Written nearly two weeks after the election, but I could never bring myself to share it until now. I think maybe I was hoping some miracle would occur and all of my handwringing would be for naught. But…. no such luck. This is our reality and our reactions are real and valid. Here’s what I wrote back then….
In times of great internal struggle, I write. I type. Then delete. Type more. Delete more. Jot random thoughts on scraps of paper. Feverishly scribble long chains of thought into my notebook. I write.
I have written a lot over the past thirteen days. (Full disclosure: I’ve also puked, cried, starved myself, gorged on old Halloween candy, stayed up all night worrying, lost 4 pounds, gained 6 pounds and meditated.)
I think I’m finally ready to share some thoughts on where all this writing (and what not) has led me.
I knew there was a chance that Clinton would not win the election. I mean – of course I knew. It’s an election. People vote, votes get counted, someone wins. You can’t know who it will be until it’s over. Duh. But…. come on. She was going to win. She had to. She really just had to. The alternative seemed impossible. So, no matter how worried I felt in the days and weeks leading up to November 8, no matter how concerned I was or ill I felt reading yet another terrible news story about something he said or something he did… deep down, I felt it impossible that this could become our new reality.
And then she lost.
I was completely unprepared for how this would affect me. I tumbled into a depression near deep as that which I faced after losing my third baby.
I’m not exaggerating.
I think there is something about being asked to survive so much loss in such a short amount of time. My heart has been trampled on for the past 17 months. Being faced with the normalization of all this ridiculous human being stands for, and the hate he incites daily, was just too much. How could I hold my head up high? How could I go about my regular day as if nothing had happened? How could I smile? Everything that is wrong in the world just WON. And now the human embodiment of it was going to be the President of my country.
On Wednesday, November 9, I ventured out of my home to pick up a book from the library. It was one of the strangest experiences of my life. I felt like I was seeing people differently. I could not comprehend how anyone was smiling. I almost had this urge to shake them by the shoulders and shout, “DON’T YOU KNOW THE WORLD JUST ENDED?!”. I refrained. As I got back into my car in the library parking lot, an older gentleman with an American flag baseball cap was backing his giant pick up truck (bearing additional American flags) into a spot. He gave me a huge grin. I gave him a scowl.
I instantly gasped to myself. What the hell was that, Sarah? You don’t scowl at smiling elderly people! That’s not something you do!
It was involuntary. In that moment, I saw this man as my enemy. Who knows who he voted for? How could I know that? Maybe he was smiling because he was really proud of the parking job he just did. Maybe he was really excited to be at the library. Maybe he was having a good day. For a second, none of those notions seemed a possibility.
I went home and curled up in a ball and … bawled.
This was not how I wanted to handle the next 4 years of my existence, was it? I don’t want to feel this way, do I? How could I possibly reconcile my desire for communication, my gentle approach toward conflict, my need for connection with the enormous ANGER I was feeling surge through my body? I felt this overwhelming urge to FIGHT – and I didn’t know what to do with it.
Now, anyone who knows me well knows that the path I’ve been on to get to this place has been a long one. The road I’ve walked from my 19 year old self, who would shout her opinions mercilessly at the top of her lungs at anyone who dared think another way, to a more cerebral, dare I say gentle (?) 39 year old Sarah, who tries to use compassion, reason and kindness to understand her opposition, has been far from a straight one. There were years I was downright combative and superior, due in part to a long term emotionally abusive relationship that led me to act out. There was a lot of anger, a lot of self righteousness, a lot of passion – not always used in the most effective way.
Things that helped me turn my approach around? Ending that relationship. Living alone (lots of time to write and think). Meeting SteveKam (One of the kindest, most gentle souls you’ll ever meet – he shows you what he believes by living it, not talking about it. Seeing this changed me). Having Fox (Okay, so Steve gets a little credit here, too).
I started to realize that changing people’s hearts was a lot more important than being right. If you wanted to change someone’s heart, how do you do that? Well, yelling isn’t a great start. Nor calling out in public necessarily. Taking a position of superiority, not the greatest. If someone wanted to change my opinion, the best thing they could do was listen to me, acknowledge my view point, respectfully offer theirs – and NOT judge me.
So, that’s been what I’ve been working toward the past few years. It hasn’t just been about gentle parenting…. it’s been more like a spiritual shift in my psyche. It’s about who I want to be, what I want to teach my son, how I want to treat other human beings.
Back to current events.
Are you starting to see the pickle I’m in? I’m 39 years old and I’ve never actually lost a friend over politics. But, is this politics? Are you still going to pretend we’re talking about politics? Let’s be honest with one another.
I remember with clarity the anger and frustration I felt when Bush won over Gore in 2000. I was mad, I was aggravated, I was annoyed. I was not afraid. That was politics.
People are not trembling with fear over a Republican in the White House, for crying out loud. We are fearful of a white supremacist leading our country. We are afraid for our physical safety and that of our families and loved ones. We are afraid of our rights being taken from us, while those who would discriminate against anyone who doesn’t look like them are encouraged to come out of the shadows and spread their hate to the masses. We are afraid of our country being sold to the highest bidder by someone who lacks ethics and worships the almighty dollar.
So, when someone says to me, “Get over it. It’s just an election.” or “I voted for him, but I’m not a racist.” or “Just give him a chance, he’s not even in office yet.”…. well, my identity crisis intensifies.
How, exactly, am I to give racism a chance? Xenophobia? Misogyny?
I cannot. I will not. I need to find a way to balance my anger with my compassion and I’m starting to realize that is going to be a process. (Mister Rogers, where are you when I need you?)
Deep in my heart, I hope this man will somehow prove me wrong. He is a charlatan, after all. A snake oil salesman. Perhaps once in office, his campaign promises will disappear amidst his trouble adjusting to a job he has no experience in and no real desire to do. Maybe he will hand over decision making to others who are actual politicians. (Republicans, surely… but Republicans we can survive.)
I’m trying to stick to what I told Fox when he asked me about all this. He saw me crying (on November 9th) and overheard me tell Steve that I was scared. He asked me what was wrong. Did the bad guy win? He cried with me. I told him that the scary feeling I had would pass and that everything would be okay because we are a family and nothing would ever change that. I told him that we would do everything we could to help the world be a good and kind place.
“First, we will send lots of good thoughts out into the world. We will wish and hope that this man will find love in his heart and think of others when making important decisions that affect us all.”
It’s the only place I can think to start.