This was why I went to the march, joining those 300 others gathering and encircling in the heart of Cody: To be kind to myself.
As I stood shivering in the blinding biting cold blue of the Sunday afternoon, I felt a warmth welling up inside me. Tears gathered hot behind my big rimmed shades, and I hugged my right arm tight around Nancy, her head leaning against my quivering tricep; Anna nestled tall and strong against my left shoulder.
We drank the sustenance of the speeches and squinted with hard jaws and soft lips at the signs cutting kaleidoscopic squares into the stark blue. Everything about the scene burst in brightness.
Being there filled me with a sense of purpose and communion, connection and deep meaning, that made me happy. I know that there are many reasons half the country might tell me I was wrong to go to the march, but I didn’t go to be right about going. I went to the march because it made me happy to go and be a part of that story.
I’m not talking about happiness in some flimsy whimsy sense of the word; I’m talking about the kind of whole body and soul happiness that comes from feeling aligned with our purpose in this world — and we all have one. I knew part of my purpose was to be at that march — to drink the hot coffee poured for me by a kind gentleman; to dive into the conversations about books and research and nature and projects and passions initiated with old friends and new acquaintances; to see and feel and hear the colors and emotions and cries that filled that sky-roofed, snow-floored room.
Noel Two Leggins, the chief of staff for the Crow Tribe’s Executive Branch, came to Cody to speak at the march, returning to the one-time home of his people. Towering and lissome, he climbed the stage emanating an ease that tickled my spine and rocked my heart.
“We’re all here for a reason,” he said. “Let’s fulfill that purpose.”
I believed him, because I heard his own purpose reverberate in his every word, saw his place in the world taken up by him with his every step.
Being kind is more important than being right, and that principle starts within each of us. Be kind to your heart by listening to what it tugs and pulls and whispers and pushes at you to do. For to be human is to know the dives and dunks and flutters of the heart — those gentle pleadings and proddings toward our purpose. We are kind to ourselves when we acknowledge the communications our hearts offer us, when we trust and follow our hearts.
In her 2010 TED Talk The Power of Vulnerability (which, on the TED platform alone, has nearly 33 million views), University of Houston research professor Brené Brown speaks of the word “courage.”
“It’s from the Latin word cor, meaning heart — and the original definition was to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart,” Brown says.
I believe we activate the ability to be kind to others — rather than needing to prove we are right — by being kind to our own hearts, by cultivating the courage to listen to them in order to discover and fulfill our purpose.
THAT shadow my likeness that goes to and fro
seeking a livelihood, chattering, chaffering,
How often I find myself standing and looking at it where it flits,
How often I question and doubt whether that is really me;
But among my lovers and caroling these songs,
O I never doubt whether that is really me.
— Walt Whitman
When we go about seeking to prove we are right, seeking and needing external indicators of our own worth or of anyone else’s, we can hardly recognize each other as fellow humans. But when we are engaged in those acts that are most true to us — be it Whitman writing his songs of poetry or Mary Keller jumping and fist-pumping on the stage, engaged in a joyous tirade about human beings taking their power back from corporations — we can never doubt that we are really human, that this is really me and her and him. We recognize ourselves and others in a way that deserves kindness, in a way that calls upon us to create a world in which we all have the ability and opportunity to act courageously.
“What I mean is, summon all your courage, exert all your vigilance, invoke all the gifts that Nature has been induced to bestow,” says Virginia Woolf in her “Letter to a Young Poet,” written in 1932.
It takes courage to be kind to ourselves. But when we are kind to ourselves, we can be kind to each other — and encourage others to do the same.