Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Action Plan

One week has passed since the election. During the past week, I've felt deep worry and profound sadness. I've cried a few solemn tears and I've balled my eyes out. But I've spent most of the week in complete denial. I needed a week, to come to terms with things, and to delay my reaction. Writing this any sooner, would not have been productive, it would most likely have been incoherent ramblings of an emotional wreck.

So, now what?

I will not go into details on the popular vote, the electoral college, polling or the media. I will not try and decipher the agenda of the next president. I would like to dedicate this space to what you and I can do, as humans, in the world we live in, regardless of the presidential election, citizenship or where you live in the world.

It's fair to say that the US election ignited feelings. I believe it's a good thing, when politics and policy making engages people. Whatever emotions we are feeling, this is a good time to channel that energy into action.

I here by challenge you to do something, to participate. If there is a will, there is a way. If you really want to get in the thick of things, get involved in politics, whether it be local, regional, state or national. Volunteering is another great way to get involved in the community and to support issues important to you. If you don't have time to volunteer, you can donate to a cause you care about.

But what if you don't have time, means or interest in doing any of that? Maybe you feel like you want to do something, but not sure what you can do and how it can fit it into your everyday life. I will offer you four options that are highly adaptable and can fit into any lifestyle.

Speak up. If you hear something that doesn't sound right to you, speak up. At times people might find you difficult, but if we want people to participate, we need to engage them in dialogue. No need to be overtly aggressive or confrontational about it, but do call people out. And give them room to explain their thoughts/comments/jokes to you. This might give them the opportunity to think things through, for themselves.

Be an active bystander. If you see things happening, intervene! It might feel scary, or it might feel like you don't know enough to get involved, but go ahead and disrupt. If you see someone being bullied at school or at work, a person being cornered in a bar, or see something that doesn't feel right, listen to your intuition. You can be direct in your approach, or partner up with someone (stranger or not), or create a diversion, anything to involve more people in the situation. We need to let each other know that we are not alone in this world, that people see us and are willing to help us.

Use your privilege. Without going into the many inner workings of privilege, what I'm asking is that you care about the issues that might not directly apply to you. It's important for men to support women's issues, it's important for the majority to learn from the minorities, it's important for heterosexual people to listen to the LGBTQQI communities, important for the urban population to respect the rural population and it's important for the young to care about the old and the old to care about the young. But make sure to remember the key words: support, listen, learn, respect and care. This is about giving people power, and about creating room for people to be heard. It is most definitely not about taking power away by speaking on someone else's behalf.

Take care of each other. Not for a second do I believe that half of the US population are bigoted racist misogynists. What I do believe is that millions of people, around the world, feel disenfranchised, angry and forgotten. I also believe that in order to feel better about life, we need to feel that we are being seen, heard and taken seriously. That I matter. And here is were every one of us can make a difference. We don't need to be politicians, it's enough that we are neighbors, colleagues, acquaintances and strangers, who choose to care, just a little. If we can see each other, listen to each other and respect each other, we might ultimately help each other get a better sense of self, and remind each other that we are all significant. At the very core of my beliefs, is my conviction that the more we care about people, the more people care about people.

Here is my pledge. I will be an active participant. I will do my best, to see and to hear people around me. When someone feels forgotten, I will try my best to remind them that they are not. I will care about people, even those who don't yet care about me.

Monday, November 7, 2016

The US Presidential Election

First time I attempted to write this post, it was one month left until the election. Then it was a couple of weeks. Then it was one week left, dwindling down to a couple of days. And now, here we are, the night before the election.

I feel so many different things, I have many thoughts and there sure is a whole lot to say, yet I can't seem to find any words. I'm not even sure where I'm going with this post. I guess I feel that I should comment on the election somehow, considering how politics has been a passion of mine for years.

