focus on the good

January 18th, 2017

Last Saturday, The New York Times ran a story in which a dozen women explained, in their own words, why they voted for the president-elect. It is a bit of a curiosity, that question. After I read it, I noticed that the article was not open to comments. No sense in everyone getting riled up.

He’s not perfect, one woman said. He does some terrible things. I don’t agree with him on very much. But that’s the thing about relationships, she seemed to say. “You get through the bad and you focus on the good.”

Reading that reminded me of what my own mother would say after my father did something cruel, insensitive and selfish, which was pretty much all the time. “He really loves you,” she would tell us. Her words were like a wish blown onto a dandelion.

I’ve read the piece several times since then, looking for the “good” that attracted these voters and I couldn’t find any. They didn’t seem to be motivated by the good at all, but by the bad. Most were expressly anti-immigration, some were anti-Obama or anti-Obamacare, one was clearly anti-welfare, and nearly all were anti-Hillary Clinton. They were afraid of the whole world, or at least America, and looking for protection from the enemy who moved in next door.

In the days immediately following the election, someone wrote a conciliatory comment on my then-Facebook page, where people were posting about how terrified they were by the outcome. Although I voted differently, this person said, I did it out of concern for your safety.

And so the fear has been unleashed upon those who were not yet afraid, not yet exiled or outcast, not yet silenced or disenfranchised, not yet bound and gagged, imprisoned or forgotten. What can we do in the face of this overwhelming, incapacitating fear?

I will focus on the good, which will forever outweigh and outlast the bad. I will be marching with my sisters this Saturday in the Bay Area: Oakland in the morning, San Francisco in the afternoon. We will move our feet and raise our fists and sing out the truth. The forecast is for wind and rain. For sore throats and aching feet. For darkness and dejection. For courage and endurance. The forecast is for a long winter and a frosty spring. But one day, a field of dandelions.


If you’re marching in one of the hundreds of protests planned in cities around the world this Saturday, let everyone know in the comments.

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  1. Thank you for writing here again. 🙂

    Comment by Rivkeh — January 18, 2017 @ 8:43 am

  2. Dear Karen,
    You write like I think. Actually, your writings are much more beautiful and insightful than my thoughts.

    Thank You

    Comment by Joanne Cole — January 18, 2017 @ 9:14 am

  3. So many of us will be marching. Thank you.

    Comment by NATHAN HAYES — January 18, 2017 @ 9:15 am

  4. I too, am trying to focus on the good.
    The bad has been pretty overwhelming
    lately.Thank you.

    Comment by Marcea — January 18, 2017 @ 9:25 am

  5. I will be marching with you, sister, in another state. And looking for the good in the quenching rain and the fog, and waiting for the sun—which will shine again. I will be in yoga class with extra mindfulness during the inauguration, breathing.

    Comment by Gretchen Staebler — January 18, 2017 @ 9:29 am

  6. A New Yorker Magazine humorist recently writes what he thinks about when he is gripped by “overwhelming, incapaciting fear.” Las Vegas eats 60,000 pounds of shrimp every day. Edna St.Vincent Millay’s middle name comes from the hospital in Greenwich Village. And the second most populous city in Illinois is Aurora. Oh, and the largest state east of the Mississippi,in land area, is not Pennsylvania or Florida, but Georgia. I’ve been excitedly waiting to share this with somebody. Thanks for the opportunity! ????

    Comment by Larry Misiak — January 18, 2017 @ 10:18 am

  7. Yes, thank you. I will be marching this Saturday in Los Angeles with my 11 year old son.

    Comment by Laura Stuart — January 18, 2017 @ 10:34 am

  8. I’ll be marching in San Jose. Actually, I volunteered to be a Peace Ambassador, along with 50 other people, to help keep things civil and calm.

    Comment by Kathryn — January 18, 2017 @ 3:00 pm

  9. I’ll be marching in Austin!

    Comment by Tracy — January 18, 2017 @ 3:31 pm

  10. This is such a great insight! They were afraid. Realizing this helps me have compassion for them. Now, I am terrified. But fear is giving way to empowerment. My family will March in DC with the disability caucus and everyone else!

