The Anxiety to Coexist

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Today was a normal day in my book. Kade had a dentist appointment, and my mom watched my two littles. After swinging by to pick them up, she asked me to stay for lunch. We spent most of the afternoon catching up and watching the kids play. Then, lunch was over and I was headed out the door with a dish of leftovers to bring my husband at work. As I walked out the door, I thought about which way I’d take to get to him. Naturally I would have taken Airline Highway all the way up from Siegen Lane to where he works in Port Allen, but instantly I wondered whether Airline was the best route to take given the protests that have recently taken place. As quick as the worry came, it was diminished with the thought that I was in no danger and that I’d most certainly take Airline all the way to the west side, like any other day.

As I was driving, I found myself anxious about what I’d see. I keep up with what I can, but it’s usually after the fact so I had no idea what the current situation was. I was anxious. Not scared. Anxious. I crossed under the interstate and noticed a vehicle in the other lane that had painting on it. It read “Rest In Peace Alton Sterling. Black Lives Matter.” He and I happened to be in a situation in which he needed to get over in my lane, but I wasn’t far enough back for him to do so. You know, one of those situations that you either ease off or speed up to make room? I sped up. He swapped over into my lane then over into the next. As he passed me, I instantly thought what he thought about me. If he looked into my vehicle, saw that I was white and thought I’d intentionally not let him in front of me.

During that short four-mile drive from the interstate to that infamous intersection of Goodwood and Airline I thought about it all. I thought about how silly it was of me to think that I mattered that much to that man. I thought about the fact that every time I’ve crossed paths with someone that was not white over these past few days I wonder if they know how much I love them but worry that they think I don’t. I thought about the sweet lady at the airport that I approached nervously and how her warm smile took it all away. Or the girls at Don’s as we watched bus loads of police officers head down Airline. I thought about how nervous I was to interact with them, and if they knew my heart was wide open to hearing their opinions even though our skin color was not the same.

It finally hit me. I had a lurking anxiety to coexist. I was so worried about what society has me believing about people I know nothing about. I was nervous to coexist with everyone because I worried I was doing it all wrong.

I scroll through my newsfeed every day and am continuously told that I am in fact doing it all wrong. I see that I am racist for TRULY feeling that all lives matter but I’m a bad person for being neutral in a situation, for seeing the world without blinders. I read that we are not allowed to love everyone. We are not allowed to see the good and the bad in every single person. I see over and over that I have to pick a side. That there is no middle of the road for a human. Absolutely no joining hands with both sides.

You see, today when I was driving down Airline I saw not one single person in uniform or holding signs. Just an endless row of fencing and traffic like it was any other day. But I did imagine this: I imagined myself as if I was driving right down the middle of those two sides, protesters on one side and policemen on the other. I thought about what it would be like to truly be in the middle … and I was content. At that exact place, I was happy being in the middle. I wanted nothing more than to shout for both sides of that road, shout from the rooftops that they both mattered.

At the end of the day, I can deal. I can muster up the courage to approach someone who looks different from me. As my children watch, I can set an example of what it’s like to live life without blinders. I can laugh and joke with the sweet boy at CC’s. I can return a warm smile back to the manager at ToysRUs. We can high-five, we can hug, we can laugh and we can love any human being, of any race. I can show them over and over that there is no need for division in our hearts, no matter what society tells us.

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