Tell Your Story. I Will Listen.

I started writing publicly about seven years ago.  And occasionally, there are dry spells that keep me from blogging.  I’m too busy, too distracted, or sometimes simply uninspired.  I whine and procrastinate, and come back to blogging eventually, toting apologies and resolutions.  However, this hiatus, the dry spell that was sparked by the election, has been more painful than anything I’ve experienced so far.  It wasn’t my determination or creativity that was questioned, but rather, my purpose–this blog’s purpose.

Up until yesterday afternoon, I honestly felt that creating anything new or trying to reach out to an audience was pointless.  I began this blog discussing how to stay creatively healthy in a field that often offers little to no financial stability.  It has evolved into a place to discuss Buddhism, personal stories, and even my experience with health problems.  And yet on the morning of November 9th, all I could think was, “Who cares?”  Why focus on building ourselves as empathetic, motivated beings, when the country is filled with such anger and chosen ignorance?

And then my house almost blew up…

Yesterday afternoon, I returned home from work to a very strong, putrid smell of burning eggs in my house. Honestly, I thought my cats had done something gross.  But everything in my gut told me to open the windows and get outside.  After calling PSEG and eventually the fire department, we learned that our the boiler in the building had broken.  It was burning from the inside, and heating the pipes to levels that caused them to release carbon monoxide.  Our detector, however, was busted.  If it wasn’t for the smell of the pipes, I wouldn’t have had any idea something was wrong.

This could have been a tipping point for me.  I haven’t been doing particularly well since the election, and yesterday was a very low day.  After the Hoboken train crash, my health scare and the election, I feel a bit like Colonel Mustard in Clue almost getting hit by the chandelier.  But strangely, I felt something release after last night started to calm down.  Maybe it was a the lack of CO in my veins, or maybe it was the growing dark humor that got me through the evening.  Either way, my anger and helplessness toward writing began to lift.

images

Who really won?

So this morning, I finally found the words to say what I have been trying to pinpoint since that terrible night.  It’s a message to the other side, to the “winners.”  It is just this:  I do not envy you.  And you are missing out on something beautiful happening in our country by hiding beneath your fear.

The morning after the election, after very little sleep, I put on my most professional, all-black outfit and went into work, merely held together by the structure of my suit.  What I found at my job was a community of driven teachers and staff that were ready, beyond ready, to band together and create a place of compassion, of care, of safety from judgement to express fear and sadness.  After breaking down in the bathroom, I joined several coworkers on the floor of the office across the hall from me.  We exchanged stories of the night before, ways we planned to get involved in politics to protect our targeted friends, and ways to move ahead together.  It was the first spark of a movement that I have watched blossom since that night.

As the days went on, many of us joined a group called Pantsuit Nation on Facebook.  If you are unfamiliar with it, Pantsuit Nation is a private Facebook community that focuses solely on telling stories related to the election, and primarily features women (of all ages) who have overcome diversity and sexism, pictures from same-sex weddings and proposals, and allows a space of support when someone experiences prejudice or attacks in public or with their own families.  Though it is still finding its way, the group has since grown into a non-profit organization, supporting a variety of organizations that will be targeted by this administration.

There has, however, been some backlash within the group.  While some of the concerns are very justified, others are questioning the impact or importance of telling stories in times like these.  They ask, why bother?  Shouldn’t we be doing more?  Or, what evidence suggests that telling stories has any impact on someone’s life?

Well, isn’t this the million dollar question: the purpose of art, of storytelling.  I thought back to my morning after the election, of sitting on the floor of an office in the middle of Montclair, surrounded by the stories of colleagues.  I thought back to the days when Pantsuit Nation stories gave me strength on the subway while overhearing racist comments.  I thought back to my own writing challenge before my birthday, and how shedding light on the experiences of my life opened up a new confidence and creative side of myself that allowed me to connect even more deeply with the ones I loved.  Stories themselves have freed me.  They’ve freed me from leaning on anger as a driving force, from the feeling that I am alone, that I am in a world that looks down on me.

Once a week, I use Wall Street Journal’s Blue Feed/Red Feed tool (proceed with caution), a brilliant look into the way media feeds us our chosen world view.  And I keep coming back to the same conclusion–the “losers” of the election, the Democrats, are moving toward female empowerment, a significant drop in complacency, and a world that is willing to stand with one another despite our earlier, imagined differences.  The red feed, however, often focuses on a celebration of “liberal tears”–their win appears to be rooted in the celebration of a lack of compassion and a bullying of the other side.  Instead of “our ideals can triumph!” it’s primarily, “their ideals will fail!”  But there’s that thing about bullies–while they believe they appear strong in their anger, the rest of the world sees them as weak.  Their strength is imaginary.

So again I say it: I do not envy you.  In losing this election, we have reconnected on love, we are the town at the base of the hill in The Grinch still holding hands despite being robbed by deception and greed.  And when you are ready, we welcome you.

grinch

After the election, my anxiety and anger spiraled out of control.  I found a new therapist with the help of a coworker, and began meditating and reading Buddhist philosophy more regularly again.  And everything I’ve learned comes back to this: we can move ahead and make great progress by acting from a place of love, but not from anger.  The anger is a gut reaction that comes from fear, one that is wired into our human brains.  This anger skews the way we see each other, it creates a false narrative and places labels on others that are solely created by society.  We will overcome these next four years by finding a way to remove these labels and act–truly act–from a place void of anger.  This may seem counterintuitive, because don’t we have the right to be angry?  Aren’t we entitled to it?  Sure.  But the harder, and more rewarding choice, is to move ahead without it.  It will take time, and diligence, and discipline.  And we must begin this process by changing the false narrative, by replacing the anger with stories of personal, human connection.

This movement has already begun, if you find yourself outside of it, please join us.  It is stronger to share your moments of weakness, to tell of the times when you chose compassion, when you chose to believe in the purity of the human spirit, and not give in to the easy path of hatred.  If you are not ready to do that, read other’s stories.  These may help you realize that there are millions of contrasting world views that often distract us from the fact that we are all in the same boat.  If you are with us, if you already celebrate the power of human connection through speaking, through storytelling, then keep talking, keep writing, keep acting.  Your story is very important, even the small details of your day.  We have the internet to bring us together, speak up.  I will listen.

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4 thoughts on “Tell Your Story. I Will Listen.

  1. Hey G- Another really amazing piece of writing!Keep going!

    Pa and Ma

    On 1/6/17, 11:46 AM, “Maybe there will be cupcakes…” wrote:

    > ginnybartolone posted: “I started writing publicly about seven years ago.  And > occasionally, there are dry spells that keep me from blogging.  I’m too busy, > too distracted, or sometimes simply uninspired.  I whine and procrastinate, > and come back to blogging eventually, toting a” >

    Like

  2. Pingback: You Are My Starfish–A Camino Story | Maybe there will be cupcakes...

  3. Never doubt that your writing may reach someone; anyone. I’m glad you shared this post! Strangely my husband and I were almost involved in a massive explosion at our offices… hmmm maybe even around the same time as you. Crazy, right? Anyway, I often fall away from writing and this post has reminded me to continue-always! Thank you. -TT

    Like

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