Dear Frustrated Human,

Let’s start with disclaimers:  White, Female, Blonde, Gay, Veteran, Middle Class, 50-something, Alive.

Now let’s get into the reason for this letter:

I know you’re frustrated.  COVID has got you down.  You’re being told what to do.  You’re living in a world where you just can’t be yourself.  Can’t express yourself fully.  Can’t just go out into the world without a little bit of either judgement or fear.  You feel oppressed.  It’s heavy and horrible, and you are fighting back.  “This isn’t right! This is a free country and I’m a free person!  You can’t do this to me.”  I know…it’s so hard.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I get it (I just put my arm around your shoulder).  I don’t like it when the government (or anyone for that matter) tells me what to do either.  Like when they said I couldn’t get married to the woman I loved.  Or when they said that it’s not a priority that women get equal pay.  Or when they said that I could serve my country, but I had to stay in the closet or be kicked out.  I don’t like it when I get targeted for being gay or being female…and I am aware that I have it easy compared to many others.  Oppression and being told how to live…well, it’s simply a bitch.

I would guess others feel like they get it too.  Like the black person who is already marginalized after years of systemic racism and oppression.  Like the Muslim person who is targeted because of 9/11 and someone thinks they “look like a terrorist.”  Like the pregnant woman who needs to abort her baby but can’t, because her body belongs to the state.  Or like the elderly person who is alone in a nursing home right now with no way out.  They probably don’t like to be told how to live their lives either.  They probably don’t like to be judged.  It’s probably scary for them too. They probably feel helpless and don’t know when it’s going to get better.  Just a guess…

Shit, as far as I know, nobody likes to be told what to do.  We never have.  Those of us who have experienced oppression know this is painful for you.  This is a little bigger than someone just telling you that you have to pay taxes.  This is something telling you that they have control of your life.  That you can’t run your business.  You can’t go to a store without a mask.  This is not the freedom you’ve taken for granted…the freedom you’ve come to depend on.

So, I’m going to leave you with a little invitation, take it or leave it:  Do what you tell those of us in the margins to do.  Live your life.  Live it out loud and proud.  If you don’t want to stay in your home, don’t stay in your home.  If you want to stay in your home and social distance, do it.  Open your business or keep it closed.  Just do you.  Listen to your heart and be yourself.  Be mindful and respect that others might have a different opinion.  Don’t live your life based on what you see on the news…focused and heavy sensationalism.  As my Grandma used to say, “Turn that shit off.”

It’s gonna be okay so, hang in there.  This time just might be waking us all up to the experiences of others.  Maybe you’ll look back someday and have a little more understanding of what it’s like to be marginalized and oppressed.  For this short time…not for your lifetime.  Maybe see where you’ve actually had advantages that others haven’t had.  Maybe use that privilege to benefit and support those “others.”  Lastly, maybe that will help you, and the rest of us, have a little more empathy and compassion for each other.

Maybe.  At least that’s my hope. 🤞✌️


Copywrite 2020 by Karen Solt, all rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Karen Solt and karensolt.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

The Blame Game…

Blame.  “I’m (uncomfortable/mad/hurt/not happy) and it’s your fault.”  That means that I’m not taking ownership of myself and my life experiences.  I have given that power to you.  I have disempowered myself and have made you the reason for my anger and unhappiness.

Isn’t that sometimes what we do?  Fall into the blame game…making others responsible for our lives?  Sometimes others blame us as well, making us responsible for their problems.  It’s happened to all of us, blaming and being blamed.

Blaming is the opposite of having self-accountability and living a self-empowered life.  It creates self-righteousness and makes someone else wrong.  Consistent blaming…well that’s just a great way to end a relationship.

The formula to stop blaming is awareness + accountability = empowerment. 

Self-awareness is truly knowing yourself.  “I can see that I’m mad.  But what do I really feel?  Hurt?  Scared?  Ashamed?  Betrayed?  What’s the real reason?”  Being self-aware of your true feelings is like peeling the layers of an onion…one layer at a time.

