Day 2 - Love is kind

I slapped Nick.  

(A lovely way to start, I know, direct opposition to today’s title…)

Nick woke up crying at 20 minutes to 6 this morning.  I chose to ignore him so he cried until he woke his brother up too.  Both kids were up by 6 AM.  

I dozed on the couch as best I could, coughing dryly every 30 seconds, while Nate nursed me dry and Nick elbowed and kneed me in the stomach.  Finally, Nick pushed me off the couch to get him some milk.  I pulled myself up, stumbled into the kitchen, and started the boys’ oatmeal (I put milk in it instead of water by accident, first time I’ve ever done that.) I poured Nick a small cup of milk and put it on his tray, ignoring his screams “NO MILK!!!”

Then he threw it at me.  I caught it before it fell off the tray.  And I slapped him on the cheek.

I didn’t slap him hard.  I’m sure he barely felt it (although he was very shocked).  I realized mid-slap what I was doing so I was able to pull back a bit and not actually hurt him.  But it scared me (needless to say, it scared him too.)  I realized that not only do I need to work on patience with Ryan, I need to work on patience with my children too. 

After our little scene, I got both boys dressed and out of the house as quickly as possible.  We dropped Nick off at school at 8 am. That’s the earliest I’ve ever dropped him off (normally it’s more like 8:30).  It was the quickest drop-off too; I think I was out of there in 3 minutes.  I genuinely needed a break from that little boy.

You all saw the tantrum video I posted on Facebook, right? No?  Here ya go…

Nick is the king of tantrums.  He can be so sweet and lovable, but he is a handful.  And after this morning, I really wanted to write Ryan and tell him if he’s not home by 5 today, I will bring his kids to him instead.  I didn’t.  

Instead, I sent Ryan a chat message around 8:45 and asked him to please let me know exactly when he would be home because I was going to the store and needed to plan accordingly. I also asked him if he would be taking our kids to SC this weekend or if he would be staying here with me and my boys.  He sent back a message about 45 minutes later that said he’d take Nick and Nathan to SC with him “this time.”  I was taking a nap at the time, but when I woke and saw the message, I started to write him back.  Then I decided if I wrote back, he’d just ignore it and irritate the hell out of me so I called him instead.  And he actually answered the phone on the second ring.  So I asked “when will you be home?”  He said he’d be home Friday afternoon to pick up the kids then take them back to SC.  I said I needed him home earlier.  He said “but it’s just a couple days, that should be fine, right?”

*blank stare*

I told him I’ve been up everyday with these children, I’ve been taking care of them 24/7, I am sick and need help far sooner than Friday afternoon, and if I don’t get it, then I probably won’t feel well enough to do much with my other boys this weekend.  I told him these children were his responsibility just as much as they were mine, and it’s time he came home and took over.  He kept trying to talk over me, mostly saying “I know that”, but I wouldn’t let him interrupt me.  He said he wants to wait until his mother gets home which should be sometime late today.  He said he’d call me tomorrow and let me know when he could be home.  He said he hoped I feel better.

I started to think about it.  What if Ryan takes both boys down there and doesn’t bring them back?  What if he takes just Nick and stays there and lets Phoebe keep him?  What if he takes them both, brings them back, then leaves again?  Then I decided to be patient and stop freaking out over things that are 1-out of my hands and 2-probably not going to happen.

Today’s dare: “In addition to saying nothing negative to your spouse again today, do at least one unexpected gesture as an act of kindness.”

Today’s results:

"What discoveries about love did you make today? What specifically did you do in this dare?  How did you show kindness?"

While I was talking to Ryan today, I kept my cool.  I spoke calmly but firmly.  I never insulted him, I didn’t adopt an ugly tone, and I didn’t cry or throw a tantrum.  I held my ground in what I considered a kind way.

Since Ryan isn’t in town to see any unexpected gestures of kindness, I had to get creative.  I scrubbed all the tea stains from his Clemson coffee cup, the one he got from my mother for Christmas.  I went to Walmart to get the ferret more food (that’s Ryan’s ferret, not mine.)  And, quite frankly, I think the fact that I didn’t call and lay into him this afternoon should count just as much.  

