I made the piece above two years ago. But I never shared it. I didn’t know it at the time, but it wasn’t finished.
Today, I added the text.
Around the same time I made this, Sean and I were grappling with whether or not to buy our first house. I was a nervous wreck. Were we ready? Did we have the money? Could we handle it?
Then one day, Sean said: “Listen, if something terrible happens and we lose our jobs, all our savings, the house, and every material thing we have, it won’t matter, because we will still have each other. We’ll be together.”
When he said that to me, tears welled up in my eyes and I remember why I love and married this man. After this, I never looked back. We put the offer on the house and made it our home.
And it was this reassurance that, in the bleakest of times, ‘at least we’ll be together’, has gotten me through some tough times.
It is so utterly fundamental to being human. Togetherness. In the worst moments, togetherness brings strength. Hope. Resilience. Togetherness eases suffering. It eases pain.
Why go on if you can’t go on together?
This is why systematic separation has been used throughout the history of the world and in our own country, against entire populations of people, in order to subjugate them and weaken them.
What I’ve realized is that our family’s ability to say: ‘If everything falls apart, we’ll still have one another’, is a white, nuclear family privilege.
Because it’s not true for everyone — and for many people in this country — Native Americans, African-Americans, countless Immigrants of various shades and beliefs, LGBTQ communities, people with disabilities — it never has been true.
Can you imagine what that must feel like? To never be able to find comfort in the idea that, if things fall apart ‘at least we’ll be together?’.
Instead, living with the fear and awareness that the system in place has intentionally acted AGAINST you in that way?
And separation happens in SO MANY ways.
Ripping families apart who are seeking refuge from unthinkable circumstances is just one immensely and overtly appalling example. (Which, by the way, isn’t surprising to anyone except privileged white people.)
More insidious forms of separation have been happening for hundreds of years in this country, in thousands of different ways.
Where does that leave entire peoples? Entire generations?
The weight of it is so immense. And I’m only just imagining what it must feel like. That’s a privilege too — because I can choose to stop imagining it when it gets too heavy. I can ‘unburden’ myself from it.
But others can’t. Those who endure separation at the hands of more powerful people who benefit from the subjugation of others can never unburden themselves from that weight.
How weary they must be. How tired the soles of their feet and the souls of their beings must be.
For the first time, I’m realizing that compassion isn’t enough. It’s only part of the equation.
The other is actual LOVE. But not just ‘love’. Love-as-a-verb.
Sometimes that means being quiet (listening or shutting up), being gentle (comforting), and simply being present and paying attention.
And sometimes that means being loud (speaking up), being bold (showing up), being uncomfortable, and being fierce.
Compassion is putting yourself in someone else’s shoes to understand their suffering.
Love is taking action to ease another’s pain. Love is taking action to close the gap. Love is taking action to eliminate separation between you and someone else. Love is letting go of your ego, which thrives off of separation. Love is creating togetherness. Love is togetherness.
There are many ways to do this. We all have to decide for ourselves what our Love-In-Action looks and sounds like. But, like most things, it starts with a change.
Change your facebook and social media feeds: start following people who don’t look or sound like you.
Change your reading habits: start reading books by authors who don’t look or sound like you.
Change your mindset: start listening to people who don’t look or sound like you.
Change your environment: start surrounding yourself with people who don’t look and sound like you.
These are all things I’m working on. And I know I don’t have it all figured out yet. I like to think and write and talk about lots of things, but am I living them? I don’t know. I think I still have a lot of ground to cover.
But the idea is simple, and it’s an old one:
Take every opportunity to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. Then, while their shoes are off, get down and wash their feet.