It’s been quite the
week, month, year.
Do we get four more years of chaos and drama or might we return to life as we liked it, once upon a time when we lived blithely unaware of the injustices rampant just beyond our awareness?
What is this pain that Woody has been experiencing in his knee for so long?
Will the puppy we’ve chosen, to arrive the weekend after Thanksgiving, bring joy and satisfaction or chaos and exhaustion?
Will Jeffrey carry CoVid home with him now that he has a job? Will he win his asylum case?
Will our pond fill up again? Is our well destined to go dry each summer?
What will it take to get my website back up and functioning again?
It seems no matter where I turn lately, I find uncertainty.
There is safety, predictability, assurance in certainty. It feeds trust. We’re actually hard-wired to want certainty, and for just those reasons (trust, safety, predictability). Realizing WE DO NOT KNOW is unsettling, uncomfortable, distressing.
However, when so much feels out of our control, we can still choose what we pay attention to. Some days, for me, it must simply be my breath. And, I return each night to my gratitudes.
How easy it has become these past four years to focus on the Other. The OTHER who voted for the wrong candidate. The OTHER who uses tactics we do not like or want. The OTHER who is threatening.
While my particular mysteries will all resolve themselves in time, I know my role in each of them. I know what needs to be done and I’m doing it. While I may be uncertain, I’m not paralyzed. Of that I am confident.
But there is another mystery, a different kind of uncertainty, that hovers overhead like the early signs a migraine is coming on. And in this one, I don’t know what to do. I don’t understand my role in finding a solution. I have a good idea, but I’m not convinced it’ll work. I’m skeptical. It’s this:
What will it take to bring my country together again?
Most of you know my last book, LEAPFROG, the small manual on civil discourse, subtitled How to hold a civil conversation in an uncivil era. It’s a compilation of everyone else’s wisdom on such concepts as
- the power of active listening,
- the value in empathy,
- the importance in making connection, and
- the need to hold that civil conversation
It’s a book that is grounded in the idea that both sides want to have a conversation; both are equally curious. This is what I find so troubling. I’m uncertain that either side wants to talk right now. I find that unacceptable.
I find much about our current situation unacceptable. Black Lives DO Matter; women still make less then men for the same job; the military-industrial complex is more problematic than General Eisenhower predicted; I worry about the planet. Shall I go on? Nah; you get the idea.
Accepting the unacceptable is easier said than done, of course. But there is magic to be found when we can do it. Remember, we’re not accepting that our country will never come back; we’re accepting that RIGHT NOW, we are more divided as a nation than at any time in my living memory (And I was driving during the ’60s). This is the reality of this moment. Recognizing, accepting that reality, is the only way we can move ahead.
Though votes are still being counted, they are already in at record numbers. But, with each update, we recognize the count is far closer than predicted. What happened to that groundswell of “ENOUGH!” I had hoped for? I was angry, appalled, afraid. I was many things, except curious. The division is deeper and stronger than I had imagined.
Rather than raging against the tides, I had to find my curiosity. It usually does not abandon me for long. Here’s how I found it this time.
Susan Collins, Mitch McConnell, and Lindsey Graham kept their Senate seats. I was so sure the voters in those three states would have seen the light. My light. Washing my hands the other night, I asked, “What is it that the voters in Maine, Kentucky, and one of those Carolinas are getting from their Senator, to keep them in office?” (Yes, I’ve been using that 20-second time slot to check in with me these days).
I really wondered what it could possibly be. I knew it would only be my curiosity that could motivate me to hold a conversation eventually with one of them. Susan Collins’ voters are the closest, geographically and, I imagine, happy enough to be willing to talk with me.
I’m in no rush, however. I’m quite getting used to this notion of uncertainty. In fact, I’ve found great power in recognizing what the Temple University mathematician, John Allen Paulos*, has said:
So let’s learn to live with the uncertainty that has certainly surrounded us of late.
*He also said, “There’s a fine line between a numerator and a denominator.” That one always makes me laugh, which, by the way, is also an important thing to do in these times. Don’t forget to laugh. Please.
Here’s an update on LEAPFROG: I’ll be putting together an online focus group come January to
work through the small book, chapter by chapter, over a ten-month span. If you are interested in
being part of this group, let me know through the CONTACT page. Let’s see what we can learn, together.