Thursday, June 08, 2006

Holding it up to the Light

"It's a long long road,
it's a big big world
we are wise wise women
we are giggling girls
we both carry a smile to show when we're pleased,
we both carry a switchblade
in our sleeves."
- Ani DiFranco

This city has taught me a lot about myself. It has shown me that the world is smaller than it seems, that we are all much more alike than most would like to believe. I have develeoped, in my stay here, a passion for peace. For pacifism. The news often is too much for me. The images and stories, more than I want to witness. I often tense my hands into fists and argue with the screen, or cover my eyes and ask if it's really necessary they SHOW us. I have become increasingly against violence; I have never waivered when the talk comes to war vs. peace. It was one of Sam and I's first debates, and it continues to this day.

But this city has also taught me something previously I never truly had the chance to discover about myself, never was in the situation where I would know. When it comes to fight or flight, my first, most honest instinct is to fight. To protect myself. To stand up. I have had men try to steal my gym bag and have ended up thrown in traffic because I refused to just LET GO, have confronted pickpockets and have scared a crazy man from my doorway with a wooden bat . . . I had the bat. And this is a piece of myself that I struggle with. I mean, sure, I'm proud that I can protect myself. I like the fact I lived here in this place on my own and was okay. More than okay, sometimes in circumstances that weren't, well, okay. Sam is here now, we're here together now - but I like knowing I can stand on my own in this place and hold my own.

But the part of me that wants to walk the walk, wants to ACT as peaceful and calm and diplomatic as I insist the world act, well, it falls short on sheer instinct. And I don't know if I'll ever reach the point where when it comes to myself or those I love I'll be a pacifist in protecting. And that's just another thing I've learned, I guess. That none of us is just the easy descriptor, the lone adjective or the character outline. That just because I'll rage against the violence in this world, that I'll walk amongst thousands of others to protest a war, that I'll cry over the news story of how many died today -- it doesn't mean that if I feel threatened I won't pick up that old wooden bat my dad gave me, hold it menacingly in your direction and kindly, um, ask you to BACK THE F@#^* OFF, thanks.

It means we're all different than we seem. Than we expect ourselves. I think we often fall into the trap of taking the people around us and defining them: this is what they do, what they give, who they are. We forget they too are more than they seem, more than we see. No matter how close or how well or for how long we've known them.

And worse, we do it to ourselves. We find the role we're most comfortable in, or the role we think people expect - and eventually we forget we're playing a role at all. We forget we are new every day, we are complex living things that adapt and grow and expand every second. We forget we have to tend to *ourselves*, give ourselves room to breathe and grow and contradict. Hold a bat in one had while the other makes a peace sign. ;)

Sarah and I talked tonight about how so much had changed in the little over the year it's been since Hagan was born. How much she's changed, how he changes every second it seems - how I've changed since moving here. But it's not the events, or even Hagan that's caused all this - they just held it up to the light for us to see. And I'm glad of that. I need it. Because, really, it is such am amazing thing to be a part of. the light shimmers so. I hope I never reach the point I forget to watch it.

I drive myself crazy sometimes, with the constant shove and pull - but it's worth it. It's worth it to always see new, feel new - know there's another chance, another shot at redemption, another surprise right around the corner. I wouldn't trade that for the world. Even a nicely defined, perfectly ordered, somewhat calmer world at that.

(That and that old bat my Dad gave me really has come in quite handy . . .)

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