Watching the Cubs persevere to do the impossible — win the World Series — proved to be excellent training for the emotional roller coaster of last night’s election coverage. As the alarming results poured in, I used the same self-soothing tactics I’d relied on last week, including reminding myself to breathe and countless repetitions of the phrase “Everything is happening as it should”. Someone shared this mantra with me when I got sober, and in the years since, it’s flowed out of my mouth in the face of all sorts of situations, ranging from mild irritation to full-on panic.
At the time, it sounded ludicrous. I had plenty of evidence that everything was NOT happening as it should. Still reeling from the emotional and financial pain of a divorce, and facing life without alcohol as my dimmer switch, I had ample proof that I was completely on my own in this world. The injustice beyond my own pitiful ecosystem made it even more clear that the mom assigned to cosmic recess duty was either on an extended bathroom break or had abandoned her post entirely.
With nothing left to quiet my frazzled nerves, I was desperate to try anything. Including something as cringe-worthy as the notion that everything really was happening as it should. It didn’t mean I had to like it. Or approve of it. Or even understand it.
I still come across conundrums where I can’t reconcile the idea of some creative, all-powerful force allowing injustice of any scale, whether it’s the suffering visible in the eyes of animals waiting to be adopted at the shelter — to major atrocities like the Holocaust. To keep going in the face of evidence to the contrary, I choose to believe “Everything is happening as it should” even if I will not understand how or why during my short stay on this planet. Accepting that gray area of “not knowing” is really my only opportunity to avoid falling back into the downward mental spiral that demands I approach life from a place of constant fear and hyper-vigilance.
Last night, over a burger and multiple diet sodas, my friends and I tried to keep each other’s spirits up, in the face of increasingly steep odds. I reminded myself to relax my shoulders away from my ears. I posted pictures of the tent cards bearing the names of suffragettes on social media, trying to inspire my virtual friends to keep the faith. (When I titled our party “Seeking Friends for the End of the World,” it was completely in jest.)
As the projections continued to tilt in Trump’s favor, I began repeating my mantra. “Everything is happening as it should…” My friend stopped me and asked,
“But what if it isn’t?”
Deep down, I knew I’d have to keep believing this — even if our greatest fears came true. Still, the Universe would surely back me up on this one, right? There was no way that hot-headed, misogynistic, bigot could be elected commander in chief. I’d be spared having to face the possibility that nothing was happening as it should. Denial setting in, I maintained that this build-up of tension would only make Clinton’s victory that much more euphoric.
But there was no extra inning. Unlike last week, my team didn’t win. Unlike last week, I’m grieving a spectacular loss. Oddly, this once again proves that anything is possible. In a strange way, it also showed me that at least for today, my faith in a power greater than myself was strong enough to withstand such a powerful blow.
I am doing my best to clumsily work through these feelings. I am trying to give myself permission to grieve. I am trying to comfort myself and my friends throughout the country who have genuine concerns about what this election will mean for them and their loved ones. In the same way I no longer have the luxury to numb the pain, I also can’t afford the aftermath of denying it exists.
It’s early on, but here are the little specks of hope that are starting to appear among the rubble. I’m sharing them in the hopes that they might provide comfort to others facing a similar struggle. I’malso making a public commitment to doggedly pursue the solution, no matter what fears manifest on the national scale.
Potential upsides of a Trump presidency:
Sunlight is the Best Disinfectant
The fear and hate mobilized to win this election was here all along. It would still be here, even if the electoral college had swung in the opposite direction. Now it’s out in the open, which makes it easier to address and ultimately heal. Had Hillary Clinton won, I doubt we’d be as galvanized to follow Gandhi’s advice to “Be the change we wish to see in the world.”
Verbalizing agreement via social media is always easier than translating those beliefs into reality — especially toward the groups I prefer to view as “the other”. I will probably do more to bring about world peace by working to show compassion to certain colleagues who drive me bananas (and who have the same skin color and political leanings) than I will by sharing a clever equality-related meme.
We've seen the example, now let's try it on our own
It’s been inspiring to have people like Barack and Michelle Obama represent our country, people with grace and class, who embody their motto of “When they go low, we go high.”
To date, President-Elect Trump’s behavior has not matched my expectations anyone holding a leadership position, elected or otherwise. At a minimum, I must be that much more diligent to make sure my own actions match my beliefs.
To be clear, I believe that we are all human beings, equally deserving of rights, compassion, and basic needs. This applies to every human, regardless of the color of their skin, their sexual orientation, their religious beliefs, their gender identity, their socioeconomic status, or their citizenship. Oh, and before I forget, regardless of their political leanings.
(Oh my god, that last one is a killer. A herculean task. The Universe is going to have to do some serious psychological rewiring in my brain to get me to that place.)
Open > Closed
I’m opening my heart even further to the people I love (even those who are complete strangers) and seeking opportunities to be a part of the solution, operating from a place of love instead of a place of fear.
Process > Outcome
If the outcome I hope for is not always guaranteed, then I must find a way to embrace the process. From that view, the daily decision to keep my heart open — and not to use fear as a justification for building a wall around it — is really all I’ve got.
So here’s to all of you beautiful readers, let’s lean on each other while we find our way through this and stay squarely committed to being part of the solution. It’s much easier to fling our cosmic shit all over the place, but if we truly believe what we’ve been saying all along (i.e., that we’re actually stronger together, that love trumps hate, etc.) casting our vote was only one of many little actions we get to take toward achieving that greater victory.
Every moment is a new opportunity to choose between love and fear, between building a wall or tearing one down. Make no mistake — that is a vote each of us cast by the actions we take day in and day out. None of us do this perfectly. None of us do this alone. But the next opportunity to cast your vote in favor of a more just world isn’t four years from now. It is now.