What’s Needed in these Uncertain Times? Maybe More Empathy…

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In the fourth week of the Trump Administration, with the news changing so quickly every day, we are once again reminded that we need to stay grounded. I have been staying active in my community and riding most of the tumultuous waves by practicing the mindset of Maybe. But the deportation of Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos, who came to this country when she was a teenager and was taken into custody by U.S. Immigration officials during a routine check-in, shook me deeply. In addition to Maybe, I found myself needing another way to cope. I watched the live news coverage of Ms. Rayos sitting in a van with immigration officials waiting to be deported. Her two kids, husband, friends and immigrant-rights advocates tried to block the van from moving. As I sat on the couch with my two children by my side, watching the news, I could not stop crying. Immigrant-rights advocates have portrayed Ms. Rayos as a victim of President Trump’s sweeping new deportation orders. At the same time, her deportation has been viewed differently by others who have praised Trump’s immigration orders because Ms. Rayos had a felony conviction. That conviction stemmed from a 2008 work-site raid on employees at amusement parks, Ms. Rayos among them, who were working using false social security numbers.

The deportation of undocumented immigrants was not a policy originally created by the Trump administration. The Obama administration deported millions of undocumented immigrants over the last eight years. Donald Trump and his administration might be casting a wider net, deporting immigrants with no criminal records, but both administrations have supported the removal of people present in the United States illegally. In an effort to understand and process what’s been happening, I called a few friends who voted for Hilary Clinton and some who voted for Donald Trump about these immigration issues. The results have been interesting.

My friends who voted for Hilary Clinton were not totally aware that millions of people were deported during the Obama administration and all felt that Ms. Rayos should be allowed to stay in the country. My friends who voted for President Trump were under the impression that Obama did nothing to deport undocumented immigrants. Unanimously, my pro-Trump friends felt it was the Continue reading…

A Survival Guide for Uncertain Times Week 2: Communicate

Ponte che collega le persone

“I was once asked why I don’t participate in anti-war demonstrations. I said that I will never do that, but as soon as you have a pro-peace rally, I’ll be there.” –Mother Teresa

A few weeks ago, I attended the New York City Women’s March. When I got home, I received a call from a friend who voted for Donald Trump.  He felt the Women’s March was divisive and portrayed those who had voted for Donald Trump as horrible people. He said he was not a horrible person simply because he voted for Donald Trump over Hilary Clinton. He told me he had seen on the news signs from the march that proclaimed, “He is not my president,” and “Dump Trump.” He heard a clip from Madonna in Washington, DC that he found violent and upsetting. I tried to express to him how wonderful the March was for me and how the people at these marches care about important issues facing the world today. But my friend could only focus on the negatives he has seen on the news.

As I lay awake in bed that night, I felt overwhelmed that my relationship with this dear old friend had become so argumentative. The next day I called him back. The first thing I said was, “Donald Trump is President of the United States.  I don’t want to discuss the election and I just want to focus on what is happening today.  Let’s talk facts.”

As the discussion continued, the things my friend said to me sounded like a string of Fox News sound bites. I probably sounded to him like a tape of MSNBC sound bites!  Again, we were getting nowhere.  My friend and I took a pause. We each Continue reading…

A Survivor Guide To The Trump Era: Embrace Uncertainty

PHOTOART fantastic adventure in a storm

A week before the inauguration of Donald Trump, I was on an airplane going to Florida. There was a tremendous amount of turbulence on the trip so I gripped both of my armrests tightly. As I braced myself, my body got very tense and I started feeling stressed and worried. It occurred to me after several minutes as my shoulders became tenser that it was ridiculous to hold my armrests for security—I was 30,000 feet in the air!  I released my hands and placed them in my lap. I started just to breathe deeply. I slowly became calmer as I sought to let go of my fear. The turbulence lasted for most but not all of the flight. When we landed in Florida, it was 80 degrees, sunny and very pleasant.

