A Faraway Place, By Jennifer Angelina Petro

A Faraway Place

For Shannon

By

Jennifer Angelina Petro

 

 

She nods politely, smiling dutiful smiles at the nurses

As she walks outside into the yard where patients are permitted

To take in some silent sun;

 

She finds the bench she thinks is her favorite—

The one nearest the gate post; she sits, closes her eyes,

Inhales deeply until she grows still as a summer afternoon;

 

Inside she moves from garden to infinite garden, like

A hummingbird—her wings invisible in the honeysuckle atmosphere,

Her memories lifting, one by one, like so many pink petals

From the weeping cherry.

 

Where does the hummingbird go after it startles from the trumpet flower,

And vanishes, like retreating emerald lightning,

Back into the sky?

 

There are difficult questions and difficult answers, except here—

For when she lifts from her body, she will rise, dancing

In the weeping cherry petals letting go into the sun,

And one by one, her memories will return, like so many lost children,

And she will stand among them, arms open, welcoming them home.

 

 

 


 

 

Donations for this post will go to an Alzheimer’s foundation


Redemption, By Jennifer Angelina Petro

Redemption

By

Jennifer Angelina Petro

 

 

It’s here.

Like spring in winter,

Like joy in grief

And grief in joy,

Like the answer

In a question,

And the question

In an answer.

Like you,

Like me.

 

It’s here.

Being revealed.

Like morning,

Like evening,

Like healing,

Like you in me,

And me in you,

Like truth,

And the way,

Like the end,

And the beginning.

 

It’s here.

Shining,

Shadowed,

Singing,

Beckoning,

Searching,

Found,

Like you in me,

Like me in you,

Like the road

Open to all.

 

 

 


 



Finding the Field, By Jennifer Angelina Petro

Finding the Field

By

Jennifer Angelina Petro

 

 

 

It’s there.

Inside.  And that

Is so easy

For me to say.

And for that, I am

Ever grateful.  For you,

It may not be.

The furthest thing

May be a field

Inside you.

It might be so far

Away it may as well

Not even be there.

You might be

Full of vast ink-

Oceans and fog

That moves as if

It was alive—the darkness

Might be so all

Encompassing you

Can’t imagine

Anything else in there.

Try this though—

Close your eyes, and take

As slow, deep a breath

To the count of four as you can,

Hold it gently to

The count of four,

Then exhale slowly

To the count of four,

Do this sequence three times

And then low

A field appears

In front of you, watch—

It might be golden wheat,

It might be soft green

And full of flowers,

It might be a field

Of sunflowers stretching as far

As the eye can see.

See the golden field

Sway as the wind touches

Each strand with so much

Tenderness, see how the field

Ripples with a river of joy from the touch,

See it—the sun—raying exquisitely

Humming light—honeyed

And warm; and see

Blue sky arching over

A perfectly color-

Coordinated relationship

With the field.

Notice you are

Standing just outside

The field. Realize

The wheat, the grass, the wild flowers

Nearly all come up

To your waist–

Except the sunflowers—

See them bowing their heads

To smile upon you—

And there you are just

On the edge of the field.

You reach out your hand,

And brush the top of the grass.

Now, you can either step into the field

Or you can turn around

Back to whatever it is

That’s behind you.  There

You have a choice:

Brilliant, luminous light-touched

Field, darkness that isn’t

The nourishing kind, but draining.

Whatever it is you choose,

Know this:  you now have

A field inside you,

And it will always be there,

It always has been there

Swaying beneath the breath

Of the one who loves you.

The next step is not just

Up to you.  I mean, it is, and also

There are forces–

Currents and hands

Pushing and pulling, guiding,

Persuading, nudging, influencing

The way.  And there are the ones

Who, for whatever the reasons

Cannot choose—illnesses of many kinds

Perhaps inhibit the ability to freely choose—

Those will all be born along

And cared for as they bloom

Into full health and radiance.

For those who can, and I believe

You are one of them—you

Are blessed to be able to choose. Finally, there

Appears a thousand fireflies

Floating and bobbing,

Right there, in the daylight,

Illuminating light upon light,

And whatever you do

When the time comes to decide,

Remember this: there is field inside you,

Swaying beneath the breath of the one

Who loves you.

 

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All donations go to medical bills and groceries.  Thank you so much for your kind support. <3


That Stubborn Superhero, by Jennifer Angelina Petro

That Stubborn Superhero

By

Jennifer Angelina Petro

 

 

Out in nature, which is

To say, in us—it happens

This way:

 

The longest night comes

Filling what little day there is left

With thinly veiled darkness,

That, veil after veil, begins

To cover the day, like

A shawl thrown in slow motion

Over a lamp.

