Thursday, November 6, 2014
This is my 499th blog post. Tomorrow I will be celebrating the accomplishment of dutifully writing nearly every day for over sixteen months. It is no small accomplishment. When I began writing back in July, 2013 (which now feels like ancient history in the story of my own personal development) I didn’t have a great amount of confidence I would stick with the process of writing. Writing, like so many activities, can be enjoyable, uplifting, strange and challenging…and sometimes all at once.
The results of the midterm elections of this past Tuesday are still on my mind this morning. I didn’t have the desire to try to stomach the details of the results throughout the nation. I am fairly sure I would find the details to be at least a bit depressing. A friend of a friend I saw at lunch yesterday described Minnesota as an island of sanity. I would tend to agree. While other states still struggle with issues such as providing health care coverage to the poorest of the poor and the all too popular wedge issue of gay marriage, Minnesota continues to be something of a beacon of sensibility in our all too politically and economically polarized nation.
A tweet I saw circulating about on Facebook caught the strange zeitgeist of the moment well. It read as follows: “So voters want a higher minimum wage, legal pot, abortion access and GOP representation. Ok then.” 'Okay, indeed' I would say. Expecting such policy stances from the GOP is as realistic as expecting oil and water to mix well together. I find it difficult to imagine such forward thinking behavior will characterize the GOP any time soon. If the last six years are any indication it seems the GOP would rather keep living in the long ago world of 1955.
If you are relatively familiar with my blog you will know that political commentary is not a foreign element in my corner of the blogosphere. I comment on political issues with some degree of regularity in part due to the fact that I see important connections can (and should) be drawn between your political beliefs and your thoughts and beliefs about trauma, healing, healthcare and the like.
Simply put, do you believe America should be a land of opportunity for all or a land of opportunity for a chosen few? And in a similar vein I would ask you this: Do you believe healing and personal wellness should be something we all have equal access to and enjoy or do you believe that quality healthcare is something only the wealthy should enjoy? There has been a lot of discussion about healthcare throughout the last six years. This is of course due to Obama’s focus on healthcare as embodied in the Affordable Care Act. Regardless of whether you believe the Affordable Care Act has merit or is a piece of legislative garbage I think most would likely agree that the general issue of healthcare will remain a prominent issue in the discourse of the United States for some time to come.
I somewhat hesitantly titled my piece for today “Red State Blue State…” because I believe the implied polarity in the title isn’t necessarily a good way of viewing our political reality in this country. It’s not that there isn’t truth in the contention that the United States has been politically polarized for years. We indeed have been polarized. I cannot recall a time in my own life when the nation has ever been so torn by deep partisan differences. What disturbs me even more, however, is what I believe is a continued lack of willingness to engage in authentic and respectful discussion about the issues of our nation. It’s almost as if we are living out a new version of the Civil War. Some would say that Southerners are still fighting the Civil War one hundred-forty years later. And I believe there is some truth to that. I have heard friends talk about the difficult to quantify influence that racism may have played the last number of years during Obama’s terms as President. It certainly makes sense to me that racism is playing some role in what has gone on. It can be difficult to make informed conclusions about it. Why? One reason is that it is difficult to speak about difficult subjects.
Having landed here in my train of thought I will now tie together the topics of politics, trauma, healing and listening. What is one vital element to any healing process? We must be listened to. And there can be no real compromise on this. Listening is a vital, non-negotiable element to health. Would you continue to actively take part in a family, community, state or nation in which your desires, needs and pain go consistently unheard, unanswered and unacknowledged? You might do so if you feel you have no better options. But eventually, if exhaustion, anger and frustration settle into your soul you may finally choose to break away. You may decide to take what feels like an immense risk and go looking elsewhere. And maybe, in your choice to walk away, you will find freedom and a new life.
To never be truly listened to is, in my mind, a virtually guaranteed recipe for creating the festering pain that is alienation. What does it feel like when you are not listened to and acknowledged when you are in the midst of incredible pain? I can speak from experience. IT REALLY SUCKS. It was this very experience of not being listened to, yet again, which led me to finally walk away from my paternal family of origin. It was an incredibly painful process. Even now, more than sixteen months after that eventful June day in which I heard the phrase ‘Post Traumatic Stress Disorder’, I still find myself grieving. The grief is relinquishing its hold on me though. It is fading because I am listening…to myself. I am attending to the pain and sorrow I have carried.
Grief, alienation and the experience of being un-listened to are all part of an interconnected puzzle. I received a priceless piece of wisdom when I met Francis Weller in September, 2013 during my attendance of the Minnesota Men’s Conference. I took a walk with him and spoke of my own pain and grief. In speaking with him I came to appreciate how grieving is not something we ought to do in isolation. Grieving must have a social dimension. We must be met and seen in our darkness and in our joy. We need to be listened to both as we express grief and as we express hope, joy and our grandest dreams for our lives.
To heal from trauma in this nation at this time in our national history is no small task. As I noted above our nation remains deeply polarized. To find ourselves a (relatively) unified nation that offers opportunity to all we must learn to listen to one another. We need to put down our smart phones a bit more often and actually look around at the people around us. We need to listen to one another free of ego and defensiveness. This is often easier said than done. But it is imperative that we be about the activity of truly listening.
If you are reading this entry and consider yourself a Christian I ask you to ask yourself this. Do you believe Jesus was someone who listened to all people?
Fifty Day Challenge, Day #42
My healthy activities for today:
§ I got my six month dental cleaning
§ I had a follow up meeting with a representative of Thrivent Financial whom I first met on Tuesday night
§ I had an enjoyable dinner with a friend