I don’t want to write this. I never wanted to write this. I remember being a child and asked what I wanted to be when I grew up. I remember thinking happy. I remember being a literature major and being asked if I wanted to be a writer and thinking, “I do not.” How many happy writers do you know? I don’t remember studying many. Writers that we remember may be talented, but often live at a trying time in history or survive trying circumstances. I never wanted any of that. I wanted happy. I wanted predictable. I wanted safe. Even then I knew those weren’t guaranteed. In my twenties when life got both comfortable and difficult, I remember discussing what I might enjoy as a career, in what profession I might succeed. My husband and I discussed writing. I said I liked it, but it was too risky, didn’t pay well enough and I understood that the truth I would speak might hurt others. I understood that if I embraced and demonstrated my whole self it might limit my professional offerings. I was afraid of more limits. I was afraid to cause pain. I was silent.
When I began to write this it was November 9, 2016, a day I believe will go down in history, a day I believe America will be remembered for going down on the wrong side of history. I’ll be honest; I cried. I cried when I read the headline. I cried when I kept searching to see if it was correct. I cried when my kids weren’t looking. I cried when I looked at them. I cried when everyone in the gym and the carpool line were looking. I cried when I thought about the people who feared being left out. I cried for women- for all that this meant to them. I cried for the LGBT for all that could be taken from them. I cried for Muslims who wondered what would be left for them. I cried for the concept of race. I cried for the pervasiveness of hate. I cried about the future. I cried about how expensive education and health care will be. I cried for the people who would have to pay it. I cried for the people who wouldn’t be able to. I cried for what the world would think. I cried for what it might mean for the world. I cried in the way that I usually reserve for outbursts years after personal tragedy-not my usual tears for Hallmark movies, those old Folgers commercials and anything Gilmore.
At our house when the election results were reported I was pretending to sleep. My son woke sometime before 3 looking for comfort. My daughter repeatedly woke unable to find restful sleep. It was almost comically foreshadowing bad. Even the writing of this essay came in the wee hours of the night and the stolen hours of this morning between birthday preparations for my son and a seriously exhausting session of attempting to contain my crib-escaping daughter. It couldn’t come fast enough. It was often interrupted because something was leaking, someone missed the toilet, someone was hangry, and someone couldn’t sleep. I have found that life changing events come in unexpected places. They feel large and time feels small. They happen when we don’t have time to think, when we feel vulnerable, when we have other battles, when there is no cavalry coming to save us, when we can feel ourselves giving in to the idea that we don’t have time for this, we can’t deal with this.
Make time to think about this election. I think we can all agree when in her concession speech Hilary Clinton said, “This is painful, and it will be for a long time.” She was right. We might just not agree on what is painful, but agreeing is a start. Many Trump supporters have felt left out for years. Many have felt forgotten, under- and un-represented, many have felt they were not comfortable with the “progress” being made. For many Hilary Clinton supporters the election results signal that they are about to be excluded again.
It is not lost on me that I am writing this on my son’s fourth birthday. It is not lost on me that in his birth, in all of the light and hope that new life gives, I started writing. I started owning my stories. I started understanding that my silence to prevent someone else’s pain did not give rise to growth. It did not allow me to move on. It did not allow them to grow up. But most importantly it did not create a world where everyone was comfortable. For me it was the beginning of sitting in the uncomfortable, of setting boundaries, of making steps toward a joyful life.
In these post-election days I am struggling to find hope. I don’t see it in ousting politicians from politics or in retaining politicians who do not compromise. I do not see it in Donald Trump either. I do not see it in today’s headlines or in his career of hateful rhetoric, but I have seen some good people choose Trump. I couldn’t stop reading headlines or Facebook in these last few months. Many headlines and several people’s posts made my heart sink. I was aware he could win. Maybe for some a pro-life stance was enough. Maybe for some Clinton seemed corrupt. Maybe for some more manufacturing jobs were right. Still, I thought there was too much to overlook. In a post I read by a long ago friend, a mother of two, I saw her support touting Trump. Twenty-something years ago I watched her stand up to someone who had done wrong and for another when no one else would help. She looked out for others when they were alone and told the truth when it hurt her. I admired her. I have hope in the person she might be, and if things get hard in the choices she might make.
The results of this election for Trump fans and Hilary haters was exactly the miracle they were praying for; and for Hillary fans and Trump haters exactly the nightmare they thought couldn’t happen. Significant moments in our lives do not come in the way that we think they will. God is funny and he is wise. Few of us will ever stand in a board room with prepared remarks and have that Michelle Obama New Hampshire moment where we embody what so many in the world are thinking. Few of us will ever have a platform where it seems like everyone is listening.
Chances are our personal significant moments to make sense of this election will likely not be our own New Hampshire moments. They might be in the simple act of reflection. They could be in the act of staying here, providing someone else a safe place, or standing up for what’s right. A significant moment could easily happen when we need to address a passing comment in the bathroom at a restaurant, during the 5 minutes before the business meeting starts; it could be a change in the way we teach our kids to talk; or in who we invite to our parties. It’s not whether or not you think you’re more likely to have significant life changing moments under Trump. It’s that an awful lot of people are worried they will have bad ones. I am asking you all to notice them-scratch that- I am counting on you to act kindly in them. I’m asking you to do what’s hard, what you might have hoped wouldn’t need to be your legacy.
In people collectively, I still have faith. I still believe we can be better than hate. It’s about being the people that we want to be for our children even when no one is looking. If I could give my children any gift it would have be that no matter their choices they have the possibility for happiness, safety and security. Every mother wants to offer that.
Honestly I don’t know how to end this. Normally when I write I like to weave and tuck and carefully place words, but this ending isn’t neat. So I’ll just say: whatever side you landed on in this election, I hope today you’ll be kind. The only way to ease pain is to walk through it. I hope we keep walking toward a joyful life. I hope we keep talking because I don’t believe any good comes from silence.
*There are many resources available if you are having trouble finding your words or processing your feelings. If you’re in Northern Virginia and are looking for assistance you can check out the Center for Pastoral Counseling of Virginia. (http://pastoralcounseling.com/)