    Comment by Rae — January 19, 2017 @ 3:22 am

  11. My 4-year-old son and I will be marching with many other mothers and children in Nashville with Southern Women for Civil Rights. Thank you so much for speaking out as a spiritual teacher.

    Comment by Eleanor — January 19, 2017 @ 3:44 am

  12. I will be marching in NYC for women everywhere and for my new granddaughter Sadie just born last week. Women know how to maintain the fabric of life. All our love and strength and clear vision is needed now.

    Comment by JEANIE — January 19, 2017 @ 4:31 am

  13. I will be marching in Kansas City!

    Comment by Nova — January 19, 2017 @ 4:43 am

  14. I will be loud and proud in Seattle ! I crafted a sign, have a pink hat ( which may or may not last the duration ) and am following the lead of many strong women in remaining hopeful in light of what is ahead. I see this as day of empowerment for us all. Hear us roar !! Thank you for your thoughts on this.

    Comment by Bonnie Nygren — January 19, 2017 @ 4:51 am

  15. I will be marching in St. Louis. I hope for a time of healing for the St. Louis community as blacks and whites come together to oppose this incoming administration.

    Comment by Alice Martin — January 19, 2017 @ 5:18 am

  16. Another beautiful post. Thank you for reminding us (again) to focus on the positive. I will be marching in Boston in proud support of my wife, two daughters and women everywhere. I’m also representing the Bad Hombres of the world!

    Comment by Jeremy — January 19, 2017 @ 5:50 am

  17. Two Streams Zen here in Westhampton, MA, is sending our two guiding teachers, Anraku and Ryumon, to march in Washington. Others of us will be marching locally, in towns from Pittsfield to Boston. Two Streams Zen is, by the way, near Amherst, the home of Emily Dickinson, who wrote:

    Looking at Death, is Dying –
    Just let go the Breath –

    And so, we have hope, and we surround those who don’t with love and compassion.
    Dan Lombardo

    Comment by Daniel Lombardo — January 19, 2017 @ 5:51 am

  18. Maezen, your writing is like a light in the darkness. The good is right here, in your honesty and clarity. Thank you. Rallying in Concord, NH, on Saturday, with the sisters in the granite state.

    Comment by Katrina Kenison — January 19, 2017 @ 6:04 am

  19. My 7 year old daughter and I will be marching in DC!

    Comment by Jackie Wright-Martin — January 19, 2017 @ 6:15 am

  20. Marching fearless in NYC, thankful for the opportunity, and grateful for the company of my companions. Love and courage to all!

    Comment by Mark — January 19, 2017 @ 6:18 am

  21. Thank you for this! I will be marching with my 2 teenage daughters in Austin.

    Comment by Margaret — January 19, 2017 @ 6:20 am

  22. Marching in Boston!

    Comment by Bridge — January 19, 2017 @ 6:26 am

  23. It is a fact of biological existence that the brain and body chemistry of fear (fight or flight) degrades the brain chemistry necessary for higher reasoning. The two cannot co-exist in one human body. Decisions made out of fear are therefore (except when you’re actually faced with a bear or a komodo dragon or the like) almost uniformly bad decisions. This is why it is so critical not to let fear rule one’s life.

    I have been thinking lately (in my personal life but especially in regard to this election) that fear is in a way based in pride because it is a stance that says “I must be preserved before all others — my safety and comfort matter more than yours.” (That “I did it for your safety” remark seems like bogus self-justification and self-delusion.) When I operate from that place, I believe I must control you to get what I need. That is not my right, and it is not physically possible anyway. When I operate from a position of trust in the Universe to provide what I need when I need it, I have an attitude of abundance toward other people as well, of generosity, of caritas. Trust is the antidote, no matter what things look like. Namaste.