Self-accountability is taking ownership of how you process (internalize) and then act out (project) your life experiences.  It’s acknowledging that you have the freedom to make choices that have positive and negative consequences and accepting those consequences.  Essentially, it’s adulting. 

Blame happens when you’re deflecting from uncomfortable emotions and feelings and making someone else responsible.  Fear, sadness, shame, hurt…these all make you feel vulnerable and as, Brene’ Brown describes it, blame is an “inverse relationship with accountability, and accountability is a vulnerable process.”

Being “triggered” is a signal that you have some unresolved subconscious issue.  You might want to see being triggered as a gift.  Not a gift that “feels good” but a gift that brings you closer to knowing yourself.  You might want to reactively throw it back as blame but diving a little deeper will give you some self-awareness and a richer connection with yourself.  Here’s how:

  • Notice when you’ve been triggered by something someone said or did…and how your reactive fight or flight hormones have kicked in.
  • Notice that you’re blaming someone else for that trigger.
  • Be aware that discharging blame is deflecting from a deeper issue and is a loss of your power.
  • Take some time away from the situation and do some writing or journaling to gain some clarity.  Why are blaming someone else for your feelings? Ask yourself, “What am I really upset about here?” Then rewrite it take self-accountability. Try to see where you’re giving your power away.  See it from an alternate angle.  For example:

Blamer:  “I’m unhappy and it’s my partner’s fault.  I could be happy if she would just act right and do what I want her to do.”

Self-Ownership(er):  I’m unhappy…and it’s my fault.  What can I do to find more joy in my life?  How can I quit making my partner responsible for my happiness?

  • Finally, if you’ve blamed, go to the person and apologize.  Own your experiences and let them know that you deflected some of your stuff by blaming them.  When you apologize and take accountability for your choices, your reactions and your life, that’s when you take back your power.

My hope is that you’ll start to see blame differently from now on.  That you’ll notice it as a loss of your power.  That you’ll process your reaction and then turn it around quickly and show up self-empowered, self-aware, and self-accountable.  Owning your life and this type of showing up for yourself is what will lead you toward standing in your authentic power, of which the world needs from all of us.

Setting Boundaries or Building Walls

Relationships take work.  Not only familial or romantic relationships, friends, co-workers, your neighbors, and more…there are many people you are in relationship with.

Setting boundaries are a necessary and a very healthy part of mutually beneficial and respectful relationships.  Letting people know what you will and won’t permit in your relationships, gives them clear communication for interacting with you.  Boundaries set clear, compassionate and self-empowered expectations.  Hopefully they’re kind.  Hopefully they’re realistic.  Hopefully they’re mutual and serve everyone’s highest good.

Boundaries are set out of consciousness They honor you and your time, space and energy.  They are a necessary tool in being self-empowered, self-accountable, and self-aware.  Boundaries, in four highly educated words, are simply smart and simply awesome.

When someone betrays a boundary that you have clearly set, first recognize that they didn’t betray you, they betrayed your boundary.  Acknowledging that, letting them know, and reaffirming that boundary is crucial.  Maybe they forgot.  Maybe they wanted to test it.  Maybe they fell back into their own patterns, that might become more visible when you talk to them.  Lastly, there’s a chance that they just don’t give a crap about your “silly boundary.”  Regardless, being the kind and open-communication-ish person you are, please discuss and establish their intention.  Most times, if they respect and care for you, they simply forgot.  If it’s the latter and they simply don’t give a crap, then staying in relation with someone that doesn’t respect you, well…then you’re simply betraying yourself.

Okay, onto walls (scary background music cued).  I think sometimes we get confused between setting conscious proactive boundaries or constructing unconscious reactive walls.

