I've struggled to find an angle from which to attack this issue, tiptoeing deftly around themes and posts I've already written. I've struggled internally about making any declaration after having pointed fingers at myself, other women, random strangers, Target shoppers, coffee chains, and Jesus Christ himself, but the winds of change are blowing, ironically, as we speak, through my dyed brown locks.
So, how do I say this? How do I start?
We don't love each other. We don't. And I don't think that's how this life thing is supposed to work.
I've been lucky enough, over the past few months, to have had the presence of mind to tear off all the layers, dig uncomfortably deeply within myself, removed enough from others to really acutely examine the modus operandi of this grand existence, and what I've seen, what I've experienced, was, in a word, humbling.
Everything I did, everything I said, every benign-appearing selfie, every move I truly made, was an outgrowth of some deep-seated insecurity, of my perceived failure as a human being, of my refusal to love myself. And once I recognized it, I began to see it in other people.
For all our 'sharing', we've become a world of insecurity, fear, and mistrust.
And it would be a disservice for me not to share that with you.
We have female pop stars attacking other pop stars, comedians shredding reality TV stars, reality TV stars biting back, a culture that glorifies indecency and appearances modified to the point that we no longer recognize who the person was in the first place, an entire culture communicating without ever meeting face-to-face. And that's our 'okay'.
And we judge - man, do we judge. With the Like, the Swiping Right, the tweeting, the comments, the shaming. And man, I've done my share. If I had a quarter for every Kanye West joke I've made, every reference I made to Nicki Minaj's ass, I could most definitely get into Madame Tussauds to gaze upon their wax likenesses.
I was lucky enough this year to have some divinely concocted, handmade humble pie fed to me like the emotionally-stunted infant I was, and, let me tell you, it was delish. I was pitted face-to-face against my judgments, my perceptions of others and the world, based solely on the machinations of my own ego, solely on what I perceived to be truths, and it wasn't pretty. What was less pretty was I was wrong on almost every account. It's one thing to judge a woman on the basis of her Pumpkin Spice Latte, but it's another thing entirely when you yourself have one in your hand.
Nothing aids a personal awakening more than your entire belief system overturned and dumped out in front of you, like a drawer full of socks, finding that the only way out is through. I've been myopic, shades of cruel beneath what I perceived (and truly believed) to be humor. From what I see of this world now, though, I was anything but funny.
What's missing here is love. We don't look at ourselves with love, we don't look at each other with love, and we certainly don't look at anyone who is different from us (which is pretty much everyone based on all the levels of division we've created) with any measure of affection.
This realization hit me hard, really alarmed me, not only as a person, but also as a parent. To fully embody the fact that we're a selfish society that is destroying itself, that mocks culture and religion, community and family, and the sick and poor, was sobering. We belittle teachers and leaders, question the faithful, and only celebrate unity with the pockets of people we embrace. We tell ourselves (and each other) that the only way to handle parenthood, and life in general, is to get tanked and forget about it, load up a grocery cart with items we don't need, or just take off. We don't think twice about calling our kids names, ignoring our neighbors, or refusing to make room for others on the subway. And we don't let our kids play with other children, because germs.
We're no longer the global family in the Coke commercial. No one cares to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony. Everyone's singing their own song on their own YouTube channel. We've become a country of apathetic, narcissistic, materially-obsessed individuals who connect superficially (and constantly) with others for conditional love. We offer ourselves up to the world to be rated, we take everything we can get from external sources, and somehow, it's never enough.
Because we've come to praise separateness, exclusivity, ourselves, and our possessions. We've disintegrated community into minuscule, unrecognizable pieces. We've become purveyors of the wrong thing.
We fail to connect with, and care for, other human beings.
Children are bullied and subjected to unspeakable cruelty, teens peck at one another relentlessly, adults sequester themselves in small circles of like-minded adults, and the elderly, instead of being respected and revered for their precious life experiences, are abused, neglected, and robbed in broad daylight.
And we see that things are so bad, yet we do little about it but poke the problems (and each other) with sticks, which only creates more division.
We live in a world where one person's act of kindness to a mother of an infant on a plane goes viral. Think about that.
That's not the world I want to leave for my children.
They can't learn love if we never experience it. They can't love themselves if we're always looking outside. They can't value community if we don't participate in it. And they can't teach their kids to love their neighbors if we don't love them ourselves.
Through all this, and for the sake of my kids, who will inherit all the chaos and beauty of this planet, I'm learning to become a kinder, gentler Stephanie. I'm hoping that may be something this world needs, one bird learning to chirp a more melodious tune.
I invite you to join me. Maybe we can learn together.
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