Look For Signs, by Jennifer Angelina Petro

Look for Signs

By

Jennifer Angelina Petro

 

 

Having bipolar disorder is like…is like…..

Huh? Oh, um…ideas are coming, just wait a second,

I must write them down.  One is about air

And how we all depend on it to lift us in our lungs

And in the tires of our bikes and cars;

The other is about the wings of demons

And what would happen if the wings

Became angels and decided not to carry the demons

Around anymore.  Wait, I’ll be right there.  I just have to

Get these ideas down so I don’t forget them.

Huh? If I don’t write them down the Muse

Might get angry and start ignoring me—

Passing me by when she’s handing out gifts—

Just…..wait a second.  No…..wait.  Don’t wait.

I am not sure how long this will take—the poems will suck

No matter how they turn out anyways—all my poems

Suck.  Why wouldn’t they?  I’m a piece of shit.

Huh? Why would I say that?  Because it’s true.

It’s also true I am a visionary and these ideas

That are coming—the one about air and the one

About the wings of demons—as soon as I turn them

Into poems they will change modern poetics forever.

Yes, even though they’re shitty.  Modern poetics suck too—

And I am a modern poet.  So…wait….if you want to.

I am going to write these ideas down before we talk—

The Muse is waiting, she won’t be denied.

Huh? Where is she?  She’s here, inside, and she’s there

Behind the moon and that tree.  She’s in your eyes…

Wait….there is another idea.  This one is about

How we talk with our hands, and wait, there is another.

This one is about why we feel it in our teeth

When we crunch snow with our boots.  Oh wait,

You don’t feel it in your teeth when you walk

Over snow and it makes a crunching sound?

Told you these poems would suck.  No. No. No.

I am not saying the gifts from the Muse suck.

No. Never.  Ever.  Her ideas are always pure gold—

It’s just they distill through me and I suck

Which, of course, colors the ideas, making the poems suck

That I make out of the ideas.  You see?  No?  It’s OK.

No one does.  Just know this—air lifts you

By your lungs and by the tires of your car, demon wings

Dream of rebelling and flying off the demon’s back,

And, and, the next time you walk over fresh, wet snow,

Touch your hand to your jaw and feel the crunch

From your boots shooting right there in your teeth,

And then, once you know these things—once you believe me

That she will be upset if I do not write them down right now—

Then, maybe you will understand, maybe you will know

What it’s like to be bipolar, but probably not—by the time

You catch a glimpse of understanding I will be

Dead.  It’s inevitable, isn’t it?  I mean, I cannot go on this way

Forever.  God wants me home and demons are clawing at my heels

And the depression is crushing my bones—I feel it

In my teeth, and then, and then, and then…Huh?  Why?

Why kill myself?  The ideas the Muse will give me

Bodiless will be heaven-flavored and better than ever.  But don’t worry.

I will get them to you somehow.

Look for signs.

 

 

 

 


 

 

 




Donations go towards paying medical bills. 

Inside Here, by Jennifer Angelina Petro

Inside Here

By

Jennifer Angelina Petro

 

 

Inside here:

Regimented, monitored, life-signs checked,

“It’s time to eat,” and, “attention please,

Level two trauma alert, ETA four minutes,

attention please, level two trauma alert, ETA four minutes,

attention please, level two trauma alert, ETA four minutes.”

 

The meditation room is off limits right now

Since they don’t have anyone to keep an eye on me

While I pray.

 

“Attention please, level three trauma alert, ETA now,

attention please, level three trauma alert, ETA now,

attention please, level three trauma alert, ETA now.”

 

Inside here:

Suffering, shock-brained-slow-moving/talking people

Try to be friendly, “Welcome to the party,” another patient says

As I enter the craft room, “You are who you are,” she says

As I sit down amidst the stares, Zen-doodle coloring books,

Beads, tempera paints, crayons, and colored pencils,

And start to draw a golden dragon.  “You are

Who you are,” I say to myself as I add crimson wings

To the dragon that open out over a valley of Saint George’s

And Saint Michael’s—swords drawn—

Waiting for me to land.

 

 

 


 

 

 




Donations go to helping me pay medical bills. 