Walls are built out of unconscious fear We’re talking metaphorically here, but you are welcome to look at literal examples, as they also apply.  Walls are built for control to either keep people in or out.  They are built in reaction to possibly being hurt or feeling vulnerable.  Walls send the message, “I’m afraid of losing you…I can’t let you go” or “I’m protecting myself…You can’t come in.”  One of the interesting things about walls is they give us the illusion of being safe and in control.  But since walls are built out of a fear, they typically only magnify that fear.

When building a wall instead of setting a boundary, think of it this way:  If I’m afraid of something about my relationship with you, that’s my fear.  You are the scary projection of my fear. So, I build a wall so that I can either “keep” you or so that I can’t see you.  But, damn it, you’re still there, staring at me with your irritated “kept-ness” or just hanging out on the other side of the wall (probably playing hacky sack).  I’m still here (knitting…that was a lie)…feeling in control and safer, but still just as afraid, because energetically I haven’t worked through and acknowledged that this is my fear.

Still curious if you’re being a proactive boundary setter or a reactive wall builder?  If you are setting functional, clear and realistic boundaries, your relationships should be mutually beneficial and reciprocal.  If you’re over-giving to keep people in or you’re putting walls up to keep people out, there’s an imbalance and you are probably experiencing a reactive response…fight, flight, freeze or façade.  One of my tools to notice how I feel when I’m showing up in my relationships.  With a mutually respected relationship, I find myself feeling less constricted, more playful, and able to share my truth.  When I have walls up, I find myself constricted, serious (I notice I’ll even lower my voice…it’s a trip) and guarded.

Remember, it’s okay to not embrace everyone that crosses your life path.  Putting pressure on yourself to do so, is only added pressure that you probably don’t need (now I’m a psychic).  Set your boundaries.  Be clear about what is and is not okay for you.  Do it consciously, empowered and self-aware.  Those that don’t respect them, bless them, pat their butt and send them on their way.  And if you find yourself building a metaphoric (or literal…you know who you are) wall, look inward and ask yourself why you’re afraid.  Anyone that shows up to teach you that lesson was a gift to help you become a little more self-aware, empowered and connected with…well, you.


Cool image retrieved from:  https://www.bewellbuzz.com/mind/set-boundaries-teach-people-treat/

Intersectionality…The Bigger Picture

It starts with an email, asking me if I’ll come speak to Gender/Sexuality Alliance teenage students in a local high school, for me to share my experience with them as a gay woman.  It’s always a Yes.  I feel it’s important to share my personal experience with self-betrayal and societal-rejection, and my journey now back into self-acceptance.  If only I knew what I know now at their age. (I take that back.  I wouldn’t have listened.).

Just to make my life a little more interesting, the Universe has recently pulled me into learning some additional things about race, gender, culture, and religion.  Where I thought I might be losing sight with my purpose and mission, what I’m now learning is that it’s all connected to the bigger picture.  These teachings are taking me to a depth of personal work I’ve never previously experienced.

A few months ago, the term “White Feminism” showed up in my social media feed.  I was like, “White Feminism?”  I didn’t understand…and I ended up confused and triggered by how I felt reading the comments.  One thing I know is this:  Me + Triggered = I have work to do.  So, I’ve jumped into doing personal work on White Supremacy, White Privilege, White Feminism, White Fragility (which was what I was experiencing through those triggers), and the topic of Intersectionality. I’m actually embarrassed at how little I knew (and still know…just scratching the surface).

My thoughts were, “How can I speak about equality, discrimination, and marginalization, unless I’m aware of its impact in other areas?”  Sure, I see and experience it through my LGBTQ and woman lens, but it felt hypocritical to not understand more fully and open my mind to how these issues impact my fellow humans in other areas.

Back to the high school.  I arrived early, sat in my car and took in my surroundings, well aware that this school is located in a low socio-economic part of the city.  As I walked up to the school, a very tall rot-iron fence surrounded the entire school.  There was a police car parked in front.  I thought, “Wow, this high school feels and looks like a prison.”  My mind flashed to all of the school shootings these students, teachers, and administrators have to sadly consider just to show up each day.

