The Power of Wishes (Still Processing….)
Last night my friend sent me an article with lots of analysis. I got my feelings a little hurt by someone who sent me another one that basically said “I told you so” with no explanation — kind of like kicking a guy when he’s down. I replied to my friend and said the article was overthink. I asked the other person why she bothered to send the article that told me something I’d already read over and over. Then I went to bed.
I wished so hard in the last six months. So hard that I wished myself into believing the outcome would be different. I wished so hard I couldn’t see straight. I wished so hard that I let my head believe the numbers when my heart saw just too much that told it otherwise.
I woke up and it was still on my mind — that even though I don’t think any more analysis on the “how did we miss the silent voter” (they weren’t silent by the way…. I heard them yelling at all those rallies and wearing disgusting t-shirts and chanting “lock her up” and “drain the swamp” and “CNN sucks” and even worse) that personally, I am still trying to figure it out — not what the pollsters are trying to figure out, but something far simpler, and far deeper in my soul. I’d wished so hard that we could stop someone who started with fear and ended with blame every time he spoke. And wishes are powerful. A good wish, hard, hard work and a whole lot of people on the team…. that works in the end, doesn’t it? Wishes mean good, right? Aren’t they the manifestation of hope and optimism? How come I can’t move through this?
So I got up, went downstairs and more cheerfully than I was feeling greeted my dog and my son who grunted at me while he ate breakfast. The TV was on and I realized we’d broken the temporary rule I’d implemented (no CNN before breakfast this week) and the pundits were talking about what our allies think of us, particularly our NATO allies. My son looked up and said, very matter-of-factly, “Mom, I don’t know if I am more scared that he [referring to the president-elect-who-lost-the-popular-vote] will do something or that he won’t do anything.”
My son, whose mind works as that of a “visual mathematician” according to some on-line quiz from long ago, is always searching for the frame before he can concentrate on what is in the picture. It helps him to see the map before he can fully absorb the directions. This morning’s very brief conversation gave me a big insight into how this surreal six months has settled into his psyche.
A little background. He’s a typical (I think) teenager around here. We gave him his first cell phone when we let go his usual babysitting routine when he was 10, knowing that within the year he would be riding a bus to junior high instead of his bike to the elementary school down the street. He got a smartphone a year or two later. In the last year or so he alternates between group chats and Youtube and when he sits at the kitchen table while I am watching “Dancing With the Stars” I often say, “what are you watching?” He says, inevitably, “Youtube.” Which of course tells me nothing.
But I wander by the kitchen table, to put a dish in the sink or ruffle through a pile of mail, and every once in a while without meaning to spy I catch a glance of a familiar face. Six months ago, he always seemed to be watching things that were about how other people played videogames. Lately, I’ve recognized John Oliver and Stephen Colbert. It makes me flinch because he is too young for some of that, but in the end, these are smart and thoughtful voices who, in the tradition of Jon Stewart, have a funny way of saying things the rest of us feel and informing people, especially young people, of things that matter that are happening in the world, and that you can in fact speak up with your own unique voice. These are far better options than some of the alternatives, and that they find interest in how we are governed and how we behave, well, I figure it could be a lot worse.
And so these months have unfolded, with none of us really having a clue what was happening, so much so that it seems most of the pundits continue to debate just how badly they all got it wrong… and the Democrats are wringing their hands about how they were no longer connecting with, well, Democrats… and the Trumpets are all smiling and now saying things like they are personally insulted we could ever have thought the campaign was being run around tenets like those of Breitbart nation. And no one seems to understand that condoning that kind of thing and staying silent are basically the same thing, that all we ask to start believing them is that they just speak up and speak out swiftly and firmly and that kind of hate will just not be tolerated.
Throughout the election season — really until the third debate, I was scared about this very outcome. While I wish my motivation had been purely to have a great woman president, I know in my heart it wasn’t. It was really to stop a man whose words and behavior I could not abide. Before the terms “unfit” and “unprepared” started to wake my up in the middle of the night, before we know how to articulate “baiting with a Tweet,” I just keep thinking that November 8th was going to be a tough night. I should have known. I kept doing strange things, like turning down travel and projects on Election Day. I just kept thinking, “I have to be with my family” — kind of like I’ve felt about 9/11 for the last 15 years. Even when my even-keeled economist husband said, “don’t worry — everyone says the data is clear and has been extremely steady and all the Princeton data gurus are saying she’ll win by four points” I felt better but I still worried.