The Muse, the Wissahickon Creek, and the Acceptance of Having Bi-Polar Disorder, By Jennifer Angelina Petro

 

The Muse, the Wissahickon Creek, and the Acceptance of Having Bi-Polar Disorder

By

Jennifer Angelina Petro

 

me-in-hospital

 

I always wondered why the anti-depressants didn’t work very well.  I always wondered why I wanted to save the world, channel spirits, rescue entire schools full of children from a raging fire, make 600 videos in less than 2 years, in addition to writing over 300 blog posts during that same time frame.  I always wondered why I would crash and burn after euphoric creative highs.  Oh, I had heard of bi-polar disorder, but honestly, I didn’t believe it existed.  “Everyone’s bi-polar,” I thought, and “My creativity, my relationship with the Muse, are holy, boundless, and good.”  I could not deny some of my ideas were extremely grandiose, sometimes absurd in their audacity, but I loved them.  “I am a visionary,” I thought with great pride, and then I would sink back into my chair and fantasize about saving a pregnant woman from a fiery car crash leaving my audacious ideas to wallow in the dust of inaction.

I always wondered why I was hyper sexual (sexual abuse not withstanding) most of my life, and why I would spend money on things I didn’t need but knew would help me fulfill my wild ideas and creative plans.  I always wondered why radically strong bliss would come to me in a song, a poem, a story, a cat named Mowgli, a kirtan concert, or even a fantasy of becoming a spiritual leader.  And if the creativity appeared to stop for a second or too, I became agitated, restless, brooding with greatness and would steep myself in addictive behaviors—sex, money, religion, relationships, food—desperately trying to jump start the creativity and rapturous feelings.

During these times of elated creativity poems and songs and stories would come to me at night and I would be so happy and grateful and stay up deep into the night—regardless of having to get up to teach—to honor the ideas flowing through and to me.  Insomnia became a strange bedfellow.

Sometimes the ideas came so fast and furiously I couldn’t concentrate or focus on one thing for more than a few moments—one project inspired another and the first project would go unfinished while the next one was the answer, only to have them both be left in the dust for another, even greater idea, religion, girlfriend, vision, song.  I would ignore family, friends, responsibilities of all kinds to devote all of my energy to my creativity.  Ideas would come while I was teaching, walking, shopping, and I would write them down for fear I would forget them.  I felt touched with fire and in so tightly with the Muse that I was special, gifted, I daresay, divine.

And then I would crash, sometimes literally in a car accident or severe health issue, but most of the times just emotionally and energy-wise, and I wouldn’t get out of bed for days—depression would wrap itself around me like a dark cloak and pull ever tighter.  The ideas, the poems, the songs, the stories would just stop and I would feel like I must have offended the Muse in some way.  And the self-hatred would creep in and weave its way into the dark cloak (gender dysphoria notwithstanding), and I would wish I was dead.  Nothing mattered anymore.  My ideas, values, my mission and vision-board were stupid, fucked up, impossible, and fool-hearted.  And so, I would slip into addictions—sex, money, religion, relationships, food—trying desperately to recapture some of the euphoria I was bathing in just a few days before the depression came.  Insomnia would slip into my bed and keep me awake with thoughts of what a horrible person I was, or what I should have said the day before, year before, or how I should kill myself. There was no hope, no reason to live.  I didn’t have writer’s block because some poems snuck through the cloak and wrote themselves.  I would forget ideas I had just days prior to the depression—ideas, projects, stories, that I just knew were the best ever, but I would forget them in an instant never to look at them again.

Then slowly, after weeks of dark, brooding, pitiful, self-centered, hopelessness, and self-hatred, something would snap and suddenly there I would be—an idea exploding in my head or heart or body and I knew what I had to do, and I was off and running towards a new, more powerful mania.

For some reason, I didn’t give all of this a second thought.  I dismissed people who would tell me they thought I was bi-polar.  I was a visionary, creative eccentric, a misunderstood, not recognized-enough-spiritual giant.  My depressions were because of the abuse, heredity, dysphoria—not because of a mood disorder.  The episodes people would refer to as “manic” were beautiful, boundlessly energetic times that brought such elation, recognition, and bliss they could never be part of a disorder.  They couldn’t be unhealthy.