I walked into the front office to sign in.  The woman who greeted me wore a hijab, as did some of the female students in the front office.  My mind drifted to the New Zealand shooting that happened a few days earlier, killing 50 or more Muslim worshippers.  Although helpless in knowing what to say or do, I felt immediate compassion and empathy, which is actually the best most of us have in those moments.  I recalled how I felt after attacks on my community…the gay nightclub in Orlando, the USS Cole attack in Yemen, 9/11…my gay, Navy, and American family…they were personal, and I get it. An attack on one is an attack on all.

I met up with the counselor who led me to the classroom where I was to give my talk.  As we’re walking, I notice the ethnic diversity of the students, who had just been let out for lunch.  Black, Asian, Mexican, and Muslim students dominated the population, with an occasional sprinkling of a white student.  My mind drifted to my new learnings in racism, cultural diversity, and intersectionality and how these dynamics, in addition to their gender/sexuality diversity factors, also greatly impact the lives of the students I’m about to talk with.

I speak to the students about my struggles with identity at their age, being gay in the Navy, witch-hunts, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, and being closeted for fear of being kicked out.  I speak to them about the times that I betrayed myself, some out of self-preservation, and some out of my internalized homophobia.  I speak to them about the fact that everyone struggles fitting in, even the ones who act like they aren’t struggling, especially at their age.  Lastly, I speak to them about self-acceptance, and its crucial role in evolving as an unapologetically authentic and happy person.

These young people are always awesome and the themes in the high schools GSA groups are the same from school to school.  They have challenges with acceptance, bullying and social media.  They experience lack of acceptance in their families and from some of their classmates.  Many are not safe to express themselves for being who they are, at home and at school, and have to stay closeted out of their own self-preservation.  They’re just teenagers, trying to find their way.  Lastly, they’re kind, intelligent, and I feel incredibly blessed to share time and space with them.  I have a deep hope that my message on self-acceptance is something that will benefit them.

As I’m leaving, I think about their challenges ahead…not just the gender/sexuality ones, but their cultural and societal challenges as well.  When Kimberle’ Crenshaw discusses Intersectionality, she lays out areas where intersections overlap in someone’s life, such as gender, race, sexual orientation, religion and class (there’s more).  For example, a young genderqueer Muslim boy has at least two intersections:  Genderphobia and Islamophobia.  A young transgender (male to female) black girl will have to navigate three intersections:  Transphobia, Racism and Sexism.  As a white woman in America, I had to navigate two:  Homophobia and Sexism.

I hope they heard me when I said, “It gets better.”  I hope they heard me when I said, “No one can reject you…only you can do that.”  I hope they heard me when I said, “Finding your way back to self-acceptance is a necessary journey for all of us.”

I’d love to tell you that I felt hope and happiness when I left that school.  But I didn’t.  I felt sadness.  I walked out of the school, that felt like a rot-iron prison, and thought about the challenges young people face today.  They’re similar and also different than the ones I faced.  Many of those challenges can be addressed by us adults working on making our world a better, a much safer, and a more inclusive place for them.  It might even get better for all of us in the process.


p.s. If you’d like to learn more about the issues I discuss in this writing, here is a good place to start:

– Kimberle’ Crenshaw:  Start here – Intersectionality TED Talk

– Layla Saad:  Me and White Supremacy (Free Workbook): laylafsaad.com

– Rachel Cargle:  White Feminism – www.rachelcargle.com

– Robin DiAngelo:  White Fragility – robindiangelo.com

How Does Self-Awareness Affect Your Posting?

You’re sitting on your couch.  Lonely.  Bored.  Don’t want to talk to anyone in your house.  They’re looking at their phones too.  You’re feeling down.  “Let me post something,” your mind says to no one but itself.  Super-happy selfie taken.  “Hey, everyone that’s important to me…here’s what I’m doing right now!”

I’m sitting on my couch.  Lonely.  Bored.  No one to talk to that hasn’t already heard my stuff.  “Let me see what’s up on social media,” my mind says to no one but itself.  Scroll.  Perfection…I get pulled into a lot of stuff including your selfie.  “Awesome!  I don’t feel my feelings anymore…numb is perfect…that was a close call.”