I picked Nick up at school nearly on time.  As soon as I walked in, his teacher said “we’ve seen a completely different side to Nick today!”  I thought she was going to say something about him participating in art projects now, something he’s been resisting.  Nope.  ”He has been extremely whiney today!”  Miss Meagan went on to say that Nick not only scarfed down his lunch, she had to stop him from licking the plate and ended up getting him extra food from the kitchen.  She said he was getting upset if they played a game, then he’d get upset that they weren’t playing the game.  If the sun was up, he wanted the moon, and if the moon was up, he wanted the sun (she didn’t actually use those words, just something similar.)  She asked if he was sick.  I said we all were.  I didn’t mention Ryan.  (There, there’s another kind gesture.  I could have totally mentioned the whole situation.  I didn’t.  I’m sure they’re wondering why I’m bringing Nate with me every time instead of leaving him home with Daddy.)

When we left, Nick saw a book he wanted from the book fair.  I told him no.  He fell out in the middle of the floor, kicking and screaming.  I picked him up, he squirmed out of my arms.  He ran the length of the hall and back.  Nick was having such a tantrum, a passing little boy put his hands over his ears.  It continued all the way out to the car.  I practically had to drag him across the parking lot (all the while holding Nate in my left arm) then stand with my legs around him as I unlocked the car and pushed him in.

I wanted desperately to call Ryan.  Again, I wanted to write him and tell him he’d better be in this house by the time I brought Nick home tomorrow, and if he wasn’t, I’d go straight to his best friend’s to drop Nick off.  

Tonight wasn’t as bad as it could have been.  The boys did eventually go to sleep after 20 or so minutes of crying (I stopped myself again from calling Ryan so he could listen to the boys cry the entire time). I was able to watch Chuck mostly interruption-free.  

I have to say, today I do think I learned a little about love.  I wrote this as a comment on one of my statuses: “I won’t allow myself to be a doormat, I promise.  But I’m still too early in this to fight him over what’s happened this past week.  I have to forgive him and start from scratch.  I’ve been reading the book, and I will get to the point where I can address things like this, but I have to dive into raw emotion here and focus on ideals like love and patience and hope and kindness.  That doesn’t mean I can’t get mad or want to fight, it just means I have to recognize that I want to, then move on.”  I’m coming to realize that I don’t know if I know HOW to love someone, true deep unconditional love that is able to overlook the fact that clothes never make it into the laundry hamper or dishes into the dishwasher.  This should be something so much deeper.  If I really love Ryan,  we should get along a whole hell of a lot better.  I really feel hopeful.  I really feel like following this book is going to make me a better person.

I hope you all don’t get sick of this blog.  I’m committing to 40 days of these entries.  I feel like the woman who decided to work her way through the Joy of Cooking and blog about it.  Whether these dares work or not, whether Ryan and I get back together or not, I’m writing again!  I have a reason to write every single day.  I have subject matter.  It feels good.  Thanks for reading, friends : )

We tell ourselves stories. We weave together different plot lines, wondering if the outcome of the story might be different were we to have done or said something other than what we had done or said, all the while knowing that the various alternative outcomes are just more stories - fictions meant to distract us from what’s actually happening. And so we pause from weaving and commence breathing, gently and non-judgmentally saying hello to what is…

Oy vey.

Day 1 - Love is patient

I’ve felt like crap today.  I’ve lost my voice (literally).  I’ve been worn out doing the smallest things so the boys and I missed lunch completely and just ate leftovers for dinner because I’m too tired to go to the store.

As you can probably infer, Ryan has not come home.

As a matter of fact, he finally called Saturday.  I’m trying not to focus on it, but I will throw out a few quotes:

"This is killing me.  I see the boys a thousand times a day.  I miss them.  I want to come home.  But I don’t want to come home to you."

"I’ve been living a lie for the last couple months."

Yes, he’s done it again.  I guess I should be proud it lasted so long this time.  I think we made it 7 1/2 months (that may actually be a new record.)  And although he assured me we would go to counseling if this happened again (words he spoke back in August when he wanted me back), now he refuses.

I guess when a couple has been on-again/off-again as many times as we have, a gal just stops believing it’s actually over.  (Which may be one reason I haven’t changed my Facebook relationship status…Ryan just hasn’t thought about it yet…)  Don’t get me wrong, he reiterated that it was most definitely over, and I need to just accept it so we can all move on.  But that’s what he always says.  I’ve lost count of how many times we’ve been up then down then up then down.  A great many of you have been on this roller-coaster with me.  (To those of you just joining us, welcome!)  I used to cry and beg and get depressed and want to kill myself and think my life was over, etc, etc, etc.  Now I’m just waiting for him to get home so we can get through this in-between time again.  This time I have a plan.

