It has been one hell of a week. I didn’t vote for our new President. As the hashtag goes: #notmypresident.
I’ve read a lot of commentary about how shocked liberals are that so many people are ready to vote for a xenophobic, racist, homophobic, sexist man for President (not to mention his piece-of-work sidekick. I’ll admit it, I’m one of them. It’s been horrifying to reflect back on how confident I was that the vast majority of people are generally able to recognize and dismiss Trump as unqualified to be President. Confident that our social justice movements were basically working. I was blind. I initially titled this post, “The world has changed.” But then I changed it. For millions of people, the world is exactly the same as it was.
Our country has a lot of questions we need to answer collectively, but for me personally, the question is simple. How do I help? It isn’t enough anymore, clearly, to just be a person who thinks all these things are wrong. That’s just living with opinions. My dogs do that with aplomb. Opinions aren’t enough. How do I make the things I believe go from opinions to real actions out in the world?
The smallness of my life is overwhelming. I am one vote, one person. I’m not even a whole person, I have a chronic illness (fibro) that leaves me with less than half the energy of a normal person my age. It also means that I can’t recover from injury, even the little micro-tears from exercise, easily. Yesterday, for instance, I did some standing forward bends in yoga. I can normally do these. It’s a basic, beginner pose. But yesterday my lower back muscles just failed me. By evening I was in immense pain. This morning I woke up after a nightmare that I was repeatedly getting shot in the back, to find I was in so much pain I couldn’t turn over. I started my morning by laying in bed and crying for a few minutes, just to let the frustration out. This will take probably a week to heal. My husband had to bring my cane over to the bed, and dress me.
I already over-spend my fractured and frequently useless periods of energy on very worthwhile things, like my family, my education, my passions. I spent nearly fourteen years struggling with a debilitating anxiety disorder, time I wish I could have spent with more intention than merely coping, which means I don’t have the resources I might if I’d spent that time building a professional career. Yes, our household has extra money that we can give to a charity. We do that already. We give monthly support to several. And I’m glad we do, it’s a privilege to have that resource. But it isn’t enough.
What is enough? We all have to answer that in our own ways. We have to look at:
- Which issues matter to us?
- What resources do we have?
- What energy do we have? What time can we give?
- What do we need to learn that could help us move forward?
- Who can we connect with to make our efforts more effective?
When I try to answer these questions for myself, the answers seem weak, like peeps from baby birds. So much more than I can give, is what’s needed. But everything helps. Everything we can do, even the small things, will add up to something. The point is, add your piece. Big or small. Vote, of course. Obviously, right? My first step is to finally be an adult who takes politics seriously. I’ll keep a better eye on what’s going on in my local politics. National too, right? I suppose so, although right now when I think about what Trump might do, I want to stick my head in the sand. Can’t we pretend this isn’t happening? No. Pull head out. Vow to peek out from behind the fingers, laced across face, covering eyes.
Second step: connect with other like-minded folks. Seems obvious, but I don’t just mean, “surround yourself with people who think like you do.” That’s a recipe for an echo chamber, and we know what that looks like. It even has its own “news” network. No, I mean, surround yourself with people who are working for the same goals you are. For me that means finding out what I can spare energy on, and giving that energy to a group that’s working for something I believe in. Right now whenever I ask myself what I believe about our country, it’s that we have to be better than this. It’s unlikely I can push big change on my own. I don’t have the wealth or power or charm (I know, right?) to influence some large social change. But I can join my little piece of clay onto a larger sculpture. I can be a part of an important statement.
What if we all did that?
I attended a wonderful seminar this week for yoga teachers and teachers-in-training. In yoga, we study The Yoga Sutra, a collection of aphorisms about yogic instruction and wisdom, compiled by Patanjali somewhere around 1600 years ago. In the sutra there are ethical precepts known as the yamas, and the first of these is ahimsa. Ahimsa means: do no harm. In class yesterday, one of my classmates was wearing a tank top that said, “Do no harm, but take no shit.”
I call that a start.