Last night, after breaking my promise to stay off social media, I heard the news. We don’t just clandestinely authorize hate anymore. We now cheer it with bullhorns and parades and give it all the attention it desires.
I knew I needed to move–junk food, naps, and Netflix had not calmed my anxiety all day, and there wasn’t really any liquor in the house. I made my way around midnight to the labyrinth in the back courtyard of the elementary school near my house. As I paused to ask a question before entering, the only thing I could come up with was, “What now?” I cried as I walked. It feels important to be honest about why I cried:
-I didn’t think it could happen. I think many of us, especially in the Bay, were in that boat last night. I’ve just seen us be so much better.
-I wasn’t surprised as I wanted to be. Cynicism had it’s slimy tentacles around parts of my hope and thus lessened the force of the blow. Some might say that’s a good thing, that it is survival/coping skills in place. But I don’t want to lose my heart. A few weeks ago during dance our instructor played John Lennon’s “Imagine.” The thought rose unbidden: “There’s some refusal of this message in the way you dance to it.” I still don’t know what to do with that.
-I fear I will lose the tiny inroads made with my family since being out of the classroom has given me more energy for connecting. It is was one thing for my parents to tell me how much they liked him when it seemed an impossibility, but now that it’s a reality? I will not be able to handle it if they even slightly celebrate in my presence. I’m not kidding…I will lose my shit. I walked through the labyrinth telling my mother how ANGRY I was that she was normalizing female fear and disempowerment with her vote.
-I thought of every friend of mine who is teacher–called you up past and present, one by one. I thought about what today would be like for you. The unspoken grief carried into the classroom by so many children, the lack of safety, the disillusionment. That feeling that I’d been part of a great lie for so many years, returned with full force. There’s nothing I can do but tell you that I love you and I’m proud of the bravery you will bring today.
-As an educated white woman in the Bay Area, I can get away with feeling blasé about the changeover in a few weeks time. It’s highly unlikely my life will change to any great degree, and yet the lives of so many I love will now be in very real danger. Why am I spared? To do good work? Be an ally? An advocate? I can’t say I’m doing much of that outside the classroom, and I don’t miss the total and complete exhaustion it brought me. Where does that leave me? What next?
I cried and walked and walked and cried under the waxing moon, the sound of the train and the sprinklers from the park the only punctuation besides my ragged breathing. When I got to the middle I knelt down and put my hands to the ground. The weight of my heart did not lift, but I stilled. I looked around. The stars were still there. The trees still breathed with me. I still had all the resources from pre-madman to meet me post-madman.
Time to tell new stories, some of which are probably old, to rewrite the current narrative. Time to help hold those hearts that will be in fear after this, especially now that I have the energetic means to do so. Time to acknowledge that I am part of the world and we have all fallen on our faces together under the weight of our collective unprocessed pain. Time to re-learn how to stand together.
As I left the courtyard, I saw the children’s election bulletin board. There were red cut out stars with the pictures of each candidate on them. There was a poster written in teacher handwriting with the candidates names and how many kids had voted. The bottom proclaimed, “The students of YCIS predict a Clinton/Kaine landslide!!”
The hope of children. That is one thing I do miss about the classroom, as I find I age more quickly without it. Without thinking much, I reached up and pulled Trump’s star off the bulletin board, along with his gluesticked name, crumpled them, and threw them in the trash. As I explained to my cat later while hugging her patient frame, I wanted them to wonder today, to think that the force of their hope could still create change.