There was a brief time in London where I thought I was losing my hearing.
I took a day off work to see the doctor, which led me to the dentist, which led me to the thing I already knew–I grind my teeth. The thing I didn’t know was that in particularly stressful situations my teeth grinding could lead to an inflamed jaw, so inflamed it affected my hearing.
I doubled down on my mouth guard. I made some life changes.
My front tooth is fake, did you know that?
I’m sure you didn’t.
My front tooth is fake because I have ground it off in the night, time and time again.
This week, my jaw is so swollen you can hear it crack across a room.
My therapist tells me a lot of people are having physical reactions to this frightening post-election time. Not just emotional reactions or grief reactions, but actual trauma.
I am so lucky. So privileged.
So very fortunate.
I’ve been thinking about mothers lately.
Rob’s mother showed him, not just through words, but actions, exactly how capable women are. He was raised to believe women are inherently equal, that household tasks have no gender, that my dreams–across all areas of life–are the same as his. This has made him the very best boyfriend I can imagine. I am 100% satisfied with gender roles in our relationship, and I am not a person 100% satisfied with almost anything.
Then there’s my mother.
My mother raised me a feminist. I never doubted how smart I was, or what I could do with my talents. She showed me how to critically think, how to keep an open mind, how to live in a world that still does not value women as much as it values men.
Today she is getting her graduate degree in English with an emphasis in 18th Century Feminism. She brings homemade cookies to the college students she teaches.
I’ve been thinking about mothers a lot this week.
It’s true, the Dave Chapelle skit on SNL. I am the privileged white person over here in shock with what just happened. I cannot believe it. I am mourning, grieving, cracking my jaw.
My minority friends and colleagues, people specifically targeted by our President Elect, are all much less shocked than I am. “I always knew how America felt about me,” one of them told me.
My therapist, a minority woman, looked at me and said, “When you’re told a story your whole life it becomes fact, and you can’t argue with someone about their facts.” She is so much calmer than I am.
What can we do then?
What can we do?
I’m not ready to make nice. That’s how my therapist described me.
I’m in the stages of grief, but I keep cycling back to anger. I don’t want to apologize for my anger. Hillary Clinton apologized for not winning the election, another blow to women everywhere. We do not need to apologize.
We do not need to apologize.
Here are some things I’ve done to help me feel better:
- Called my representatives (Here’s where you can find your Senators and Representatives. My favorite comic made some handy calling cards.)
- Bought a subscription to the New York Times
- Given a church lesson on peace
- Written letters to women I love
- Donated blood
- Signed up to volunteer more
- Met with my local political group to discuss the way forward
- Worked on a library display promoting diversity
- Set up monthly deposits to causes I believe in
- Interviewed at a charity I believe in wholeheartedly
- Read books about people with experiences different than mine
- Checked in on friends who are far more vulnerable than I am
- Clung to kindness wherever I’ve found it
- Taken a break from social media (Not long enough)
- Shared my ugliest thoughts and fears, not online, but with a safe group of people
- Written out some of the poison I feel
- Seen my therapist
- Bought a new teapot
- Spent more time with Rob
- Clung to a truth that makes me feel better: Hillary Clinton won more votes this election than any man not named Obama ever has. Including our President Elect.
I’m sharing these not because they are the only things to do, or even the right things to do, but because they’ve helped me a bit. Somewhat. And maybe in sharing it can help you? Maybe you can share what you’re doing and we can help each other?
Someone I know suggested every day you do two things: 1) Sweep the news. (Take deep breaths and brace yourself) 2. Do one action item. Call a representative. Donate to a cause.
Yesterday I was sitting at a red light next to a homeless man. I looked down at my uneaten breakfast of apple sauce in a plastic cup. I rolled down my window. “Excuse me, sir. Would you like some apple sauce?” “Yes, thank you,” he said. We made eye contact. We smiled at each other.
It cost me nothing–literally. That apple sauce was taken from my parents’ pantry. It didn’t even cost me time–I was sitting at a red light. But I felt better all day. It helped me and my mood surely more than the 100 calories helped him.
It was a good reminder that yes, I need to take political action. We all must put pressure on our representatives and we must stand up for what we know is right. But we also need to take small action in our lives. That is where sanity and peace and hope lies.
In apple sauce cups.
It’s going to take a long time to heal from this. Far, far more than four years.
Here we go.
Jaws a’cracking, here we go.