Last week, I spent an afternoon at a park overlooking the ocean with one of my oldest girlfriend’s. We talked about boys, friends, and money. We laughed at our foibles and complimented our strengths, the way the friends often do.
A gentleman named Gerry approached us and asked if we were going to be awhile. Gerry explained that he and his wife, Kelly, meet friends at this park every Friday evening. They talk about whatever over wine and food, and they always sit at this table.
“If you are going to be staying longer, we are happy to grab another table,” Gerry said.
But we insisted that they keep the tradition and offered to move. Instead, they invited us to join them.
It would be a while before the others arrived. So the four of us struck up a conversation in the meantime.
Kelly had lived all over the country as a child, but she had deep roots in the south. Her father was a staunch supporter of the Civil Rights Movement. Upon his death, the family discovered that the FBI had kept tabs on him for years.
Gerry was Jewish and his parents were from Germany. They survived the Holocaust, but never spoke about their experience.
Gerry and Kelly had very strong political opinions. But felt they couldn’t talk about these things amongst friends.
“As a rule, we never discuss religion or politics because it never ends well,” Gerry said.
They complained about one couple who leaned toward the alt-right. Gerry seemed to be more stifled by the lack of freedom to speak than Kelly. But he seemed to be more comfortable sharing his truth digitally.
He talked about fact-checking and shooting off links from reliable sources to his “ignorant” friends via email. But he refused to voice his opinion face-to-face. Because whenever he tried to talk about complicated subjects in-person “people get angry.” They disagreed, things got uncomfortable, and then everyone shuts down.
“So how does it ever change?” my friend asked.
Gerry seemed to think that we just need to sit and wait for the Make America Great people to die off.
To which I replied, “is it a matter of avoiding conversations or learning how to disagree?”
My question gave him pause.
I am a firm believer that we cannot heal what we cannot feel and express. Protest initiates conversation, but it doesn’t make change. Dialogue is what we need to heal. Discussion creates space for defense to soften and minds to open. Exchanges make compromise possible.
I refuse to avoid talking about difficult subjects. Even if it makes someone angry or uncomfortable.
Not talking is exactly how we got here.
Closing our eyes and not addressing the racist elephant in the room, created this shit storm. Shaming our sexuality into submission has perpetuated rape culture. Pretending that religious ideology doesn’t fuel wars will never create peace.
We gotta do better.
I welcome conversations like these. I was excited to have met Gerry and Kelly and to engage in a conversation that stretched us all.
I loved that we didn’t see eye to eye on everything. I celebrated the difference of opinion… and I could see that Gerry loved it too! The shift in his energy was palpable. He was able to express himself without shrinking. He was a caged bird who was set free, if only for a short while.
There are a lot of Gerry’s out there.
Feeling so much and dying to express themselves. Believing that change is possible. Asphyxiated by the discomfort of expressing the hard truths. But if we are not willing to stop suffocating our voices, shift will never happen.
The expansion of the universe is not quiet, it’s just that the vastness of space silences the noise.
Indifference is a disease. And it has been eating away at us for far too long. We are living in the least physically violent time in human history. But we are still in the infancy of emotional development.
We must be willing to disrupt. And be unapologetic about having uncomfortable conversations. Even when we are just as uncomfortable as the other person.
I am determined to become more fully expressed. I am committed to speaking my truth and creating space for others to do the same.
I am grateful for the chaos. I will continue to have hard conversations and take up a whole lotta space. And I will also continue to exercise my compassion muscle and expand my capacity for empathy.