A Post-Election Choice
So we had an election. That was…yeah.
I’ve made no secret of the fact that I voted for HRC on November 8th, but what I did keep a little secret was that I was an ardent Hillary supporter. I’m part of the Facebook group Pantsuit Nation. I was ready to say the words “Madam President.” I thought I would watch the glass ceiling shatter into a million glimmering, glinting bits on election night.
That didn’t happen.
I’m going to be really candid right now. An overwhelming majority of folks reading this will not have cast a vote for our current President-Elect. And some people who I love very much will be reading this who did. It may be that you choose not to continue reading for that reason, and I respect your right to do so.
What I am going to speak about for the majority of this post is fear. If you’ve ever felt afraid, and are able to put aside the fact that you and I might feel afraid for different reasons right now, I encourage you to stick around.
I have spent an entire year’s worth of time on Facebook in the days since the presidential election. I’ve been looking for…I hardly know what. Comfort? Support? Ideas on how to be a better citizen?
A lot of what I’ve been seeking is a kind of understanding of what happened on Election Day, and what was going to happen next. What I’ve learned since then has opened my eyes to the fact that there were plenty of people who did NOT think like me. I assumed people shared my opinions and my outrage, in much the same way that I assume everyone I meet is pretty close to my age. How ridiculous that sounds after the fact.
But post-election, that was another story. I was awash in new information, and as the days went by, I saw a common thread all around.
There is so much fear surrounding us today, you can feel it in the air. Fear of what happens now. Fear of being marginalized. Fear of losing ground that’s been gained. Fear of a way of life disappearing. Fear of being forgotten and left behind.
We are so afraid.
I had a conversation pre-election in which I was reminded “People are afraid, and you have to understand that.” It stuck with me. I’m hearing much the same now from very different groups of people. “People are afraid, and you have to understand that.”
Yes. Fear is incredibly real, and it’s one of the most powerful emotions we have. It has the capability to trigger our entire nervous system when we sense danger or threats to our lives. We evolved that response to fear as a protective mechanism, to run away from lions who were chasing us thousands of years ago. And whether or not our physical bodies are in harm’s way at the moment (likely some people’s are more than others), our perception of fear and our reaction to fear is the same.
So what do we do about it? Recognize that we are acting out of fear and move on?
I can’t even begin to grasp the complexities and ramifications of this on a vast social level. In order to think about it, I had to get personal. How would I help a client who was dealing with significant fear? How would I help myself?
Fear is an incredible motivator in the short-term, but in the long run it’s not sustainable. You can’t outrun the lion forever. Fear can force us to take action, which might be good. But if we continuously dwell in the realm of fear, it will never be enough to provide us a true guarantee of safety and peace of mind. External factors and the behavior of others can go a long way in making us feel safe or unsafe, but there is always a part of that safety that we have to provide ourselves.
What are we supposed to do with that fear then, when we feel it bubbling up inside our chests? Acknowledging it is incredibly important, and we may need a significant amount of time to sit with that and process it. But eventually we will move toward action. Fear is always running away FROM something. And we can choose that. Or we can choose to run TOWARD something instead.
That’s what I want to run toward. A world built on love, understanding, compassion, respect. A world built on creating dialogue and relationships instead of tearing one another down. A world built on the belief that human beings are more than a collection of reflexive impulses of self-protection and fear, and that it is precisely the ability to think and feel in far more complex ways that makes us human.
I’m trying to ask myself right now, “Am I acting from a place of love?” My fiancée and I have given ourselves permission to give over to our worst tendencies and rage to one another for a week or so, but that time is coming to a close. Everybody’s timeline is different, but that’s mine.
Make no mistake in thinking that I am suggesting we act from a place of being nice or getting along. Acting from a place of love can still mean fighting for what you believe in. In fact, I suspect that being nice or getting along is behavior that often comes from a place of fear, fear of getting kicked out of your flock if you present a dissenting opinion. Love is action, love is evolution, love is moving forward.
I don’t present this post as an easy way out. Just act in love, no big deal! I will have gotten plenty of things wrong, and there will be lots of perspectives I surely won’t have considered. This is the first time I’ve found myself capable of writing coherent sentences in a while. But however flawed and insignificant, I offer it as an act of love.