You know that notion that peace begins with me? That we cannot start to create a peaceful world without the actions we take as individuals?
Well, today I saw three things that made me take this idea in a new direction. I am kind, I hope, more days than not. I have done things to create peace with my actions, like the 30 years of heading up mediation at Fernway School, or speaking to the Presbytery of the Western Reserve during a critical vote. I hold doors open every single time. I let people pass in front of me when exiting space, men, women, child. It does not matter. I defer.
Yes, I know I can be untempered and raging. I know I lose my shit and I can be overbearing and outspoken. I can snap at people. But best I can, I know it and apologize.
I used to want people to think of me as smart but now I want them to perceive me as kind because it matters more. Way more.
This notion of being peaceful by showing personal acts of peace, though, has shifted in the last ten hours. I saw one woman – a beautiful middle aged, well-dressed woman – at East Coast Custard get a triple scoop of vanilla then go eat it in her car. Then she came back in and get another triple scoop and eat it in her car. I wanted to say, “C’mon in, honey. Come sit right here beside me and have six scoops of custard. Its okay. No hiding , no judgment.”
Then, just minutes later, I saw an older woman, maybe 70, walking down Mayfield Road all dolled up. Short skirt, lots of rouge, purple in her hair, spiky glasses. It would have looked great, or more great, if she were nineteen, but she wasn’t nineteen. And I wanted to say, “Come here, sweet cheeks. Now who has you thinking you need to dress that way? A man? Our culture? Something you saw in a magazine? It’s okay to be you without all of this jazzing up.”
Now, before I go seeming all preachy, I ached for these two – whatever was making them shield and decorate. I am a liberal though and would never deny each the right to do and dress as she choses. It just seemed heartbreaking.
Then, just now, I was watching The second season of Tig Motaro’s “One Mississippi” and there was a flash-forward scene of Tig with Kate, holding hands in a nursing home when they were much much older.
That, to me, would be a perfect love. Sitting next to my love into old old age. Her protecting everything that is sacred to me and me doing the same. Smiling, every day, just because we were together.
And, boom, this idea of “peace beginning with me” sunk down a deeper layer. It’s good to hold doors and say thank you. It’s good to ask a waiter, “May I please have the…: instead of saying, “I’m gonna do…” All of those pleasantries are crucial for a generous society.
And “peace beginning with me” is so much more than that. Peace means acceptance of self.
It means saying I am a heady, anxious driven woman. I am fat and yet I am grateful for this body. I swear too much and often at the wrong time. I am proud. I am beautiful. I am filled with a mercurial hope that will not release me. I am young. I am failing. I have contributed my best at Fernway School. I have contributed my worst at Fernway School. I wasted too many years. I am bold and confident. I am loud. I am too quick sometimes and magnificently quick other times. I am a math wiz, I don’t know where Estonia is. I don’t fit in an airplane seat without a seatbelt extender. I am the best conversationalist on a long trip. I say too much. I say nothing at all. I keep pushing against a system that will not change. I am a great kisser. I am afraid of dying.
Peace is saying all of those things. Knowing all of those things. And accepting them. Fully. Not with resignation or placation, but as truth. The same way I accept that there are five toes on each foot, and a breastbone above my heart.
So, what about that? What if today we could welcome peace of self? Imagine how hard our brains have been working fielding troops and munitions in the war we rage against our self-perceived faults. Put down the weapons. Here is an olive branch. Go now, right now. Wrap it around your tired head like a crown.