You may want to sit down for this...
And now I will share an experience I had last night. I went to a house of a family I do not know. In that home were gathered a dozen people, most of them people I do know - and including several with whom I no longer spend time, having fallen out over matters of race and social issues. Under normal circumstances, I find it hard to be with some of them - and if we were to talk it would probably be to disagree.
But we were there to gather the traditional minyan of ten Jewish people so this family could say the Mourner's Kaddish for the daughter of that house, a 24-year old who died this week. Our disagreements on politics, our past hurts and offenses, our hopes to convince each other of our own rightness - these were meaningless. Last night, and tonight when we gather again, we are members of a community, fellow humans, fellow mothers and fathers offering what solace we can to a grieving family.
I wish the mutual respect and state of common purpose applied more widely.
I am a pretty loud and dogged activist for family-centered care, for nutrition as the first line of treatment, against blaming families or patients, for seeing EDs as a brain disease, and for getting rid of tired ideas about eating disorders. My record is pretty clear on this, and I've never softened or muted those messages. I leave quite a paper trail - and cyber trail!
But my enemy is ideas and institutions, not people. I do not equate people with their ideas. I do not reject people who hold ideas I don't share. I do not exclude people from my life for sharing most of my beliefs but failing others. We are all a community, all seeking the same goals, and none of us with perfect knowledge. There are bad ideas, old ideas, damaging ideas - but people are people in their glorious individuality and dignity. If ED has taught me anything, it is the imperative of humility.
When I disagree with someone I discuss it. I engage. I respect that person enough to be able to hear my point of view, ask the same of them, and I believe that if I am right on something that I have a chance of convincing that person of my point of view by engaging. I cannot control whether they do come to my thinking on a topic, but my responsibility is to speak up and say it - not to make them agree. I need to listen, and hear, and ask good questions.
It is inevitable that by taking a stand, one gets criticized. And unless your stand is the absolute furthest end of polarity then you will get arrows from both directions. I'm proud to say that I am, today, nursing wounds on both sides. There is something to be said for being in the line of fire.
In tap dancing, as in the rest of my life, I'm learning. And frustrations get channeled into progress. With more weeks like these, I will be Donald O'Connor in no time.