Essential Reflections

Election Feelings

I find it hard to write about anything but the election, even now, a bit more than a month since it ended.  I still feel, in waves, my sadness, my fear and my anger.  My own experience was that, right after the election, we had the workshop.  For me, that meant that, whatever I was feeling, I needed to surrender to the workshop, to be prepared and present for participants and team.  When I returned from that psychic space, my feelings were still there – not quite as raw, but easily activated and still at times overwhelming.  So many lessons from the workshop support me in managing my feelings.

I have tried to write about my sadness, my fear and my anger, and I have tried to write from my sadness, my fear, my anger.  I find that the writing, like my feelings, goes on and on.  I have 5 pages on each of the feelings I mentioned – my sadness, my fear, my anger – that I won’t be sharing here.  Not only does it seem like the feelings are never going to stop; it feels like I have no way to bring my writing to an end.   The only way out is through, but sometimes it is a long way to the other side.

I have had a number of other responsibilities since the workshop, times when I have had to put aside my feelings and take care of business.  I just graded more than 120 papers and exams and submitted my grades.  I am grateful to have work that demands my attention, that feels worthwhile and that takes me out of the feelings that rush in to fill the moments when I am not so busy, or when news about the implications of the election comes to me.

I know I am not alone in coping with these feelings.  Encounters with friends, family, colleagues, even clients and students, will often generate moments of recognition and acknowledgment.  We share our pain, our fears, our anger and I become aware of carrying it all the time like a weight in my chest.   It mitigates the intensity to know I belong to a tribe that shares my feelings.

One of the casualties of this season is my sense of humor.  I still smile and joke at times, of course.  But there is a level on which I am not available to joking.  It is, I am feeling, too serious.  The best I can muster when John Oliver or Trevor Noah or Samantha Bee makes a joke about our situation is a kind of grim acknowledgment: “That’s funny.”   But it doesn’t feel funny.

Just as I know I am not alone in my feelings, I know that there are many who don’t share or even acknowledge them.  Some would urge me to embrace the new regime and contribute to its success.  I cannot do this.  My journaling and reflections confirm that the losses, the dangers and the injustices I see will not be addressed by joining with the new regime.  I see the joy and excitement of some folks.  I am empathetic and curious, but I cannot join with them.

There are others who urge me, whoever they supported in the election, to be less serious.  It is a matter, in part, of how connected people feel to the state of the world.  For some people, perhaps many, politics is a kind of game that doesn’t really affect much.  We had one kind of regime, now we have another; no big deal.  For them, my feelings are inappropriate, like someone actively mourning a team that lost last year’s Super Bowl , or in terror about leaving the house, or violently angry at a minor, unintentional slight .  I feel their invitation to normalize, to accept and move on.

I appreciate this invitation, but I will not accept it.  Without explaining or justifying myself (another 5 pages I won’t bother to share), my sense is that the new regime is not normal.  I accept the reality, of course.  That much acceptance and surrender feels important.  But the reality I am accepting is one I do not see as normal or acceptable.  Like my extra 15 pounds, or the unfair treatment I was subject to, or the bad habit I have fallen into, I need to name it, say that it is not what I want, and act to change it.   The reality I am accepting as real is, as I see it, sad and scary and hateful.  Hence my feelings.

What to do?  That is a question to renew regularly and to answer anew as my feelings and thoughts evolve,  For now, my answer, once collaboration and normalization are ruled out is: Resist.  I don’t know exactly what actions will express this resistance going forward.  I plan to be at the upcoming March, to learn, to talk, to listen, to write, to volunteer, to contribute.  Right now, my action is to name my resistance and stand in it as best I can.  This doesn’t mean fighting every moment.  It means setting my intention not to collaborate or normalize, but instead to resist the harm directed at people and the world in whatever ways seem effective and responsible.

Resistance is uncomfortable, but, for me, it is even more uncomfortable to be in despair.  And living in denial is not a possibility for me.  My resistance is in integrity with the values I hold of peace, mutual support, shared humanity and social justice.  (That’s another 5 pages I won’t share here.)   The conflict I embrace now is in the service of the just peace I seek.  The ways I will choose to act from my resistance are not distinct from those goals.  To be on the way is to be home.

So that’s how I feel.   You?