Have you ever stood close to the edge of a cliff, and been afraid that you might accidentally jump off? Not because you want to or anything. Just that it crosses your mind. It’s illogical, of course, because jumping off would require going right to the edge, and consciously pushing off. But still, it crosses your mind that you might accidentally do it? Or that some unexpected thing will come along and push you off? It makes your insides turn a little when you stand from a distance, looking at the edge. You’re almost afraid of yourself.
I often scroll Facebook, come across important discussions, and sit here, hesitating. My truth, my comments will live on the tips of my fingers… and I don’t type them in. Actually, sometimes I type them in, and then delete them before posting them. My heart will be pounding at the prospect of saying what I really mean. Terrified that I will accidentally press “POST” and expose my comments to the public discourse.
What am I afraid of? I really don’t know. I write socially controversial lyrics in the music for Souljah Fyah. I know I am a love activist at heart. Somehow, though, it feels more appropriate when expressed in song. Safer even. Contrast that with the two-dimensional conversation on Facebook where people can say whatever they want – that is terrifying to me. It scares me how heated it can get, and how harsh it can feel when I am reading the comments of others. I can sometimes spend hours, wrapped up in how mean people are getting with each other, feeling into the pain and the violence of it all.
So I have developed a belief within myself that I am not equipped to participate in these conversations. That my opinions are not academic enough, or educated enough, and that adding my input to any important discussion will be social suicide, because I have nothing to back my position up except… how I feel. Participating in any thread that I feel passionate about will probably mean I am crying here all alone in my living room while strangers chew my heart up and spit it out. I am not exaggerating. This is how it feels to me. So no thanks.
There is also the complicating factor of having PTSD. Sometimes when confronted in a conversation, I start to shake. I can’t think, can’t reason. I want to run away but I am stuck. My brain can be cloudy for hours, or days. Sometimes I blank the incident out and have no recall of it later.
So as a result of of these various factors, when conversations arise, I have a habit of either keeping quiet and responding in my own head, or awkwardly throwing in my 2 cents, and then leaving quickly before I have to a. explain anything and b. have a meltdown (totally embarrassing)
However. Lately there has been a lot on my Facebook feed that has my attention. Vaccination. I don’t have a strong opinion either way in the debate, but what has my attention is how inhumanely people are treating each other over it. It is disturbing to me that some folks are really harsh and seem to forget that there are real people, real hearts behind the argument on each side. Another issue that has my attention is the increased violence toward people of color. The shootings, the missing persons, the victims of random and racially driven violence… these issues keep me up at night. The stories make me feel helpless. Often I want to weigh into the conversation. But I hold back. Again, sometimes throwing in one comment and then running as fast as I can before I have to back it up. Or before my heart breaks into a million pieces as I picture one more black man shot in cold blood by those who are meant to serve protect ALL of us.
I have felt trapped inside of my mind, with so much to say, and no trust in myself to just say it.
So today, something new happened.
I accidentally jumped off the cliff.
I saw a blogpost called “Bringing Much Needed Sanity to the Vaccination Debate”. I thought, YES. This can be helpful to bring the polarization into a conversation. Before I knew it, I just reposted it with the comment “This.”
Oh my gosh I wanted to delete delete delete. But you can’t climb back. You either plummet off the side of the cliff to your certain death, or you fly. (Listen, this is my metaphor, and yes, you can grow wings and fly if you truly believe.)
When comments started, I felt the confrontation begin. Delete!!
I didn’t delete. I wanted to delete. But I didn’t.
And I didn’t agree with the comments. There was going to be a debate. I started to panic.
I threw in a little comment and then ended it by saying, “I am NOT participating in this conversation”. (Yep. The one I had started. That’s what it looks like when I throw in my 2 cents and then run.)
Then the comments continued. So again, I quickly put in my request to not throw insults on the thread. Then I clearly stated “I will NOT be discussing this any further.” Fight, then Flight. Not effective. Also, not keeping my word.
Then something happened. A conversation started. And I noticed that I wasn’t shaking, crying, melting down. I managed to participate in it, with folks I consider to be dear friends. And I didn’t always have the same opinion as they did. I didn’t always like what they said. And I didn’t die.
This might sound like a little deal, but this was a biggie for me. Bringing my experience, my thoughts, my education, my opinions, my beliefs…. bringing ME to a difficult conversation…. was a big deal. Staying present, being brave, saying how I felt. Not freaking out. This is the first time I have done this – probably ever.
I hope they are still my friends. Maybe my biggest fear will come true that I have offended the people who mean so much to me that until now I didn’t risk bringing my whole self into any conversation at the risk that I would lose them.
But what I suspect is that my being honest has encouraged the carefully crafted politically correct people pleasing neverwantingtohurtanyonesfeelings Waymatea self to take a little break. Instead of hiding what may or may not be accepted by my friends, maybe there will be more richness in our conversations. This is an opportunity for honest discourse. Who knows where this could lead?