I just went back and re-read blog posts from election week in 2016. The sinking-despairing feeling which permeated that week in 2016 is alluded to lightly by the words I wrote, but not fully expressed. I remember it so clearly, but I didn’t write it publicly because I was focusing my public face on finding ways to move forward. I reserved the weeping, wailing, and gnashing of anxieties for my private journals where I was free to say all the thoughts without hurting anyone else. That is always my instinct in the face of difficult things. I would rather say nothing than say a thing which would cause more harm. Yet much growth has come from those depths of emotion I felt four years ago. I learned that sometimes saying nothing can also harm. That I have to be willing to speak up for those who don’t have as much power as I do. The discovery of my own power was a revelation in itself, particularly when contrasted with how powerless I felt. We can never control everything. We’re always at the mercy of forces larger than ourselves. Yet that is not the same thing as being powerless. The situation is very rare where we can’t make choices to steer ourselves, our lives, our families, our communities. The river may be large with a strong current, but we still have a rudder on our boat. And of course, my mind immediately supplies “but what if the rudder is broken?” which is definitely a thing that can happen via disability, mental health challenges, abuse, etc. Every metaphor is broken by special cases, we sometimes have a tiny rudder, or no paddles, or maybe we have a giant rudder and gorgeous large sails. The key thing is that we almost always have some sort of choice about how to respond to our circumstances, even when we have no control over the circumstances.
The thing that strikes me most about 2016 and all the events that came after both personal and public, is that I am here in 2020, made stronger, surer, and more ready to face whatever is next. I’m also feeling a dawning hope that, when all the votes are counted, my country will have a president who will listen to advisers, who will make a coherent plan and stick to it. I may not always like the plan he makes, but he’ll behave as an adult leader who considers his words and actions rather than as a reactive, self-absorbed, person. My country still has to contend with deep divisions between people, many of those divisions were created in part by that selfish man in power who benefited from people being angry and scared. So part of my hopeful feeling is that his social power will wane along with his visibility. Yes there are plenty of other politicians who attempt to hold power in the same ways, tackling them is what all that learning in how to be strong and speak up is good for. I feel hope, not because now I get to relax, but because my country has some additional traction and less head wind for the further work that needs to be done.