In the weeks following the presidential election, I felt unhinged. I tried to find my words in posts about being an ally and being told I wasn’t doing enough. My daily stress levels, partially self-inflicted, were unsustainable. I walked away from social media because I couldn’t see straight through the fear that saturated my feeds.
I needed some quiet.
I needed to be quiet.
I needed to let the silence answer a question for me. Where do I go from here? How do I find my voice in our national discourse?
It took some time away from the clamor to hear the answer. I need to follow the code.
The code has been my life guide since I wrote it in 2015. It’s helped me make decisions in my personal and professional life and act in a way that I can be proud of on the other side. It’s a mantra that somehow reduces complex decisions into simple questions.
Was I real, authentically true to myself?
Did I act in a way that is loving towards others — and myself?
How did I share beauty, finding the good in the world as I navigate its challenges?
Did I lead well? Was I an example and inspiration for others?
Did I listen to voices that don’t echo my own, giving different perspectives fair consideration? Do I truly understand something before speaking about it?
I’m confident that if I can answer those questions affirmatively after I’ve faced my challenges, I’ll be in a place that is good for me and those around me.
I’ve been rolling this post around in my head for some time now. I thought I’d be ready on New Year’s Day to start 2017 on the right emotional and intellectual foot. I wasn’t. As our nation’s transfer of power grew closer and it was evident that the behavior of the campaign was spilling into the acts of governing, I again grew more and more anxious. My anxiety was expressed in steady stream of shares online as I tried to find solace in my friends while attempting to express solidarity with those even more frightened of the future.
Some friends have expressed worry that my 24/7 focus on our nation is unhealthy. Others have said it’s alienating. Both may be true, but now is not the time for quiet. After witnessing the women’s marches around the country last weekend, my resolve to stay loud is even stronger. My general outlook on our country is brighter today thanks to the millions of women (and men/children supporting them) who marched for their rights and the rights of others. Democracy is born of debate and dissent, and these two things will forever be its lifeblood. The energy, passion, power and sunshine of the marches broke through the somber gloom of our national mood. They reminded me that we are not a country of American carnage, but rather a people of all colors and creeds who stand up for equality and justice for all.
So what now? How do I move forward from here?
I return to my code.
Be real. Whatever my actions, I have to be myself. My voice is my own. It’s taken me more than 40 years to feel comfortable in my voice, so I will not be quiet unless my heart tells me it needs silence. I will share what moves me and may move others. Some reactions will affirm it, others question it, but I cannot let either of those mirrors make me less confident in expressing it. I know that sometimes my conviction and the way I articulate ideas can inadvertently squelch dissent, but I speak confidently from my core. I don’t know any other way.
Love always. This is a tough one right now. How do you love always when you’re standing up to hate and overt discrimination? A good friend told me that I sound angry and that it feels like I have little kindness for people who don’t think like I do. I tried to express that I’m heartbroken, and I still can’t articulate how confusing this turn in our country has been to my soul. I have always tried to find the best in people, to love their humanity despite their beliefs. The past year has turned all that upside down for me. People that I’ve known as such good, caring souls in everyday life chose (at the very least) to turn a blind eye to hate with their vote. Going forward, I need to rediscover my love for the humanity in each individual, but love isn’t subservient. Real love for everyone stands up to the hate of a few.
Share beauty. This is the place where I’ve fallen down the most this year. I’ve allowed the weight of the election cast a pall over my entire outlook. I’ve focused far too often on the actions of a few, while forgetting that millions of Americans stood with me on election day. I’ve made blanket statements about the quality of people who didn’t, failing to recognize their goodness, value, and contributions in our society. Normally one to find the silver lining in challenges, I’ve become too bleak in my outlook. I can feel this weight in my bones, sapping my optimism each day. The millions who marched reinvigorated my faith and ability to see color on the bleakest days, and I know that I need to celebrate the beauty of people and the world regularly — online and in the flesh — much more often.
Lead well. How do I lead through all this noise and mishegas? Frankly, I must act on the the values I espouse — even when it doesn’t serve me directly. I must use my place in society to speak for those that are voiceless. I must also acknowledge my place of privilege in our society — white, male, educated, straight, cisgender — and assume the role of servant leader, doing my best to support the intersectional goals of others fighting for equal rights. I must be willing to work behind the scenes, promoting my brothers and sisters whose lives are directly in the crosshairs to take center stage.
Listen more. Yes, I need to be quiet more often, not to stifle my voice, but to hear the voices and wisdom of others. In this rapid fire world stoked by a steady stream of news and analysis, immediate reaction and gratification rule. I must take deeper dives into issues, understanding their nuance, garnering multiple perspectives instead of irresponsibly joining the bandwagon. There is very little black and white in human interaction or society writ large, so I will listen to understand rather than react.
I feel my balance returning. Democracy is hard, especially one as big and diverse as ours. I don’t know what the next few weeks, months, and years hold. I do know that my voice — and so many other voices — need to be heard so that we can find solidarity and shared purpose to continue this grand experiment.
We the people, right?