For the past 24 hours, all of my conversation and emails have touched on (and sometimes consumed) the surprising U.S. election results. This includes friends and family, clients and colleagues, social media friends, even people I passed in contact briefly. They’ve shared this in common: reactions that vary from despair and depression, shock and fear, bewilderment.
Obviously, there are many who are happy today. But in my small space in this world, I didn’t come in direct contact with any such person. I did hear that my dog walker’s 9 year old son burst into tears when he heard that Trump had won. My client, who never pays attention to anything unrelated to her health, was angry people were so preoccupied with this issue. A woman in my Pilates class, who shares often about her depression, was utterly demoralized and didn’t want to get out of bed. A friend whom I’ve admired for her professional achievements, emailed that she’s more determined than ever to increase her civic engagement.
There it is again. Facing the unexpected and difficult, we show up with tools developed over a lifetime. Sometimes that works. Sometimes it’s not so pretty.
How did I respond? It became increasingly painful to watch the election returns as the story became obvious. Feeling miserable and helpless, I went to sleep early. I realized years ago, that I hate wasting my time or energy on something I can’t do anything about. I found some comfort yesterday that at least one person whom I supported would win in the Senate race. Maggie Hassan has a long history of advocating for the disenfranchised and, in particular, the disabled. A ray of sun.
But the rest feels dark. Donald Trump has been and continues to be the epitome of unpredictable (and unlikable) for me. When he speaks, I’m back in 6th grade facing the schoolyard bully whom I feared and hated. I have to work to bring myself out of that space and back to my present reality. That’s what unpredictable can do to you — it can throw you off balance. You might even fall, as I do too frequently. That’s why I practice Tai Chi and Pilates. They’re a resource I draw on to help me mentally and physically face the inevitable unpredictable and unexpected. I know it won’t prevent it from happening but I FEEL more prepared. Most of the time, that’s enough to help me to take more risks and walk with a little more confidence.
Like it or not, we’re going to face the unexpected and unpredictable. The unpredictable always makes me uncomfortable and I know that I need to draw on all my resources. Living with unpredictable and often debilitating chronic illness has taught me to notice where I can take charge and what’s not worth wasting my resources on. The more you can practice this, the more quickly you can call it up when you need it.
I don’t expect to feel good about what lies ahead in American politics or policies. I just hope my feet stay on the ground as I wade through the mud.
What response did you have to this election? What response do you want to have?