I’m reading a book called “The Love Dare”, referred to me by my friend, Kala.  It’s a Christian book.  I found religion over four years ago when I first started seeing Ryan.  I’ve lost it and found it several times over the last four years.  I suppose I “find” it when I need it and lose it when I don’t.  I think this time I’m going to try to keep hold of it.  

The Saturday before Ryan left, he mentioned he wanted us to go to church.  Then he left.  Then I read that Kala was working on this book.  I ordered it through Amazon (sweet Amazon Mom Prime two-day shipping).  I started reading it but decided to wait to begin the dares until Ryan got home.  Then yesterday happened (actually a few days ago as it’s not Sunday anymore…)

The book was introduced in the movie, “Fireproof”.  I kept hearing what a great movie it was.  I was going to wait to rent it until Ryan got back so we could watch it together (then Saturday happened.)  I went to see my mom Saturday, and, surprise, she owns the DVD.

We all went to her church that evening.  After we dropped off my kids at the daycare, we wandered over to the coffee.  And I saw a boy wearing a Savannah t-shirt.

(To my new friends, Savannah, GA is my favorite city, a city I am in love with, and a city Ryan and I discovered together.  A city I would have a hard time visiting without Ryan.)

My mother tried to get the attention of one of her friends, but he walked off without hearing her.  Then, for some reason, he circled back around and came up beside me.  He was wearing a “Fireproof” t-shirt.  (Do you see where I’m going with this?)

The service was good.  I’m afraid I didn’t pull any epiphanies out of it, but listening to Mike preach is always inspiring no matter what the message.  

But when we got home, I mentioned that I was trying to find a church.  She remembered a guest speaker who was based in Charlotte.  She happened to have his book on her kitchen table.  I looked up his church, and two of its four locations are within 10 minutes of my house (the other two are within 15-20 minutes.)

Once again, see where I’m going with this?  Out of hundreds of churches in this giant city, it took a chance conversation with my mother to find two just 10 minutes away (two that Google maps had somehow missed when I did a “nearby search” for nondenominational churches.)

We stayed the night at my mother’s, but I had to come home this morning.  I was miserable.  Nasty cold plus daylight savings time plus stress, I just needed to be home where I could set the kids loose and perhaps get some rest.  I really wanted to visit this awesome new church, I was really excited and geared up to do it, but I knew it wasn’t likely I’d be able to drag us out of the house without making my cold worse.  Then my mother texted me that Steven Furtick, the author and preacher based in Charlotte, the preacher who started the church I really want to visit, was delivering a sermon that morning on my local cable station.

I don’t know how many of my friends believe in God or are religious.  I have to admit, I’ve always been wary of Christianity and those that practice it.  A lot of what I hear doesn’t make sense.  I have issues with those that condemn homosexuality, those that take the Bible literally (isn’t there a passage that says a man should be put to death if he has sex with a woman during menses?), those that persecute others in the name of the Lord.  And, I admit, nearly every church I’ve been to, including my mother’s and the one I’ll be visiting the weekend, has a code that very plainly states that the Bible is the literal word of God.  I tend to disagree, but I can look past it.  My point is, when things start happening one after the other like this, I feel as if God is moving in my life.  I feel as if I’m on the right track.  And right now, I feel that God is urging me to not give up on Ryan.

I realize many of you will read that and shake your heads in dismay.  I realize it sounds ridiculous to try to work on a relationship with a man who does not want a relationship and has made it very clear many times over.  I realize that saying I believe God wants me to be with Ryan might make me sound nuts and obsessive.  I’ll give you that.  But what if, just what if I’m right?  Would it really hurt to make an effort?  Would it really hurt to start “The Love Dare”?  After all, in “Fireproof”, the couple had already started divorce conversations when the husband finally made the initiative to actually try to fix the relationship.  (Yes, I know it’s just a movie, pacify me.)

I decided to start today (since Ryan apparently won’t be back until later this week…)

Today’s dare: “The first part of this dare is fairly simple. Although love is communicated in a number of ways, our words often reflect the condition of our heart.  For the next day, resolve to demonstrate patience and to say nothing negative to your spouse at all.  If the temptation arises, choose not to say anything.  It’s better to hold your tongue than to say something you’ll regret.”

