Wind and water are onslaughts. Each gust or wave takes a little bit more. If I am mountain or shore, I am consumed with erosion. If I am ocean or wind, I am consumed with motion, not more.
This morning, over tea, Steve asked me, “How’s your heart?” We check in with each other by asking this question, creating a safe space for an honest answer and ensuring our communication and marriage stay strong.
I told him I felt adrift, powerless, and without a target for the emotions elicited by Trump’s election. I let him know that these feelings were affecting every part of my life and my insecurities were rearing loud and strong.
He said, “That’s because nothing’s happened yet. You’re like a tidal wave moving across the ocean. As it moves, it’s only a foot high. When it comes in contact with the shore, it’s sixty feet high and powerful beyond measure. Just wait. When you see land, you’ll know where to put your energy.”
He was right, of course. Still, I told him not to try to solve my problem. I just wanted him to know what I felt. That, in turn, made him feel insecure about us. Men fix. It’s what they’ve been trained to do. If he can’t fix me, he feels powerless. We both know this now, but that doesn’t make our reality less challenging. It just means we have more room for each other and the mistakes we inevitably make.
Later, having coffee with a new friend, I thought about the power of wind and wave, thought about what it might feel like to stop trying to be solid ground. We’ve been taught to hold on, to keep change at bay, to cement ourselves to our worlds. Perhaps this is wrong. After all, solid ground is also an illusion.
I began this book at a campfire. My husband slept in a chair, a glass of whiskey tilted precariously in his hand. I fed the fire, watched a full moon rise over a dark lake, and listened to the wind. At the time, I knew I loved him beyond words and trusted him completely, but didn’t know if I could continue to live with him. It seemed our marriage was at odds with who I needed to be.
Then I had an epiphany. I thought back on all the ways he tried to be what I needed and realized that his efforts were enough and maybe the problem was me.
At first, I worried. It’s all too common for women to assume responsibility in moments of conflict because if the problem is their fault, they can change themselves and thus elicit some “control” over the situation. I’ve done this so many times I’ve lost count and was deeply afraid that my epiphany was more of the same, but there was a blot of hope on the edge of my consciousness that suggested a new way of thinking.
Now, as this book draws to a close, I realize I have spent my life weathering a storm. This storm is all around me and every onslaught erodes part of my whole. I live in a society that says (via pop culture, religious teachings, and legal battles not yet won) that I do not belong. My gender, behavior, intelligence, sensitivity, and sexuality are at odds with the person society says I am supposed to be. I am not alone in this experience. To a degree, every single person is under assault by someone or something and we are, collectively, weathering a common storm.
We hold onto structures, norms, as though clinging to them will render us solid, immutable, intact, and whole. But we are not mountain or shore. When we understand that we are wind or wave, we realize our power lies not in remaining the same, but in changing, growing, becoming our own storm. Our calm is a caress should we choose to give it. Our righteous anger is a tidal wave forming above an unsuspecting shore.
We control only what we give; to ourselves, our loved ones, and our communities. Through creativity, generosity, and deep care, we can erode the cultural norms. To feed the fire of my love of self, husband, family, and community, I had to abdicate what I’d known and embrace something different; a quiet revolution that started like a breeze and spread through the deepest recesses of my soul.
Reject toxic love. Take responsibility for liberty and use it. Develop empathy, but realize that giving to others without understanding motives can backfire and hurt everyone involved. Know that the system is constructed with an ideology that works for all, but policies that work against the majority for the benefit of those at the top. Recognize that lack of action against those policies renders us complicit in them. Know that change happens slowly and equality begins at home.
I leave you with this: Amazing Grace is more than a song or prayer. It is a state, an experience, an act of love. Individually, we are drops of water integral to ourselves and already whole. Together, we feed the oceans that reshape shores. We tunnel through granite, carve canyons, and fell trees. It is our fluidity – not rigidity – that makes the change we seek and lets us be the people and peoples we were meant to be.
I once was lost.
But now am found.
But now I see.
With love to you. December 26, 2016.