These days, the bathroom mirror often paints an unwelcome picture.
I’m usually harboring lingering doubts about my body, although my husband insists my extra pounds are all the more to love. I often note the perpetual shadows under my eyes, which if I admit to myself are probably hereditary since I can’t seem to erase them no matter how much I rest. Lately I’ve decided to go clean-shaven again; when my eventual laziness takes over and the stubble reappears, I wonder if it’s worth the tiniest of hassles as I drag the razor out from its place inside the cupboard.
In the mirror, I see that I am tired.
No one ever told me I was near-sighted until the 4th grade. “How come you never said anything?” my mother asked incredulously when we found out the prescription I needed. I remember feeling slighted. Was I being punished for my lack of insight into my own myopia?
I see that I am weary.
The vision exam easily detected that I couldn’t see straight. To piece together that I couldn’t love straight needed a bit more work. I only tried to kill myself twice; as with nearly all teenage endeavors they were attempts full of passion and sorely lacking in follow through. I arrived at adulthood nearly whole and no longer plagued by doubts that I was broken, doomed to never know the wonder of intimacy.
The reflection hints that I am worn down.
I’d been with my then-boyfriend for about four years when he proposed. We’ve since been legally bonded twice. The first involved sending a form in the mail, civil marriage not yet being legal for us. But then it was. And our second, a year later to the day, was a simple wedding ceremony: the two of us at the courthouse, a ritual of necessity to upgrade us to “actually married.” Neither seemed worth inviting others across the country to celebrate with us, and the joy in my heart was clouded by spite for twin rites that ended up a pale imitation of what should be a pure and joyous shouting of my devotion.
A closer look shows that I am angry.
I’ve only seriously feared for my physical safety a few times in my life. Most of the discrimination I’ve faced has been sniping comments from strangers, offensive language by colleagues who either don’t know or don’t care, or is indirect and pointed away from Me, the person. But over the past year and a half — as I’ve witnessed the Black Lives Matter movement get discarded as “terrorists,” as I’ve watched the rise (and fall) of ISIS turn into shrill denunciation of Islam as a whole, as I’ve seen states pass bills to legislate unequal treatment toward the LGBT community in the name of religion, and as we’ve watched one man grin and smirk and flail and stammer his way up to the highest office of the land, and get cheered for doing so on the back of hate and fear and violence — I find myself consumed by rage.
I don’t recognize who I see, some days.
I’ve stayed away from family – people who I’ve seen practicing love in the past, and who share racist memes and call President Obama a Muslim – knowing that I am a hair trigger away from unleashing a torrent of anger upon them. I’ve screamed into the Abyss of the Internet, co-opting my friends’ Facebook pages to tell their own friends (who I will never meet) that I “hope their horrid thinking changes in their lifetime before they end up dying with it.” I’ve found myself wondering at what point would I, who has never thrown a punch in my life, attack someone in blind fury.
But the face is a coward’s.
Instead of a call to action, my feelings leave me numb and useless. Rallied as they are against the darker demons of my neurochemistry and current circumstance, my mental energies are spread too thin for me to respond to even a self-admitted call to action. I scroll through my list of saved links on Facebook with titles such as “9 Things White People Can Do To Fight Racism Now,” and think back to my graduate school course on multiculturalism, and I cry because I know this is my issue to help solve. But I am part of an invisible minority, and in public I can pass as normal as long as I am careful to talk about the right things, feign interest in the right topics, and avoid too many personal questions. Perhaps if I had grown up with the luxury of realizing that society was broken against me – if I were a woman, or Black, or an immigrant – I would have grown up with a thicker skin and I wouldn’t feel like I was unprepared for this fight.
Instead, with each new acquaintance’s innocent question about a wife or a girlfriend, I get to repeatedly choose if I will stay true to myself or stay safe within others’ misconceptions. Each decision weighs down on me: a fresh reminder that for all my fake laughs and disingenuous replies of “Oh, no, I don’t have a girlfriend right now,” I should be instead working to make sure the next generation never has to worry if theirs sound sincere enough. Or that they don’t have to worry about walking home at night because of the color of their skin. Or that they shouldn’t be afraid to practice their faith in a nation founded on the freedom of religion.
But I realize that I am looking through a glass, darkly, and I hope soon I can know myself fully.
There are no words for how toxic this election season has become. And though I might pretend otherwise, my sense of empathy is still intact. It may be guarded and focused almost solely on those who deserve it, but it hasn’t been beaten entirely out of me yet. The people who spend all their lives living in the same place, talking to the same people, and never realizing how similar they are to the person who worships in a mosque instead of a church… their perceptions aren’t wrong. They’re not invalid. They just haven’t seen what I’ve seen, known what I’ve known, lived what I’ve lived, and learned what I’ve learned. And when I am whole, I hope that I can break bread with them, and learn, and teach, and share.
Who am I to judge them for their shortsightedness? They can’t know that glasses could make things clearer.
We stand ready to close out 2016 having just elected Donald Trump to the office of President of the United States. We’ve since seen an outbreak of hate crimes against minorities of all stripes and colors and howling from the Left for Trump to “rein in his supporters.” But this is folly; he did not create these divisions, he merely rode them into power.
The past few weeks have made it clear there is a lot of pain in our country. I believe that we have a duty to our fellow man and I hope that I am in a better place to fill the duty to do my part to soothe this pain soon.
I am not a religious man, so you can imagine my surprise when, while further researching the title of this piece, I discovered it was embedded in one of the few verses of the Bible that move me emotionally. 1 Corinthians 13 is part of a discussion about spiritual gifts and mentions the three Christian theological virtues: faith, hope, and charity (love). This verse talks about the permanence and primacy of love and how hollow a life we live without it. It is this love that I hope, one day, to be able to carry within me and share around me.
Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. 2And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.
3And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.
4Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, 5Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; 6Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; 7Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
8Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.
9For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. 10But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. 11When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
12For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.
13And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.