The Divided States

In some ways, our country has always been divided. Our two system party, the American Dream vs. Big Brother, North vs. South, Rich vs. Poor, Cowboys vs. Indians… Yet even with the violence of the civil war, our current divide seems more dangerous and more deadly. Is it because of our ever-growing population? Is it because of the ease of modern communication? Is it because of our growing and impassioned beliefs? Is it because of politics and the political systems in place? Or does it simply boil down to the fact that we are human and have a very primal human nature? Or is it because these continuing issues seem to be uniquely American in nature and are forever woven into the fabric of our life and our flag?
Our divided states are like one big chopping block instead of a melting pot. Combining and emersion are not encouraged; keep things divided, separate from others not like you, alienate anyone who is different. This is how the dividing occurs and we are willing participants because we all have opinions and preferences. I would rather not indulge some of our cultures worst traits, yet maintaining freedom means those traits get to stay. It is a serrated edge that cuts and separates the “what could be” from the “what is”.
“They” have us fighting with each other, solidifying the division, closing our ears and our hearts off to viable solutions. Alienate. That is what an abuser does. If he can alienate his victim, then the abuse can go on as directed, without interruption. The abused usually is clueless as to what is going on, too busy trying to juggle the blame and horror of the situation. That is what many of us are doing or experiencing. And yet we are blind to it.
If you say to me, “The kids don’t know anything about gun control! They were just eating Tide Pods last month!” Perhaps you are right. Still, as adults we are supposed to protect the children until they are old enough to make their own decisions, that is our job. It is our job to raise “responsible members of civilized society”. Whether as an adult or a parent, you have to realize that if we don’t like what the children are doing, then we need to educate them and guide them, not belittle them. The age of abuse is passing out of existence and we must lovingly evolve our thinking. Let us use communication as a tool instead of a weapon.
I believe that we are mainly divided by those who want change and those who don’t. It’s almost like a couple who is continually fighting. One side thinks everything is “just fine just how it is” and the other side is showing all the ways things aren’t fine. Perhaps there are some things that shouldn’t change. But we obviously need to sit down and really look at what is working and what isn’t. Isn’t that what you would do with car trouble? Or financial issues? What is working well and what needs to change? And then how do we change it? It is pointless to constantly point the finger of blame and not provide or explore working solutions.
I believe sometimes problems arise so that we can (together) find solutions. Perhaps strength and change come from having the hard and difficult discussions. Perhaps this is where we find our true humanity. Perhaps in the process of breaking down is where we create the strength of building up. Perhaps this is where we bridge the divide. Let’s fix this rift before it gets wide enough to swallow us up. We can fix things without losing what we have. But if we continue to fight amongst ourselves we could lose all that we have built. Divided cannot be United.





The Peaceful Wallflower

You think I don’t notice all the ways you ignore me. I notice the way you treat me, different from the others. You make time for them, you include them, you smile at them. Don’t think that I don’t see it. I do. I see it, clearly. I won’t lie that it hurts. I won’t lie that it makes me mad. I wish that I didn’t care.

At least you are not outwardly cruel to me like you are to the un-liked others. Don’t think I don’t see that too, your obscure sense of kindness. At least you ignore me rather than push me, you look through me instead of directing your energy at me. I appreciate the kindness, even if you don’t. I would break under the stress of you and that is not something I want to do. I wish I didn’t care.

You swell in your pride and your hate. I know what it feels like, I know how consuming it can be. You think you are beyond reproach and so far, it seems that way. I wonder if the feeling will hold or if it will fade for you as it has for me? I wonder if you will change. I wonder if you could grow on this wall like I do. I wonder what your path looks like, what those shoes feel like, what your heart beats like… a drum or a nail, pressing deeper into the skin. I don’t want to care.

You don’t think I notice, but I do, I see you.



The Cost of Value

The concept of value differs depending on how you use the word. As a noun, it’s the importance or usefulness of something. Yet as a verb, it’s the monetary worth. We all value different things. To one person, the truth might be valuable and to another, it might be a cost. The things I value will not necessarily be the same things that you value. Therefore, to me, a value is relative and changing. Value is intrinsically individual.