Well, it turns out they were.

My cycles of wild creativity and intense depression were getting shorter in duration and more intense. The manic times brought with them ideas of such grandiosity I am embarrassed to share them with you, but I will anyway with the hopes they might help someone somewhere who has had similar thoughts—if not in content, but in flavor.  The most recent ones involve me single-handedly bringing down the Trump/Pence regime with my prayers, angelic-channeled writings, and my infinite wisdom and compassion.  I would love them into changing their ways.  After they were elected I truly believed I would save America with Oneness, charm, and songs of peace.  In addition, I also honestly believed I was from another planet.  I was sent here you see (put in the wrong body–hence being transgender) to save my home planet which existed in a faraway, different dimension.  Of course, I kept most of these ideas to myself, but would let them leak out into my Facebook posts and blog posts.

The depressions too brought with them equally embarrassing ideas—like I was the worst human being ever made, that I was unforgivable, unlovable, and gradually it brought more and more specific ideas and plans about committing suicide.  I would slice my wrists with a utility knife that I kept by my bedside while lying back in the Wissahickon Creek, letting my blood become one with the ancient waters and surrounding trees.  My children, my students, and those who loved me would say: “Oh, I am so glad she is finally not suffering.  Thank goodness she is at peace.”  These thoughts of suicide and bizarre self-pity became more and more frequent and harder and harder to stop from entering my head until last week I was convinced beyond the shadow of a doubt that I was going to kill myself.  I tossed and turned all night Tuesday, November 29th because the thoughts of suicide were screaming, yelling, whispering, hissing, and spitting in my head—their every word splashing like black paint on the insides of my skull.  I couldn’t stop them, and I couldn’t refute them, and I couldn’t deny them.

I finally got out of bed Wednesday, November 30, took the utility knife, put on my coat and boots, began walking out the door to drive to Kitchen’s Lane where the part of the Wissahickon was that would disperse my blood.  I wasn’t going to leave a note.  There was no time.  I had to kill myself that morning.  It had to be done right then—no time for notes.  As I walked closer to my car, I fantasized about who would find me and when.

And then, something stopped me.  I honestly don’t know what it was, nor do I care.

I stood outside in the cold shaking, weeping, and then, I just turned around, went back inside, and called the crisis center.  And with help from my ex-wife and our oldest son, I got to the crisis center scared, confused, guilty, hating myself beyond belief, and yet I was alive and seeking help.

I spent a week in the Psyche Ward at Abington Memorial Hospital and was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder.  I’m home now, suicide-thought free, relieved, still scared, raw, vulnerable, and yet alive and seeking help—and finding and accepting it.

My name is legally Jennifer Angelina Petro, and I am a transgender woman who has bi-polar mood-disorder, PTSD, OCD, and anxiety issues.  I am also a mother, sister, teacher, poet, singer/songwriter, artist, lover of dragons and all things steeped in innocence—children, flowers, elemental beings, angels, and trees.  And I am OK.  It may take years to sort through my treatment and medications, and I will talk about my fears of losing my creativity because of my meds to anyone who will listen, and I will keep creating.  And who knows, perhaps my creativity will become more clear, more focused, more crystalline and more beautiful?  Perhaps my best poems, songs, stories, and adventures await me?  I am doing my best to believe that.

And yes, I am still unemployed, single, and these both scare me, but I am taking steps to learn to cope with these better than I had been doing.

I know I will still cycle in my moods, and yet I feel hopeful that I will be OK.

That’s the story my beloved readers.  I love you so.  We’ve been together for almost six years.  Thank you so very much for sticking with me on this wild, wondrous ride.  Here’s to self-acceptance, self-love, and growing as a human being–loving, being loved, giving love, singing, glad to be alive.

 

 

 


 

 





Initial Reflections on Changing My Name, By Jennifer Angelina Petro

Initial Reflections on Changing My Name

By

Jennifer Angelina Petro

crystal-unicorn

 

Today I got word the courts approved my name change.  I am officially Jennifer Angelina Petro. I am challenged to put into words just how happy this makes me feel, but you know I’m going to try.

