October 20, 2016

Your Politics Don’t Give You a Pass on Kindness.

author's photo: yoli ramazzina

Some days my heart just feels tired—world weary. 

It feels heavy but strangely hollow in its heaviness.

And when I look for the why of it I find that there are so many reasons. The challenges of being a single mother of two children who are close in age and still very much dependent on me. The difficulties inherent in being single in my 30s and a single mother. The obstacles of being a person who is evolving and facing the disapproval of those who prefer me unchanged. And then, digging deeper, I discovered I carried the burden of some specific triggers to the most recent feelings of world weariness.

I get tired of men who care more about what I look like than who I am. Where the conversation focuses purely on my physicality and not on getting to know me.

I recently saw a Facebook post that said “Women’s lives are not auditions to be your wives.” I felt that statement deep in my soul because there seems to be judgment of my choices, as if I’m not measuring up to a particular wife or girlfriend standard. I’m tired of conversations by text that never lead to actual spoken conversations or a meeting. I grow tired of dishonesty and duplicity and just flat-out unkindness.

And then we have an election year where we have a presidential candidate who has bragged about sexual assault—and, no, I don’t care how long ago he made the statements or the context of his remarks.

He bragged about assaulting women.

And his business is to further objectify women through the degrading Miss Universe Pageant entrants. I admittedly have thin skin about this issue for three primary reasons: I have a daughter. I am a woman. And I have had men touch me without my consent—on one memorable occasion doing so on a city street where I was minding my own business in perfectly normal attire.

His group of male friends looked on and laughed. Like I wasn’t a person. Like I didn’t matter. He went out drinking with his friends, and I stayed up all night crying in the bathroom.

This is the very definition of rape culture. It’s the culture that created a Brock Turner. And a Donald Trump. And while no one but Turner’s friends and family are making excuses for his abominable and inexcusable behavior, I am disgusted that Trump is getting a pass on his.

So let’s spin that out and put it into perspective. For everyone who has excused his behavior in any way: Repeat his words to your mother. Your aunt. Your sister. Your grandmother. Your daughter. Say his words—without explaining them—to them. And be sure to say it to your sons, too, if you’re not already saying it because when you back a candidate whose platform is built on hate speech, then you’re advocating what he’s saying. You’re telling your sons that this is okay, that this is how to be a man, that it’s excusable under any circumstance.

But to be honest my heart is heavy, and it’s not politics at the heart of it. In four more years, everyone will just be at it again, and I’ll be busy trying to plug my ears and hum a tune to wait for it to pass, and some amount of normalcy to be restored.

It’s about being tired of the basic unkindness that I keep bumping up against with humanity.

I was recently told that because I don’t identify as traditional or conservative or religious that I must despise those things and the people that represent them. The person who voiced this opinion felt that I am showing condescension for those things simply because I am non-traditional and liberal and spiritual. Rather than accepting this as simply differences in how we choose to live, it was perceived as a division.

I’m angry that I’m being judged on how I choose to live and angrier still that no amount of explaining who I am or how I feel or why I identify the way I do will ever be good enough for those kinds of people. Because their measuring stick will always say that it’s not good enough, because I’m not like them.

And the truth is that I’m sad and weary more than angry because this type of divisiveness seems to be an accepted standard of behavior. It’s kindness that’s standing out like a sore thumb because of the astonishing lack that we’re seeing in our daily lives.

I think there are all days when we have heavy hearts at the challenges we face. And we all have challenges. It’s why kindness is so important: we never truly know what others are facing. So when we get to this point of exhaustion, we have to figure out a way to revive ourselves.

The truth is that no one else is going to do this for us. Unfortunately, people will keep wearing out our hearts if we don’t take the time to care for and strengthen them.

When my heart reaches a certain point of heaviness and I feel tired, I find that what I need most is a retreat from the world. I need to walk alone in the woods or take a long drive and have a picnic in a field somewhere. I need to get away from all of the stimuli around me and just recharge. I need to be able to lay my heart down for a moment and just exist inside of the present moment.

