Saturday, 11 March 2017

Listening to my Gut

In these troubling times, with #45 in charge south of the border and snow, lots and lots of it, north of the border, it is very tempting to hide away. I want to pull the blankets over my head and say, “I’m staying here until things improve. Wake me up when the world is a warmer, kinder, gentler place.”

Turtling lite, I call it, retracting into my shell from time to time, trying to avoid the nasties. I try to ignore the worst news stories, the ones that predict gloom and doom. I refuse, mostly, to click on Facebook links to heavily partisan sites, whether leaning to the right or to the left. But once in a while, something gets by me, and once in a while, I feel a churning in my gut. When my gut speaks to me, I sit up and pay attention.

I imagine we all have a little warning signal built into us, a vestigal remnant reaching back to pre-history. Those bodily reactions warning of danger kept people safe, and they still do. For some, the signal is literally seeing red; for others, a headache or shortness of breath or an accelerated heartbeat. This is wrong, we say to ourselves. For me, it’s a feeling in the center of my gut, a clenching, turbulent feeling. Danger! Danger! Danger! these signals tell us. Do something.

Running further away, or pretending this isn’t happening, is one option, or pummeling the signal into submission. In the long run, these don’t work. The poison is still out there, and won’t go away. Lashing out takes you in another direction, spewing your raw emotions all over– onto FB, letters to the editor,  or into your social conversations, or taking it out on innocent bystanders. I have been guilty of all of these reactions and more, and I have lived to pay the price. Avoidance produces a long slow simmer of angry stew which eventually boils over. Lashing out means that when the venom is vented, you are left with a mess on your hands to clean up: apologies, corrections, shame, guilt.

Another gut warning just came across my FB feed the other day. It was a video of a TV channel, on which a  perky young woman with a head of blonde curls was given the opportunity to editorialize on  “A Day Without A Woman”, a day of protest that had just been held. It didn’t take me more than a few seconds of listening to realize she thought it was a crock. “Look at me!” she said in effect. “See how well I’ve done? And I didn’t get any help from anyone, I did it on my own merits.” Among other things she pointed out that if women made poor choices, they only had themselves to blame for the mess they were in. They could protest all they wanted, but it wouldn’t get them anywhere. And even if she had said something positive, her derisive tone of voice said, “You folks are fools!”

I’ll admit that I had not paid much attention to this protest, so didn’t have strong feelings about it. And yet, I heard the alarm bells: Danger! Danger! Danger! My gut was tied up in knots immediately. The problem was, there were just enough smidgens of truth in her rant to make her followers give her the high five. Right on, tell it like it is, sister! And there were just enough clever, high-sounding sentiments to silence the undecided, or cast doubts in the hearts of feminist supporters. Danger, indeed. The devil knows all about clever sentiments and half-truths. (S)he can smooth-talk you into believing night is day and day is night.

I’m not saying this woman is the devil. Far from it. She has opinions, and she wants to voice them. But just because she is passionate about her cause doesn’t mean she’s got a corner on the truth. Her rant left no room for thoughtful dissection of the issues, the pros and cons of A Day Without A Woman. Worse, she was so good at what she did, and so attractive, that many listeners didn’t feel the issue deserved a second look. I watched and wondered: if she wasn’t so young and attractive, would she have had this opportunity to sneer so publicly at feminists? Was there any room in her heart for the woman who was abused as a child and is so broken that her choices are poor? Is this derisive sneering going to lead to a kinder, gentler world? I knew I had to do something.

I created this piece several years ago, as a reminder to myself that I should not be silent if there is something important to say.
So what should we do when the alarm bells begin to chime in our bodies, when we see injustice happening, or one-sided reporting, or downright cheating and lying in public, with lies disguised as the truth? It’s happening more and more, and hiding under the blankets will not make it go away.

Here’s my thoughts: first, we listen. We listen to our bodies. Usually, your gut (or your head, or your breath) has got it right.

Then we breathe, deeply, slowly, thoughtfully, deliberately to clear the anxiety and anger, and to examine our own motives. That may take a while, but time lends perspective. Sometimes the problem is not what is outside us; the danger signals may alert us to something within our own lives that needs attention. Better to take care of that before we try to fix the world.

We open our hearts, our spirits and our minds to a higher power, listening and trying to discern what the right action is.

And then we do what we feel called to do. Some of us may do some housekeeping of our own souls. Some of us might write a letter to the editor – a thoughtful, careful letter. Some of us might post an antidote on social media – an inspiring quote, a humorous meme, an informative, unbiased story. Some of us might call a friend who has been hurt by the injustice. We might give money or volunteer time to an organization that stands for what we believe in. Each of us is different, and we are called in different ways to do something good to restore the balance of the universe. Even just a smidgen -- every little bit is important.

As for me? I blog.

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