How to Feel Better After This Election (But Just a Little Bit)
The worst day of my life was March 30th, 2015, when my mother suddenly died after an eleven-week battle with cancer. November 9th, 2016, wasn’t the second worst day of my life, but it definitely ranked highly. Connecting these two events was the thought I am happy my Mother isn’t alive to see this. It’s not true. I’d have voted for Trump if it would have brought my mother back, but I still had the thought, a pebble plinking against the window of my mind.
This is the first time I’ve discussed my mother’s death in a public document. It took Trump’s “victory” to inspire me.
My mother was a liberal, a feminist, and a quasi-activist. After she died, I cleaned up her email inbox. She had donated to pretty much every major democratic candidate in pretty much every race including those of senators and congressmen from other states. Literally hundreds of emails streamed in daily from candidates and organizations asking for more money. Thus, my morbid thought.
But it wasn’t just the thought that connected the election to my mother. The way I felt after Trump’s victory was similar to how I felt the day my mother died. It’s a feeling I’ve now had twice. That day my mother died, I walked around in a veritable fugue state, unable to concentrate, unable to stop the intrusive thoughts of dread, unable to stem the tide of despair, unable to shake the knowledge that my life was forever changed.
Like with my mother, the situation is bad. It’s bad and it’s going to get worse. For at least the next two years, there will be very little to be done no matter how much activists organize or how much people contribute. If Trump repeals Obamacare, millions will lose health insurance and surely some of those people will miss out on life-saving treatments and die. If Trump deports millions, many people’s lives will be irrevocably damaged, losing fortunes, friends, and their sense of safety. Some will die because they were deported. If Trump finds a way to overturn Roe v. Wade, some women will die from blackmarket abortions or when their babies have birth defects that threaten their lives. Immigrants will be hunted. Predators will get away with sexual assault. Women, LGBT folk, and people of color will be targeted more than ever.
This, like my mother’s death in the first few days, feels like the literal apocalypse. After my mother died, my mental mantra was one of What does it matter? What does anything matter? My mother is dead and the world is over. Surely for millions of Americans, a similar refrain has taken hold. What does it matter? Trump won the election. America picked him. Electoral college aside, sixty million people said they wanted Trump for president. Sixty million people are either white supremacists or complicit with white supremacists. The country that fought white supremacy in World War II has become a sanctuary for it.
But this is not the apocalypse.
After my mother died, I had some of the best moments of my life. I did things for myself I had never done before, things my mom usually bugged me to do or did for me. I had to learn to deal with my own problems with a much smaller support net, thus forcing me to become more self-reliant. I gained confidence. I became more assertive. I got engaged. I became a vegetarian. Most importantly, I survived.
Some gains came directly as a result of my mother dying, a kind of trial by fire that strengthened me. Other gains were simply random in nature. After all, the world didn’t stop turning. Stuff didn’t stop happening. I still think my best times are ahead of me.
America is both my mother and me. In a way, it died. In another way, some of its best times are still ahead.
For now, all we can do is mourn. But this tragedy will teach us and we will move forward. We have no other choice.
This is a war and we have lost a key battle. Soldiers will continue to die as we fight. But we will, as a whole, survive. Eventually, we will win.
Don’t be happy. Don’t be numb. Don’t give up.
My mother isn’t alive but we are. When my mother was alive she fought for what was right and she fought hard. Now it’s time for us to continue that fight.