It's a tricky thing, being passionate about something. When you are passionate, you tend to care a lot. When you care a lot, you leave yourself vulnerable to a whole range of emotions. I used to get riled up over the smallest of perceived injustices, and I would rejoice with the smallest perceived successes. Because to me, politics is not about power and control, it's about people.

I think that's why I'm left speechless in this election. Regardless of party affiliations, ideological convictions or personal agendas, I believe that previous presidential candidates have all held a personal interpretation of what would be good for the country and for its people. It has been important to them to implement what they see as improvements for the population. There will always be disagreement over the content, but I welcome that debate, because an open debate about the public good should be at the heart of every democracy.

But what happens when a presidential candidate only cares about their own person, and is willing to take advantage of people, manipulate, intimidate and bully just to boost their own ego. When it's no longer about the people, when it's all about one single person. One person who encourages people to fear, fuels their anger and rewards their hate. One person who could not care less about who gets hurt or trampled on during the process, one who does whatever for his own amusement. A man who treats society like a mockery, a game.

Fear, anger and hate are such strong and consuming emotions. When tapped into, a person seems to be rendered blind and unable to think clearly. Why else would people look to a lying disrespectful rasist misogynist to "make their country great"? When people who struggle to put food on the table, applaud a millionaire bragging about not paying taxes, or when women would gladly give up their 19th amendment right to vote just to prevent women from voting against Donal Trump, we surely have moved beyond the interest of the country and become pawns in a sinister and twisted game.

To sum things up, the feeling I'm left with is one of profound sadness. Much can be said about Donald Trump, but he is only one man. It's what he has tapped into and unleashed that is breaking my heart. The many who have hated in silence, but found a voice in Donald Trump. Have they always been this many? Have they always feared and hated with such intensity? Have they all wanted to laugh at people with disabilities? Or bully bereaved parents? Have they always applauded sexual assault? For people like me, who value compassion, understanding and respect, this is a lot to contend with.

So yes, the countdown to the election might soon be over, but the consequences of this year's presidential campaigns are already being felt. And whatever the outcome tomorrow, the general lack of enthusiasm and hope is discouraging. Even I, the self-proclaimed optimist, is feeling deflated. I think I might need a moment, a moment to sulk. But I'm sure, before long, I'll be ready to pull myself up by my bootstraps and with renewed energy get to work, and participate in creating the society I want to live in.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Consumed by hatred

I hate with such passion. I hate will such intensity. I hate with the core of my being. I hate that you are alive. I hate you so much, I want you to die.

I don't know those feelings. I have no idea how it feels to hate so much. I don't understand where those feelings come from, how they grab ahold or how they fester and infiltrate every cell of a person.

Every time I see/hear/read messages of hate, I ponder these thoughts. I never reach a conclusion. How can I even begin to relate, when I've never felt it myself? There is such a vast and insurmountable gap between "almost hate" and hate. And then, in addition to that, to hate so much that you want someone to die, or hate so much that you go out of your way to kill, I feel completely at loss, I fundamentally don't understand, my brain does not compute.

In my life, I've always valued compassion and empathy. To me, it's one of the greatest experiences of being human, our capacity to relate and to connect with one another. But in this case, I might make an exception. I don't want to be able to empathize. I don't ever want to know this kind of hatred. I never want to find myself wishing for death and destruction. I much rather continue on in life wishing for hope and change.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Love takes Courage

This passed weekend, many people around the world celebrated Valentine's Day. For some, it was serious business involving intricate planning, gifts, flowers, surprises, dinners, trips and grand gestures of love. For some, it was an intimate affair with a home-cooked meal and a good movie. Some gave their children a little extra attention. Some gave their parents a call. Some texted hearts and happy emojis to their friends. Some didn't really care, and some would rather have seen it removed from the calendar year.

I have no opinions on the opinions about Valentine's Day, but since February 14th is recognized as Valentine's day in many parts of the world, I want to take this opportunity (though a few days late) to share some love-related thoughts.