(The passages accompanying each dare are very instructive and enlightening, and I wish I could include everything here, but we’ll just stick to the dares and the result questions instead…)

The results of today’s work?

-“Did anything happen today to cause anger toward your mate?”

Around 8 am this morning, I sent Ryan a text.  (I sent him a text because his Google Talk was offline which probably meant his phone was off.  Yes, we have Droids and are way too connected)  I was weak.  I felt like utter crap and just couldn’t fathom having to take care of two needy kids until he decided to drag his ass home.  I begged him to come home and take over caring for the kids.  I told him I didn’t have the energy to go to the store or make meals.  I told him to please do this to help his kids.  I reminded him that I’ve had them all by myself for a week.  I kept watching Google Talk to see when he turned his phone back on, which he did a few hours later.  He never replied.  I was angry and hurt even though I really wasn’t expecting anything else.  Thankfully the kids were decent today.  They both miraculously took a 3 hour nap at the same time so I was able to nap as well.  

This evening though, Nick refused to go to sleep.  I put him down at 7:45. He screamed for a half an hour. I went upstairs, tried to calm him down, left the room. He screamed for another half an hour.  I tried again, same tactic.  He screamed more.  I finally just gave up, got him, put him in my lap for about a half hour then tried to put him back in bed.  He screamed for another 10-15 minutes.  I gave up and got him.  He finally fell asleep in my arms over two hours past his usual bedtime.

So yes.  I was angry.  I was furious that I’m being put in this position.  I was furious that Nick has been put in this position.  I was furious that Ryan refuses to accept his responsibilities.

-“Were you tempted to think disapproving thoughts and to let them come out in words?”

Oh yes.  When I saw that he refused to acknowledge my text, I wanted to write again and tell him he had abandoned his kids in their time of need.  I wanted to write and tell him what a horrible father he’s become.  I wanted to tell him that I was making notes and that no judge in his right mind would let him have full custody of our boys after this stunt.  I wanted to call and let him hear Nick screaming at bedtime.  I wanted to write and tell him all of this was his fault.  

But I didn’t.  I held it in.  I wrote other friends and vented.  I posted a few pitiful statuses on Facebook.  But I didn’t contact him.  I need to learn patience, in all areas of my life.  It’s the first step to unconditional love.

I know Ryan’s not my husband.  I don’t know that he ever will be.  But I think 40 days of giving him one more try, of struggling to learn how to love a spouse, is the least I can do to help Nick and Nate have a halfway-normal family.  I certainly failed Sagan and Bodhi in that respect.  And, although the past is the past, that’s still something I regret every day.

This isn’t high school where you either love them or you break up with them and hate them, where you smear them with everybody when you’re mad at them to get everybody to turn against them.
[to the mom] If you tear him down to your children, they will resent you for it for years to come. [to the dad] If you get over & say it’s us against the crazy woman, they will wonder why you turned them against their mother.

There is a higher calling here. Once you have children, the price of poker goes way up. Now it’s not just the two of you fussing and fighting, making up, and you know, you get mad at each other and make up, look, those days are over and gone…

I need all my friends’ positive thoughts and prayers

I can’t do this by myself anymore.  I’ve been dealing with this since Sunday as quietly as I possibly can.  I’ve been trying to keep it off Facebook, I’ve been trying to be somewhat vague in statuses, I’ve only “spoken” with a few friends over what’s going on.  But I can’t do it anymore.  I need my friends.

Sunday afternoon, Ryan left.  He needed some time alone.  He hasn’t been back.  He went to hang out with his brother and best friend in SC.  I have kept the children.  

I get up every morning and go through the routine with a grumpy 2 year old.  Mornings are never the best with Nick, but Monday was a good afternoon and evening (you may have seen this status).  Tuesday, not so much.  Nick started throwing major tantrums.  He had a meltdown at the library.  He nearly ran in front of a car.  He threw his food on the floor and refused to eat dinner.  Wednesday morning at 3 am, he woke up crying like his heart was broken.  I was able to rock him and rub his back and get him back to sleep.  When I tried to drop him off at school, he lost it.  He wouldn’t let me leave.  He cried, he threw himself on the ground, he stood at the door, and it took all I had not to pick him up and take him home.  Last night was chaos, and he again woke at 3 am bawling.  I rocked him back to sleep, went back downstairs to read myself to sleep, and I was starting to doze off, he lost it again.  I got him and put him in the bed with me.  He woke up one more time, crying, and grabbed for me.  This morning, I thought the drop-off would go better.  It did, but he still lost it.  Luckily there were two teachers there this morning so one was able to hold Nick while I slipped out the door.  The last two afternoons I’ve picked him up, he’s been so happy to see me that he’s gone and gotten his own coat and lunchbox and beat me back out the door.  He still threw a tantrum this evening, and although he didn’t throw his food, it was still chaos.  

