It is in the extremes we find voice; it is in the middle we find peace. (TLD)
When I started writing Heroically Lost, I thought it was an homage to my son, Scott. The heroine of the story is a young woman in her mid-thirties, still grappling to find a place in the world while keeping her convictions intact. Too often, we look on such grapplers as arrested youth, as slackers, when they are anything but. They struggle to find a way to live their authentic lives without caving to a society they have nothing in common with.
I didn’t realize I was writing yet another aspect of myself as well.
I struggle with a duality of nature. I’m fierce, and yet I’m a pacifist. I will fight for what I believe in until I draw my last breath, but I will never fight fire with fire. I am passionate about my beliefs and ideals, but I need to at least try to see the other perspective. I understand revolution is sometimes necessary to effect change, but I feel in the deepest part of me that most of the work and struggle is after the war has been won (or lost,) and it never truly ends.
I’ve always maintained–good and evil depends upon whose eyes one is looking out of. And I hold by my statement above. We find our voices in extremes. That has been proven by the fact that Donald Trump was elected. It will be in the middle we find peace. Not by fighting fire with fire. Not by obstructing everything the next administration attempts to do whether we disagree with it or not. Perpetuating that cycle does exactly that–it keeps it going. No one wins.
Some will say I’m compromising my position, that I’m too willing to work with the bullies and thereby empowering them to continue bullying. I understand that, because sometimes that’s the way it feels even to me. But I learned an important lesson, over and over throughout my life. Pushing only gets you pushed back, and doesn’t end until one stands over the other, victorious. That’s all well and good when the winning side is yours, but when it’s not…
Years ago, friends and I went to a concert. (Dave Matthews, one of the best days of my life.) We were all singing and dancing and trying not to be squished by everyone else doing the same. As I danced, my favorite ring flew off my finger. “Crap! I lost my ring!” Some guy standing nearby turned around furiously and got right in my face. “Well, I lost my insulin, so how about you shut up?” My instant reaction was, “Oh, that’s worse. Let me help you find it.”
I’m not trying to be noble here. It was simply my reaction. The man deflated. “I’m sorry. That was rude. I’m dead without my meds. Thanks.” These are not direct quotes, of course. It was a really long time ago, but it happened exactly like this, even if the wording isn’t verbatim.
We found his insulin. We didn’t find my ring. The event remains one of the great epiphanies of my life. My instinctive reaction, once realized, made me more mindful of it in the future. I have diffused more strife than I can even recall by doing the same, by seeing the other perspective and not simply reacting in kind. I’ve also lost a few of these battles, but I can count those easily enough. Because I’m mindful of my reaction, I get to choose my battles. Sometimes winning just isn’t worth the effort when walking away gives me more peace, and denies the other party the victory of bringing me down to their level of aggression. Backing away doesn’t mean backing down.
We need warriors of all kinds. Those who are willing, even need, to get elbow deep in the push and shove, and those of us who keep trying to find the middle ground where we can all live in relative peace. I honor, respect, and appreciate every version in between, too. I know which kind I am, and it’s not compromising, or weak, or bellying up to the bully. It takes a kind of strength I’m proud of, and no one is going to make me feel otherwise about it.
In the coming months, maybe years, we have a fight on our hands. It’s not one I’ll back away from. But neither am I going to paint all of those on “the other side” with the same brush. I’m going to fight injustice and inequality, but always keep in mind that there are a myriad of ways of doing so that will get a whole lot better result than shoving back.