“Why does my heart feel so bad? Why does my soul feel so bad?”
I haven’t slept through the night since the eve of the election. I have seen three a.m. and then dawn come and go just about every morning.
My spirit has been troubled. It will not let me stay at rest. I do not feel at ease. Waves of realization and sadness and disappointment and anger keep washing over me.
I have seen a number of Facebook posts suggesting those who aren’t happy with the election results are just sore losers who should get over it. I wish that were true. I wish it was just disappointment. I wish it were under my control.
I am a woman of faith, not great faith (it’s so small and vulnerable), but faith nonetheless. My Christianity is a comfort, but I am still uncomfortable. And please don’t try to use my beliefs against me. Jesus wept and God grew angry, so I know that expressing my emotions is not in opposition to my Christianity.
I am a woman of emotional resilience. I know this because I have lost. In my twenties I lost my mother unexpectedly and my grandfather unsurprisingly. In my thirties I have buried both of my grandmothers. The year I got married, the magazine I worked for went out of business, and with it went a uniquely special job. The year after that, my husband and I saw our apartment completely destroyed by a fire. For ten months, we were urban nomads.
I have known and survived disappointments and losses of many kinds. So when I tell you that the election has affected me physically, I’m not complaining. I am sharing my body’s response and reality. If I could snap out of it I would. I don’t enjoy being here. I am not willfully wallowing.
All I can do is mourn, pray, and give. All I can do is continue to write through my thoughts and feelings. I write to process my emotions—that potpourri of fear, sadness, disappointment, and anger that the election results (as well as how we’ve been speaking to and treating each other in the election’s wake) have engendered. It has affected my mind and my body. I cannot reconcile what has been said and done. What I thought was an unpopular and waning minority has turned out to be almost half (or accepted by almost half) of us.
I mourn. I mourn for the America I thought this was. And I am disappointed in myself for not realizing the truth sooner. I feel like a fool. How could I have been so wrong for so long?
Until less than seven years ago I had confidence in an illusion. I knew racists still walked among us, but I was convinced that racism and its relatives were endangered and would become extinct in my lifetime. I thought we were just waiting for the old, stubborn racists to be converted or die. It never occurred to me that new ones were being formed—in my generation and in the generations that have followed. I never considered, until fairly recently, that even when all the racists are removed from the equation, you might still be left with systems that are racist by design and at their foundation. And so I mourn.
I pray. I pray every morning. I pray that God would heal the schism in this nation. We are connected but not united neighborhoods, communities, and states. I pray that we would not bring physical harm or death to one another. I pray that those who feel angry would find a productive outlet and those who feel fear would find safety and comfort.
I pray for America. I pray that we would learn from our mistakes and the massive missteps of history. I pray that racism, sexism, ableism, xenophobia, homophobia, and every other prejudice would be starved and eventually die of neglect.
I pray that we have managed to elect a questionable president without setting a dangerous precedent. I pray that bigotry of any kind would not be tolerated—especially from those we ask to lead. I pray that hate speech would not be rewarded with loyalty and that unjust acts would not become endorsed, excused, or repeated—that ignorance and lies would not persist and that violence would not become epidemic.
I pray against poverty, injustice, and greed. I pray that we (as individuals, demographic designations, and a country) would find ways to prosper without forcing others to be disenfranchised, undervalued, or abused.
We have dismissed and derided each other’s emotions. We have been jeerers and bullies. We have shown derision and disrespect for feelings, refusing to empathize with those who are different. We have crossed the line separating clever and cruel on Twitter and Facebook. And so I pray.
I give. I give to my church and it’s community development corporation, both of which emphasize social justice and racial reconciliation. They supply food, clothing, and medical/dental services to the poor. They offer showers to the homeless. They teach English as a second language. They provide mentoring and scholarships.
I give to The Nightingale-Bamford School and Wellesley, my empowering alma maters—the latter for women, the former for girls. These two great academic institutions gave this first-generation girl from Brooklyn generous scholarships, self-confidence, and an excellent education—not to mention important friendships.
I also give blood a few times a year, because I know it saves lives and only costs me time that I can spare.
So if you’ve been feeling anxious, powerless, or restlessly inspired, I encourage you to find a cause you believe in and give whatever you can—be it money, expertise, or labor. It’s not a matter of what or how much. Your something small could mean the world to someone.
The past few years have taught me that America isn’t as healthy, healed, or equitable as I used to think it was. There is still demographic-specific suffering, discrimination, and hate-based violence. But progress cannot be denied—not so long as there are those who put injustice under a scrutinizing light.
There is still much to fix and figure out. I am still uneasy. I am still unsure. I know there’s an abundance of work to be done. But even as I mourn, pray, and give, I also continue to hope.