    Comment by GemmaVA — January 19, 2017 @ 6:51 am

  24. Yes, Gemma. Buddhism sees it quite clearly. Fear is the basic ground of ego. Compassion is the basic ground of the awakened mind. That’s why true compassion is always selfless, or it isn’t compassion at all.

    Comment by Karen Maezen Miller — January 19, 2017 @ 7:00 am

  25. I’m marching in Toronto with my daughters and some friends.

    Comment by Karen McKay — January 19, 2017 @ 6:53 am

  26. I’ll be marching in San Francisco. I will look for you in the crowd of 35,000. I am sure you will be radiating light but then I hope we all will be radiating light!

    Comment by Jennie — January 19, 2017 @ 7:16 am

  27. I’ll be marching in Omaha!

    Comment by Allison Evans — January 19, 2017 @ 7:38 am

  28. I’ll be marching in Madison WI

    Comment by Tracy — January 19, 2017 @ 8:38 am

  29. I will be marching in Fairbanks, Alaska – at 20 below zero! – and it will be the biggest march in my 13 years here. Thanks as always for your insight, Karen, and for your thoughts on fear, Gemma.

    Comment by Lena — January 19, 2017 @ 9:58 am

  30. I will be marching alongside all my sisters in Austin. We all, globally, walk together side by side, shoulder to shoulder. A wave of unwavering determination.

    Comment by Connie — January 19, 2017 @ 10:09 am

  31. I’ll be marching with my daughter-in-law in Portland, Oregon

    Comment by Debbie — January 19, 2017 @ 1:02 pm

  32. Thank you for writing this! I wish I could march on Sat in Chicago but I have an important appointment for my daughter that I cannot change, though I’ve tried. I will be there and everywhere with you all in spirit!


    Comment by Navreet Heneghan — January 19, 2017 @ 2:43 pm

  33. I will be marching in Kansas City!

    Comment by Vickie — January 19, 2017 @ 6:52 pm

  34. I’ll be present for a ore-March rally in Pasadena, and then on to Los Angeles with wonky leg and distaste of large crowds.

    Comment by Laura — January 19, 2017 @ 11:45 pm

  35. Thinking about you and wondering if you were marching too. My heart feeling the love today.

    Comment by Mariella — January 21, 2017 @ 8:19 pm

  36. I marched in D.C. yesterday! Amazing, peaceful, joyful, and moving. Now onward to the work after a brief rallying of the troops and a bit of celebration! It was so glad to see so many out.

    Comment by Tara — January 22, 2017 @ 2:36 pm

  37. My daughter and I marched in Lexington, KY.

    Comment by Jodi — January 22, 2017 @ 5:17 pm

  38. I marched yesterday in Chicago. I have never been so heartened to be part of a group. 250,000 of us all walking joyously together in solidarity. Tomorrow begins the hard work: calling Senators and congressman. It’s work I’ve often left to others. Now, there’s too much at stake. I need to join in too.

    Comment by mary mccloskey — January 22, 2017 @ 6:24 pm

  39. Thank you Karen for your empowering words and example!!! I am always uplifted and given courage by your example and your wise words. I hope that you didn’t get a sore throat or cold but if you did I am sending all my healing thoughts your way and my pledge to keep working for the rights of all people. This is our wake up call and our duty! Keep writing, keep marching I will be right behind you every step until we are surrounded by that field of dandelions. Penny

    Comment by Penny Ballantyne — January 22, 2017 @ 6:30 pm

  40. What a wonderful weekend–celebrating the sisterhood with my sisters.

    Comment by Tricia Heinrich — January 23, 2017 @ 11:11 am

  41. I marched in DC along with my husband and some good friends. After the gut-wrenching day in which “that person” was inaugurated, we joined in with over 500,000 others to express our displeasure, and to support each other. It was one of the most amazing displays of Democracy at work that I have witnessed in my lifetime. And now, we must be vigilant….and work our asses off.

    Comment by Clare — January 25, 2017 @ 12:45 pm

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