I’ve done a pretty good job of separating my worlds. There’s day job world and family world, friend world and lesbian romance novelist world. At times, I allow them to overlap. Sometimes, they even play nicely together. When it comes to myself, however, things get a little tricky.
I know at work to avoid talking about politics. And I know that there are members of my family that I can’t talk to at all anymore and maintain my sanity. I know who to compartmentalize and how.
I have a few cousins, for example, who I love dearly and who are pretty staunch conservatives. We’ve been close for so many years and I believe that they are good people who are trying to lead good lives. We agree to disagree and I just hide some of the things they share on Facebook. (Why can’t Facebook make an I-only-want-to-see-pictures-of-your-kids-and-TBT-photos setting?) We maintain deep affection for one another and keep our interactions focused on the experiences we’ve shared.
Mostly, I keep my wits about me and my heart intact. But sometime it doesn’t work out that way. Sometimes, I’m in a mood or I think of a witty comment and I can’t contain myself. I engage. I know that I’ll regret it and that I’ll end up queasy and sad, but I do it anyway. And it begins.
When you say that kids do better with a mom and a dad than with two moms, but that you don’t mean me because I would make a great parent, it’s not okay. When you say you don’t get why people say Caitlyn Jenner is brave, you are denying and dismissing the reality that so many–too, too many–people have been murdered because they were transgender. When you say that a baker should be able to refuse making my wedding cake because you also think I should be able to refuse to bake for the KKK, you aren’t helping. When you say it isn’t personal, you’re lying. You might think that you can separate the two, but you can’t.
I’ve given myself a lot of stomach aches through the years. I’ve done it because I feel in my heart that these people are worth it. because I believe that meaningful conversation might open their minds just a little. Because maybe I can learn something, too. Because I think walking away will make me more sad in the long run.
Each time, though, the sadness of the moment compounds. I can’t shake the hurt and I can’t shake the gnawing feeling that it’s a losing battle. Or the feeling that there is so much more at stake than me and you and our relationship. The feeling that the whole world on the cusp and I can’t tolerate anyone whose beliefs and opinions and votes will make it less safe, less kind, less generous.
I don’t have answers–for myself or for them or for anyone else. Writing is good salve, though. It eases the tightness in my chest so that I can breathe. Depending on the day, it gives me patience or clarity or resolve. I’m not sure what it’s giving me right now, but I have more hope than I did when I started writing twenty minutes ago. So that’s something.