Imagine being misgendered for 47 years.  Imagine the dissonance caused by not knowing who I really was, and that not knowing boiling subterranean in my consciousness–simmering like molten metal for decades before I knew what was going on.  The dissonance permeated all areas of my life and I didn’t know what it was about.  The only thing I knew was that something was wrong.   What that something was however, was a mystery.

When the molten metal finally spilled over into my conscious life and sent my armor melting to bits I realized the truth:  I am a woman.  Always have been.  No matter what the doctors said, no matter what my name said, no matter what my place in life as a parent and spouse said—I am a woman.  I have spoken many times about the euphoria that came with the realization—the centeredness, the completeness, the sheer joy and utter amazement.  And despite my life circumstances being rather in shambles, that certainty and joy about knowing who I am remains.

And now the courts have given their blessing on my name change.  And while the happiness at this news is great—beyond great—it is tinged with melancholy.  Joseph has been gradually fading more and more off stage since Spring 2015.  And he has done so with class and grace.  I have also written before about how much I love and respect Joseph for keeping me safe all those years.  He wants me center stage.  He wants living this one, wild, and tender life.

And yet as I watch him go I realize in a very real sense he was never there—not in fullness and in truth.  Joseph lived a ghost-life, a phantom life—dissociating everywhere he went.  And he did so to distract the world from me in order to keep me safe until the time was right and ripe for my arrival into the conscious reality of who I am as Jennifer.

So, in truth I was never male, no matter what my body looked like and the things it did.  I have always and ever been female.  I have always and ever been Jennifer.  Joseph was a cloak.  Jennifer the soul and spirit—and yes, she is the cloak too.  No matter what was in my pants or what I thought I was or the world thought I was—Jennifer is the one and only reality of who I am.  And it is my hope your love, acceptance, friendship, and desire to be in relationship with me isn’t conditional based upon what was or is in my pants, or what was or is my name, gender marker, gender identify, or sexual preference.

Esoteric thoughts aside, I am moved to tears as I embrace fully this next stage of my journey.  Jennifer Angelina Petro can now be announced to the world.  Oh, sure there is much paper work to do and forms to fill out and I am sure there will be a fair share of hassles and rigmarole, but it’s OK.  I know who I am.  And little by little, as all the paper work gets finished, my name—my chosen name to represent ME will become more and more accepted in the wider world.

I am grateful for the legal department at the Mazzoni Center, and in particular, Barri Friedland.  She was the shepherdess who helped guide this lost soul to her true name.  In a very real sense I can plug in the words “I once was Joseph, but now am Jennifer,” to the tune of Amazing Grace.  Yes, I know, I have always been Jennifer, but the point is I was lost as Joseph and didn’t even know it.  Barri, and the legal team at the Mazzoni Center, worked pro-bono to be sure Jennifer was found and embraced by the whole world.  I am so grateful.

Thank you for loving me and sticking with me all these years.

 

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On Thinking, An Angel and Child Story, by Jennifer Angelina Petro

On Thinking,

An Angel and Child Story

By

Jennifer Angelina Petro

 

 

 

“Good morning little one,” said the Angel.

“Morning Angel,” said the child.

“You look like you have a question,” said the Angel.

After a short moment thinking, the child said: “Yes, I do.”

“You’re welcome to share it with me, although I cannot guarantee I have the right answer.”

“You always have the right answer.”

“I try.  Now what is your question, dear one?”

“Well,” began the child, “I keep thinking this nasty thought—about some of my friends getting hurt—not that I am the one hurting them or even want them hurt—it’s just that this thought keeps coming out of nowhere of them getting hurt somehow, and I don’t like it.”

“I see,” said the Angel.

“And I feel like I can’t stop that thought from being in my mind, and I don’t want it there.  What can I do?”

“Well,” offered the Angel, “You could think a different thought.”

“No, I can’t,” said the child, “It’s just there.  I can’t help it.”

“You could try,” said the angel.

“How?”

“Every time the nasty thought comes, catch it, like a fly in a web, and then tuck it over and away, and then, think a different thought.”

“What do you mean?”

“Just what I said.”

“How do I catch a thought?”

