What the Olympics gave us was greater than any medal
I've always had a keen ability to look at the world through lenses of hopefulness. While TV news and newspapers might tell me to feel differently, I've carefully guarded my perspective in spite of the barrage of negativity that's thrown most of our faces. That was until recently, when certain subliminal fears of mine all came bubbling up to the surface at once on our babymoon in Colorado.
My husband and I were driving from the Denver airport to his aunt and uncle's house in Vail. It was dark outside, but you could still see the beautiful scenery all around us. Colorado always feels like a breath of fresh air from my (although beloved) Houston, which doesn't exactly offer the same kind of nature-high. Although we'd taken this drive many times before and it had always left me feeling pretty in awe, I felt differently this time. The weather was acutely bizarre in Colorado on this particular trip and it almost felt like the mountains were crying. I couldn't help but feel like the air was a bit apocalyptic as I contemplated everything that's at stake for our planet and how little time we have left to fix it. Typically an educated optimist about our planet, I was overcome with despair. Maybe we won't fix it at all, I thought for the first time. Then I started to cry.
I couldn't keep it in anymore. I told Ben how terrified I'd been lately, not just of global warming and the world we were creating for our children that I feel so powerless over, but of the current state of our political affairs and how this election could be the beginning of the end of everything. I couldn't see a bright star in the cloudy sky of current events, and I can always find a bright star. Instead, I felt totally bombarded by the world around me, depressed even. I wasn't capable of finding a new perspective and I couldn't seem to find anyone else capable of it either. Even the people I can always rely on to lift my spirits hadn't been able to lift them recently. Tears streaming down my face, I was also starving, and of course the only food for miles was a Carl's Jr. (nothing like a little factory-farmed food to nosh on when you're feeling devastated about the planet...) We walked in, and I greeted the attendant with wet cheeks.
"Sorry, I'm just really upset about global warming. I'll have the #7," I said.
Ben got back in the car with me afterward and spent the rest of our drive saying several things to me that lifted me out of the trenches. I don't think I would have emotionally survived the next few days without our talk in that car, because the next day Alton Sterling was brutally murdered followed by the murder of Phillando Castille and five police officers murdered in Dallas. I sat in front of my laptop reading and crying sporadically as these events unfolded but was somehow able to maintain a sense of calm I'd found within me in that car. "Remember what Martin Luther King Jr. said, that the arc of the moral universe is long, but always bends toward justice," Ben had reminded me. "Sometimes our planet and the people who live on it experience immense devastation and tragedy, but good always, always prevails." I was calmed by the reminder that good would indeed prevail throughout even the most frightening of circumstances.
When we got home from our trip, I backed up from all the news I'd been absorbing before we left. I realized that in order to make a real difference in my universe, I would have to bring with me the energy I was seeking to find in it. In order to be the light I was needing, I would have to protect my light with everything I had. This didn't mean tuning out reality and playing dumb - instead, it meant being careful with how long I spent taking in information and choosing wisely where I chose to focus my attention and energy. If I allowed myself to get continually bogged down, I could be of no use to anyone (myself included.)
And so I couldn't help but notice that in these last two weeks, our world unknowingly followed the same procedure and got a whole lot happier. No, the election didn't stop in its tracks, but a very large number of nations in a war-torn world came together for the Olympic games. We cheered each other on, we held each other's hands, we remembered that we're all from different countries but still from the same world. We proved that, once again, in spite of sparring governments and tense histories, our inherent desire is to come together. With more chaos than I've remembered in my short lifetime happening all around us, we celebrated with each other. I wondered what it would be like if we could just hold onto that for longer than two weeks.
Now that the Olympics are over, and as I anticipate my Facebook newsfeed will once again re-populate with aggressive insults coming from one side of the political aisle to the other, I intend to remain rooted in the memory of how united we really are. Although we might be asked to see ourselves as different from one another, although we might be asked to choose fear, or build big giant walls, over choosing love, we all mostly know better than that. Inside of each of us, we know that the people next to us are our brothers and sisters.
We love each other. We just forget sometimes.