During college, I was in the midst of an incredible depression. It started when I was very young. Digging my way out is one of the most powerful things I have ever done. I look back and can see my tenacity and courage.
However, one of the casualties of coming out of that depression was that I stopped caring as deeply about some of the things that are the most important to me. You see, I was terrified I would go back into the despair. When I started feeling better, I also started protecting myself and shut myself off from knowledge of what was going on in the world around me. I stopped listening to the news, stopped talking with friends about anything that made me feel sad and I refused to watch any movies that made me cry.
I allowed this terror of getting sucked back into the depression to disconnect me from relationships and a vital aspect of my true nature. I lost some of my fight. I numbed myself.
I have three brothers-in-law targeted by racism on a regular basis. I have friends and family who either live in or have relatives in Lebanon, Egypt, Japan, Mexico and the Dominican Republic. I have friends who are Jews. I have friends whose parents immigrated from other countries.
How can I truly connect with members of my family if I don’t ever ask and then listen to their experience with racism or their experience living in the US? How am I going to be able to really think about them unless I work on my own racism?
How are my Jewish friends going to know how much I care about them if I don’t have a clue about what is happening in Israel right now? How will they ever feel safe with me I’m not actively working on eliminating my own anti-semitism? How can I really know their experience if I haven’t heard their stories about what their grandparents went through in Germany or what their childhood was like being raised by terrified parents?
This is not easy work. I am going to start learning more about current events and sometimes it is heartbreaking. I am not looking forward to opening my heart in this way again. But, it feels like my next step in reclaiming a part of me that I lost in my fight against depression. I am not on anti-depressants, but somehow I managed to drug myself nonetheless, by pulling the covers over my head.
I want to live in a world free from all oppression. This means prioritizing being willing to look at the hard stuff. Looking at the ways we collude with oppression is hard and one of the ways we collude is by pretending that everything is okay and by pretending that oppression doesn’t exist. So what can we do about this?
I think the first step toward liberation for us all is through our direct connections with other people. Gentiles reaching out to Jews. Jews reaching out to Arabs. Catholics reaching for Protestants. Working Class people reaching out to the Owning Class. All of us reaching out to each other and finding deep, authentic connection in whatever ways we can.
As we take a stand to connect no matter how hard it might seem, we also take a stand for ourselves. we take a stand to end all forms of disconnection and, ultimately, this is what will change our world.
What is your next step? What do you need to look at inside yourself to allow your heart to open more fully? Who could you reach out to in your life with the intention of deepening your connection and learning more about their experience? Where in your life do you collude with oppression, staying silent instead of speaking up?
We are all on this journey together. I would love to hear your story. I am with you all the way.