Election 2016 in the US is behind us. Thank goodness, because, quite frankly, it’s one of the most ugly, upsetting, and divisive things I’ve experienced in my 52 years of life! And, sadly, the ugliness has not gone away.
And, if like me, you found yourself reeling as the states were called and what felt like an impossibility became possible and then very real, you might be trying to find your ground now and trying to figure out how to move forward.
It’s been almost a week and it’s clear that many are still reeling, and that is totally okay. As one of my teachers said today, “This isn’t like losing the World Series.” No, this is far bigger and far more important.
For those of you who are grieving now, feeling sad, angry, confused, lost, hopeless, fearful, and don’t know what to do next, I stand with you and I offer you this post. It is easy to sink into despair and project out into the future with doom and gloom scenarios. It’s all too easy to engage in defensive or attacking battle in the social media world. With the rhetoric that has been spewed, the anger-inciting behavior we’ve witnessed, the early actions taken, and the violent reactions we’re seeing, it’s easy to go there.
Let me reassure you all that I am not offering any Pollyanna BS, nor am I asking you to find a silver lining. I will not pretend to hold your answers, and I will not tell you to get over this. Nor do I intend to add fuel to the fire and rile you up for battle. My hope is only to walk with you as we move into tomorrow.
It’s taken me days to finish this post because I am swimming in my own confusion and in the murkiness of all that’s being hurled around in the news and on Facebook. Never before have I seen such a free-for-all of opinion sharing, judgment, shame, blame, and flat out attacks on those who view the world and the situation differently.
I’ve certainly had my own opinions, shared my own views, and openly questioned things that simply couldn’t land in my heart and head. I’ve been uncharacteristically vocal during this election and in its aftermath because it feels too important not to be silent. And I make no pretense of being “holier than thou” here. I am doing the best I can with what I’ve got.
So, what now? Early on November 9, my first move after hearing the news was to turn to my teachers via social media to see how they were reacting. And, what I found was…nothing. Crickets… They weren’t there yet, because they too were reeling. They had no more inspiration to offer in the midst of shock than I did. They were taking their own time to be stunned, to feel, to grieve, and to maybe come to some level of groundedness before they could speak.
As I struggled with my own shock, sadness, grief, fear, and confusion, after I sobbed… after I got to yoga and moved a bit, I came home to myself and to the wisdom of my many teachers. I share it with you now in the hopes that perhaps some of it may be useful for you in this or other turbulent times.
From Tara Brach – Ask the poignant question, “Are you at war with reality?” This election is over. The results are in, and I only cause myself more suffering by denying it with screams of “Nooooooo!” or spinning into “How, how, how did this happen?” Though these were certainly among my first reactions. Being at war with what is does not serve me; I need to find a way to accept it as reality, though I do not have to like it or get over it. I have to come to terms with what’s before me.
From Renee Trudeau – Pause. It is so essential to stop and just breathe for a moment when it seems like everything is in a frenzy. Pause to create some space around what’s happening. Pause to find my breath. Pause to tune into what’s coming up for me and within me.
From Tara again (and Renee and Jen Louden who reinforce this regularly) – Be with what’s here. Notice what’s happening in my body. Feel into it. Don’t try to chase it away, but just be with it. Notice it, allow it, and then nurture myself in the loving way I would a dear friend. Feel the pain and the suffering. Do not jump over it or try to do a bypass of it. Be with it.
From Renee again – Remember the critical importance of self-care and her beautiful definition: “Self-care is the art of attuning and responding to our needs and desires, moment to moment.” What is it I need in this moment? The pausing and the noticing gives me a shot at answering this question. This is all I can do. Only by taking good care of me can I have any hope of offering anything to anyone else. I must begin here now that I’ve found and caught my breath.
“I will not abandon myself!” This has been my most powerful mantra since I first learned it from Renee a couple of years ago. Nothing and no one can take me away from my values, what I stand for, what’s true and integral for me. And, I need to remember first and foremost to be here for myself in loving kindness and gentleness as I notice what’s up and again offer myself the space to be real with what’s here and to nurture myself accordingly.
