Today has seen another birthday pass for me, and I’ve never spent one feeling as unhappy as I did for most of today. The election is over; my disappointment at Donald Trump’s election was beyond words. From the time I woke up I questioned reality, hoping the news had just been the bad dream I feared. All day I felt the specter of it hanging over me like a dark cloud blooming on the horizon.
But enough has been written everywhere about that already.
One of my best friends texted me early about her sadness and disappointment, sentiments I shared. Things most always look better after a cup of coffee, however, and I found something positive and hopeful to share. I found the impulse to fight harder in myself, for the things I believed in and and held dear, things I am sure will soon be under siege. I managed to mine the deepest, most loving parts of myself searching for a few kernels of goodness that could result. I tried to encourage a few other friends I knew would feel as badly as I did.
And one of my cats brought me her first mouse, wet and a bit worse for the wear, but alive. Feeling a bit like that myself, I put it outside in the woodpile, grateful to pass along such a small gift.
Happily, I had the day off; but as it wore on and I ran errands I felt my anger unnervingly grow. At a doctor’s appointment, I silently questioned the nurse caring for me- who did she vote for, I wondered? I asked the same question of the cars driving in front of me and behind, of the people selling tickets and popcorn at the movie theater where another friend and I went to see ‘Dr. Strange’ for some much-needed escapism. Even more strange, I found myself crying during the movie at certain moments that, rather bizarrely, felt familiar. The world around me seemed to have become a different place, though it still looked the same.
Later I felt myself cycling through moments of returning to that optimism of the early morning, and of feeling again complete despair, crying and almost unconsolable. It was as if someone I’d loved but had a difficult relationship with had died, and I couldn’t reconcile such opposing states of mind.
I kept a brave face for social media, however. So many friends remembered and reached out to wish me a happy birthday, voting choices aside, which I so appreciated, and I didn’t want to put a blemish on such thoughtfulness. But of all the days to celebrate, this had begun to feel like one I would rather have skipped.
Not because of any fear of growing older. On the contrary, so far I’ve only enjoyed my life more as I’ve settled in, grown comfortable in my skin, with who I am. My independence and self-reliance are things I’ve been proud of cultivating, and I would never trade some gray hair or wrinkles for going back to the insecurities of my 20s and 30s. I guess I thought that growing sense of personal awareness and comfort would somehow armor me against the unhappiness of life, against problems I saw in the world around me. And up until today, I think maybe it had. Maybe it still can.
But I felt a seed of doubt was planted, deeply, in my faith in the country I live in and in the larger world it is a part of. I don’t know yet if it will take root, or what it might grow into. Some stranger on Facebook accused me of being asleep to the reality of the world, called me out to wake up. And I think now, I am. I even thanked him for it.
Quite the gift to get on my birthday.
Then I had a couple conversations that changed the day’s course for the better. With one friend I talked about living in the present moment as a path to happiness, not looking to the future for things to be better or mourning a rosy-looking past. It made me remember that path for myself, that it was the one I was trying to walk, and even though it seemed to be getting steep and very rocky, I would still choose to remain on it, bruised and scratched I may get. And I had a talk with another of my friends on our respective choices in the election that cleared the air between us, and lifted some of the heaviness that had settled over my heart.
I was restored, feeling again my early morning optimism and thinking of how I can use it, serve it, let it shape me in whatever comes next. A small set of victories, yes, but the right ones, at least for me.
So as evening closes in and this day comes to an end, I have chosen to remember the good events of today, my silver linings, the things that truly matter. Like my friends that I can still be friends with even when we disagree, friends who wish me a happy birthday, friends who go out of their way to comfort me and let me comfort them, friends who will go see a superhero movie with me even when that’s not exactly their cup of tea. I think of my cats bringing me a small mouse I can somehow save, offering it a second chance at life.
And I will go on being grateful for what remains, my many blessings. I know more clearly what things I want to preserve, what beliefs I will fight for. I feel I’m being honed like any good instrument to help create a future that is yet unwritten, with room still for hope.