Finding the grownups

What I didn’t expect was the backlash from my liberal friends. The expectation that I would be as outraged as they were was palpable. Oh honey, I wanted to say, I was done with outrage years ago.

Allow me to explain.

The recent election has seemed to further divide America instead of uniting us. As a true political independent in a country that seems to want its citizens to vote party line all of the time, I am used to feeling a bit on the outside. My votes for the recent election were almost evenly split between Democrats and Republicans. I vote for the best person for the job—not according to a political label.

When Donald Trump won, the nation was stunned. I won’t belabor the election, because I am sure you are all as tired as I am of talking about it. I did not vote for Trump. His comments on women, in particular, raised my hackles. I’ve been a feminist since I could walk, born into a matriarchal family with a mother who was ahead of her time.

And yet, there we sat, facing Trump as our president elect. While disappointed so many of my fellow Americans had ignored his hateful rhetoric, I understood that the man himself was not hateful. He is flawed. He is all too human. But I do not believe he is the next Hitler or KKK savior. I believe he runs loose at the mouth, lacks filters and did not realize the full extent of his ability to capture a disenfranchised audience. Had he accepted the gravitas of his position, he would have learned to parse his words. I do believe that.

You do not have to agree with me on my analysis. But please, listen to the small bit of wisdom I can impart—based on life experience—about how to deal with someone who comes at you in a way that could (if you allow it) make you act like a victim.

I do not speak of my divorce often. I don’t feel it is anyone else’s business, frankly. But here, let me make a parallel. I married a man who had a good heart. He was one way—steady, solid—and then changed. He just did. People do, you know. I won’t go into the why’s and wherefore’s but it was scary. Life turned on a dime. Everything I thought was, wasn’t. Very suddenly.

In addition to the change, the man who I thought would never purposefully hurt me, did. Many times, in many ways—from commentary to financial impunity to using the kids as pawns. Throughout this process, I am sure there were times when he was just trying to hurt me in any way he could. He was in a rage and ready for revenge.

But, what I came to realize—as I tried to paint him as a villain in my head—was that many times, he was simply seeing things through a completely different lens. To me, a crazy lens. A selfish lens. A lens that made no sense. But—no proselytizing on my part was going to change that lens. It was what it was. And he was both things—a good man and a nasty man—in the same person. Most of us are.

I could choose to do what so many now do after the election—protest, proclaim the unfairness of it all. The courts were of no help. The harder I worked and the more he did not, the more I seemed to “owe” him and the less he had to help our family financially. Did it make sense? Not at all. Was it what I had to deal with? Absolutely.

I realized, rather quickly, that victim mode did not work for me. For my kids. And I realized that if I threw his hate back at him, the situation escalated. I had to be kind, respectful and decent to a man who—at the time—was none of those things toward me.

There are no words to describe how hard this lesson was for me. I was being asked to learn how to show loving kindness to someone who acted like an enemy. I cried, angrily, many nights because of the frustration. But I realized acting in any other way showcased all the wrong lessons for my kids.

So, I was kind. I was not a doormat. I was firm. But, I worked with him on many issues. I fought for what I could fight for, realistically. And I let the rest go.

I focused on the infinitesimally small area of commonality we had left—the few places where I could see light in him, where we could agree on mutual love for our kids.

I will not lie and say it’s been a perfect road. I never know if I’m going to get Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde—at least that is what it feels like on a bad day. But, I control my reactions. I forge my own day-to-day reality by focusing on the good I’m here to accomplish, the goals I have for myself and my kids.

While the U.S. election has far more import than any one marriage, the life lessons I have learned—painfully—apply for me. I did not go into victim mode. I did not feel someone had total control over my life simply because the presidency changed hands. I know criticism, sniping and throwing hate back at the “other side” doesn’t work. Because there really isn’t another side. We’re all in this together. Finding our common humanity works.

And if it works in a situation as crazy as mine was about five years ago, it will work again in our larger national crazy scenario.

I remember attending a school board meeting almost a decade ago. I was distraught over the lack of leadership within our school district, the lack of a clear direction. I asked a question of the school board president about how he planned to address the inequalities in access to modern technology throughout the district. His answer? Technology was a “niche.” Something the school board should not have to worry about—the PTA could take care of it.

A ridiculous, uninformed, unenlightened answer? Obviously. As I listened to him in disbelief, it hit me. I had been thinking all was being taken care of for our children because the “grownups” were in charge. Then I realized, “I AM the grownup.” And the people in charge were clueless.

I wish I could tell you I ran for school board. I did not. But, I did switch my son to a private school, one that gave him a stellar education. And—by the way—was rife with technology.

