Usually I am pretty good at naming my emotions…it’s actually one of my superpowers. I know them well, and we enjoy familiarity with each other as I emote my way through life. In fact, over-emoting has been my issue, not emotion-paralysis.
This time though, I have had no idea what or how to think and feel. None of the positive emotions have been present (and yes, I’ve tried “I am glad we’re Americans and have the right to vote” and “at least we have our health and each other”) to balance out the negative. Anger, sadness, heartbreak, despair, betrayal, confusion, fear. If you’re reading this, chances are you’re sitting with those, too.
I am choosing to consolidate all of my emotions into one, and name my response Disappointment. Deep Disappointment. That is something I can work with. The clown car of emotions, swirling around my brain and my heart, will hold me back and keep me from moving forward. That doesn’t mean I don’t feel pain and loss, or that I don’t want to stand with others who are grieving. But there is so much to do, and in the words of Senator Elizabeth Warren, we are all going to need to pick our battles. I am starting by packaging my emotions in a way that will be useful to me, and enable me get out of my brain and do the work required.
So, back to Disappointment. I am disappointed for my daughters’ future. For reproductive rights and equal pay. For my black nephew, and every person of color. I am disappointed for my friend’s transgender daughter, I hoped our country would be safer for her. I am disappointed for feminism…I thought we had come further than this. For the Supreme Court, I thought we were going to be able to breathe for a while. For our earth, for I am afraid of the impacts which cannot be reversed. For my gay friends, who were finally feeling equal in the eyes of our government, and are now afraid to have their rights taken away. For young LGBTQ children and teens, who don’t see a future for themselves. I am disappointed for every marginalized person, who understands now that our new government will not respect or protect them. For the immigrants and refugees who believed in the American dream and now fear that we won’t welcome them. I am disappointed for my retirement, because it may not come as soon as I had hoped. I am disappointed for peace, truth, integrity and kindness, because they appear to be values that aren’t held by those who will lead. I am disappointed in the Democratic party. I am disappointed for all of the women (and men) who have been sexually assaulted, who believed this time, we would believe them. I am disappointed in the press who held the candidates to different standards. I am disappointed for Hillary, and I am disappointed I will not be with my mom on inauguration day, watching our first woman President sworn in. I am disappointed for Barack, Michelle and Joe, that their legacy may end up just being laws that once were. I am disappointed for all of us.
Let me be clear, I think there is an argument for other ideas and approaches. I happen to be pretty happy with Obama’s work, but I can see how a change could be positive for some. However, I believe that as Americans, we have the right to demand equality and justice for all.
I am a worrier (though I prefer to frame it as a planner with an eye towards disaster) and spend a fair amount of time imagining what could go wrong. I spent the election cycle that way. But now, we don’t have to imagine it. The risks are right in front of us and we know what they are. I can’t answer “what are you most afraid of” because all of them scare me. All of the phobias and isms, are out there, believing they have a mandate to mess with us. So I am going to prepare, just as I would if I were going into any difficult and possibly dangerous situations. First, I will drink coffee, and then this is what I am going to do:
- I am going to cease being upset about people I love who may have voted for him. I don’t think they did it intentionally to harm my children, my nephew, my friends, or my earth. I am going to believe they did it believing it was the best vote for their families. We can believe different things. Also, by my math, only 18.5% of Americans actually voted for him.*
- I am donating to ACLU, Planned Parenthood and Southern Poverty Law Center. And yes, I will make the PP donation in Mike Pence’s name, just so he will get a thank you from me. I will continue to support those who are doing the hard work.
- I am changing my news sources, from quick internet hits where I get the headlines throughout the day, to daily newspapers and publications where I can take a deeper dive into the issues. We take three newspapers now (the NYT only on the weekends), but I am changing to daily NYT. I am unfollowing Facebook posts focused on fear (even if I agree with the viewpoint), because fear isn’t helping me. For example, I don’t need to worry every moment that Sarah Palin may be our next Secretary of the Interior (though that does scare me). I do need to be knowledgeable about the places that are in the most danger, so I can work for them. Suggestions welcome.
- I am learning how to be a better writer, and practicing my craft, so I can use my voice to be a stronger activist.
- I am making meaningful connections. Phone calls and letters to my friends, rather than only Facebook notes. Lunches out, walks and coffee. Face-to-face, heart-to-heart real life contact. If I think you’re swell, and you are important to me, I will tell you, in words and with real hugs. Get ready.
- I am going to make sure my friends who are vulnerable know they can count on me. I am asking them for reading material, to help me understand more about their lives and issues. I am choosing books to help me learn more about our neighbors and fellow citizens. I live in a pretty white world, and I need to be more intentional about changing that. And while I am learning about people of color and other issues, I will learn more about conservative Americans. I want to lessen the gap between myself and others.
- I am going small. Looking people in the eye, asking them how they are, in a way they know I mean it. Tending to my Little Free Library. Inviting the neighbors in, rather than just chatting at the mailbox. Giving folks Be Kind stickers. Tipping more at the counter. Supporting companies who share my values, stepping away from those who don’t.
- I am seeking beauty, and following light. And I will try to be a source of beauty, light and love, for those who are also seeking it.
- I am practicing resistance by punctuation. No name, verbal or written, until he shows me he deserves it. No capital p. It’s a gesture, for sure, but one that makes me feel just a little more in control. It’s one way for me to remember that this isn’t normal.
- I am going to care for myself. Meditate, exercise, eat better, drink more water. And I am going to make sure my shoes are comfy and my coffee mug is full, because I have places to go, people to protect, and a better future to fight for.
*As of 2016, America had 322,762,018 citizens. 59,400,000 voted for him. That’s about 18.5%. That means 81.5% didn’t vote for him. Yes, I know many weren’t eligible to vote because they are children, and many chose not to vote. But this number and rationalization helps me get through the day. That and my well-packaged and highly organized backpack full of emotions.