And with our busy lives we don’t always have an opportunity to just drive until it doesn’t hurt anymore, but we can take what few moments we do have and find a way to reconnect. In the post bedtime quiet, we can step outside a moment with bare feet and look at the stars rather than watching yet another television show. We can put down our phones and find a quiet space to settle ourselves. We can take a solitary walk on our lunch breaks or find 5 minutes somewhere inside of our day to just be.

We cannot expect to keep going and not wear ourselves down when we don’t take the time to rest our souls. And honestly sometimes I just want people to go away when my heart hurts that much. Sometimes I just don’t want any more contact with people whose presence will only bruise my heart still further. I just want my space until it no longer feels like everyone is draining the reserves of energy I have left. I need those reserves for my children, even on the tough days. I can’t just give them away to anyone.

And when my heart is this heavy, as it’s been lately, I find that I need the reminders of the basic goodness of humanity. Because despite my world weariness at the moment, I will always believe in the good of people—even when I’m not seeing it where I expect to see it.

The truth is that I often see it where I don’t expect it.

For example, I spent the day with my children at Rock Ranch in the Rock, Georgia. It’s an amusement complex owned by the family that founded Chik Fil A, and it’s completely family friendly. As a single mother of very small children, it can be intimidating to take them to places like this because I’m outnumbered by my children, and I spend the day chasing them and doing everything I can to keep them safe from harm. And there’s just me.

But all day, I saw evidence of people’s kindness.

The people who took a moment to help me when my stroller would get stuck somewhere. People who reached out to balance one child when I was struggling to help the other. People who opened doors. A few people who took the time during a particularly awful toddler tantrum to tell me to hang in there, that I’m doing a really great job. All day long I was surrounded by the kindness of strangers.

And here’s the thing: this is the deeply Republican state of Georgia. Most of the helpers might be Trump supporters. Perhaps some are with Hillary and others still are abstaining from voting or supporting a third party candidate. I didn’t know. I didn’t ask. I didn’t care.

I still don’t.

I saw the kindness, and I appreciated it. And I used it to remind myself that despite the ugliness of an election year and the unkindness in the dating world. there are still good people out there. Maybe sometimes they forget that they are and are just as guilty of spewing the nonsense and hate rhetoric I see on a daily basis. But underneath, there’s the goodness that helped them watch out for a single mom and her kids for no reason other than kindness and compassion.

So when we reach the end of our rope and it feels like we can go no further, we can take the time to restore ourselves, with whatever little time we can find in our busy lives, and we can remind ourselves of the kindness. We can make it a daily exercise to look for the good in people, to actively seek out.

That used to be a family therapy exercise I’d suggest when I worked as a counselor some years ago. I would give an assignment for the parents to secretly write down every good thing that their children did during the week without letting them know they were doing it. I would also tell the children to look for ways to be helpful and kind within the family but not to mention to their parents that they were doing these things. It was interesting to compare the lists and see if these acts of goodness were noticed or if the families were too entrenched in looking for and finding fault with one another.

Perhaps that should be our assignment. To give ourselves a week to look for the good in people. To see helpful behaviors and acts of kindness. And then perhaps we can go a step further and start to show gratitude and acknowledgement for those behaviors. Simultaneously, we can look for the ways in which we can help and be kind in our own lives as well.

Just maybe, that should be our personal assignment to ourselves and then in another four years when we’re facing another election year maybe things will look a lot different to us. Not because the winning candidate changed our world so positively but because we changed our perspective on the world itself. And then maybe those dark days will be fewer and further between because our practice lifts us up and that helps lift other people up. Rippling outward.

It’s a shiny kind of idealism, but it’s doable even if we only take a day here or there to do it. Because even the one day matters. It’s idealistic and optimistic, but my heart is heavy and I need to believe that there is a lightness possible from all of the darkness I see. That a star of hope can shine through it, that we can become illuminated from within.

So we’ll recharge and look for kindness and hope that one day the world will seem brighter. Because we see it that way.

Because it is.


Author: Crystal Jackson

Images: Yoli Ramazzina ; Flickr/MPD01605

Editor: Erin Lawson

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