To draw deeper into this idea, there are also personal values that shape who we are and shape our decisions. What we personally will or won’t spend money on, what we hold dear, what we cherish and believe, what we live for, what we would die for. These are things that cannot be priced yet they often have a cost. I value hard work, not just for the money it affords me, but also the feeling of freedom and satisfaction it awards me in the long run. Putting time into relationships also affords a cherished experience that we could not have without putting in that time. Finishing a project brings pride and a sense of accomplishment that we could not have without putting in the hard work to make it happen. You hear about lotto winners saying that the money did not bring them happiness, this is because life does not work that way. Life is all about hard work and motion, if you just sit there on your ass you will never get anywhere. You must value motion and get to work, that is the cost.

So, while some people value education and pour their time and money into that, others value fun and experiences, spending their money on vacations or toys. Some value their image and spend money to maintain that image on everything from cars to name brand apparel. Some value privacy and freedom preferring to live a simple and muted life. Some value family above all else and solely strive to provide for their family unity and connectedness. My list of examples could go on infinitely, but my point is that many of us carry strong values that permeate our lives and all our decisions.

It should become obvious then, that these differences are the basis for both human connections and rifts. If you and I value the same things, then we are connected. If we value different things, then we are split apart and there is less to connect us. The universe pulls us in different directions and blinds us to the real reason for the rift. Something I cannot connect with is not important to me, leading to an apathetic viewpoint. While variety and diversity are the spice of life, the differences between what people value can separate and divide us (the clearest examples of this are politics and religion). What one person values and cherishes another may find ridiculous and ignorant, yet shared values can hold people together and create bonds that last a lifetime.

So, what can we do to keep our values intact (or perhaps be open to re-examining them) while still respecting the values of others? How can we change the dynamics without going either rogue or militant? How can we bridge the gap and the honor the diversity of all humans? Is there even a way? Does this mean that we must respect the bad and evil in this world as well?

For me, I think that we can all make improvements on how we communicate with our values and value systems. For instance, we can listen and be understanding, perhaps offering a little more caring to someone who doesn’t share our own values. We can try to understand why something is valuable to another and respect that viewpoint even if we don’t agree. It’s doubtful and foolish to try and change someone’s mind about their personal values. I think it is more advantageous to attempt to understand even if we are unable to be supportive.



Take Time to Listen

What makes someone a good listener? When they sit quietly, focused on intense eye contact while someone else talks incessantly? When they nod in agreement? When they get outraged or sad in all the right places? Or do you find a good listener to be someone who gives feedback? Or do you simply want to be understood? Do you desire someone who can empathize with you? Since communication is the backbone of humanity, it makes sense to improve these communication skills; it is the “miracle grow” to our developmental evolution. Listening can tune us into our fellow humans, helping us dive below the surface of things, and enriching our communication along the way.


I was in my late 20’s before I realized I wasn’t a good listener. I was young and self-absorbed. I rarely paid attention to anything that was said to me (perhaps that’s why I never followed anyone’s good advice…) so when slapped in the face with this embarrassing fact, I knew I had some personal development work to do. At the time, I was taking classes at the community college, so I signed myself up for a class called “Interpersonal Communication”. It happened to also fill my speech requirement for my Associate’s degree yet it wasn’t an actual speech class, which I would have hated. So, I jumped into this class not realizing it would change my life or how.


I approached the class with the idea that not only would I improve my listening skills but also my communication skills which I knew were severely lacking. I walked into class confident that I would come out the other side as an active, resourceful, and skilled communicator. The class was anything but that for me. I struggled more than I expected. In fact, I don’t think I made it through a single presentation without crying. I still don’t know what about the whole experience was so heart-wrenching for me besides the sensation of overwhelming vulnerability, or beside my inability to open my mouth and finally honor the muzzled girl who lived within me for far too long.


I recently decided to re-read the textbook from that class. After more than a decade, it no longer gives me anxiety. Instead, it is like re-watching an old movie. I barely remember it but when I look back to the person I was then, I am surprised at how far I have come from that girl into this woman. I have to remind myself that as adults, it is up to us to fill in those blanks from childhood and give ourselves the proper tools through learning, so as to ensure our future success.


Becoming a better listener has improved my quality of life and enriched my relationships with others. It has helped me to see that the heart of listening is in understanding and while it is difficult to understand something that you haven’t personally experienced, it is a good thing to try. It is good for the person who wants to be listened to, and good for the person listening. So, let’s all step up to the possibilities of language and each do our part to help each other evolve and grow. Let’s strengthen the backbone of humanity and enrich what it is to be human.


Take time to listen.