Love plays such a central role in many people's lives, whether it be romantic love, love of children, love of family, love of friends or all the above. With such an engulfing and exposing emotion, no wonder love can both heal and hurt.

We learn to love from a very early age, we love our parents, grandparents and/or friends. So, from a very early age, we are vulnerable to being hurt, maybe by a secret our first BFF promised never to tell, or by a parent who couldn't make it to a recital. As we grow older, and perhaps have our first romantic love encounter, that experience will usually also translate into our very first soul-wrenching break-up.

Eventually we might find our soulmate, the one who completes us and makes the world make sense. But we know, for a lot of people, that soulmate will be the most hurtful relationship they will ever have. Many will start families, and bring new life into the world. The love for their children is unlike any other love and with that comes enough worry and fear to last a lifetime.

We lose people we love. They grow old or their lives are cut short by sickness, accidents or other forces at play. Unhealthy love can trap people in abusive relationships and it can be a life-shattering force of destruction.

We don't know the outcome when we love. We just love. And when we love completely and wholeheartedly, without holding back, we expose everything that we are, and leave ourselves naked in the hands of the person we love. We trust them with our dreams, hopes and happiness and trust that they will keep all of it, and ultimately us, safe. When you give away that much power, you leave yourself vulnerable to be hurt, in ways that are unparalleled. And yet, most us us, long to love and love to love.

Sometimes, especially in this day and age, our world can seem to be a scary place. We are encouraged to toughen up, to be prepared, so that we can defend ourselves, against the many things that can attack us and is out to harm us. But in reality, fear and anger is pretty easy, it doesn't take much courage to be afraid. Love on the other hand, takes real bravery. So if you're a person who love, have loved or is able to love, when you get up in the morning and get ready to step into the world, remember how brave you are, and that real bravery comes from having the courage to love and to trust.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

2015, The Prequel

It's a new year. It's 2016, to be precise. Last year was a really good year, as most years are. I travelled, ate great food, drank great wine, loved great people and moved into a new home. But if I would speculate on what I will remember as the most significant happenings, ten years from now, two things stand out.

Two things were set in motion in 2015 that might potentially have a real impact on my future, for years to come. 

First off, meditation. About a year ago, I took a real interest in meditation and started practicing. It's been a real journey and it has been much more rewarding than I first thought it would be. I believe meditation is a lifelong practice, it is not a skill you acquire but a skill that invites you to continuously keep exploring. The journey this far has taken me from ordering a book on Amazon to regular meditation and lectures at the local Buddhist temple. I've persevered through some of the longest minutes of my life, but also experienced what 9 hours of sitting meditation feels like. A year in and I already have a feeling meditation will be a trusted companion in life.

Secondly, I decided to pursue a new endeavor all together. Last fall, I took the first steps towards becoming a certified Domestic Violence Counselor. This journey was not necessarily planned, and it happened spontaneously, but while looking at volunteer options, I stumbled upon this opportunity and something about it just felt right. It took me a while to think it through, to make sure this was something I was ready to take on. After some soul-searching and self-evaluation, I filled out the application, and before I knew it I had done my interview, been accepted and found myself in a classroom doing my 40-hour California state mandated Domestic Violence training. I finished my training in December, just a few days before the Holidays. I met the most amazing people, fellow Domestic Violence Counselors in the making, and one couldn't help but be inspired and humbled. I left the training feeling slightly overwhelmed, a little bit nervous, but also empowered and really eager to go into the world and lend a helping hand.

So here we are, at the start of 2016. Seldom have I felt this antsy at the start of a year. Preparations were made, I'm all warmed up and much of what happened in 2015 is leading up to this moment. I'm in the starting blocks, ready to go. As I try to tell myself to stay calm and focused, I can't help but yearn for the sound of the starter pistol. And when it goes off, I will slowly and mindfully, with patience and compassion, walk to greet all that 2016 has to offer.