I can’t say which is worse, the days or the evenings or the nights.  During the days, I’ve been going through the routine, taking care of sweet baby Nate, cleaning the house from top to bottom in preparation for Ryan’s inevitable homecoming (he has to come home sometime, right?), and reading reading reading.  I’ve nearly finished two books and started on two others.  Today was hard though.  I called Ryan yesterday and asked what he would like for dinner.  He blew me off and got off the phone as fast as possible.  I wrote him and asked him to please come home: “Dinner will hopefully be around 7.  Please come home, baby.  Nick’s been really upset the last 24 hours. He really misses you. We all do.”  Nothing. I wrote him again later when I realized we were about to have bad weather and told him it might be better if he stayed there. I asked him to please come home tomorrow though.  He said he thought the same thing.  So today I waited.  I watched Latitude.  I tried to be patient and hoped he would come home.  He didn’t.

The evenings are bad for about the same reason. Not only am I dwelling on this in my head, I have a very pissy 2-year-old to contend with.  I have to make dinner while dealing with Nick who’s being very needy and clingy because he’s afraid I’ll leave too.  The nights are bad because I’ve been trying to read or watch tv until I go to sleep, but I can’t.  Not to mention the children waking up crying (as I’m typing this, Nate is crying.  I’m debating on whether to go try to calm him down.)

I want to yell and scream “this isn’t fair!”  And maybe that’s why I’m writing this blog.  Because I desperately need to get this all out in the open. I’m sure it’ll probably hurt things with Ryan, but I’m really losing my mind here.

I really need to go check on Nate…

Well, that didn’t work.  He’s awake.  At nearly 1 am.  I guarantee his brother will be up at 3 crying.  I’m at the end of my rope.  

I’ve been reading this book “Love Dare”, recommended to me by my friend, Kala.  I want to save the relationship with Ryan, but how can I when he won’t come home?  I’m trying to be strong and follow at least the first dare “resolve to demonstrate patience and say nothing negative to your spouse at all.”  I’m trying to let him have his space.  I’m trying to be a good wife (even though I’m just a woman living in his house.)  I’m praying and praying and praying for patience and guidance and help.  This is hard, and I want to cry.  I don’t know where to go from here.  I know I don’t need to call him or write him, I just need to be patient, and when he does come home, I need to be kind.  I need to keep to the book and show him I love him even though he’s infuriated me this week.

I’m just so tired.  I know there will be some of you who read this and want to shout “drop him! He’s a jerk!”  I’ve done that in the past; it doesn’t work.  I know I can’t control him, I know this is all in God’s hands now, so I guess all I really want, all I really need from you is support and prayers for all of us, Ryan included.  Please no judgments or advice.  I know what I need to do, I just need friends to hold me up while I do it. Because I feel very weak and helpless right now…

twentytwo022 said: I'm *really* looking forward to talking books with you here. :)

: )

An Open Letter to John Mayer

Dear John,

Finally had the opportunity to watch the new video for “Half of My Heart.”  I’m still without internet, you see, and have been unable to view the whole Flash Player exclusive release on  Thankfully, one of my Facebook friends finally posted a YouTube link (thanks, Laila : )

Okay.  Sweetie?  I hated it.  Now I might be in the minority here, but I did.  I absolutely loathed it.  You left that poor woman at the altar?  You were that gutless and insensitive and inconsiderate and thoughtless and all those similar adjectives?  She put all that work into something grand and you ruined it because you knew you’d only ever love her with half of your egotistical little heart?  (Maybe, just maybe, the problem is that the other half of your heart is in love with yourself…)  You couldn’t talk this out with her like an adult LONG BEFORE you decided to go get drunk in a bar?  Do you have any idea what that level of rejection does to a person?  You didn’t just break up with her; you embarrassed her, you broke her heart, and you didn’t even have the decency to stand up and take responsibility for it.  How will she ever trust anyone like that again?  Every time she gets close to someone, she’s going to remember what you did.

