Between Brexit, Trump and the Oscars, there is a lot to think about these days. Top of my list is how do I deal with the fact that after years of working on my inner peace and unity conscience I discover that there are people out there I really want to punch in the nose?
I guess my real question is how do I change my thinking so that I don't wind up going down? I mean that literally and figuratively; because I am angry. I do think that the people who voted differently from me on certain political issues are going to have a lot to answer for. On top of which, La La Land is not helping. I thought it would, but it's not. Despite its sunny outlook and fourteen Oscar nominations, two of my closest friends just told me they thought it was boring. I really can't afford to feel disdain for half the free world and two former soulmates. I need to find another way.
Ask any good Buddhist and they will tell you a feeling of separateness is a guaranteed path to suffering. So no matter what side you are on, if you are hating on others - as I may be - we need to acknowledge that we are only making ourselves miserable. And if we want to make 2017 better than 2016, we are going to have to take responsibility for our own happiness. This means we're going to have to connect with people who may not like Ryan Gosling.
My first idea to this end was that we should all be assigned pen pals from across the divide. You know, get to know one another. However, based on the La La Land conversations with my two clever, if deeply jaded, friends, I know that the usual old back and forth is not going to cut it. Instead, I have had to reach into my own bag of relationship tricks to try and rustle up a way forward. The good news for any of you reading this who have been in a committed relationship for less than thirty years - is that I have something to offer here. I was going to say: I have been in a relationship longer than you - but that tone would basically undermine my entire point.
So here goes. There are two tools I am going to recommend for re-instituting a feeling of connection and they act as a one two punch. The first is: you need to acknowledge your own defensiveness. Just do. Start with any relationship. Observe yourself. See how often you need to be right. I always thought defensiveness - the killer of all intimacy - was my husband's problem. I was a bridge builder, he was a deflector. Why did all conversations need to involve a power struggle I wondered; until I took the time to listen to myself. It turns out once I really got objective (hard but not impossible) I was not a bridge builder at all, I was a sanctimonious know-it-all. I blush. And the reason I was like t h a t (I am not going to say it again) was that deep down I am like a certain newly elected official - I want to be a winner, not a loser.
Which leads me to my second relationship fix. We need to acknowledge that we see one another through a series of lenses. If you want to have your last bit of low brow fun before we pull a Michelle and 'go high' - start naming those lenses. Why not start with that uncle you can't believe voted for so and so. If each adjective you come up with equals a lens, you can imagine how hard it becomes to actually see someone clearly. I know. I know. You are pretty sure you are right and that those aren't lenses, they are the truth and if you don't speak up and stay vigilant, the whole world might collapse. So lets try this the other way around. What lenses do you think someone who lets say wants to overturn Roe v Wade, would view you through? You've got to list them. Would somebody seeing you through those lenses be able to relate to you, connect with you, see you for who you really are?
Now as I said before these are relationship tools that I use with my husband. I am not guaranteeing they are going to work when it comes to the bigger picture, but they might help. Last night I tried to watch the news without the need to be right, without my lenses. I heard a few things in a new way. Of course, I am going to keep campaigning for what I believe in. I am going to march and sign all the online petitions and write to politicians and donate, but it would be no bad thing if I let go of some of t h a t.