What is True?

Out of the blue, I received a phone call from someone in the midst of an anxiety attack. I wasn't prepared for this, but isn't this life? So much of it is full of things I am not prepared for, and I do them anyway. I asked my friend to take a deep breath (truthfully, I did the same because I had no idea what I was doing) and then I said, "Tell me... what's going on?" He talked for ten minutes, telling me a long and convoluted story, his voice rising to peaks and lowering to valleys that seemed to match the plot twists he was sharing. Some of it I could not follow. After he was done I said, "Ok. Now out of all of this, what is true?"

He paused. From all of his meanderings he could only identify two things he knew with certainty were true. The rest was a story he was telling himself. His breathing became normal and his sentences took on the sheen of someone more aware of the moment he was in and he was willing to hang up with a degree of certainty, that for the time being, he would be ok. The truth as he had determined was still hard but manageable.

This whole incident feels indicative of this new world we are living in. What is true? How do I find my way to the truth? I start with my breath. Then I move on to the warm cat in my arms and the sun filtering through the leaves casting a narrow shadow on my dog sleeping in her favorite spot on the couch. I see the remnants of breakfast in the sink, spy my coffee cup, mostly empty, and I think, "I am here."

"Here" means this point in history like none other. "Here" means I debate often with myself about when I will read the news. Morning, noon, or night? I have to decide how much time I will give to it. I choose a variety of sources and lately, they are all saying the same thing. What is true is I am watching an unhinged man "lead" our country. What is true is my seventh grader shows a much greater capacity for remorse and self-reflection than the adult male in the White House. What is also true is that the officials of the party he aligned with have remained silent, mostly, despite his unhinged behavior. This, at times, unnerves me. 

What is also true is people are starting to not talk about the president at all. Face to face, I see friends for walks and attend committee meetings and go about my business and rarely does anyone mention the news. This distresses me. It seems like we are accepting and normalizing a dangerous man. My family's not talking, my friends aren't talking, and really what it comes down to is, what is there to say? No one knows for sure, and isn't that the truth? 

Another true thing is I went to a meeting this morning for a group whose main purpose is to encourage engagement within our community about any number of things. This summer, we want to get our community talking to each other. There is no hidden agenda other than getting out of your house and getting to know those who live next to you. This is a concrete action I am taking in the place where I live. 

It's also true I drive to county jail and watch a friend lead some inmates through the steps that Molly Barker created in The Red Boot Coalition. Many of them sit there, free from alcohol and drugs for the first time, and ever-so-slowly start to put the pieces of their past, present, and future life together. I listen, mostly, and I am struck at how this is the real time version of what it means to be more alike than different. Anxiety and parenting and money and fear and an unwillingness to admit our faults and mistakes--every single person carries these things no matter how shiny their outsides look. As they make connections, I make connections I have never made before. I can't say what lasting impact this will have on them, but I feel changed. Once they leave the safety net of a jail, who really knows what will happen? But it is amazing! What is true is that good things can happen while the world appears to be falling apart.

Still, today, I am haunted by my own words. What is true? What is true is I have no idea of how to explain someone like Trump to my kids, but I can demonstrate kindness and healthy debate. I can feel fear in my heart with every headline I read and then replace that fear with one action that rises above every heartless and selfish act. I can keep writing and talking and using my own voice when it seems other people seem scared. I can keep reaching out to people until the truths I see and feel and create are larger and more powerful than the headlines. Perhaps I can change the headlines. It seems unlikely, but I can try. There seems to be no other choice for me...and that is the truth. 

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