We are the grownups. Divorce, bitter election, the poor and hungry, discrimination—whatever we have to face, it’s always been up to us. Leaders serve at the pleasure of the people. Let’s focus on the areas of commonality—do you think our tax code makes sense? I don’t. Let’s allow our businessman president to get our financial house in better order. And healthcare? Let’s figure out a way for all of us to feel secure, to have choices.

Let’s be sure we’re paying attention and doing our part. And let’s start now. The wailing and rending of garments? It doesn’t do any good. Trust me. I tried it.

 

40 Comments Add yours

  1. I find Trump disgusting, but I appreciate you bringing in a Buddhist approach of loving kindness. That you were able to apply this technique to your divorce gives hope and proof ….it works!

    1. candidkay says:

      Thank you for being able to see the nuance in this piece. I personally dislike Trump. And I do not like what he stands for. But I also realize that fighting hate and bitterness with more hate and bitterness doesn’t work.

  2. Well put forth, my friend. This nasty business is a live wire you handled as diplomatically as I’d expect of you. And I am humbled by your response to your ex. Hope it’s been a good week.

    1. candidkay says:

      Thank you! I normally don’t write about politics, as people tend to not keep their wits about them when they read any commentary that involves politics-even if it’s not political :-). However, this election-these candidates-felt different. I just couldn’t imagine not addressing the elephant in the room.

  3. lisa74 says:

    I wrote this on my Facebook page yesterday: “How you doing out there? Focusing on the good you can bring to your neighborhood and community?? Because I work at the jail, I see patients who have made bad/horrible/shitty decisions every day. Patients who lack insight and have poor judgement. Yet, I don’t focus on all that is wrong because I’d be miserable every day. So if you are feeling frustrated, sad, angry, or fearful; know that we will get through this because there is more light in this country of ours than darkness. That if we each focus on what good we can bring, we will be ok…” And one of my favorite thoughts from this past week comes from Seth Meyers who said: “We are always better as a society when we have empathy for one another…” As always, nicely written

    1. candidkay says:

      Amen. You can’t get to light by focusing on dark. You have to have a vision and hold it, focusing on the pinpoint of light until it grows. I admire your ability to hold that light–I am sure it helps the inmates. Great op ed in New York Times today: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/17/opinion/a-12-step-program-for-responding-to-president-elect-trump.html?_r=0

  4. Mr. Trump is not only hateful, he is abusive. He is a liar, through and through, repeatedly. Already, he has changed his stance on the wall and on Obamacare. He made a promise to Chris Christie, now the purge occurs. Trump has admitted — as the Access Hollywood tape proves — he behaves in abusive ways. He leaves victims in his wake, right and left. No one wants to be a victim. They become victims. Sugarcoat all you like. It doesn’t change the fact a minority of voters has elected a hateful, racist, misogynist liar who is bankrupt in so many documentable ways. Make excuses, if you like. Paint yourself as an independent and cast aspersions on anyone of a liberal bent. Go where your delusions lead you, but don’t be surprised when you look around and realize your surroundings seem foreign, cheap and haunting. Tell us it does no good to play the role of victim. It also does no good to ignore reality, whether you are liberal, conservative or independent. Stand back and ask yourself: Is it really okay for him to condemn peaceful protesters when such behavior is protected by the Constitution? Get real. Look around. We’re at a very serious point.

    1. candidkay says:

      I’m going to answer in a very measured way and give you the benefit of a patience and understanding you are not giving me. Allow me to make myself clear: I am a fiscal conservative but a social liberal. So if you are mistakenly thinking that I am throwing aspersions on my liberal friends-and there are many of them-I am not. I am one of them. Kathy, I have read your blog and I know you can be thoughtful and measured. Your outrage is your choice and your right. I do not like many of Mr. Trump’s views, nor am I happy with the cabinet choices that are being considered. However, taking a victim stance is not an effective change agent. Name calling and outrage are never effective change agents. And I say that based on five decades on this planet. If you just want to bitch, then name call and get angry. But if you want change, you are going to have to change your tone. Otherwise, no one who differs from you will listen to you. I realize you may be at a different stage than I am-but I respect your right to hold your opinion. And I do expect you to respect mine. That’s called democracy.

    2. candidkay says:

      Jon Stewart says it well.

  5. Cindy says:

    Yes, yes, & yes! Very well said-!

  6. Susan says:

    The one and only piece of advice my dad gave me when I was going through my divorce was ” always behave like a grown up”. I still remember him saying it as I cried on his shoulder saying ” it’s just not fair.” So many parallels.

    1. candidkay says:

      Wise man. And I bet you don’t regret following his advice, hard as I’m sure it was.