I imagine many people can relate. The turbulence on the plane made me uncomfortable because it triggered feelings of uncertainty about my safety. In everyday life, many of us feel emotional turbulence when life is uncertain.  We try to avoid these feelings by making careful decisions about our jobs, relationships and our kids.  Even though intellectually we know certainty does not exist, we strive for it, trying to play it safe and taking solace in our decisions. But life is filled with unexpected events, and the minute something unforeseen happens, the uncertainty of the situation can activate fear and negativity about what might happen in the future.

This is one of the reasons why Donald Trump makes so many people uncomfortable.  He brings our fear of uncertainty right in front of our noses every day.  He brings us turbulence.  Whether you like Donald Trump or not, he reminds Continue reading…

In Unpredictable Times, Our Greatest Enemy Is Our Need for Certainty

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It’s understandable why many of us reached an extreme level of fear and anxiety about Donald Trump becoming President of the United States. Donald Trump made comments during the campaign that scared us, including comments we thought were racist, misogynist, xenophobic and anti-environmental. His rhetoric was so frightening that many people came to believe that in order for everything to be okay, Hillary Clinton needed to win.  We told that story to ourselves, to our children and to anyone else who would listen. Pre-election, Hillary Clinton’s win became the only possible outcome we could imagine in order to feel safe and secure. Now here we are one week after the election, and the one thing we thought we needed for our survival, security and well-being did not happen.

At any given time, much of our suffering comes not from the moment we are in, but instead from our projection of what will happen in the future.  In reality, we have no idea what will happen next. We never have and never will.  Don’t get me wrong, based on many things that were said during the campaign, it is very clear that people need to act today to fight for what they believe in, whether it be women’s rights, the rights of minorities, or clean energy. But beyond this moment, we really have no idea what will happen tomorrow, next week or next year.

The good news is that uncertainty about the future can actually be our best friend and our liberator.  Not knowing what will happen next leaves us open not solely to doom and gloom, but to other possibilities as well. For example, MAYBE more people will join political organizations and be more active in government and in their communities. MAYBE more people will run for office. MAYBE things will get worse and then get better. MAYBE a Trump presidency will be a mixed bag of good and bad. MAYBE everything will still be okay. And MAYBE this is the result we needed to unite and make the changes we want to see. The point is that we don’t know and our not knowing is the basis for our hope.  It is the foundation for us to resist clinging to our sorrow and fear of tomorrow, and instead to place our feet firmly on the ground today. It is a call to action based on what we know in the present as opposed to projecting our worst fears and anxieties. Negative projections about the future just make us sick. Projections of our fear and worry make it possible that we will not find the strength and resilience needed in the coming months and years ahead.

Part of living in the open space of “not knowing”, is also not grasping at certainty. It was very interesting to witness people’s reactions to the stock market increases since the election and Donald Trump’s meeting with President Obama at the White House.  It made some people feel safer and more certain about the stability of the market and prospects for a Trump presidency, but safety and certainty are feelings that can make us complacent. Sure, it was nice the two had a friendly and professional meeting, which may have even brought some hope for the future, but we should not confuse HOPE with our need for CERTAINTY. When we feel we’ve achieved our goal of certainty, we tend to want to stay home and watch television instead of helping our neighbors, fighting for new gun legislation, advocating for equal pay or working toward other important goals. Often, when we feel certain, we aren’t active and don’t vote.  When we feel certain, we don’t fight for the things that are important because we think they will always be there or that things are good enough so we don’t need to get involved.  Well, if this election has taught us anything, it’s that there is no certainty. We may be lucky to come to this realization today because if we truly want the world to change we will need new ideas and new leaders.  Our complete openness to the unknown future is the path where these new possibilities exist.

So hang on to the Maybe.  Stay present and take action regarding the issues that are important to you. Don’t get sidetracked by encouraging speeches and don’t get wiped out by new legislation you oppose. Carry on with the knowledge that nothing is certain, everything changes and MAYBE everything can still be okay and MAYBE even get better in time!