When did we stop mattering to each other? Or maybe, we didn’t ever matter so much to each other? Perhaps I’m romanticizing the past. But I believe we – and by “we” I mean American citizens – once cared about the opinions and feelings of our friends and neighbors. (Or if we disagreed, we were polite and held our tongues, recognizing it takes all kinds to make this mosaic world of ours.) Once, we held dinner parties and engrossed each other in deep discussions about our worldviews. As we held our friends for a moment at the end of our evening and bade them farewell until the next time, we let them know their worldview and feelings about living in it surely mattered to us, or that their existence meant something.
Once, we had a moral compass by which to guide our actions. A sense of personal responsibility for our words and actions prompted us to take ownership when we wronged another. Somewhere in there as well, there was this thing we called manners. (Remember Miss Manners? It wasn’t just an expression but a full-blown lifestyle not exclusively reserved for southern matrons as they handed you a glass of sweet tea on a hot summer day.)
Who cares anyhow, about mattering? I do, and perhaps you do as well. Because letting each other know we matter is at the heart of our humanity. It is at the base of our relationships – from the cashier at Motomaki ringing up my tuna bowl to the receptionist at the Boulder Medical Center checking me in for an opthamologist appointment. It is expressed in our interactions when we hold our husband or wife at seven o’clock in the evening after a long commute down the Denver-Boulder Turnpike. It’s in the hug goodbye upon leaving my friend Nancy M’s sweet home in Northern Colorado, because I wanted her to know how much it meant to me she found me again through Facebook after being gone from each other’s lives for 35 years. It’s in our tweets or our Facebook postings to Senator Michael Bennett to let him know how much I appreciate his standing up to speak for the Antiquities Act to help protect our public lands. None of us is so busy we can’t stop to express our feelings toward another in our daily lives. Do we need a national crisis to occur before we remember to do so again?
Letting each other know how much we matter takes awareness of another’s meaning to us. And there are no other ways to do that but through our words, our physical interactions and our deliberate expressions…(and we certainly can’t do that if we’re not present in them and staring at our smartphones, as a complete aside.)
We can surely all recall moments when we felt we didn’t matter in the world. I know how lost and heartbroken I was after my divorce, until I found another to whom I could matter again. I went from feeling thrown away, like my rescued Shepherd mix and my Lab-Shar-pei mutt, to feeling like I was given a new reason to live. I imagine that’s how my rescued mutts felt when I let them know they mattered in my life. They forgot all about those people who had once thrown them away.
American citizens are heartbroken in a different way, though we’re not always expressing it very elegantly. I can see the sadness in my friend’s eyes speckled with hopelessness and confusion when she expresses her feelings about the recent actions of Dictator Tweety and his team of billionaire buffoons to take away her health care. I can detect it in the Facebook comment postings or Twitter replies to his proclamations to build a $30 Billion wall across our border with Mexico, or the frustration over the unanswered demands for investigations into his ties to Russia. It’s all over our public spaces and roadways, seeping into our private homes and oozing into our online interactions. There’s a sense in our American society, frantically changing at hyper-alarming rates with our wired-in culture, that the feelings of those who believe other than the monied Republicans or Dictator Tweety do just plain do not matter.
And what happens to us when we feel we don’t matter? It depends on the level of our relationship – if it’s your spouse, you yell. Loudly. Or maybe withdraw in sadness like a neglected stray dog on the streets of Laredo. If it’s the cashier at Trader Joe’s you let it go because, well, the relationship in the end isn’t a relationship – it’s a brief encounter. If it’s one with our congressmen or –women, we get louder and more angry. Maybe. Unless and until that one day, when we’ve gone to the seventh protest since Tweety’s inauguration and we just begin to lose energy or faith or patience. Or just plain decide we really need to refinish our concrete floors on Saturday morning instead.
And we simply, turn away.
When we lose our sense of mattering in our society, we don’t handle it very well. Awareness suggests we find a healthy way to express our feelings – from sadness to anger – but that’s all conveniently packaged in Buddhist philosophy. I can embrace that – perhaps you can as well – Thank you Pema Chodron and Lama Surya Daas – but how else can we cope with our loss of knowing our feelings don’t matter to those reality TV stars and their colleagues in the White House?
Letting them know that we’re very aware they’re not taking our wants into account when they spend our tax dollars is the most authentic way to express our true feelings. That’s what’s really going on here. How do you feel about the Keystone XL Pipeline, an environmental nightmare promising to skyrocket our already rising greenhouse gas emissions through the toxicity of tar sands processing? I’ll be protesting in the March for Climate – maybe I’ll see you there? How do you feel about your pre-existing condition for that melanoma you had at 25 ruling you out for affordable health insurance? Tweety can be found at @realDonaldTrump – go ahead and flood his feed to let him know you don’t support him or his confusingly acidic agenda.
But protests or sending letters and tweets or making calls isn’t the only way we can regain our sense of mattering to the human community. It also lies in our interactions with those of us not in the White House, but in the coffee shops or the grocery stores. Letting each other know that we do care about another human being or rescuing the canine spirit thrown away by one to whom they no longer mattered can also be an expression of our higher humanity. (It’s National Shelter Day on April 30th, go find a wonderful mutt to love!) It’s something that allows us to retain that little piece of ourselves we’ve been losing through this presidentially-led parade down the avenues of Drama and Disbelief into the streets of Deception and Dissention.
The feelings we have are all valid, even if our opinions differ. And at the end of this Administration, wouldn’t we all like to emerge with a sense that we bettered ourselves in this soul-crushing experience by responding with a higher expression that we are stronger than his corrosive policies or entrenched arguments we find in our daily news feeds? (Although admittedly, I’d like to send Sean Spicer a tweet that in my own personal life, the words he spews and spits out don’t really matter!)
Feeling our place of mattering in the world just doesn’t stop with our families. It doesn’t end with our friends. We’re all in this effort to live and live well together – letting each other know that we understand that, is how we can see ourselves through the next four very long years…