 

After the night has had its run,

It slowly—you’d better believe it—

Shrinks back to a more manageable size,

It contracts as the day exhales,

And with each exhalation, spring,

Moment by seemingly imperceptible

Moment—swells with such joy

It can barely contain itself.

 

And the light begins to coax the darkness

Into slipping away into time and to allow

Itself to grow its slow, wild warmth.

 

We have all gone through darknesses

That seemed to last forever—

At least—I have—when I couldn’t

Believe any light would ever come

Ever, ever, again, and that the abyss

Of not being able to see or hardly move

Would enshroud me forever.

 

If this has ever happened to you,

Or maybe is happening to you

Right now—believe it—spring always

Comes—little by hardly noticeable little

Darkness becomes less and less

And seeds of exhaultation can’t wait

To burst into flowers and tangible light.

 

I am not saying all darkness is bad.

There is a holy darkness, touched

With water and earth, where fireflies

Bedazzle the night, where love-making

Eases us into the sweetest sleep.

 

I am talking about the darkness

That swallows the will and chews it

Practically into nothing.

 

Just as too much light burns,

Too much darkness freezes the soul.

 

So, take my word for it—as someone

Who has been there and is taken there

Against my will every year—the swallowing darkness

Turns and slips away like a receding flood of black ink

Eventually, leaving gardens of survival,

Fragrant with honeysuckle,

And damp with laughter.

 

You’d better believe it,

Or if, like me, sometimes

That is impossible to do–

Pretend to believe it—or even if

That is too hard to do—don’t then–

Because its true regardless:

Never once has the night held captive

The day forever.  Day, that stubborn superhero,

Will break free of night’s weakening grasp,

And soar, ringing through the fields,

Leaving visible hope spreading

Over all the land.

 

tree hope


 

All donations go to medical expenses and groceries.  Thank you for your support. <3



Reflections on the Past Calendar Year, 2017, and Looking Ahead to 2018, By Jennifer Angelina Petro

Reflections on the Past Calendar Year, 2017, and Looking Ahead to 2018

By

Jennifer Angelina Petro

 

Last year, at this time, I was in the psych ward begging the nurses to kill me.  Luckily, they said they didn’t do that sort of thing in the hospital.  I spent 9 days there.  My second time in the 2 months. I spent my 49th birthday there.  The staff brought me a cupcake, which they said was against the rules.  It was yummy.  You really haven’t lived until you hear a room full of psychologically ill people singing you happy birthday.

And here I am.  As far as I know, alive.

You are an integral part of my being here.  You supported me 100%, and even though most of this saga was chronicled on my now lost, Radiance Moo-Cow Facebook page, you know the story.  I have no secrets.

I have been criticized for sharing so intimately about mental illness.  You know I do it to destigmatize it all.  You know I do it to help people see someone can exist and function productively and positively—some days better than others—with a chronic, and at this point, incurable, mental illness.

Anywho, things began to lift, not so coiendentally in the spring, with your support, therapy, and a long, struggling, scary, frustrating search for the right combination of meds.

And, of course, there was the unwavering love and support of Mandy, Sam, Ben, and Daniel.

Around late winter, early spring I found Love in Action UCC.  I cannot emphasize enough how important that was, and is, to my recovery.  The accepting, supportive community, the aliveness of service, the many new friends, and the purpose I feel and truly have there working with lgbtqia youth, and watching those programs grow, is so healing.

Then there are the adopted kids I have taken under my wing and have helped get through some rough times.  They too have helped me perhaps more than they know.  They are not just adopted kids—they are friends.

Then too, there was my journey into realizing my meds did not take away, as I so deeply feared, my creativity.  They have helped hone things, focus things, but the creative forces are still there, and for that I am more grateful than I can say.

Yes, there was, and is, all the ongoing shit with trump and his terroristic regime.  Yes, there was, and is, all the ongoing shit from the far-right terrorist extremists.  Yes, there is still the transphobia and the daily challenges I face simply existing in the world—the public world.  And yes, there are still bouts of deep self-hatred and dysphoria.  These have, thankfully, lessened lately though, and for that I am relieved beyond measure.  Yes, I am still living under mountains of debt and the fear of being taken to court for those debts.  Yes, I still cannot help support my family the way I would like financially.  Yes, I truly believe I am not yet ready to handle a full-time job in any field.  Yes, I still have my obsessions, magical thinking, paranoid thinking (and I do not use that last word lightly), and my anxieties, fears, throttling storms of PTSD, and the like.

And I am here, and yes, I still talk with much hyperbole and drama.  I’m Italian.

Looking ahead, I see my role as a mother changing and growing more and more into being a friend.