From Jen Louden – Remember to believe in our essential goodness – my own and everyone else’s. This is a hard one right now because it doesn’t feel like love, kindness, compassion, or goodness have been at play to bring about this outcome. And, yet, the people who voted for Trump are the same neighbors and community members they were yesterday – the sweet couple with their little girl behind me in line to vote. I don’t know who his voters are, but for the most part, I believe they’re voting their conscience. I believe this, even when we strongly disagree on so much. And, beyond the extremists who voice their hatred and bigotry openly and loudly, I do not believe labelling an entire group of people is helpful or fair.
I need to remember our common humanity, and that we have more in common than not. Putting people into camps of “us” vs. “them” does not serve me or anyone else and only deepens the divide. Yet, this is what I continue to see playing out over and over in thread after thread. It’s exhausting and it’s disheartening. This does not serve the future of our country. We’ve been there before. The Civil War springs immediately to mind. I’m not looking for a replay of that.
From Laura Berman Fortgang – “Discomfort = growth.” There is tons of discomfort here, so where is the opportunity for growth? Where are the opportunities to show up? What is my discomfort bringing up and what is it calling me to? Nothing changes when we stay comfortable. This election certainly has shaken us up and feels like a wake-up call. We can’t go back to sleep.
From my own life experience – Sometimes it takes being shaken up to get out of complacency. Often it’s from the darkest moments that we do our greatest work. Life is calling us to show up now – our wisdom, our love, our debate, our commitment, our passion, our questions, our action – they’re being shaken awake and we need them all.
I remembered the things that ground me, that bring me back to clarity. I remembered to come home to myself. For me this means I need silence, stillness, space and time for reflection and meditation. I need to get to yoga. I need to write. I need to find my breath and anchor there when there is nothing else that I can grasp onto. I need to surround myself with mindful people and have honest conversations; connection feels really important right now. I need to try to tap into faith, and I’m finding that hard. I need to remember that I’m resilient as hell, and so are we as a collective. We will get through. What it will look like on the other side, I don’t know.
From the recovery world – You have to hit bottom before you can sober up and get on the road to recovery. These are sobering times, for sure. Maybe this is our bottom.
One of the things that came out in this election which greatly saddened me was the clarity of how deeply divided we are, of how far we have NOT come since Martin Luther King Jr. or Susan B. Anthony. It also saddened me to think that the “change” we just voted for might actually set us back in time and deepen the divide. We’ve been given many reasons to believe it could.
So, it was a sobering day for many of us and it’s been a turbulent, sobering, and explosive time in the past week. And, so the road to recovery lies before us, and we can step on it as we are ready, when we are ready, and not until we are. For now, be where you are… feel it rather than stuff it, but don’t get stuck in the swamp of doom and gloom never to rise again – we need you.
So, we find a force that motivates and mobilizes us – whether it’s the power of hope, or the strong drive for justice. We listen to where we are being called. And, when we hear the call (which will be different for each of us), we show up. It could be for the environment, civil rights, healthcare, or poverty – there are so many areas that need you. Where are you being called and how might you begin to take action there and make the impact that only you can?
Perhaps it’s time we don’t rely on the government for funding or support. Dark times often lead us to do great things.
The reality is that how YOU show up to your life matters. Nothing has changed this. How you show up (positively or negatively) ripples out. What energy do you want to bring as we move forward? For move forward we must, each in our own time. I know some are not ready yet. I’m not sure I am, but I do know that the sun keeps rising and the moon still moves steadily through its cycles. As one of my friends noted last week, I take comfort in the rhythms of nature.
What is it that will carry you on, one step at a time into the tomorrow we walk toward together? What will comfort you and nourish you in a time when your energy is needed? Who do you want in your world? Who’s your support and who challenges you to greatness? What are the practices that can bring you back to “this moment?” What will stop you from projecting out to an unknown future? We must begin where we are. And, whatever you do, please do not go back to sleep.