Some self-awareness questions:  What if feeling those uncomfortable feelings, those pre-social media feelings…what if they were your priority?  Is that deflection helpful?  Are you disconnecting from yourself when your ‘self’ needs you the most?

Think about this…the main agenda of social media is to “Create engagement.” Essentially, it is to get your attention because it needs you.  I was told that engagement was something I ‘should’ care about when I created an online group.  Unfortunately, the only way to do this is to continuously engage, which simply isn’t my thing.  I don’t want to try to create stuff, just to get your attention, just to cover that ‘should’ of engagement.  Because if I do, I’m operating exactly like the big machine is, only at the small potatoes level…I’m asking you to deflect from your life and pay attention to me.

How do you know when it’s time to and not to contribute?  A great place to start is by asking yourself, “What is my motive?”  Why do you post? How much do you post?  Are you posting to avoid being present with your life?  Are you contributing more to your virtual connections than to your physical and emotional connections?  And so, I ponder…

Next, it’s helpful to go through your social media accounts and clean out all of the ‘follows’ that bring you down.  I mean, come on.  We all know people whose posts lift us up or give us some wisdom for introspection, and we know others who are seeking attention.  Some are even looking for a reaction…to stir things up…some are even paid to stir you up.  This is the reality of online media…some of it connects and some of it disconnects.

When posting, here are some questions you are invited to ponder before hitting that share button:

  • Is this post my need to get attention to escape my own feelings and relationships?
  • Is my motive to create connection through introspection or to create separation by taking a jab at others? What is my honest objective here?
  • If I read this post, would it benefit me? (If not, you shouldn’t post it (pssst…I just should’d you).
  • How can this post serve others? Will it make them laugh, or smile?  Will it open their minds and hearts to maybe see a portion of their life from a different perspective?
  • What would happen if I took a few minutes to reflect or meditate about this post and I didn’t share it right now? (i.e. Am I posting manically, which is true hyper self-disconnection (which is now a thing)).

Lastly, some questions about how you personally engage on social media:

  • How much of your time is spent lost and checked out when scrolling through your virtual world?
  • Is there something in this present moment that you’re not willing to address? Is social media helping you to deflect from that something?
  • What would happen if you unfollowed those who usually created negative feelings or reactions within you? Are you addicted to the reactions that you get from those sites?  Are you afraid of missing out (FOMO)?  Would that scare you or free you?
  • What would happen if you disengaged from social media for a week or even a month? (Little secret…I did that last year for a month and it felt great 🙂)

Have some awareness whether your contribution is a “need to be seen” and a deflection from something deeper (that you don’t want to feel).  This might keep you centered on your feelings and your intention.  And when you can start to feel those feelings and process their true message, you might just stand a chance to connect back to yourself, which is what your ‘self’ is asking you to do.

For some reason, these things are important to me.  Maybe it’s my generation and not growing up with a cell phone.  Maybe it’s my awareness of how disconnected I become at times.  Maybe it’s my hope that, in this mind-numbing scrolling world, I want to be aware of my motive by asking, “Am I contributing out of lack? Out of a need to be seen? Out of the ‘should’ of looking for engagement?”

Or…

“Do I believe my contribution truly connects? Will someone learn something insightful, or laugh a little, or be lifted up by my post?  Will I learn something from my own words?”  If my contribution won’t do any of those things, then no contribution will serve best. 

I know, I know, I’m just a dreamer.  Somebody has to be…get off me already 🙂

I am Anxiety…

I know you because I am a part of you, even though you can’t physically see me.  When I’m in action, I permeate every part of you…your mind, your body, your heart and your spirit.

Today I come clean

It doesn’t mean that I’ll leave, because I can’t.  Some of me is necessary…and ridding the rest of me?  That’s entirely up to you.  This is who I am to you:

I control you

I start as nervousness in your gut, then I become tightness in your chest, and work my way up to your throat until it’s hard to breath…until you start to panic, because it feels like I’m choking you.