Looking ahead, I see a future of growing and living into my role as a mentor of lgbtqia youth.  I see myself exploring the possibilities of taking a stab at stand-up comedy and performance poetry, and to return to storytelling, and perhaps even giving concerts/kirtans.  I see myself making a CD of my music and publishing another book(s) of poetry. I see continued discoveries into myself as a transwoman, as a woman, as an aging woman, as someone exploring the wonders of their sexuality and the on and off desire to be in a romantic/intimate relationship with someone.  Yes, I am still a budding pansexual.

Looking ahead, I see more poems.

Looking ahead, I see reconciliation for those in my life who still do not accept me or want me around their families.

Looking ahead, I see new friends weaving their way into my life, and I in theirs.

Looking ahead, I see doing my best to tend to the medical conditions that are gradually developing in this body of mine.

Looking ahead, I see more prayer, more devotion, more deepening, more diving into, more blossoming, more treasuring, more sharing, more joyous my spiritual journey, which, of course, encompasses everything in my life, my every breath.

Looking ahead, I see more healing in our world, and me doing my little part in that healing.

Looking ahead, I see things in the world perhaps getting worse before they get better.

Looking ahead, I see more taking care of myself and setting boundaries for my safety.

Looking ahead, I see more ways to give, in both secret and out in the open.

Looking ahead, I see less shame.

Looking ahead, I continue to see the goodness, resilience, compassion, wisdom, and power of everyday people.

Looking ahead, I continue to notice the little things, the big things around me that are beautiful, mysterious, wondrous, and important.  I continue to actively look for and see/experience gratitude for these things and more.

Looking ahead, I know there will be days when I want to die, when I will be unable to leave my bed, my house, or to eat.  No, I am not calling this to myself.  I am ill, and I live with that illness every day, and while I am doing OK, I know this disease of mental illness is relentless and reminds me everyday that it is there, lurking, hungry.  I am not in delusion about that.  At some point it will drag me under again– hopefully not into the suicidality I walked with everyday for months.  The writing of suicide notes, the making plans of where, when, and how, the carrying of knives and box cutters, the taking them to my wrists.

Looking ahead, I also see healing and the right support to get me through those times.  And while I am afraid, everyday at some point, that the beast is just up ahead behind the next happy, good moment, I am comforted that I can get through it with you and my ability to ask for, and to receive, love and help.

In short, because, yes, I am still short, and likely will remain so, and perhaps I may even grow shorter as the years go by (by-with), looking ahead, I see positive possiblities.  I see you.  I see me, and today I see me with some measure of self-acceptance and even, I daresay, love.

And it’s still winter.  The local world is wrapped in biting cold and sparkling snow.  And I see its beauty and dangers.  I also, looking ahead, see spring.

Looking ahead I see more glitter, unicorns, stuffed animals, and hippy skirts.

I see this moment, looking inwards, outwards, here, now.  And looking ahead, for the first time in years, I see more here and now’s.  More moments, each one unpredictable—no matter what I envision—each one full of possibilities and unexpected joy and hardship, each one full of me, you, the Divine, and a world full of people who care, who take care of one another no matter what the media says.

Looking ahead, I see now.

Looking ahead, I see hope.  Yes.  Hope.

Much love and thanks,

Jenn

 

first thing saw 2018 yup

 


 

Thank you for your kind support. <3



Transcendencies, a Poem to Honor Transgender Day of Remembrance 2017, by Jennifer Angelina Petro

I wrote this poem originally two years ago and is the title poem of my book by the same name.  I have revised it rather drastically, and much more for the better.  I hope it helps celebrate who we are, each other, and our future together.

Love, Jenn

 

 

Transcendencies

A Poem for the Transgender Community

by

Jennifer Angelina Petro

 

 

We are all transcendent,

Shining across space and time in clouds

Of oxygen, carbon, hydrogen and nitrogen;

Each and every one of us transcends

Something, or someone, or somehow

Or someday—just to be able to stand here

In this very moment, catching our breath,

Learning to live–

We all transcend and become—

It is as simple as that.

 

Our blood streams are transoceanic,

Our bodies holy translations of spirit and soul,

Transcribed onto the pages of the world

By an Author who knows us by heart and accepts us as we are.

 

Yes, we are transpierced with pain—

Every day just leaving our house

And wondering if we will be safe—hurts.

Yes, we have been transplanted inside

And for some the ground grows more certain with every step,

While others cannot move out of fear for their lives.

Even as we progress in small ways and big,

Through a series of seemingly never-ending transversals only to find ourselves

Transported into more hatred, ignorance,

And shadow-driven insecurities of so-called, “religious” people—

We are still here—we will not give up.

