When I started writing for Lent, it was to explore beliefs and how I’ve changed and to feel some freedom writing about all of that. Anxiety about how people might react to me not being who I was 3 years ago, 5 years ago, 10 years ago has been crippling me. It’s kept me from writing with my voice about the things I’m passionate about. And to someone like me, where writing is therapy, this paralyzing fear to be free and who I am has been slowly poisoning my soul. The last few months I’ve been battling depression again. And I think a large part of that was this inability (of my own doing) to be who I am. So, I think it’s time to free myself to write and say the things I believe now.
But first – Why am I nervous? Why do I, at this very moment, feel anxiety gripping me?
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It’s funny in a way how certain conversations can stick in your head, isn’t it?
A year and a half ago, I was out to dinner with a large group of my friends. At one point in the conversation, things turned to politics. One of my friends was going on about how when she met up with some people she hadn’t seen in years, she was shocked to find out they were no longer conservative Republicans. In a horrified tone of voice, she remarked, “I couldn’t believe it. My friends were all Democrats now!” She then went on to talk about what an awkward night the reunion had been and how she didn’t see too many reasons to continue to hang out with these friends anymore.
Then, there was another conversation with a more intimate group of my friends. We all sat around a coffee shop table expressing our love for our little group. We’d been through a lot together. Someone commented they couldn’t see us losing this bond of friendship. But then, we started talking about what would make us quit being friends with each other. We each seemed to have a line in the sand that would end the relationships. It was an oddly depressing drive home that night as I tried to absorb the conversation we had all just had. This group of ladies who I shared tights bonds of friendship with all had conditions, as did I. (Unsurprisingly, due to a conflict and then the busyness of life, our group isn’t such a tight little group anymore)
Those two conversations are what have given me pause to write through my changes.
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There is an interesting world online, the world of social media. I feel like I live a divided online life. My Facebook friends are mostly all family and friends – people I have actually met in real life. You know me and my kids. My Twitter followers are mostly people I’ve never met, but interact with 140 characters at a time. They know my politics, however. If I did a Venn Diagram of my Twitter Followers and my Facebook Friends, I might have a couple dozen of the same people in the intersection of the two groups.
That being said, if you follow me on Twitter you won’t be shocked when I say this. I’m no longer a conservative Republican. Come to think of it, maybe my Facebook friends have seen my “likes” in their feeds, so they aren’t surprised, either.
I’m not sure if I left the Republican party, or to play on the words of a former hero of mine, the Republican party left me. It was probably a joint thing, a mutual parting of ways. The Republican party that we know today and see paraded on television this election season doesn’t begin to resemble the Republican party of my youth, the 1980’s. And I, after the last few years, don’t share many of the same priorities as the Republican party. More on that another day.
Now, the first thing some of you’ll think is, “Are you a Democrat?” And to that answer, I still don’t really know. Probably? Sometimes? Depends? This primary season, yes. Yes, I will be voting for a Democrat for the very first time in my life. Just from the few friends I’ve confided that in, this admission leads to another question. And well, more on that follow-up question another day. That’s another entire essay completely.
I know that many people think that this is a binary decision – you are either an R or a D and there is no in-between. Claiming to be a moderate or independent is often met by derision in that people sneeringly say you can’t make decisions and that “fence riding” is indicative of some sort of inability or unwillingness to make a stand one way or the other. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Life isn’t as easy as a pre-packaged set of beliefs handed down to us from on high in some smoke-filled rooms in Washington, DC.
Donkeys and Elephants.
Blue States and Red States.
Left and Right.
Life is more complex than a set of boxes to check. Partisanship is not the answer to all of life’s problems. Partisanship gives us a false reality that if every one of our check box beliefs are put into practice than life will get better. And that’s never the case.
Instead, I’m trying to find causes and (in my pie in the sky hopes), candidates, who will pass the test of my own personal ethics. My beliefs have evolved over the years, as I hope everyone’s does to some degree. I’ve never understood the criticism some public people take when a belief changes. If you aren’t changing and growing and learning and evaluating, then you are stagnant. And that is rarely good in my opinion. It’s okay to say, “I was wrong” and change your ways. It’s okay to say, “I’ve found a different way.” That isn’t a weakness. It’s part of being human. And it’s actually personal growth.
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I think about the anxiety, the fear of rejection, the inner people-pleaser whispering to me… and in a way, it’s poisoned me on my relationships. I’ve withdrawn from many of my friends afraid of rejection. I wonder if I’ll pass the conditions everyone seems to have on their friendships. Will I feel awkward next time a conversation about politics comes up in my circle of conservative friends (and having lived in the Bible Belt my entire life, I have a lot of conservative friends)? I wonder now… Will I be the subject of a story one day that ends in, “I couldn’t believe it. Mandi’s a Democrat now!?”
And then I realize I’m probably not giving most of you enough credit. I’m fairly certain, in the logical side of my brain, that you weren’t friends with me just because we voted alike and because my political banter was so witty and insightful. Our friendships are multi-dimensional and forgiving of each other’s faults. At least they are on my side.
I don’t know what the future holds for all my relationships. We never do. I’m sure this admission might affect some of them. I lost contact with a couple friends and a cousin when I spoke against the Confederate Flag. To tell everyone I’m voting for Bernie Sanders in the primary might be too much for a few of you. Mercy!
But I need to be free.I need to be able to write with my voice and not keep myself in a political closet of sorts. My values haven’t changed. My ethics haven’t changed. They’ve expanded and I’m expressing them in a different manner now than I used to. That’s all. And I can explore that freely now in my writing. I already feel better just typing all of this out.
See, I can maybe be your token Democrat friend. And we’ll converse and learn from each other. Iron sharpens iron, right? And now, now that I’ve told you my truth and embraced my story, will you still love me tomorrow?