I’m the reason you stay in your addiction

I reside in between the last time and the next time you use. I’m the feeling, that horrible craving, where you want to jump out of your skin…where you feel raw, where every minute feels like an hour.  That’s me.  When you give in and take that drink or drug, I depart for a minute…and then I step right back in.

I ignite your anger

When I lose control, I get your attention by igniting your anger…your anger that you don’t understand…your anger you subconsciously use to regain control…the anger that ultimately loses your control and creates more fear, worry and shame.

I create your external deflection from inner discomfort

I am the reason you cut or burn yourself. I am why you bite your nails or bite your lips, or tap your foot, or flex your numb limbs…I am why you twist your hair, pick at your skin, or crack your knuckles…I am the reason you simply can’t sit still.

I am why you can’t stay present

I am why you keep checking your phone, or daydream, or multitask.  I deflect you from being anywhere but here… from experiencing yourself in this moment.  I am your uncomfortable edge you’re needing to take off so that you can disconnect.  I am your need to run…your need to numb out.

I am your panic attack

I am the reason you are a fearful passenger in a car or that you panic on airplanes. I create imaginary disasters in your mind…and I’m a little embarrassed to say this, but I enjoy gaining your full attention in those moments of terror.

I keep you vigilant

I am your need to face the door at restaurants, to avoid big crowds, and why you look over your shoulder when you’re taking a walk. I create your fear, your worry, your hyper-vigilance, and need to control.  I am always guiding you to look one, two, even ten steps ahead…afraid of what lurks around the corner.  I am why you see and are constantly afraid of the Big Bad Wolf.

My real purpose?

…it’s to keep you safe from actual danger. I’m the one that stops you from walking into traffic, from stepping off a cliff, or from touching a hot flame.  I’m the one that tells you to run from an angry lion or to leave an abusive relationship.  That’s my true job…that’s my true purpose.

So, you see?  I’m always here.  I can’t leave.

I save you and I break you.

I am Anxiety…

 


Image retrieved from: thezenwarriorguide.com

Freedom is Priceless

I know the exact moment when I understood the priceless value of freedom.  It was 2004 and I was on an aircraft carrier, on my final Navy deployment.  We were somewhere in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.  I felt captive.  I couldn’t go home, I couldn’t hug my loved ones, I couldn’t drive my car, go to my favorite restaurant, sleep in my bed…I was confined with thousands of other Sailors on a floating city called a ship.

Now don’t get me wrong…I had been on other deployments.  Actually, I had been plenty of places I didn’t want to go to, had been told to do many things I didn’t agree with.  This time was different.  I was waking up to the realization that I didn’t belong there anymore, and yet I couldn’t leave…I wasn’t free.  I knew at that time, “The thing I want the most is my freedom, and the thing I’m giving up serving my country is my freedom.”

I’ve learned a lot more since that day about freedom, probably the most important is this:

I can have no greater freedom than I want for and desire for every other human being, regardless of who they are.  Anywhere I believe I am entitled to more freedom and better rights than others, I’ve lost my freedom.  If I’m attached to “keeping them down,” I stay attached with them…I am not free.

You see, freedom is a “state of being,” an independence, the ability to enjoy liberty.  It gives you the power to exercise choice and make decisions without constraint, from within or without.  It lets you determine your own actions and mannerisms, your own speech, where you go, who you surround yourself with.  Freedom provides autonomy and your ability to self-govern.  Much of this power to “exercise choice” was unavailable during the time I served in the Navy.

Freedom isn’t confinement, physical restraint, external control, interference, regulation, bondage, slavery, or obligation.  Anyone or any institution subjecting those things onto other people, cannot and will not be free because they are attached to controlling others in order to rise above and project “power.”