“As soon as you realize it’s in your mind catch it, stop the tape, hold the phone, freeze the frame—whatever you want to call it—just notice there’s the thought in your mind you don’t like.”

“And then?”

“And then think a different one—one you do like.”

“That’s impossible,” said the child sitting down defeated on her bed.

“It takes practice,” said the Angel, “You see, we’re so used to believing we have no say, no control, no intentions for what goes through our heads, that we believe we’re helpless to choose thoughts we like.”

“It feels helpless,” said the child, “That thought goes through my mind a million times a day.”

“Some people are helpless,” said the Angel, “they have illnesses that makes it so they need support from outside to help them order their thoughts.”

“What if I am one of the helpless ones?” asked the child.

“Then we get you help,” said the angel, “For now, try it.  After all, a thought is just a picture zooping around your mind’s eye.  When a picture comes you don’t like, freeze it right there in its tracks, and then pick a different picture to look at.”

“That sounds hard,” said the child.

“It might be,” said the Angel, “and often difficult things are the most rewarding. And besides, it can also be fun—a new adventure in thinking.  Think of it like that—an adventure.”

“So, when I think of my friends getting hurt, I catch that picture—like a fly in a web, and then think of a happy picture?  Does it have to be about my friends?”

“That’s a good idea,” said the Angel, “That way you’ll still be thinking about your friends but instead of focusing on a picture of them being hurt you can focus on a picture of them being happy, healthy, surrounded by Light.”

“Will you help me?” asked the child.

“Of course,” said the Angel.

“OK,” said the child, “here goes.”

And as the image of her friends getting hurt raced across the screen of her mind, the child stopped it—froze it right where it was, and then, after taking a deep breath, and asking the Angel’s help, created a different picture—one in which her friends were happy, playing, and dancing.

“I did it!” shouted the child.

“I knew you could,” said the angel.

“Wait,” the child said, sinking down into the bed, “the nasty thought is back.  It didn’t work.”

“It did work,” said the Angel, “It’s just you might need to do it several times, or a hundred times to get the chosen thought to stick.  After all, you said you’ve been thinking the nasty thought a million times a day.  It’s like you’ve created a groove or an easy pathway for it to be there.  Now it’s time to create another path.  You can do it.”

And so, the child did it again.

“It worked,” said the child.

“And it will work over and over, especially the more you feed your mind happy, loving, healthy, positive images.  And,” said the Angel, “this will help too.” Suddenly the Angel drew a golden sword from out of the blue.  The sword was long, brilliantly shining like the sun, and gleaming with sharpness and power.  She laid the sword across her hands and offered it to the child.

“What?!” The child said, her eyes like saucers, her heart racing, her mind afire with wonder, “A sword?!”

“This will help too,” said the Angel, “use it wisely.”

“But, I’m just a kid.  I can’t use a sword like that!”

“I wouldn’t share it with you if I thought you couldn’t use.  It is alright.  It will fit in your hand, and maybe seem heavy, but it will always swing light as a feather and more powerful than lightening when you need it.”

“Wow,” the child said, standing up to take the mighty sword into her hands.  She felt its weight, its power.  “Does it have a name?” she asked.

“Yes,” said the Angel, “It does.  It is called, Truth.  Use it when the lies come.”

“Thank you, Angel,” said the child, raising the sword in front of her, “I think this will help.  I think this will help indeed.”

 

 

 


 

 

 





Lover and Beloved: Today, by Jennifer Angelina Petro

Lover and Beloved: Today

By

Jennifer Angelina Petro

 

“Lover,” said the Beloved, “Every morning you pray to me saying: ‘I offer you this day.  I surrender to your will, please give me the power to carry that out,’ which is, of course, a lovely prayer.

“Today I want you to try listening.  You see, I am the one offering this day.  It is yours—a gift I freely give to you and to all.  I want to surrender to your will, my Lover.  Tell me what your will is—I want to know and lavish you with whatever it is you want and need.  Of course, I already know what you want, and it is important for you to tell me—for that is what lovers do—they express their desires openly to one another, so that each knows how to please the other best.  And of course, I have the power to carry anything out, and so do you—that is another gift I give to you—freedom to use my power.  It is yours.

