It’s been quite a week. I was feeling raw and wounded after last Saturday when I had to say goodbye to my dog. Then Election Day hit and it seems the nation made a rapid descent to Hell. Wildfires are burning all around me. Literally and figuratively. The forests are aflame, clouding visibility and making it hard to breathe. Acts of hatred and aggression are erupting all over. People are angry, indignant, confused, threatened, and terrified. The grief I was already feeling has magnified into a dark and painful despair.
In the last week, I have struggled to fall asleep at night. I awaken each morning with a sickening pit in my stomach. I move through my days laden with a heavy sadness that I am struggling to overcome. This feeling is the result of many factors, both personal and collective. But regardless of the cause, it’s definitely hellacious.
I’m upset with people who tell protestors to stop whining; people who think the outrage is the result of their candidate not winning. I’m annoyed by platitudes like, “everything is going to be ok” and “we’ll get through this.” I’m frustrated by the reassurance that all we need is love. I’m angry with people who say that we need this upheaval, or that white guilt is insufficient recompense. In other words, I’m mad at everyone (including myself).
I typically tend to be an optimistic person. I’m a glass-half-full, silver lining kind of girl. I try to love my neighbor and treat people with kindness and respect. Lately, going out in public has me feeling like a paranoid Neurotic. I find myself guessing who people voted for, wondering if they would be treating me differently if my skin were darker or I was wearing a hijab. I’m watching everybody very closely. I don’t trust anyone. (Shit, pretty soon I’m going to start swatting at things that aren’t even there.)
I can hear it now, the voices imploring me to get up off my ass and fight. To defeat my own invisible demons as well as the real ones threatening me and others. I hear the voices telling me to love, to organize, to motivate. Make no mistake, I WILL. I have always been a warrior, and I will fight and love harder than ever before (which is pretty damn hard). But, GIVE ME A MINUTE. I’m not ready yet.
I feel like a frightened child. I want mommy and daddy to hug me and reassure me that I’m safe and protected. But it seems everyone is wandering around either angry or terrified or blissfully ignorant, and no one has any genuine solace to offer. I want to run away and hide in a secret fort and to stay there peacefully removed from reality until it’s safe to come out.
But I’m not a child, and there is nowhere to hide. I am an adult, a parent, and an educator, and I have to be present for all of my kids. I’ve been peering into the shadows a lot these last few days, timidly exploring what’s really inside, preparing myself to confront whatever it is that holds me in fear; praying that doing so will help me guide the children through their fear too.
I cannot offer the kids platitudes. I can’t tell them everything is going to be ok. I can’t pretend that I know what’s going to happen next or that I believe that love is all we need. But I can include them in conversations and listen to them. The kids I’ve spoken with so far feel frustrated. They are upset with adults for behaving horribly and creating situations that cause them to feel unsafe. They feel powerless because they can’t vote, they don’t have their own money, and no one cares what they think. I told my kids that they have the power to educate themselves so that when they are old enough to vote, they will be able to make informed choices. I told them they can contact politicians and lawmakers to express their concerns and ideas. I told them they can stand up for people who are being discriminated against and to always treat others with dignity and kindness. I told them that many small acts can make a real difference. I hope I’m right.
The encouragement I gave the kids was helpful for me too. In mothering them, I also mother myself. As I said, though, I must also give myself time to grieve and process. I’m working hard to shut out the noise. I have no choice but to step into the darkness so I can understand myself (and society) better. This is a terrifying endeavor (I’ll keep you posted). These are sad and fearful times. I’m taking comfort in my friends and loved ones. I’m welcoming lots of hugs. That’s about all I can do… for now.
And I miss my dog like crazy.
With Love & Compassion,
Adina Arden Cooper
I'm a lover, a guide, a supportive companion. A storyteller, an artist, an ally and an advocate. I help individuals thrive and communities come together through counseling, coaching, and community building. I believe that shared humanity is a powerful strength and that our stories connect us in beautiful and sacred ways. As I stumble, skip, or soar my way through this life, I invite you to join me on the journey. Likewise, I'm honored to travel with you. In witnessing one another, we find meaning.