A month by the sea. November. We are staying in a little cottage in Ventnor, New Jersey just a block and a half from the ocean. I looked forward to this, because I like the seaside in the fall. Few people, deserted beaches, fresh cool air to breathe. The first week was exactly as we expected. Relaxing, envigorating, peaceful.
But in the weeks that we have been anticipating this, I did not factor in Election Day. Because, as it turned out, the 2016 election really changed our mood.
Many people have been weighing in on the subject, and while I have followed these sentiments, I have been loathe to add my two cents, for a number of reasons. In all fairness, I have been speechless. The proverbial cat has my tongue.
But here I am. I want to talk here about how I feel, because I have a great deal of appreciation for my readers, and because this seems like the right place to find my missing voice.
To start, I would like to address some of the reasons that I have been loathe to chime in on the ranting that I have witnessed on Social Media.
First of all, what do I know? I am not a political commentator. My opinions and fears are subjective. I don’t want to add to the hysteria by making dire predictions.
Secondly, I have family members on both sides of the divide. I have felt hurt and betrayed on a deep level by some comments that I have read by family members. I have no interest in perpetuating that cycle. I’m working hard enough on not impulsively pushing the “unfriend” button.
Thirdly, I fear the divisiveness as much as I fear the new administration. There is a movement involving wearing safety pins to establish a network of “safe people” out in the world. It seems innocuous enough. But doesn’t it contribute to the sense of “us and them,” and therefore to a feeling of not being safe? Where does this end?
We have to be careful not to be co-creators in a collapse of civility.
How do we move forward, now that the election is over? How do we live in a country so deeply emotionally and politically divided?
I think it is important to take a breath. Take ten breaths. I know there is a great deal at stake for those of us who treasure our freedoms, our diversity, the tenets on which this country was built. But, as important as it is to be proactive and ready to take a stand where required, it is also important to remain level headed. Hysteria will get us nowhere.
It is important to have integrity, and that starts with living with integrity. Be the change.
Yes, I feel afraid. But fear itself is indeed a thing to fear. And so I remind myself, with each breath, that in this moment I am safe. My family is safe. It is so important not to catastrophise. Anxiety feeds anxiety. So breathe.
I am not saying to bury your head in the sand. But, please do this: Take care of yourself. Stay informed. Practice loving-kindness.
As ever, it is important to be the best people we can be. That means maintaining the values we hold highest.
What are those for me? Love. Fairness. Dignity. Honesty. Respect. For all people, regardless of color, gender, religion, sexual preference, citizenship, and yes, political party. As was said during the campaign, go high, not low.
I address this to everyone who cares to hear. Perhaps you are happy with the outcome of the election. Remember, half of us are grieving, and half of us are rejoicing. No matter. No matter which hat you wear, the basic human decencies haven’t changed. Don’t go low.
What has helped me most has been to make even more of an effort to be kind to strangers. It is amazing to me how good it can feel to offer someone a kind word, a smile, or a hand when you don’t “have to”. It fills me with hope. Does this sound petty? It is not. It is healing.
If you are grieving: I want to share something important to remember. (As a grief counselor, I know a little about this.)
We all have heard about the phases of grief. Denial, bargaining, anger, depression, acceptance. Many people have felt these emotions at random moments as a result of this election. Not because a candidate lost, but because we feel a loss of what we counted on in this country: a sense of being held by the tenets that guarantee our rights and freedoms. A fear that those can be lost if the people in power disregard them.
One caveat: I have often seen grieving people misdirect the anger they feel as a result of their loss. We look for something to attach to the anger, and often that is an unassuming family member or friend who says the wrong thing, or doesn’t call. And so the anger that accompanies grief can damage relationships, adding to the loss and isolation the bereaved is already experiencing.
The challenge is to be angry, and yet not to misdirect it. Channel it effectively rather than allowing it to fester or infect your personal life. Or our society.
There has indeed been a rise in hateful, prejudicial acts. It is as if the dark side of human nature has been set free. We read about it daily on social media and hear about it in the news.
Bad news travels fast and sells well. It is important to remember that. Because if we react to these reports with decisiveness and hatred, the chasm grows deeper and the stakes grow higher.
I am not saying to turn a blind eye toward these incidents. We should take a stand and express our dissension at every turn. However, it is important to remember that these are still the actions of a minority.
All is not lost. At this moment I believe this to be true. If we take the high road, it will remain so. We can each only do our part.©