My Election 2020: The In-Between

I lie awake at 3:50 am on the morning of an American presidential election.

The cynic in me strongly fears the hate to come in the next 24 hours and beyond. But I have this tiny kernel of hope. And it’s not based on a candidate but on the thousands of voters that threaded through a parking lot on Saturday.

Early voting was open at two locations, and my husband and I chose one Saturday. Delayed by a bad car battery, we got to the polling place about thirty minutes after voting opened. We began on a sidewalk. Beside the main thoroughfare. Not even in the parking lot.

If you’ve ever read this site, you know I am an anxious person. There was not a single moment in that line when I felt worried about violence. Reflecting afterward, I thought maybe I should have been more on guard. Maybe.

The line snaked into the parking lot of a big building and paraded around two sides and a bit more before turning on its heel and winding all the way around the building. People chatted. Some for each candidate. But they kept their voices conversational. Dogs and toddlers endlessly entertained the masses. And people greeted acquaintances as the line doubled back.

Some dragged chairs along. Others, blankets or books or children. One in a pair would sometimes disappear only to re-emerge with fast food sustenance. People held the line for bathroom breakers.

I chatted about the Yankees with a man whose political beliefs couldn’t be further from my own. I know this because he spent a good while quietly spiraling into rhetoric with another voter directly behind me.

Five hours and forty-five minutes. That was how long we walked that line to cast our votes. And it was not miserable. It was not hostile. Indeed, it was frequently adorable, humorous, and celebratory without ever being openly for or against anyone.

Last Monday through Sunday, our home had power loss due to an ice storm. We weren’t alone. Many in that line were struggling with all manner of private hardships. The stressors of race (particularly for people of color), election, pandemic, and economy were all present.

From what I’ve read in the press, we should have been balanced on a blade. We should have been at fisticuffs and throats. We should have had guns cocked and been ready to loot.

Herein I find my hope for this election. Not in dire warnings or free press or a candidate. Certainly not in polls. But in the America in between. In there between left and right, between policies and politics, between caricatures of opposing vagaries—that’s where the ideals of America still live.

For places and people who experience violence today—and I know it could be any of us—you have my heart. But maybe the in-between will conquer, as it does, quietly, unobtrusively, without a fuss. Maybe the in-between will not only be the backbone of America today but its very flesh. One can hope.

Discipline: Continue in Uncertainty

One aspect of discipline most Americans know intimately this year: continue in uncertainty with the tools at hand.

November 2016 brought a crushing blow to many optimists (and also a crushing blow to everybody else, whether they knew it or not). Un/Fortunately, I’m a pessimist via depression and anxiety. The election did not surprise me. But, like much of the world, it saddened me and weighed heavily on me. It frightened me on behalf of lots of people I love. I wrote about a little ring I bought myself with the words “be here now” stamped into it. I had bought the thing to remind myself not to be brought down by ruminations or future fantasies. I used it last November to ground myself in the uncertainty of the moment.

Even though I knew the theme for 2017 last November, it had not yet gestated into anything I could write about last November. Or December. Or January. It was late in February before I introduced a theme I’d been thinking about, dreaming about, and working towards for months.

Beyond what was happening in the dizzying news cycle, I tried to act like everything was normal while waiting to hear whether we were moving. So, I wrote about parental connectedness as a discipline. Having begun reading about my theme from a few great resources, I introduced the resources as a sort of accountability: hey, I’m doing this thing, I promise. The Spiritual Disciplines Handbook got me started on a focal point (mindfulness). I talked about morning pages.

Then life got much too real for me to stick to safe, surface statements on the greatness of discipline. You see, discipline started to require something of me. Depression resurged when I found out we were moving. I basically went dark, consumed with the struggle to live and to keep going.

I didn’t blog at all during the move and settling. What could I say? I had distilled no lessons. Everything was survival all the time, until the slow crawl back toward light.

In August, I ventured forth to talk about raising boys while white because Charlottesville happened. Because I don’t know if I’m doing enough. But I’m doing something. And I know a lot of other people who also don’t know if they’re doing enough. Starting with raising decent kids who love humans – not the worst start.

Enter hurricane, evacuation, return, and the decision to move back to Oklahoma, which was only very loosely connected to the foregoing.

November 8, 2017, I sat down at this keyboard and wondered how a work-in-progress like myself could add anything to the cacophony that can be the internet. It turned out that I had distilled several lessons over the last year, and I was finally in a place I could communicate them. To myself if no one else. I went back to the beginning, the first thing I encountered on this discipline journey: a prayer to increase my capacity to wonder. Without that lesson, that prayer that I got so wrong, none of the others would have shaken out quite the same.

This is the next-to-last post on my discipline theme, but the lessons will reach much further. Why did I spill nearly 500 words recounting what my blog archives could have told you? Because it was my path through uncertainty.

I used morning pages (though I did switch to handwritten) and I formed a The Artist’s Way sacred circle with three other fantastic artists. I read loads of books and learned and pushed. I attended therapy and took my medications. I kept going. I wish I had a special equation to hand you or keep in my hip pocket enlightening the way to get through uncertainty (especially the uncertainty of depression). I don’t. It may only be in retrospect that we can see the tools that were at hand, the ones that carried us bit by bit through it.

When I look back up at that still-dizzying news cycle, whatever else I feel, which can be a lot, I am thankful. For free press. For brave men and women who do their jobs well – whether governance, investigation, or communication. For other brave people who tell the truth when it benefits them nothing. For those fighting a two-generation war over which they have no control. For makers. For sustainers. For students and teachers. For healers and providers and the people doing the work no one else wants to do or remembers to appreciate. For families, however defined, and for friendships that lift up others. For my people, who kept and keep faith with me through it all. All of these people are part of surviving uncertainty. Tools are for boxes, and we should use them whenever handy. People, though, they are for everything.

Take good care of both.