“So, Lover—I offer you this day.  I surrender to your will.  I give you the power to do the things you want and need to do.  Speak to me.  Tell me your desires.  This day was made for you.”

 

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Where I Belong, by Jennifer Angelina Petro

Where I Belong

By

Jennifer Angelina Petro

 

 

Sitting in my one room efficiency—a place I have come

To call, my burrow, I find myself

Looking back at memories of my life

And what I see are little trails—

Soundless except my mind gives them sound—

Little trails that veer off into woods

Or branch out into other trails–

They show events and conversations—

Happening right there in the path—

People emerge from the tall grass,

Say their lines, then disappear once again back

Into the field, and as I think of these memories

Some rise around bends, like mountains,

Others like bodies of water, and still others

Like wide valleys of snow, and I realize

I am not really looking back, but forward—

Looking for where the trails lead, if in fact

They lead anywhere—

For the very idea of going from here to there—

Of starting out and then winding up someplace—

Of following the trajectory of an event–

Suddenly seems effortlessly silly.

 

Where am I going?  What gives me the right

To go even imagine I am going anywhere?

Why do I suppose that this life leads somewhere

Or to some time? Why do I need to know

It has a happy ending?

 

Sitting here, alone, in the silence of my books,

I stop roaming the trails and foothills

Of memory, and instead, write this down–

And suddenly the answer appears before me—

Ink spilling form forward leaving letters as trails

And I am full of the emptiness that I have to

Go anywhere.

 

Here, with you,

Is where I belong.

 

 

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Help For Christmas

Dear Friends,

This year marks the first Christmas I will be unable to buy anything for my kids. I realize that’s a pretty good record, and yet, my heart breaks knowing I do not have the resources to buy presents this year–for my kids or anyone else.

Yes, they will understand.  Yes, I can make them things, write them things.  I know.  And there are also things they need and want in their young lives that I would love to help them with.

If you are able, please send along a donation below that I promise to use towards purchasing gifts for my three sons.

Thank you with all my heart.

Jennifer

 





Some Thoughts on Seeing, by Jennifer Angelina Petro

Some Thoughts on Seeing

by

Jennifer Angelina Petro

 

Vision depends on the amount of light the eye bends to its uses. The retina sees things upside down and needs the brain to flip the images right side up. As evening comes, the eyes tire and rebel against the light, and sleep passes over, closing them for the night.  And we dream, creating light inside ourselves, until dawn comes, awakening light within light, and we are flooded with things to touch and see, taste and smell, in short, to celebrate with our whole being.

Today, as the amount of light coming in from the world appears to be thinning, lessoning, I will make it my work to seek out more light and keep the aperture of the soul open. I will make it my work to create more light with sparks of humor or song, kindnesses and attention, calm words and softness of speech. And if I begin seeing things upside down, I will depend on the ideas of others to correct the image.

And if a time comes when the soul constricts–from fear or pain, closing off the light, then I will make it my work to seek out ways to ease the soul into opening, to coax it to look for, and to see, oceans of light in the hearts and minds of everyday people on everyday streets in everyday homes and towns across America.

Of course, sometimes the soul requires sleep and a time to dream its own dreams, some of which we never see.  And in those times of holy darkness, when I must become the moon to my soul, then I will sing in whispers and move quietly about the house so that my soul may rest.  And I will do the same for yours.  If your soul wearies and needs time to replenish its rivers and suns, then I will sing softly to you until you sleep without fear.

I am awake, and it is not too late.  In the soul’s time it is early, always early, and I open the pupils of my mind to new opportunities for vision and possibilities for drawing in more light through service and singing.  I allow the world to see the iris of my heart, risking everything to stand on the solid ground of peace—eyes wide open, looking for you.

 

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Our Only Hope, A Solution No One Wants to Hear, by Jennifer Angelina Petro

Our Only Hope

A Solution No one Wants to Hear

By

Jennifer Angelina Petro

 

 

Have you ever been so afraid that you went against your core values and morals?  Have you ever been so scared you stopped thinking clearly, gave into fear, and just reacted?  Let’s take a very minor scenario:  Have you ever been late to something—your kid’s soccer game or work, and you drove recklessly, disobeying speed signs, traffic signals, and disregarded your own safety and the safety of those around you, and so on?

