When the results of this past election were clear and finalized, I was one of the many who were crying, unfocused, and distracted. I was consuming the news, reading or watching everything I could, texting everyone I knew. I was in genuine shock, fear, and grief.
It wasn’t long until I was finding articles telling me, that as a white person, I should stop crying because this was somehow my fault. It didn’t seem to matter that I was a woman and a human who believes in a more inclusive, accepting and loving America.
Calls for unity were challenged with calls for activism.
Everywhere I looked, there was judgment and direction for how to be, how not to be, how to grieve, how not to grieve, and how to react.
Still crying,(No one can tell me when it’s ok to stop crying, after all) I posted this picture.
I saw this as choosing to hold both: the pain and grief along with the belief that rising after a fall is always possible.
I know that picture wasn’t much. It wasn’t anything. It wouldn’t move the needle and that was ok because I wasn’t trying to move the needle. This was simply my own authentic response to what I was experiencing as an incredibly dark day for our country with an even darker four years looming ahead.
Thursday morning, I woke up to a Facebook message from a former acquaintance asking me how my whole belief in choosing happiness was going now.
A core belief that I have built my life and business around was suddenly being used to bait me, to get under my skin.
Friday afternoon, a former client emailed me. She’d gone to my Facebook business page looking for some solace and was surprised to see that I’d been quiet publicly. She assumed I’d have had something to say.
This is what I offered:
Look for the helpers. At a polarizing time, it feels impossible and disloyal to hold both.. The things we fear and are unhappy with along with the things that don’t actually suck.
Choosing happiness is not about being Pollyanna, namby pamby, or kumbaya.
It’s about holding and validating both the pain and darkness but also the light, hope, and healing.
Grieve and rage as long as you need to.
It’s OK if you’re not ready to feel better. Take your time. Find your way. Just do you. In this journey, we have to be true to who we are and no matter what anyone tells you, you’re not on the clock.
Looking to be Hopeful but Struggling with How?
- Give yourself permission to hold both. Seeing hope, light, or possibility for respite does not make the pain or grief any less real.
- Give yourself permission to be comforted. If we stop feeling pain or stop raging, it can feel as though we are saying that what happened is ok and that we are accepting it. It is possible to move away from rage without accepting the source of our anger. It is possible to get respite from our sadness without invalidating our grief.
- Seek out comfort. On Wednesday morning, Megyn Kelly was on Live with Kelly.
She’s a polarizing figure, herself, but when she tried to soothe those of us who were disappointed in the election results, I chose to believe her and let her help me feel better. I did the same when Obama and Hillary spoke:
- Look for the helpers and good news. Bad news spreads easily. If you want to feel hopeful, you’re going to have to go looking for it. Seek out the stories of hope and skip over the stories that are only going to feed the rage, sadness, helplessness, and hopelessness.
- Decide what your role in this is. I’m not an activist, despite the pressures I am feeling to be and do otherwise. I am ok with that. I am a therapist, coach, and writer. I connect with people. I create community. I use my insight to increase understanding. In my own corner of this world, I will continue to do that and I will accept that for some people, that will never be enough but for others, it will be everything.
- Get informed. Don’t get your news from Facebook. Read the articles and then fact check them. Otherwise, you might really believe that Trump had to Google Obamacare! These days, the pundits are everywhere blogging and commenting. You have to decide who you’re going to trust and recognize that where you get your news is going to impact your point of view.
- Censor your feed. A business colleague shared a strategy she’s been using. She tags people in her FB feed that she relies on for being positive and for being agents of change. When she is looking to silence the noise a bit, she customizes her feed to only see posts from those on that list. This was tough for me. I wanted to absorb everything everyone was saying. I wanted all of the news but in the end, it really only matters what I think and feel and what I am willing to do about those things. Adding more noise just causes more angst. Hit mute. Get yourself outside and away from it all.
- Set boundaries. Everyone is reacting. Some are leaking, some are melting down. Don’t rely on them to hold themselves together. Know your limits and your boundaries and be firm. It’s ok to say “I am not looking to talk about this right now” or “Now is not the time.”
Be the light
You get to decide what this looks like but be the light. That might mean just focusing on what you control in your own family and in your own circle of friends. It might mean taking a more visible role and advocating for what you believe in outside of your own circle.
Regardless of what is happening around you, who do you want to be and how do you want to move through the world?
If you move from there and choose from there, you will be finding your own path and will be moving on your volition.
Just on the other side of this is where you will find your hope.