I find myself alternately wanting to talk about the election and wanting to talk about anything but the election. Let's just say I think there's still a lot of mental ground for me to cover before I figure out (with a nod to West Wing and Hamilton) "What's next?"
True to form, I let my typing fingers untangle my thoughts. Those ramblings reach their expiration dates almost as soon as I write them; mostly the words that come out are only helpful to me, ushering me through the wilderness of my gut responses in search of a more helpful, forward oriented place.
As Brene Brown would say, here's the story I'm telling myself. One of my best takeaways from Brené's last book was her way of framing personal (vulnerable) conversations by starting with "The story I'm telling myself is...." I love it because it signals right up front that we are all products of our personal histories; our responses to any one event are often constructs that necessarily include a lot of unseen tributaries and back story. You don't argue and say to someone "no, you're not telling yourself that story;" rather, it can help us get to a place of understanding by revealing the layers behind an opinion, fear, or response. The stories are not necessarily fictional (they may or may not be objectively accurate) but certainly true to the person telling it.
In that spirit, here's the story(ies) I'm telling myself about the election.
The story I'm telling myself is that I am complicit in whatever I am silent about. I am anxious and deeply worried and telling myself that voters have been sold a bill of goods by a Machiavellian, self-serving, manipulative politician who showed himself to be willing to appeal to the basest, worst fears of humanity for his own purposes. The message he has cultivated and allowed to perpetuate here and abroad puts many ill at ease (at best) and changes our esteem and position in the world whether we like it or not. History has its eyes on him. The story I'm telling myself is that we're being blind to history's lessons.
"History doesn't repeat itself but it often rhymes." Mark Twain
As a woman, a mother, a sister, and as someone who has been on the receiving end of sexual harassment and even assault, I think people were far too quick to accommodate and excuse his terrible record with women. I feel it viscerally and personally and can't help but fear that many men with similar viewpoints see this election as tacit approval of that kind of behavior (crime). The story I'm telling myself is that I'm less safe with someone with that unapologetic personal history leading the nation. Also that society is much tougher on a woman's weaknesses than they are on a man's.
I'm worried about kindness and open heartedness. I'm concerned for children and families who struggle, about research funding and programs in my field that are known to improve outcomes and capacities of children and families who need help but which will, sadly, get cut. The story I'm telling myself is that the vulnerable are more vulnerable now. I want to work to find ways for that not to be so.
Alongside my gut-deep worries I do feel hope, if not necessarily in being pleasantly surprised by the president-elect (but that would be great!) then in the potential of inspired individuals working together. Here is a story I am telling myself today:
You can elect yourself president. To paraphrase Gandhi, be the president you wish to see in the world.* You are in charge of your life, your family, your home. It is your kingdom, the land where you are president. The story I'm telling myself is that this is, at the core, what America is about.
"With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds." - Abraham Lincoln
"Love shared anywhere transforms situations everywhere. Your life is your corner of the garden; tend to that and you tend to the world." -Marianne Williamson
"Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree." - Martin Luther
"Be joyful though you have considered all the facts." Wendell Berry
Honestly, I'm not really that zen about this in person. I'm still cycling through disbelief and anger and all the other rest stops in the process but ultimately I have to concentrate on what I can control. This is what I'm holding out in front of myself, a vision of compensating in some personal, small way for whatever deficiencies the new administration may bring or ugliness his rhetoric may invite.
Elect yourself president. Act on your sense of goodness. Let your light so shine. It will be in the contrast with darkness/uncertainty that your light will transmit even more brightly. Don't be afraid to let it.
"We are not here to curse the darkness, but to light a candle that can guide us through the darkness to a safe and sure future. For the world is changing." John F. Kennedy
"This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine."
Finally, besides hope in collective individuals, I return to my lambent faith. The story I'm telling myself is that the same God who oversees creation and joys and blessings also watches over and guides us in our confusion and clamor:
Days pass when I forget the mystery.
Problems insoluble and problems offering
their own ignored solutions
jostle for my attention, they crowd its antechamber
along with a host of diversions, my courtiers, wearing
their colored clothes; cap and bells.
once more the quiet mystery
is present to me, the throng’s clamor
recedes: the mystery
that there is anything, anything at all,
let alone cosmos, joy, memory, everything,
rather than void: and that, O Lord,
Creator, Hallowed One, You still,
hour by hour sustain it.
~Denise Levertov“Primary Wonder” from Selected Poems
I really do believe that.
What stories are you telling yourself, my friends? I'd love to hear them even if (especially if) they're completely different from mine. Tell me, email me. Let's have a conversation.
*Though Barbara Bush's quote (about your house being more important than the white house) is a lovely one, I propose we don't limit our influence to our own homes. Let your influence be felt everywhere you go. Speak up. Make a difference. Hold others accountable and be accountable, President You.