When we are desperately afraid of losing something or someone we hold dear we can become frantic, mean, thoughtless, and so rigidly determined to do everything we can not to lose what we love that we stop listening to our hearts or consciences.

What would make a thoughtful, intelligent, perhaps even religiously minded person, vote for Donald Trump?

Fear.  And nearly half the country voted for him.

Not every Trump supporter is a racist.  Many however come from rural America where a kind of poverty exists that is rarely talked about.  Jobs are hard to find in the city.  Jobs are hard to find around farmlands and old coalmining towns.

Imagine along comes a wretched human being who claims to have a solution, who feeds your fears to such a degree that you look past his immorality so desperate you are to save your family, your town, your farm, your family business, your values.

Imagine fear seeping into your heart so much that it effects your reasoning.  You might become afraid of everything that moves, everything that’s different from what you have always known.  And as more fear is poured into you the more desperate you become for some thread of security even if it is presented in ways that make little sense or by someone abhorrent.

Are the poor living in rural areas victims?  Are the poor living in the inner cities victims?  People do desperate things in the inner city for money.  People do desperate things in the country for money.  And not just for money, but for opportunities they feel aren’t there for them—opportunities for jobs, college, healthcare.  The overriding issue of desperation is the same.

If you have never allowed your morals and values to be set aside for even something seemingly minor, then you are a better person than me.  Thing is, if Trump gets impeached or assassinated (and Pence chokes to death on a piece of beef) we would still have half the country that believed their wretched ideology.  To me, voting for Trump was a horribly desperate call for help and change.  And maybe an inner change so fundamental that some people don’t even realize how unconsciously they acted.

If you ask Trump supporters why they voted for him they might say something like this:

“We want change.  We are tired of the average politician.  We are afraid of this group or that group.  We are afraid of terrorists.  We are afraid we will lose our farms, our businesses, we are afraid of not having work—jobs, opportunities, access to healthcare and education—we live in rural areas where the poverty we experience often goes unnoticed.  We are afraid our values are being taken from us. And some of us are scared enough to overlook our candidate’s racism, bullying, and misogyny because we believe he offers the best chance of getting us out of this mess. Anything but politics as usual.  That scares me.”

If you ask someone who voted for Hillary they might say something like this:

“We want change (i.e. a woman president).  We are tired of the average politician.  We are afraid of this group or that group.  We are afraid of domestic terrorists.  We are afraid we will lose our homes, our businesses, we are afraid of not having work—jobs, opportunities, access to healthcare and education—we live in urban areas where the poverty we experience gets noticed but little done to solve it.  We are afraid our values are being taken from us. And some of us are scared enough to overlook our candidate’s record on war and big business, and cronyism, because we believe she offers the best chance of getting us out of this mess, and besides, she isn’t him.  He scares me.”

Both sides are based in fear.  And the more the fear grows the more frightening our actions become.  We might sacrifice our family time because we have to pay the bills.  We might sacrifice family traditions for the same reason.  We might sacrifice our values and morals for the same reasons also.  We might manifest a call-out culture to distract ourselves from ourselves and the perhaps directionless state our lives may be in.  We might manifest hideous ideas about Muslims and people of the LGBTQIA spectrum.  We might become willing to fight for beliefs that stem from fear and a gut-wrenching desperation.

And there is little hope.  It feels as if the nation is on the brink of civil war or, at very least, massive civil unrest, and both sides operating from fear, and both sides believing they are in the right.  And like every good kindergarten brawl, both sides will wreck everything in their path to get what they want.

We must find a way to bring together—at risk of over simplifying the image–the country mouse and the city mouse.  We must find a way to ease one another’s fears.  Somehow, someway conversations need to happen between the alt-right and the alt-left.  Somehow dialogs must begin so we can personalize and humanize one another instead of viewing one another through the narrow lenses of stereotypes.  Both sides stereotype, that cannot be denied.

How to get these conversations started is another story.  We need brave, strong moderators.  We need people who can listen and set aside their own fears and prejudices long enough to hear someone out (or in).  Both sides must look past the deeds and ideologies of one another and see the fear in each other’s eyes and the soul of light wanting to be safe.

