This quote is posted on the bulletin board above my desk, hand-written on an index card. It's been there for so many years that it's begun to fade. Perls' sentiment may sound a bit fatalistic, but it's true. Despite the fact that I preach love and redemption for a living, I will take what is true over what is futile any day. I knew this about myself, but I was unaware how deeply-held that position was until this week.
When I say in my website bio that there are enough sad endings in real life, I know what I'm talking about. I've lost loved ones and friends the way most of us have—through drifting apart, through misunderstandings, through betrayal, and through death. I lost my little brother, the first best friend of my heart, to AIDS nine years ago this Christmas. I dreamed of him in the early hours of Wednesday morning, and woke up sobbing, overwhelmed by a profound sense of grief similar to losing him all over again. I realized in that moment that I had not been true to myself or his memory by staying quiet.
I haven't been publicly vocal about my political affiliations (until recently), for several reasons. One, I kinda thought my bleeding liberal heart was pretty obvious. I've always thought it funny that people use that phrase as an insult, because I've never considered it one. It's quite apt, actually. I would not be able to to experience intense empathy for those whose life experiences are not my own without it. To feel the things my characters feel without it. To write without it. This is my personal way of relating to other people in the world, and I would not change it if I could.
Second, I sincerely did not want to alienate people who felt differently from me. I preferred to maintain the chance that I could be an influence, while also remaining open to the possibility that I could be influenced in return. I am not incapable of altering or tweaking my opinions. And even in the places where I am staunchly aligned or opposed, I want my mind and heart open to why others feel, think, and believe as they do. A difference in belief is often a difference in perception, leaving no one wholly right or wrong.
Third, I simply didn't want to get into political debates with people outside my personal realm. I have a Facebook profile. On it are 100 friends and family members. I'd say roughly half of them voted for someone I wouldn't have supported had someone put a gun to my head in the voting booth. But they are still my friends and my family, and we are all still attempting to understand each other, though in most cases we've never been so divided and in some cases very little to no discussion of the elephant—or the donkey—in the room is happening.
So, then—this Fritz Perls quote and how it relates. When he says, "if by chance we find each other," I don't interpret that as reaching an agreement about how the nation should proceed and more than it would include agreement about every tiny detail leading to that very personal opinion or whether anyone should have ever decided that kale was an acceptable ingredient for a smoothie. I think it can be as small as finding a sliver of common ground and maintaining mutual respect based on our previously founded relationship at best and our very humanity at the least. Otherwise, we stay walled off to any opinions, beliefs, hopes, and fears but our own, and growth seldom comes from that.
I live a life of privilege. Some of that is earned; most of it is not. The newly elected administration will, in all likelihood, benefit me financially. But as I asked one of my opposite-side-of-the-political-line friends yesterday—at whose cost? My husband and I support several charities, and we've added to those donations since Tuesday. I will not keep any windfall from the next four years. It will come in and go right back out. That doesn't make me any less privileged; it makes me more so. But I promise you this. If you are scared or personally hurting, I care, and I don't give a damn which "side" you're on or who you voted for. And if you buy my books, I want to know what social organizations you want supported. I will consider them.
Since Tuesday night, I've seen a lot of people calling liberal folks crybabies because we lost the election. I'm sure there's a lot of crying over losing out there; I won't deny it. It's human! We all like to win. But losing wasn't my reason for Wednesday morning's sobfest. I cried because I'm afraid for all the non-privileged people who could be denied fair treatment in the coming four years. I cried for the realization that my country is more divided than I've seen it in my 51 years on this earth. I cried because I have no idea how we will ever mend that divide or what will be lost in the fray. I'm devastated by it, and I won't be ashamed of my grief. Our forefathers named our country the United States. I think they would cry, too.