I am struggling in this current environment. The intensity, divisiveness, and polarizing effects of political opinions is mentally and emotionally draining. The fear that fuels such angry disagreements inevitably enhances that preexisting terror and we end up proclaiming our own opinions louder and louder hoping to overshadow the other side with no end in sight.
I have thought a lot about my dad in recent months because of all of this. It will be 25 years this November since his death so I was too young to have had many deep conversations before losing him. I do, however, have enough memories of him to know exactly where he stood then and where he would stand today. This is where I find myself searching for my own inner peace.
Virgil was better known as “Billy” among family and close friends, and in our home he was “Daddy” or “Dee-Da” at times thanks to my dyslexia as a small child. He was strong, kind, considerate, and incredibly thoughtful. He was highly intelligent and always took time to think through and meaningfully answer a barrage of questions from his inquisitive, stubborn, and somewhat precocious child as best he could.
What some may not know is that he was also extremely sensitive and a very emotional person as well. He felt his emotions very deeply and they always seemed to show. When he was happy he was very happy and quite often made everyone around him laugh. When he was anxious, sad, or angry it could feel incredibly intense, often scary, to be around him and sometimes difficult to understand or process as a child.
Fear is what I believe fed my dad’s concern when any one of us was sick. He worried about our health and well-being so much that when we were ill, I could feel his energy low and heavy almost as if he carried the burden of our health himself. He worried about our safety, our education, our finances, our ability to take care of each other and ourselves all the time. He worried so much that I believe whole-heartedly that it ate him up inside and made him that much more susceptible to the diseases that ultimately took him physically away from us.
The thing is, it wasn’t just us, his family, that he cared for and felt concerned about. My dad was a humanitarian at heart. I remember feeling that same low energy of sadness from him when he saw others in pain. I remember how he referred to those in poverty, disenfranchised and disregarded by society as human beings who deserved more than what they could get. I remember how he wanted to do more to help others and did not feel as if it was enough. As he saw them as small gestures, I saw him give generous gifts with handwritten cards to our mail delivery persons and garbage collectors during the holidays teaching me to always recognize the incredible value of those who contribute to society at every single level.
As I sit back and observe the arguments that have come out of this tumultuous time, I hear those who argue that things must change versus those who refuse to let go of the systems we have in place. Through this I recognize that everyone, regardless of the side they’re on, is ultimately speaking out of some deep-rooted fear. While one side is terrified for their own lives and well-being, the safety of themselves and their loved ones, others are afraid of the costs to change, not just financially but the shift of control, wealth, power, and a new and unknown way of life.
I look back at the fears my father had as an immigrant having built a successful career and life for his family in these United States of America and it was of a man without arrogance and ego. His sympathy for those who had less than we did came from a humility that grounded him as he himself grew up poor and impoverished in a third world country. His ability to work hard and achieve a quality education to provide for us in a developed world felt as if it was less of a source of pride and more as if he felt lucky, blessed, and was gifted the opportunities that brought him here. This overwhelming sense of gratitude he lived with is why, I believe, it bothered him so much to see so many people kicked while already down.
I could feel his pain when he was in pain for others and now I recognize that same intense, empathic ability within myself. I am my father’s daughter. I have undoubtedly inherited his sensitivity and emotional capacity to feel all of my feelings so deeply. I feel his spirit guiding mine as I break down and cry for those murdered, dehumanized, discriminated against and I know with all my heart he would be with me crying for them, too.
I don’t have answers and I don’t know if my father would either. I don’t know if the rest of my family would even agree with me on what I remember about him cognitively or intellectually as I was so much younger….but I do know what I remember feeling when I was with him and what I observed and I feel very strongly that I have the same tenderness and heart he did. I don’t remember conversations about politics or even policies but I do know that he cared about people and he believed in a system that supported and lifted up all of its citizens–not just a chosen few endlessly dividing the “haves” and “have-nots.”
And so I continue to sit quietly among the chaos and the chatter. I listen closely and observe with as much of an open heart and mind as I possibly can. As my discomfort rises within me I pay close attention to the sadness, anger, and fear that it feeds into often with incredulity at the positions I hear. As my discomfort rises within me I pause long enough to try and think things through for myself, to listen to my heart, and continue to believe in a kind, loving, humane, and just world. As my discomfort rises within me, I find the courage to stand strong in those beliefs and lend a voice to that which I feel needs to be said…to always speak and share and live my truth, just as my father did.