These conversations need to happen on all levels, but first and foremost Hillary (or Bernie) supporters must reach out to Trump supporters and vice-a-versa.  Difficult conversations need to happen around dinner tables or in living rooms.  These need to then spread to places of worship, and then perhaps schools and town halls, but it starts with us trying to make bridges with one another instead of unfriending and cutting each other out of our lives.

“I hate you!” the kindergartener shouts when scared and angry that they don’t get what they want.

And then the building blocks get thrown.  And people get hurt.

We must be better than this.  And it starts with difficult conversations.

And let’s be clear, the conversations wouldn’t be about trying to convince one another about who is right or wrong.  The conversations should focus around certain fundamental questions such as:

 

1). What is your biggest fear?

2). Do you have enough money to eat?

3). What are you afraid of losing?

4). Do you need anything by way of healthcare or visits to a doctor?

5). How can I help?

6). Does anyone in your family need a tutor or a babysitter?

7). What do you value most in this world?

8). What are your spiritual beliefs?  Tell me about them.  Let’s find common ground.

9). What causes you the most pain—emotionally, physically, spiritually?

10). Are you willing to pray with me?  Share a meal with me?  Be seen in public with me?

11). Who is your favorite music star?  Play me something by them.  Tell me why you like them.

12).  What are your favorite family traditions?

13).  What is one of your most cherished memories?

14). What were your dreams growing up?  What are your dreams now?

15). Where did your ancestors come from?

16). What talents do you have?  Hobbies?  Interests?  Weird habits?

17). What things do we have in common?

18). What is your favorite joke?

 

And, of course, the list could go on, or be simplified.  The point is to ask questions that help draw us together, that help us see the soul in one another, the spirit, the basic humanity, the pain, the joy.

As I see it these conversations are our only hope.  The alternative to coming together is living in a consciously divided country that may or may not end well, and, we all know, likely not well–is, well, the more likely scenario (how’s that for a sentence?).

It’ll never happen! I hear you cry!  As a transperson I am never sitting with an alt-right “Christian.”  As an alt-right Christian I am never sitting with a Muslim!”

Yes, these conversations would be risky and painful, and both sides might sit before one another feeling unsafe or even threatened.  But does either side feel safe now sitting in front of their computers posting angry, fear-based things to rationalize and justify more fear and separation?  Does either side feel safe on the streets?  After all, terrorists of one kind or another are everywhere, guns drawn, bombs at the ready, aren’t they?  I believe we are greater than this—greater than our fears and differences—real or imagined.

I also believe the more we say these conversations will never help or never happen the more we expose ourselves to be just as stridently rigid as those we fear.

I also believe it must be the young people of this country to first take up the challenge of bringing one another together in conversation.  The less hardened, the less frightened, perhaps.  The less indoctrinated.  Then, once young people get the ball rolling, I believe the rest of us can follow their lead.  And speaking of leading:

Some may say we need strong leadership to make these conversations happen, but I disagree.  The people must lead in this instance.  The top is not to be trusted.  It needs to begin with the people. We must take charge of bringing each other together, of trying to heal the painful divisions that exist between us, of trying to see one another as human beings—frightened, desperate human beings frantic to not lose what they so hold dear, even if what they hold dear seems foreign to us, or threatening, or even repugnant.  We must learn to listen in such a way as to allow ourselves to be vulnerable enough to recognize ourselves in the eyes of another.

Maybe it’s too late for hope, or for peace.  Maybe both sides are so deeply and fundamentally afraid that they are creating the very world they fear.  Maybe we all have a deep-seeded death-wish based on massive hopelessness and fear.  Maybe we don’t want a solution.  Maybe we believe it all needs to get torn down in order to get rebuilt the way we like it.  Maybe we all want out because we see no way out and are tired and afraid, and war seems, at least unconsciously, the best alternative.

I am trying hard not to think that way.  I believe in America.  I believe we are a great nation with people full of passion, ideas, creativity, boundless generosity, humor, warmth, kindness.  We must begin believing in one another and to do so we must see each other’s humanity.  We can do this.  We have done hard things before.  I believe in us.  I believe in you.

May our nation be blessed.