodies to race, and not the suit, they believed otherwise. Why? The suit was something tangible they could put their hands on, and it gave them a sense of confidence and control they didn’t have in themselves. The suit pacified their fear.
Coaching gives you the opportunity to observe people in a lot of different emotional states, and fear was one I saw regularly. I think humanity as a whole is particularly gripped by fear these days: fear of changes in our climate, fear of dwindling resources in an ever-expanding human population, fear of disease, fear of each other. These fears are real and valid and overwhelming, and hit at our deepest fear, which is our inability to fix any of them. When everything feels out of control, you seek to control anything you can.
I think leaders in churches and governments very sharply feel this fear of not being able to fix these things; they know they don’t have answers or solutions, and they share the fears we all have. Unfortunately, some are responding by inventing issues and targets that we can aim our fears at, that they can then “solve”. Like the technical suit, it provides a sense of confidence and control, as long as they can get us to believe that fixing these invented issues will pacify our fear.
Their solutions are lies because their problems are lies. Like the Wizard of Oz, they’re trying to distract us from the truth, and the real problems only get worse while they waste time driving us apart over who people love, how they dress, whether they choose to have a child, and what words are in books. They could 100% get their way in all of these things, and we would still be facing climate change, dwindling resources, possible pandemics, and even more fear of each other.
I find myself getting angry with the people who believe these lies and latch onto these invented issues as though they are the real problem and what is “destroying” America. When I feel that anger and frustration (and my own fear), I have to remind myself that they’re scared and overwhelmed too…they’re just more comfortable believing the comfortable lie with the easy answer than I am.
I believe we need to work harder to connect with each other directly and not fall into believing lies and easy answers. We need to not listen when a newscaster or preacher or legislator tells us how someone else feels, or what someone else is trying to do to us. It is not gay marriage or men in dresses or books about racism that are making our daily lives feel hard or the future feel hopeless. I have been trying to train myself, every time something elicits an emotional response, to ask “Why do I feel this way? What does the person telling me this gain from me being upset?” For me, it’s been a step in the right direction, and I’ve realized that most of the time the people telling me the bad things want my money or my clicks or my attention.
My other small step has been to try to listen and calmly respond when someone speaks out of their fear or ignorance or judgmentalism. I tell a story from my life that has shaped why I feel differently about what they said. If they don’t listen, or persist, or get hostile, I tell them we have to change the subject or I’ll need to walk away. It’s worked surprisingly well with some people, but full disclosure: it’s a work in progress for me to not just avoid the conversation to begin with. Introvert here.
I’m considering volunteering as a way to reconnect with community and do something tangible toward fixing the real problems we face. I’m not sure yet what that looks like, and am having a hard time figuring out what to do. More to come.
Whatever you can do to manage your own fear, find some peace, take a positive step, or rebuild community helps in this world. At a minimum, it helps your own stress go down. If you have good ideas, please share in the comments! Hopefully, I will be writing more soon.