I found a new trail this morning. I’ve never ever noticed it before, despite it branching off from a trail I run on at least 3 times a week. I don’t know why today was the day that I noticed it. Maybe because Leonard Cohen died and I was thinking about him and light and dark and life and death and everything in between. The trail caught my eye as I shot past it and so I stopped, trotted back a fewmetres and stood at the foot of it, in awe of the autumnness that appeared to have exploded there. I’m making so much more of an effort these days to be more aware. Pay more attention. Be conscious. Maybe that’s why I noticed the trail. Because I’m making a more conscious effort to be more conscious. After years of choosing to be unconscious in order to save myself from a world of pain and deep shit and family trauma.
I noticed the other day, as I lowered the iPhone in my hand—the iPhone that spewed out mesmerising information that I just HAD to read in that moment—that my kid was stood in front of me, staring at me. Inquisitively. No judgment from him. (He hasn’t learnt to judge yet. Babies don’t judge. They don’t need to, right. They’re not scared of the world yet and other humans.) So he’s staring at me and I feel a wash of shame. I wonder what it is he’s seeing from his tiny perspective. His mum with an expensive piece of plastic in her head that’s holding her attention so deeply. I wonder if he questions why he can’t hold my attention in the same way. And I feel shit. I immediately put down my phone and scoop him up and look into his eyes and tell him how much he matters. To me. To his family. And the world. I vow to myself to not pick up and lose myself in my phone when I’m around him anymore. I strive to be a conscious parent. I buy him books that teach him that’s it ok to be different and it’s ok to have feelings even though he’s a boy because boys aren’t supposed to have feelings—boys should be big and strong and must protect and take responsibility—and we talk about people, and how families can look different and that there are so many beautiful skin colours and sometimes men love women and sometimes men love men and sometimes women love women and sometimes women love women and men and vice versa and it’s all ok. I held him last night, him fresh and clean from the bath I gave him, me wild-eyed tired and worried and hopeful, and told him about a man called Donald Trump and a country called America and what I thought it all meant right now in the world. I told him that just because some people don’t agree with being different or consider other people less than because of their otherness doesn’t mean that we have to agree and follow. He looked at me, all nearly 2 years old of him, clutching his favourite tractor, and he nodded before whispering “tractor” quietly, like a tiny, solemn prayer. I will keep talking to him. I will not be quiet about this.
I am hopeful. And worried. About the world. And America. And the division we humans seem to be creating for ourselves. It comes from fear and distrust. I am absolutely sure of it. Fear and distrust of difference. Fear and distrust of otherness. Fear and distrust of uncertainty. Fear and distrust that comes from deep pain that is discharged in anger and opposition and a desire to protect and divide and pull away, instead of moving towards each other. Which is the answer, right? It HAS to be the only answer. To move towards. Instead of away. To say, “I am scared and worried” and to hear “Me too” instead of “Go away” or worse, silence. We are the change. Someone wise said that, I can’t remember who (Gandhi, perhaps). And we are the change. It’s true. It’s up to all of us. To move towards. In whatever way we can. We can punch with our hands or we can hold them out and invite people in. With our words and acceptance and inclusion, no matter how different or ‘other’ they are. Underneath skin colour and sexuality and religion and the way we choose to identify and be identified, we are all the same. I’m no different to Donald Trump, really. He’s scared and confused by life and so am I. We just deal with it in different ways. He moves away. I move towards.
I moved towards the new trail this morning and I ran down it. It felt new and scary and exciting. I will take my son there for a hike, him strapped to my back, him holding a stick and dropping it and me heaving to my knees and picking it up again 50 times over. I will show him the trail.
And I will also keep showing him the way. Towards not away. Towards not away. Towards not away. Towards not away. It’s the only way.