On November 8th I got a big wake-up call, as did millions of other people in the country. And then last Friday, it became even more real. What I thought was incomprehensible, unfathomable and impossible - happened. And in the hours that unfolded on election night, when disbelief turned into despair, myself and many others went to bed broken-hearted, and scared.
But when I woke up the next day, I realized that unlike other elections in my life, I had kids and step-kids that were watching. They were looking to my husband and I to make sense of what happened, so we had to make sense of it – quickly - for ourselves and for them.
So instead of getting angry, I got curious. I immediately looked for what I missed, or and didn’t understand. I started to investigate and learn, and I quickly discovered that I was way out of touch with a huge amount of suffering in this country. I sat comfortably in my Marin County bubble, with my like-minded friends and family watching SNL clips, laughing at the ridiculousness of this election. And while I knew about the loss of jobs in the Midwest, the toxic water in Flint Michigan, and other issues that hit my newsfeed, I didn’t connect it to day-to-day experiences of the people that were impacted. I didn’t put myself in the shoes of the people who couldn’t pay their mortgages or feed their children. I was out of touch, embarrassingly so.
Brene Brown, an insanely insightful researcher, author and speaker, posted a set of questions to help people set their intentions for the year, and one of the questions was “how have I contributed more than I’ve criticized?” When I look back at the months leading up to the election, I did a helluva lot more criticizing, than contributing. I spent my time exchanging articles and stories about why the other candidate was terrible, instead of throwing my energy towards the candidate and the causes I cared about. I sat there thinking that it wasn’t needed, that my candidate was a shoe-in. But this election taught me that I can no longer passively sit by in my bubble and trust the things will work out the way I want them to. I have to align my actions towards the things I care about - consistently, continuously and relentlessly.
As a full-time working mom of an infant, toddler, and two step-children, my life is full. As such, I typically give myself a hall pass on the action front on this sort of stuff. But here’s the thing: I’m a parent now, which means that I really don’t get a hall pass on this stuff anymore. I spend so much time and energy trying to raise kids that will thrive in this world - but I also have a responsibility to make sure this world is a better place for them.
So in an attempt to align my beliefs and my actions, I decided to do a few things after this election.
1. Get educated – I have been reading, listening, asking and trying to understand the different perspectives and viewpoints, other than our own, and understand the root of the suffering in our country. I am also trying to understand what is really at stake, what can change, and surface the real facts, in the midst of sensationalized media.
2. Find my causes and show my support – There are a many things that this new cabinet can influence, and there are causes that mean a lot to me that could be radically altered. So I’m identifying my causes, putting my energy toward the things that matter. I’ve made a personal commitment to do at least one thing each week to support my causes. It doesn’t take much time or effort and the combined efforts of me and many others can have influence.
3. Increase gratitude and giving – This election has highlighted, once again, the huge wealth gap in our country, so I decided to look for new ways that my family can give back to others and practice more gratitude and giving in our everyday lives.
4. Be a positive change agent – With so much negativity and fear swirling right now, I want to be a force of possibility and kindness. It is easy to get swept up in the negativity, and it’s not about ignoring what’s going on and putting a smiling face on. Rather, it is about looking for what I can do to be a force of positive change through this challenging time.
5. Keep believing that love will win – This has certainly been challenged this election season, but I am holding strong to this one. It is at the foundation of my belief system and something I want to model for my children. Love can and will trump hate.
While the months ahead are daunting, and full of uncertainty, I feel more awake and more present to what’s happening outside my immediate world, than ever before. November 8th was a wake-up call that has me re-focusing my energy so I can engage in a bigger way. And when I look around me, and see so many others waking up too, and activating positive change in their communities, I feel full of hope and promise.