Real Love

“Love is not warm and fuzzy or sweet and sticky. Real love is tough as nails. It’s having your heart ripped out, putting it back together, and the next day offering it back to the world that just tore it up.” — Glennon Doyle Melon, author

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I’m home from a three-day work trip, but it might as well have been a voyage to another planet. (The little girl in the photo sums it up nicely.) I left on Monday in one world, and flew home today to a world that looks very different. And no, this is not a post about politics. This is a post about humanity.

Over the past few years, I’ve worked very hard to do whatever I can to be the tiniest force for good in the world. As a single mother of two boys for 20+ years, I have been blessed beyond what I deserve. I’ve been buoyed by the love and support of countless individuals in my journey and struggles, leaving me with a debt of gratitude that I will never be able to fully repay. I can only be as kind as I can and be a buoy for other strugglers. It’s my price of admission for surviving and thriving in this world. And a demonstration of my utter thanks to God. But it wasn’t until today that I realized that, in spite of my sometimes seemingly insurmountable obstacles, I’ve had some unearned forces beyond my hard work and extensive support conspiring in my favor: I am straight. And white. And Christian. While I am a member of a much-stereotyped subset of society as a single mom, I’ve never known discrimination or cruelty. So it never occurred to me that that kind of prejudice and hatred was seething and raging all around me this entire time. Instead, I’ve been going about my business, sharing my goofy photos and stories in a small attempt to spread joy – and God, naively believing that people are all fundamentally good at the core. I figured it’s buried deeper in some than others, but it’s there. And maybe if I extend enough positivity and kindness, enough of myself, maybe I can make a difference here and there.

But overnight, I have serious doubts that this is actually the case. Overnight, I discovered that, not only is hatred, prejudice and bigotry acceptable, it has saturated our society to the point that we’ll elevate it. Not since my ex-husband made me aware of the end of our marriage have I felt such betrayal. Only this was a betrayal of humanity. And the grief and depth of despair, I daresay, is comparable. We’ve elected presidents before that I haven’t particularly cared for — from both parties. But this is different. It has nothing – zero, zip, nada – to do with party affiliation. Racism, sexism, rape culture, white supremacy, xenophobia, religious discrimination, fat-shaming, bullying, mocking of the disabled…where on earth do I fit in with this man’s world view? And where do my stupid, lame attempts to be a good person and make the world a better place belong with a president endorsed by the KKK? Simply put, they don’t. And I don’t. And oh, dear lord, I’m supposed to run in the Girls on the Run 5k this weekend and celebrate the building of girls’ self-esteem. What is the frigging point. I decided to drop out. I was also going to delete my social media accounts — including this blog. There is nothing I have to say or share that will make the slightest difference in a world like this. My heart is shattered.

But as I went about my work day and travel, little by little, I found myself making decisions that were kinder and gentler than ever before. There were many doors to be held, cars to allow to merge ahead of me in traffic. There were professional relationships to be mended, words of appreciation and love to friends and family to be extended. There were travelers who needed help with their bags — or with their babies in tow. There were men and women of all religions and ethnicities at the airport during my layover with whom I made a point to make eye contact and smile — because I see you and your hijab or kippah does not matter to me. There were social justice organizations to research so I can make donations. In short, there were small kindnesses to extend. Will it make a difference in the world? Who knows. Maybe to one person at a time. That’s fine. And there’s still a 5k on Saturday. I will run.

The world still looks very different to me. And frankly, I don’t know that I will ever fully recover. As was the case with my divorce, my heart will mend with time. Certainly it will take more than one day. Even then, the pieces won’t fit the same once it’s put back together.

I will offer my heart to the world anyway. Because that’s what real love does. And my God loves everyone.

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