I haven't slept through the night in weeks. This week has been particularly bad; I'm averaging about 3 hours a night. My mind won't turn off. My fears don't abate. The quiet never arrives. I'm unraveling. It isn't pretty.
I've certainly experienced elections that didn't go the way I'd hoped. They were disappointing, but life went on. We could utter encouraging platitudes to one another. We'd get 'em next time. This is different. This isn't merely disappointment. This time I'm wracked with fear and am utterly consumed with loss. And I'm allowing it to transform me into someone I don't like.
I remember feeling proud of myself after the election. I didn't lash out. I wasn't angry. I was deeply saddened. I was confused. I think I told myself I was handling it well -- I'd moved directly to acceptance on the grief spectrum. I read and shared articles striving to come to a place of understanding. I thought I was going to be okay. In reality, I temporarily cauterized the emotional bleed. Only in recent days have I finally told myself the truth. I've been in denial. But now it's here and I'm free-falling in oceans of anxiety and fear. I'm submerged. I flailed for awhile. I sought distraction. I feigned confidence and composure. But now. I'm lost. I feel utterly, paralyzingly lost.
I've never been a wallower. Raised on the the bedrock of pull-yourself-together-dammit, I always have. When shitty things happened, I've allowed myself to sob, to feel sorry for myself, but it didn't take long before my father's booming, deliberate voice barged into my thoughts: "Jesus Christ! Shit happens. What are you going to do about it?" And I did something. I pulled myself together. I took action. I can't this time. I can't muster the energy when it's needed most.
Last night I was having a pleasant enough conversation with a stranger while I waited for a friend. When the realization was made that one of us was grieving while the other was celebrating, I turned ugly. Some things have tempered with age. My tongue isn't one of them. I am well-versed in the art of delivering burning, cutting, hurtful remarks with ease and heaping apologies afterward. So last night felt unfortunately familiar. He wouldn't hear any apologies or explanations. There was no concession to agree to disagree. There were no condolences. There was a wall. Trump didn't build that one. I did. I was exactly who he wanted me to be. I fulfilled the narrative. I reaffirmed his beliefs.
I want to believe we can understand one another. But I'm beginning to worry we can't. I'm not so foolish or arrogant or disconnected to believe that what happens in government won't affect me and those I love. I asked him what he thought about Betsy DeVos. He'd never heard of her. I tried to explain how terrifying a prospect she is for public education, the one thing that can hope to provide equal footing for all people. He didn't care. He scoffed that he didn't have kids so it really didn't affect him. We should give everyone a fair chance, he said.
I'm a teacher. I normally tout those words. I preach the need for acceptance, understanding, and compromise. We celebrate stories and diverse experiences. I'm a hypocrite; I can't this time. The fallout of this election is an assault on everything that is important to me, everything I value. I know I need to find a way forward, but I'm not there yet.