Every day the news or the Facebook feed shows some fresh angle on the craziness. Devious legislative maneuvering, offshore money hoarding, oceans rising, earth eviscerating, and a full-house of presidential candidates duking it out while the Joker rewrites the rules, making himself a trump card in the game.
I haven’t been around long enough to know whether the unique flavor of this craziness is stronger or more acidic than previous varieties, but it certainly feels unsettling.
Mostly it’s the divisiveness that unsettles me. The sense that I may not be able to extend my love for another if the other waves the wrong placard at the wrong rally. Extending love sounds simple until I test it with action. Can I put aside my judgements enough to fully listen? Can I remain open to the pain and fear beneath their words?
In a nearly two-month daily email exchange with my brother, I attempted to understand his points of view on gun control, Black Lives Matter, social safety net programs, and presidential candidates, all of which differ from mine. We could get to the point where we celebrated our common values and beliefs, but then our life experiences, information sources or habits would lead us down distinctly different and seemingly irreconcilable paths. If you can’t find the bridge that reconnects your beliefs with another when the other is your own blood, how do you find it with strangers? And if a trained mediator can’t sift through the noise of dispute to find the common ground, who will?
It was all feeling pretty bleak and social media was not helping matters. There’s plenty to be concerned about and I began to wonder if I was doing enough to stem the ever rising tide of environmental degradation and political mayhem. By any standard, I was not because I was nearly paralyzed by overwhelm.
Meanwhile, I found myself growing bored. Bored of clever memes, pithy quotes, righteous indignation, and soap boxes (even my own). All combined, it started to feel like an illness was overtaking my body or our collective body.
And then I remembered that this is what chaos feels like.
I’ve felt this way before. As an all-knowing yet powerless teenager. As a concerned mother going through a divorce. When I’ve been in pain, overwhelmed or lost. And what I’ve learned from those experiences is that the only way through it is forward. There’s no sense clinging to a perfect outcome because I’m immersed in the soup of transition.
I remind myself that a caterpillar disintegrates into formless chaos while re-creating itself as a butterfly. Or, more accurately, it breaks down into clumps of cells that can be reused in its new form. What are those clumps of cells? How do we find the ones that serve the new form that is emerging?
I also have to remind myself that we humans typically don’t build a chrysalis around ourselves when we’re facing traumatic change. We go on acting like everything is normal or a little worse than normal, but whatever, we just carry on and complain.
And I remind myself that after the dust settles and the cells coalesce and reform, circumstances are generally better. Sometimes it takes a while but once I’m through it I wonder how I ever endured that past life. Maybe that’s just retrospective re-visioning, but it carries great weight during the confusion.
I’m tempted to urge this whole process forward. As if I could. But I’m taking a moment right now to recognize it for what it is: a big, raucous, messy transition complete with despair, pain, beauty and a fair amount of comic relief. As a friend recently said when we were talking about this: The party has begun! You can join in or go to bed early.