  7. Eloquent and beautifully written. The ‘grown-ups’, as you rightfully put it, are often those least able to see the wood for the trees.

    1. candidkay says:

      Why is that, do you think? Stymies me.

      1. Blinkers. Cannot see past what they deem as being ‘right’ and have no inclination to change!
        Oh, and complacency. That too 🙂

      2. candidkay says:

        Not enough new experiences! Hence the complacency.

  8. Sage advice Kristine! Learning from our life experiences does give us a deeper understanding of life . These are encouraging words that are spoken from the heart.

    1. candidkay says:

      They are:). Thanks for recognizing that!

  9. Aunt Beulah says:

    This may sound like hyperbole. It is not. I think you are the most mature, self-understanding woman I know. I realize much of your wisdom and insight was hard-won and hard-taught, but you had the guts to do so. The people who have you in their lives are lucky. Your words also share you with us. We’re lucky.

    1. candidkay says:

      Oh, you brought tears to my eyes. What a compliment! And it means much coming from you, as you don’t usually gush. You explain things as you see them. Thank you so much for the lovely words. I hope I can live up to them . . .

  10. cindy knoke says:

    Interesting analogy, your traumatic divorce to a problematic man, and the election of Mr Trump. I went through a painful divorce and hold no grudges so I understand and respect your message about divorce. But we are in the engagement stage with Mr Trump, awaiting the honeymoon, and already thinking of divorce. This is different.

    1. candidkay says:

      Hmmm . . . I don’t think I was ever in the engagement stage with Mr.Trump. I think this is an arranged marriage for me, shotgun style:). That said, I don’t think this is so very different. I, at least, am faced with someone it would be easy to feel victimized by, given some of his stances. And I’m happy to report, I don’t feel victimized. I feel empowered to support what I believe in and move forward. That’s not politics–that’s just learning basic human nature.

  11. Elyse says:

    I have always thought that being nice to nasty people works. Plus it makes them feel rotten.

    I am one of the totally dejected people. I am close to the government, live in the DC area. The damage that Trump can do is significant, and it will have a lasting impact — the Supreme Court/Justice department peopled by the racists that are being vetted. Unless of course he gets his knickers in a twist and launches the nukes…

    If a normal candidate had become president I would agree with you wholeheartedly. And I did. Through Reagan. Through both Bushes. But not with Trump. So I will fight to maintain an inclusive America, however I can.

    1. candidkay says:

      I think many people will work to continue to make America more inclusive. Including me. And so it will be, because it is the will of the people (at least a slight majority).But I won’t be hateful. I won’t be divisive. I won’t sit, waiting to criticize every speech and executive order. I’ll put my energy to what I can accomplish. I hear you on Supreme Court justices–but they always fall to party lines. No matter who wins. I guess on that, I always have low expectations. Tell RBG she needs to stick with us for a while:).

    1. candidkay says:

      And she steps off the soapbox:).

  12. suemclaren24 says:

    Being a victim puts the power in the hands of the perpetrator; anger has its place. A firm, not a doormat volley = good plan.

    1. candidkay says:

      I see my friends feeling fear, which I completely understand. But succumbing to it is another matter entirely.

  13. modestly says:

    I totally applaud your stance – what a great way to show how the way forward is always possible. Your experience with your exhusband sounds tricky – all separations have their challenges – I had one too. But to face everything you meet with the intention to be fair and compassionate is the one approach that has hope in it. When the going gets tough, that’s when the hard work of overcoming the emotional response and meeting it with some degree of perspective, which has to include the other parties views. I would hug you if you were in front of me!!

    1. candidkay says:

      And I’d accept that hug! Hope is the key, right? And without fairness and compassion, it disappears–you’re so right. Thanks for the kind words and for reading.

  14. Amy says:

    Sound advice and sage wisdom for these turbulent times. All flags waving here, my dear friend! xxoo

    1. candidkay says:

      Thank you, as always, for reading and commenting:). Your support means a lot. XXOO

  15. George says:

    Excellent post, Kay. Your analogy is spot on and very well expressed.

    1. candidkay says:

      Thank you, George. I realize it’s a risk in applying the micro to the macro, but working up from commonalities seems to work regardless of scope.

  16. Kavita Chavda says:

    Totally agree with you. Very well expressed post!

    1. candidkay says:

      Thank you! Writing about anything remotely related to politics is always dicey, but given that is where we are at in the moment, seems odd to write about anything else.

      1. Kavita Chavda says:

        Yeah right. There’s chaos all around related to elections but the perspective you provided is wonderful!

  17. Eleanor McNear says:

    Nailed it.

    1. candidkay says:

      Thank you, friend:). I appreciate you reading and commenting!

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