 

We transilluminate boundaries

That no longer have solid meaning—they never did,

We are waking up to the truth that gender

Is not fixed—it is transmigratory—and no longer the transaxle

Of a tired binary sustained by those who have never even

Taken the time to get to know their own bodies–

Let alone love, or transform them into possibilities without shame—

Even though everything about people like us is transubstantiated

By living, breathing experience and science—for here we are, and yet we are told

We do not exist—We are told we do not deserve to exist—

Even though our lives are based on real, vital, valid, individual,

And continuous transitions of body and spirit,

We are still told we are evil, perversions,

Abominations before god.

 

How many more of us will be murdered by transient-thinking men

Before the world decides it is one more too many?

What makes transphobic people think they can transpose

An already faulty belief system onto us to justify or rationalize

Their unjustifiable and irrational actions and laws?

Do they really think we will not fight back against their genocidal ways?

 

 

My dear trans community, let us help transport one another

And the world, into a time where transcendencies are accepted as commonplace–

It will happen despite their barbaric ideas—

We will not be transfixed by their condemning and weakening gaze—They

Who cannot think past their own shadows—they too

Will be transformed.

We are living transmissions of realities

That shine a light on their small mindedness,

And we are here to stay.

 

We are not here to inspire some kind

Of transcultural revolution—

We ARE a revolution—

Every time we step out into the world

We declare that infinite possibilities exist.

 

Jesus of the transfiguration, came to transmute those who hate

And to set their limited beliefs on fire;

Jesus came to give them a spirit-transfusion to flush out

Both their own self-loathing and their fear of us–

Those of us, steeped in beatitudes and compassion

So deep, and forged by pain and marginalization,

As to be transcribed into living testaments

Of love’s transcendent power—we will inherit the earth.

 

Come, haters, shed your mantles of tissue and weariness,

Shed your tired ideological transparencies, and projections,

And transmigrate with us to a way of living where Jesus reigns

Alongside the mother tree and the transdimensional angels

Singing and dancing for the freedom of all souls.

For you will transpire—perhaps sooner than you want–

Life is transonic, yes, but it is death that comes at the speed of sound—

And when it does you shall be transposed against a backdrop of light

And seen for how you really lived.

 

And we—

We will continue to blossom and unfurl—transcendentalists

Of power—living rainbows moving ever forward—

We will continue to be transcendencies of glory,

And revelations of truth,

We will transcend you, transmogrify you, transverse you—

We will ever be here shining a light on your hypocrisies,

And reveling in the wonder of who we are.

 

And my beloved trans community,

May we transcend our own limited ideas of what it means

To really be trans, may we put an end to policing one another,

And instead accept one another for our transunique journeys.

May we all join forces to transfree ourselves and one another.

For we are all transcendent,

Shining across space and time in clouds

Of oxygen, carbon, hydrogen and nitrogen;

Each and every one of us transcends

Something, or someone, or somehow

Or someday—just to be able to stand here

In this very moment, catching our breath,

Learning to live–

We all transcend and become—

It is as simple as that.

 

 

 


 


All donations from this post will go to TransLifeLine


Murmurations, by Jennifer Angelina Petro

Murmurations

By

Jennifer Angelina Petro

 

 

 

The flock of starlings rises, like a black dot-to-dot,

Lifting from the page, into the air, where it swirls–writhing, like

A confused river tossing and turning—back and forth,

Dizzying the threat of the falcon.

 

As suddenly as it began it starts to dissolve, each starling

Finding its place on the powerlines and trees, where they breathe

Little sighs of feather-settling relief.

 

As I sit in my car from the side of the road where I pulled over to watch,

A panic surges within my chest and it seems to me

There is no other way than the lifting of all things—

Moments, friends, kisses, ways of walking and singing—

All things releasing themselves into the unconscious sky,

As if time were shaking off the sheets of the memory.

 

Suddenly as it began, the panic disperses, my fears

Finding their places coursing through the hollow bones of a faith

That carries me inexplicably over the hillsides and valleys, where death–

That falcon who notices all things–will only fall back

For so long, and yet what I love gathers on higher branches

And upon the lines of the staff of the song the goddess sings

Forming a universe filled with galaxies giving birth to starlings

That, in turn, give birth to entire flocks of revelation—

Wings and hearts swirling into the form of shared communities of hope.

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

All donations go to medical bills and groceries.  Thank you for your kind support.


Untitled by Jennifer Angelina Petro

I do not see the light.

I do not feel the warmth of love.

The emptiness that I am deafens my days.

Silence turns into auditory hallucinations.

I stand motionless

For long moments, every day, unable to move,

Think, or breathe.  Impossible

As I have made my life

I am here existing in the nothingness

Still hoping—still hoping for light.

 

 

 

 

 


Any help for me to buy food or pay for medical expenses is deeply needed and appreciated.


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.