Whether you're depressed or thrilled with the outcome of the Presidential election this week, you're probably realizing that far too many people in our country (and frankly around the world) feel unvalued, underrepresented, unheard, frightened and angry.
You may be one of them.
It can be very confusing for those who have faced truly challenging chronic health conditions often without health insurance, severe financial hardship, and ongoing, generational racial, sexual and other forms of prejudice, to understand why those who truly seem far more privileged racially, financially or sexually feel so angry, depressed and left out.
How can this be? It doesn't seem to make sense. But humans are emotional beings. The famous trial lawyer Gerry Spence has been reported as saying, "we humans make up our minds with our hearts and then pick the facts to support our feelings."
Here's what I'm really getting crystal clear on - it's very hard for people to recognize their own privilege. Why? Because our emotional state often has us viewing our world from a place of scarcity, rather than abundance, no matter how fortunate we are.
Think about how challenging it is to get people to recognize how angry and aggressive they are as drivers. People who are perfectly nice and kind in many other ways are really miserable to be with while driving. The growing traffic congestion isn't an anomaly, it's just a fact of life in cities now, and yet so many people behave as if it's a sudden scenario created specifically to inconvenience them personally.
Heaven forbid you're crossing the street on foot, or riding a bike in front of where they want to be, and slow down some drivers by a few moments - they might try to use their car to physically push you off the road and would feel perfectly justified in doing so because damn it, they're in a hurry!
We humans are so often living in our own heads, running a script of painful scenarios of the past (whether from this morning or 20 years ago), or rehearsing possibly challenging scenarios for the future. We spend so much time listening to the dialog in our heads about the past and the future that we can find it very difficult to be right here and right now paying attention to the gift of the present, appreciating what we have.
Wealth and privilege aren't a shield against this. Only by becoming mindful that we're actually doing this can help us stop the unnecessary and chronically stressful drama of the chatter of what Buddhist call "the monkey mind."
Fortunately, there's a simple solution. We can be here now. It's not an easy solution. It takes ongoing practice, but the rewards are life changing. It's a key reason why millions of people have decided to take up a mindfulness practice. It's certainly the reason I did.
Once we decide that there's a good reason to be here now, to be her in this present moment and pay attention to what's really going on around us how can we build bridges of respected and understanding, even if sometimes we have to agree to disagree? And how does this lead to our owning our own story, and thus our own power?
We can start by recognizing our own privilege before wanting others to recognize it in themselves. I'm learning daily how to do this more deeply. I'm a white female who appears to be of the middle class. Walking down the street, or into a restaurant, or a business of almost any kind, I'm not a threat to anyone. I'll probably be treated with respect and can expect good service.
Well, maybe not if I go into a bike shop.
As I reflect on the past week, I'm finding interesting correlations between my observations at Interbike this past September, and our current political divide in the broader public. The bike world (both in the industry and advocacy side, but more so on the industry side), is filled with tribalism and exclusiveness. The industry especially continues to lead with athleticism, often very male focused, even though this approach hasn't led to a robust growth in bike sales.
I can complain about this, or I can own my power and offer innovative and market-friendly solutions that are more inclusive of all forms of biking riding. I can complain about this, or I can recognize I have quite a large network to tap into to ask for and share these solutions. I have shared in our email newsletters (and have been delighted by the responses of interest we received) that I'd like to address this formally with the management team at Interbike. I feel the time is ripe to bring the casual, female-and-family-friendly side of riding forward front and center at this trade show.
A wise friend of mine has shared with me that a letter of ideas might make me feel good, but I'll only see real progress if I'm ready to put skin in the game. If I step forward and raise the money to create a block of booths at Interbike to create a Pedal Love Pavilion (inspired by the "hand made" pavilion Interbike hosted four years ago that I was so impressed with), I'll be speaking a language Interbike can understand and most likely welcome and support.
Can I even wrap my head around this for 2017? No, not really. But I can for 2018. So yes, I'll be putting together a collaborative letter to share with the Interbike team - but I'll be taking the time to do this more mindfully and thoughtfully. If you've connected with me about this, I've decided to take more time to pull it together than I originally anticipated. If you haven't connected with me yet, and want to share your thoughts, please do.
In the meantime, I'll continue to work on owning my story and sharing the tools and tips for others to do that too.
True power unfolds for us when we can get to a place of recognizing that no matter what we've been through, and no matter what we're still challenged with, we are completely of value and as worthy as anyone else of being here. We matter. We're worthy. We can own that power by owning our story.
True power comes from owing our story without denying our pain and challenges, but without leading with blaming and complaining but offering solutions. No matter how unfair that feels, true power comes when we can both listen with an open heart, mindfully, and share our own story respectfully. Because here's the deal - those in powerful may not feel powerful. They may be filled with fear.This means we have the courage to share what we've overcome, and exactly how we did it, the solutions that allowed us to overcome, so others can learn too. By doing this we can begin to move through the world from a space of self-acceptance which opens doors and opportunities that can dazzle with their synergy and synchronicity.
It may take longer than we want it to but love trumps hate. It may not be moving fast enough for you, but time is on the side of equal rights for everyone. We backslide at times, but we've made remarkable progress in the past 100 years.