If you’re American, tomorrow you have the freedom to vote…the freedom to choose.  You get to honor your rights, a right was not always available to all of us, by taking action.  Many of those who came before us fought and died for this right and some countries still don’t allow their citizens the right to vote.  Many are still serving to protect that right so that you have the right to freely live your life in the manner that you choose.  I consider it important, fundamental to who we are as a nation.

I’ve been out of the Navy for many years now and the word “freedom” has remained central to how I live my life.  Today I understand that creating the world I desire is a step-by-step process, externally and internally.  I have freedom of speech, which I’m pretty sure you know I’m using right here.  I have the freedom to act in a manner that honors my beliefs and values.  I have the freedom to make choices that best serve my life.  I also have the awareness that accepting, not necessarily understanding, liking or approving that others want different things than I do, gives me internal freedom by helping me let go of trying to control or change them.

All of that, just to say this.  The world you’re looking for is right here, waiting for you to co-create with it.  But you can’t sit on the sidelines and expect it to magically appear.  You have to do your part and then surrender and accept…there are invisible forces working behind the scenes…many times the higher purpose is not obvious until years down the road.

I wish I could gift my confining deployment experience, and many others, to you as I’ve been fortunate to personally witness life in other countries, some progressive and some not-so progressive.  Although I do believe there are things in America that need work, I am a firm believer in what we stand for and the beauty of this country and it’s people.

Lastly, if you still don’t know what to do from here, I’ll leave you with this:  You have the freedom and can never go wrong when your choice is in the direction of LOVE.

Yes…Even in 2018

In my efforts to follow the Universe’s guidance, this week I spoke to a group of Gender/Sexuality Alliance (GSA) students at a local high school this.  It meant a lot to me, and it’s a tiny one step forward in a journey of a thousand miles.

The students?  Awesome, amazing, smart and kind.  Their questions? Honest, heartfelt and vulnerable.  What do they want?  Acceptance…especially from their families.  Adults in our world that care about them and believe they are perfect…just as they are.  To meet others that have walked where they are today and survived the challenges that they currently face…some from self, some at school, more at home, mostly in our world.  To know that it gets better…they really wanted to know that.

When I tell some of my family and friends, gay and straight, why this is important, I sometimes get, “Really? In 2018?”  Unfortunately, yes.  Especially in 2018.  These young people have adults in power using them as pawns in their political chess game.  To me, this is nothing new, but I am one of many who thought this type of game-playing was behind us.  It isn’t.  So, I actually agree when they say, “Really? In 2018?”

Here are the questions that run through my mind, heart and soul:

“Why are the most vulnerable in our society always singled out? What’s the benefit of looking for differences? What is the fear? Why do those who appear to have everything they need compare and compete to get a sense of importance?  Is it insecurity and fear that creates the need to make intolerable decisions to create a sense of security?  Is it seeing others live a different lifestyle that gives the impression that they must be living wrong…therefore we are living right?” 

When you encounter someone who is more vulnerable in our world than you, do you see and feel their pain, their challenges, and their struggle?  Does it give you empathy and a sense of compassion or fear and a sense of judgment?  If it’s empathy, it’s a bridge to connect you to another person’s experience.  If it’s fear, it’s a barrier to create a reaction of fight, flight or freeze.  It takes a lot of courage to sit with and in another person’s experience…to be with them in struggle.  It’s easy to run out of fear.

So, how do you stop running?  First, you have to want to.  You have to want a better world…for everyone.  You can’t pick and choose for some and not for others, or you remain in fear.  You have to let go of your defensive beliefs that others are trying to take something from you.  You have to look another person in the eyes, someone you don’t understand, and find a place where you see their perspective…even and especially if you don’t agree with it.  You have to show up…for yourself, for your loved ones, for our world.

My hope is that we can show up for those young students that are relying on us to see ourselves in their lives.  To find acceptance.  To care.  To know that we are actively working to make this world a better place.  They need to know that we are doing everything possible to create an open and accepting world for ourselves, for them and for all of our futures. 

That they need…and that’s just the minimum.