November 2016

Duck tolerance

Once upon a time, there was a school of ducks. Throughout the day, Teacher Duck worked with many different classes. One of her classes was a group of 3 ducks – 2 boys and 1 girl, if labels were necessary in the pond.

This class swam into Teacher Duck’s room and found their seats.

“Teacher Duck!” Johnny Duck exclaimed. “I know this is really off topic, but can I show you and the other ducks what I have in my backpack today?!”

“Hmm,” Teacher Duck thought. “Can you tell us what it is first, so I can make sure that’s a good choice?”

“I brought my dolls!” Johnny Duck exclaimed. “And I did their hair and it looks sooo good, and I want to show everyone.”

“Okay,” Teacher Duck agreed. “Let’s take two minutes for you to share and then we’re going to get started with the lesson.”

Johnny Duck swam over to his backpack and pulled out his dolls. He showed each of them to Billy Duck and Susie Duck, pointing out the complex braids he gave them, and the fashionable clothes he dressed them in.

Susie Duck said, “Cool! I like their hair.”

Billy Duck said, “Nice. You love dolls. I love Legos.”

Johnny Duck laughed. “I LOVE my dolls. I didn’t start collecting them until a few years ago, so I’m a little behind. But I just love them and I love playing with them and I love how beautiful they are.”

And Susie and Billy Duck smiled, because Johnny loves dolls, and they make him happy, so they had no reason to feel anything other than happy about Johnny.

Teacher Duck began the lesson. Partway through a creative writing, Billy Duck said, “Johnny, I’m going to make you a fairy in my story.”

Johnny Duck beamed. “I LOVE fairies! Can I have glitter and sparkles too?”

“Sure,” Billy Duck nodded.

A little while later, Teacher Duck was explaining the next task, when Johnny Duck glanced at Teacher Duck’s flipper. Though there had been a ring on it for many years, it only just registered with him.

“Teacher Duck, I love your ring!” Johnny Duck exclaimed. “Are you married?”

Teacher Duck nodded.

“So you have a husband?” Johnny Duck asked. “Well, of course you do, what else would you have?”

“Well,” Teacher Duck responded, “I could have a wife.”

“Yeah,” Susie Duck chimed in, who has a Mom Duck as her parent. “And if a girl marries a girl then if they want a baby they might have to adopt. Same with a boy who marries a boy.”

“That’s called gay,” Billy Duck added.

“Yup.” Johnny Duck confirmed.

And then they kept writing.

Teacher Duck looked in awe at her brilliant, compassionate, loving ducks, who loved each other for who each other was, and didn’t question it. Because a duck is a duck – and beyond that, it just didn’t matter.

Where we go from here

One of the greatest lessons I learned over 10 years ago is that emotions aren’t just an “or”. They’re a “but/and”. One of the most wonderful things we are able to do is feel two things at once. Think two things at once. Do two things at once. I can feel tired and still go to work and do my job. I can start laundry but also start dinner. And I can feel terrified and devastated beyond words, and feel hopeful.

Yesterday, in the midst of tears, of fear, of panic, of spinning about what-ifs (something I’ve spent years un-learning), I had moments of hope and of clarity.

Things sometimes – often – get worse before they get better. I sure did. And maybe our country will be the same. People come together in a tragedy. People come together during a hard time. People come together when there’s heavy emotion. And people are coming together right now. If you have ever gone through a hard time, you know that though it may seem odd, there’s something special about a hard time. Hard times mean closeness, an ability to freely express emotions (we always have that ability, but it becomes universally more acceptable), more hugs and love, people checking in on you, and an intensity that is actually pretty special.

I feel afraid for what’s to come – and I feel hopeful that things will be okay. I feel sad for myself, for loved ones, for so many individuals out there for various reasons – and I feel that we will move through this and ultimately emerge stronger. Already many of us feel a sense of a community, of being less alone, of belonging.

I have hope for our kids. I have hope for the next generation of young ones. I have hope that people are starting to Get It. I have hope that people will understand the “both/and”. I have hope that amidst our despair, we will trust. I have hope that we can take this one moment at a time. I have hope that we are much more resilient than we think. I have hope that We Belong To Each Other.

And I have fear and panic and worry. They co-exist. And isn’t that a beautiful thing?

We can sit and hide – and sometimes we’ll need to do that. Sometimes, that’s what self-care looks like. But we will also have moments where we will know:

Nothing lasts forever. Not fear, not hatred, not the tides, not the moon. And things especially don’t last forever when we stand up, take a breath, hold hands, and walk forward. We can do hard things. We WILL do hard things. And we’ll do hard things together.


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