Along Came a Spider…

There was a spider in my bathtub this morning. Luckily it was running with all eight legs away from me as I turned the shower on. Fear and revulsion were my first reactions along with a fleeting desire to kill it. Blame my Indian friend Manu in the Himalayan Village I was teaching in back in 2000, but I let it get away. I can still hear his words in my mind after I spotted a particularly horrible arachnid on the wall back then.

My new best friend?

My new best friend?

Me: “Ack. Kill it! Kill it!!”
Manu: (In a peaceful, yogi-esq sort of voice): “Why do you want to kill the spider?”
Me: “Because it’s UGLY.”
Manu: “Can he not help it if he is ugly? Is it his fault? Why then should you kill him?”

Sigh. I have thought twice about squishing bugs ever since.

So during my morning meditation I did something rather unusual for me. I took a moment to send the spider love and light. (Pause here for mocking laughter and eye-rolls….)  Love to this tiny, insignificant creature. This hateful thing that people would step on the first chance they get. Would the world somehow be a better place if I did so? Could I live in a world where even the most loathsome and hateful thing was worthy of love and a few seconds of my attention? I could make it so, I decided. I was pretty sure that this was a kinder response than catching it in a tissue and flushing it down the toilet simply for daring to be in the same room as me.

“This is absurd,” I thought to myself. I needed coffee.

I had a nervous feeling inside. It was morning in Myanmar where I live but night in the USA, my home country. I was feeling confident that Hillary Clinton was going to emerge victorious and Trump’s supporters would be crumpled and defeated. They might even need a hug. Would they even accept one? (What if they were packing heat? Awkward!)

I thought about how bad they were going to feel and how they would lash out, suspicious of the election system and media. They’d be ready to riot and to make the next president’s job as miserable as possible.

Grasping For Ways to Stay Positive

But here I am hours later and it turns out that I’m the one in need of a hug.

And I find myself grasping at ways to stay positive.

After learning that Trump was pulling ahead and was most likely the next President-Elect I lost all my focus for the day. I wallowed around on Facebook and Twitter, taking odd comfort in my fellow Clinton supporters’ misery. I was not alone. Others were as horrified as I was.

I read articles from the New York Times, BBC, and CNN about America being a failed state, about stocks tumbling, and the world being in paralyzed shock.

How to stay positive?

I thought about the glowing woman, a Professor Emeritus at UC Berkley of Sociology, Arlie Russell who spent years hanging out with Trump supporters to learn what made them tick and what they thought. She had been on CNN about a week ago promoting her book, Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right.

I was struck by her kind eyes and warm, understanding tone. She had cut through all the hate and got to know and empathize with the people that most non-Trump supporters immediately dismiss as uneducated, racist, or sexist.

I thought about my brother, a lifelong Republican but one who didn’t vote for Trump in this election. How we used to fight and scream at each other across the dinner table when we were teens. He knew how to push all my buttons and my response was… well, usually cursing.

Somehow all these years later we are still political opposites but we’ve found much to agree on. (For example, how lame are playgrounds today? They are turning children into wusses. Whatever happened to jungle gyms, metal monkey bars, and see-saws?) OK. So we try not to talk politics, but when he does start pushing my buttons I just learned to respond with humor. It defuses the situation every time.

These days I can get into his mind and understand why he thinks the way he does. I can have a conversation and listen even when I don’t agree.

I do think the ability to listen to those we don’t agree with is a badly needed skill in the world right now. There is an excellent article that can help build empathy skills in this area here: How to Listen When You Disagree: A Lesson From the Republican National Convention

And so what about today? I saw this in my Facebook news feed from family members about an hour ago.



My gut reaction was to let him have it, but instead I figured I’d give him a chance to explain. Sure enough, he had chosen the wrong words and there was actually something we both agreed on, namely that people should not use gender as the only reason to vote for someone. (Though I resent the sentiment that the only reason people voted for Hillary was just because she is a woman.)

Well, perhaps if this day hadn’t been so surreal and strange this blog post would have been shorter and snappier.

But I’m not feeling so snappy these days. I mean, my day began with sending love to a spider for crying out loud and only got worse from there!

So I’m not advocating that we all sing Kumbaya and imagine sunshine and rainbows enveloping the country and world. But how about empathy? How about cultivating communication and understanding before gut reactions?

I’ll leave with a final thought that I hope (tomorrow) I can begin to act on.

Today I am asking myself, how can I still hold my head up high while abroad? I ask what can I do to be constructive? How can I be of service? Now seems a good time to get lost in our own good work. We can’t control the world around us but we can control ourselves and how we respond. Stay high. We will weather dark times and make something good come of it. Somehow.


The high road is not always the easy road

The high road is not always the easy road