June 30, 2018
It really is something when you can completely step out of what you know, who you are, and where you have been to embrace something new whole heartedly. I find that many people cling to their reality, to how things are, what they do each day, and find that the safety of that brings them security. Predictability, consistency – it makes us feel safe, makes us stable.
I find that I no longer think that what I know is the best that I can know. I have had a shift in mindset in 24 hours that seems both predictable and life altering in the same breath. Cancer brought that same reality to me two years ago, and if I really put credit where it belongs, cancer has brought it to me again.
Mariah and I committed to exploration today – a pre-booked trip to the Chateau de Versailles (on my bucket list just this year and already crossed off) and a fluid excursion in the afternoon.
Versailles could have been a full-day of exploration. Truly, my curiosity for this part of history came to me recently from a place many spend time – Netflix. I have lost many hours watching fictional historic shows like The Crown, Medici and then Versailles. To me, the lavish, golden palace of the Sun King – Louis XIV, could not truly exist to touch.
But it does! It exists and is not only present today, but glorious in its opulence and colors. Although only able to see small portions of this amazing space and rooms, the history and beauty remain. Our wonderful guide walked and talked to us about the history of these kings, and in my mind I overlapped them with my Netflix inspiration, seeing this as a movie as I walked through the palace.
History is so much more alive when you can touch it.
A walk through the gardens, with the fountains, the rocks and gravel crunching under our feet, revealed a man with a passion for beauty all around him. Golden gates, plants laid out in clean orderly patterns surrounding fountains of breathtaking visions; it is almost to much to imagine that it is real.
We wandered for some time through the gardens, occasionally picking up agates from the path, noticing and recognizing different plants and greenery that make up the hedges, and always commenting on the kindness of others communication.
Our journey back to the city of Paris brought awareness that the PRIDE festival would soon begin, bringing with it the immense passion and colors of this community. We shifted our agenda to stay near the route, eating lunch in a café across from the Louvre. The traffic, already a swirling dervish of chaos, brought itself to new heights as we ate a meal outside on the walkway.
Close to the start, I anticipated a typical parade of revelers and excitement, many sitting along the blocked thoroughfare we had recently walked ourselves.
Nothing prepared me for the truth of this event.
Color and glitter everywhere, the young and the old. Humans, all colors, sizes shapes and beliefs, swarming towards the parade. Few standing alongside, but most walking in the middle of the Rue De Rivoli, to join in. We joined the others and followed as long as we could. Finally pausing outside the Jardin des Tuileries, we could here the parade initiation. We waited. We waited a long time with floods of people continuing to move towards the parade, but no parade towards us.
Mariah paused along the wall, bringing out her small paint set to capture the moment for herself, and I started to take pictures. So much joy around us, with an undercurrent of something.
Intensity? Expectation? I could not tell at the time, although it revealed itself later.
Law enforcement went by, which I believed was the start of the parade. I smiled at the group walking, acknowledging them as I do all law enforcement. I snapped a quick picture to show Frank the gun they were carrying, knowing he would appreciate that. They slowly made their way forward, the start of this celebration.
Or so I thought.
The large banner, the intense faces and chatting came toward us. I smiled, feeling please for this group of people, all around us, getting to express themselves for who they truly are, for what they believe.
And so naïve this woman from Minnesota seems now.
This group. They.
How “I”, in my head, distanced myself from the “who” of this group.
Why was I not a part of them? Who am I?
Those thoughts came to me later as I watched a parade turn and shift to a protest before my very eyes.
No longer marching by, the group began to chant. I had no idea what they were saying, but my heart told me it was WE ARE HERE. WE ARE YOU. YOU ARE ME.
Those were my feelings of the words swirling around me. I believed.
I saw anger then. I saw energy and intense communication.
And then they sat down. The parade, slow to move, now is sitting on the ground, chanting. News reporters begin to run between the participants, cameras in hand, recording the cheering, the yelling and the passion. One individual climbs a statue and covers the face of the man depicted, someone I hear from the crowd was a person in history not supportive of diversity.
A new wave of energy hits and the entire crowd turns to face the other way.
And a word I recognize begins – police.
As I watch, all hands go up in a gesture known too well to me – hands up.
A part of my soul freezes. Hands up. Don’t shoot. I am not a threat.
Used in the US to protest police deadly force. Seen on TV, the news, the internet.
How do I feel right now? It’s a mix. Guilt. Sadness. Privileged. Shame.
It’s an interesting mix that I have not yet dissected to its fullest yet.
The chanting changed again, and continued with a passionate chorus.
With the heat and definite turn in the plan of the course of this parade, we decided to move back and away for a bit. We stepped behind the Louvre and strolled down the paths toward our apartment. Mariah and I initiated a conversation that only could happen between one that is 21 and 47, a mother and a daughter, and with individuals from a law enforcement family blown apart by tragedy.
Youth vs years lived. Views of a suburban mother and a child more immersed in diversity than her parents.
Depth of knowing that life experience color all views, and that understanding of suppression and oppression cannot be gained through reading or viewing. It is a feeling gained by experience, which neither of us has been part of to the extent of those swirling past us.
It brought to light a warring fracture in my heart – how to reconcile my joy and acceptance of all types of people, and my love and commitment to the world of law enforcement.
Currently these do not mix well. And the currents between them are not just felt in the US, but in many other places.
PRIDE brought that to me today. An understanding of how my experiences are so small compared to others.
Privilege, of which I am very aware, makes it easy to empathize with others, but one cannot truly understand unless you have been there.
Similar to a cancer journey, not being heard, fearing for your life at the hands of others, changes who you were to who you are.
And can anyone else truly understand?
These feelings burned in me in two directions, and I can argue both paths. This place, with a foot on both sides of an issue, could appear non-committal. A fake. Not choosing.
But, in my heart, I don’t have to choose. I don’t force others to choose. I can love who I choose to love, and support those the enforce the law.
My hope is that there can be change so that they do not forever feel mutually exclusive.
I learned a lot about myself today, which is good since that was my plan all along.
Lessons learned – I do not know much about much. My life experiences are pale compared to others, which does not make me a bad person, but I have the opportunity to expand my thoughts and life.
PRIDE is an event that should not be taken lightly – it is not a party for you to “join in” – it is a commitment by people to continue to gain their rights as human beings.
As I lean into learning about myself, I will get to learn about others. If all I take away from these 10 days is that, then I think it will have been a success.