Maybe I’m taking this personally.  When I wrote this out longhand, I had this whole little story I was going to tell you in reference to my current happy little pool of existence and the rock you threw into it.  But you know what?  That’s my problem.  And I take responsibility for it.  These are my wrongs I have to right, my pains I have to work with.  And we’re talking about your video, not my life.

But maybe that’s why I’m so disappointed in you.  I thought you were better than most men I know.  I guess I was listening to this song in a different way, and maybe I was hearing it the way you meant us to hear it, and maybe this video was just management’s interpretation.  Maybe you really aren’t that heartless, maybe you really are an adult and wouldn’t pull something so immature.  I know you’re egotistical; I haven’t met a man yet who isn’t to some degree.  I’m okay with that.  But, damnit, John, I have taken up for you so many times in the past.  This is one of only two times where I’ve felt so strongly I want to smack you across the face.  (The other time was on the MCC2 when you showed your ass and got all too-cool rock star on us…)

John, do you really think there’s a perfect woman out there?  I hate to bust your bubble, but she doesn’t exist.  There is a scene from Scrubs that I’m going to quote here:

My Bed Banter & Beyond [1.15] Dr. Cox: “Relationships don’t work the way they do on television and in the movies. Will they? Won’t they? And then they finally do, and they’re happy forever. Gimme a break. Nine out of ten of them end because they weren’t right for each other to begin with, and half of the ones who get married get divorced anyway, and I’m telling you right now, through all this stuff I have not become a cynic. I haven’t. Yes, I do happen to believe that love is mainly about pushing chocolate covered candies and, y’know, in some cultures, a chicken. You can call me a sucker, I don’t care, because I do believe in it. Bottom line is: it’s couples who are truly right for each other wade through the same crap as everybody else, but the big difference is they don’t let it take them down. One of those two people will stand up and fight for that relationship every time. If it’s right, and they’re real lucky, one of them will say something. “

Now, I read that as “relationships take work.”  They aren’t easy, they aren’t always perfect, and, quite frankly, they aren’t always fun.  And I hate to break this to you, but NO ONE is perfect.  You are always going to have to take the good with the bad.  And, quite frankly, you are most likely going to have to compromise and settle for someone who may not be Princess Charming.  That may not be romantic, and I’m sure I’ll hear stories of those wonderfully lucky people who have been head over heels in love for 50 years, but they are the exception not the rule.  Society has made us believe that we can all have that.  It’s like Hollywood.  Not every person is going to make it.  Once you and every other wishy washy “no, I want Ms. Perfect!” realizes this, the happier and more in love you’ll all be.

I’m probably taking all this terribly personally.  I can’t help it.  Isn’t that what you want us to do with your music anyway?  Find ourselves in it?  I just see this as an underlying problem of our generation, and I just had to say SOMETHING. 

No worries.  I will eventually forgive you, much as I forgive everyone who disappoints me again and again.  I’ve come to expect very little from my friends and family.  I can’t expect much from anyone, I can only control myself and my actions and hope that my children see me as a good role model.  I’ve come to look at the good aspects of people while reconciling the bad, and I’ve found I’m a lot happier and relaxed that way.

Hope you’re feeling better soon.

Peace, love, and happiness to you.



Firm accidently sold 16 billion instead of million in SPX futures, may have triggered DJIA sell off. (@JesseRodriguez)

 *blank stare*


Firm accidently sold 16 billion instead of million in SPX futures, may have triggered DJIA sell off. (@JesseRodriguez)

 *blank stare*

If you’re someone who only reads the editorial page of The New York Times, try glancing at the page of The Wall Street Journal once in awhile. If you’re a fan of Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh, try reading a few columns on the Huffington Post website. It may make your blood boil; your mind may not often be changed. But the practice of listening to opposing views is essential for effective citizenship. So too is the practice of engaging in different experiences with different kinds of people… If you grew up in a big city, spend some time with some who grew up in a rural town. If you find yourself only hanging around with people of your race or your ethnicity or your religion, broaden your circle to include people who’ve had different backgrounds and life experiences. You’ll learn what it’s like to walk in someone else’s shoes, and in the process, you’ll help make this democracy work.