But then the third debate happened and the SNL sketch captured it all so perfectly once again. On top of the Access Hollywood video, I thought, how can American not see past this? I saw it President Obama’s eyes when he talked about being on the side of the better angels. I started to feel better. But I think it wasn’t my brain — it was my heart… starting to believe my own wish, a wish I wished so hard that I stopped seeing past it.
I, like so many, cried when Comey the Sequel happened just two weeks before the election. All that momentum, all that joy, all those better angels…. down the drain, not to mention the capping off of a thirty-year career with what appeared to be the ultimate double standard by changing the rules of the game. Again. And so I joined Pantsuit Nation and started to make what turned out to be over three million temporary friends. They made me feel better. I saw the numbers growing like wild fire and I started to wish again. And then on Sunday, the next Comey memo. And it felt like it might be enough. Jay Z, Bey, James Taylor, Bruce Springsteen, Joe Biden, incredible President Obama, Tim Kaine speaking in Spanish… I loved watching them for 36 hours. I sat in my car to listen to the full speeches of the President so many times in two days that I could predict the pattern of the topics and sometimes even anticipate the places were he would make a little joke and the tone that he struck to start to rev people up. And in that last one, where I knew my niece skipped classes and stood in line to get in to see him in person, even though she was not yet old enough to vote, I was fired up and ready to go, just like he said.
So maybe, just maybe, my wish was about to come true. I had 25 people over on election night. I had food for 100. I had pink champagne made in America that I carefully selected after the Comey thing on Sunday. I put red, white and blue bows all over my house and bought a beautiful bouquet of white roses in honor of the suffragettes. But I also bought a bottle of tequila “just in case.” I don’t really drink tequila but for some reason it wouldn’t get out of my shopping cart.
And then it happened. And it scared me and I’m afraid it may have scarred me, with a level of disappointment that felt almost bigger than the fear. It turns out that wishing so hard made the fall that much harder. When I finally went to bed on election night, around two in the morning, I couldn’t sleep. Every time I would get just to the edge I would think of my son’s face and what in the world I would tell him in the morning. How did we let him down like this? I have tried over the last week to talk to him more, to make sure I knew if things were happening at school, to know if “I have a little headache” was about a headache or about the future that lies ahead.
So I’ve turned off the news and turned on the music. I cancelled some travel and set my alarm. I’ve been processing during the day while I try to get work done and find reason for hope and watching taped shows at night, and I’ve shied away from the ones we taped before the election so we didn’t have to fast forward through the political ads.
And so, this morning, after my son said the thing about the greater danger — about taking action or not — I said the biggest challenge for me is not to at least internally smirk when I hear the president-elect-who-lost-the-popular-vote say that maybe gay marriage is not so bad after all.
My son (because the children were watching — HRC got that right indeed) said, “yes and can you believe he is going to get rid of Obamacare, keep all the pieces, call it something else and put it back in?”
And then he said the most amazing thing. “Did you watch that 60 Minutes show where they interviewed him?” he asked. What? What about the video game pundits? Stunned, I said, “Parts of it — what about you?” He said he watched parts of it too. He mentioned Obamacare. He mentioned NATO. It seems that he is still watching.
Ten minutes later he put on his socks, shoved his feet in the shoes whose strings he never unties, put on his backpack, put the ear bud in his right ear and headed for the door. “Have a good day,” I said. “Learn something great.” And off he went down the street to catch the bus, smartphone attached like an extra arm, Youtube at the ready.
Until just now, I didn’t realize that my wishes about the election were ill-placed. Until this morning, I wished so hard about the election for the last six months that I forgot I had another one that trumped them all — to raise a good and decent boy who is an engaged and active community member who is kind to people. It’s clear that he is still trying to figure out the frame to this picture. But aren’t we all?
Wishes may come true after all.