This year has been a year of reflection for me. I've hit that magical last year of my twenties, and I think it's natural that I've ben looking back over the first part of my youth with a critical eye.
Ten years ago this past June, for instance, on a sunny Wednesday afternoon, I was a scared eighteen year old girl, three months pregnant, driving my car as fast as I legally could west from Sumter, South Carolina. As I passed Shaw Air Force Base, my cellphone rang. I flipped it open. Before I even said a word, I heard, "Turn around and get your ass back here. You think you're leaving? You're worthless. No one will ever love you."
I hung up the phone and kept driving. I didn't look in the rearview. I remember resting a hand on my stomach and thinking, "Will you ever be safe?"
I count that moment as the moment I first became a mother. You see, I was in a relationship that was no good and I kept hanging on because I thought I was supposed to. I was pregnant, and I thought if I could just be good enough, he might not love me, but surely he'd love our baby. So I took more than I should, and I kept trying, until that last night, the night before that drive, and the morning after, when I woke up bleeding and thought I had lost my baby. I didn't have my car key--he took it with him so that I couldn't go anywhere during the day. I was ashamed to admit to my parents the trouble that I had gotten myself into. One thing that I knew, though, was that he could hurt me, but I could never let him hurt my baby.
And so I waited all day, until he got home from work and took a shower. I slipped my key out of his pocket. I left all of my belongings inside, and I crept down the metal stairs. As each metal stair in front of the apartment creaked, I cringed. These were the same stairs he'd threatened to push me down time and again, joking that he hoped I'd miscarry, and each sound seemed an echoed betrayal threatening my escape.
To make a long story short, I made it down those stairs.
For years, I have fought to make sure that the answer to the question that I asked my unborn son that day in the car would be a resounding "yes!" Last summer, we finalized his adoption, and I rejoiced. Finally, we were both safe.
Yesterday, my fellow American citizens chose to place my life, security, and future, and that of my children, right back in the hands of a man exactly like the one I've fought for ten years to escape completely.
I woke up this morning, and I was devastated by this news. Suddenly, I was back there on those steps, hoping beyond hope that I would make it down without him noticing, barely daring to breath, so afraid that my heart felt like it was kickboxing through my ribcage, like it was trying to escape, and maybe it was. I was back in that place where I was helpless, powerless, to keep my baby safe.
I'm not sharing this story for the sympathy. I promise you, I have a point. You see, right now, we're all together on that staircase. We're jumping at every groan. We're scared and we don't know what's around the corner.
But this story doesn't end on the staircase. You see, at the end of the staircase, I made it to the sidewalk, and on the other side of the sidewalk, I made it to my car, I unlocked the door, I put the key in the ignition and I drove out of the parking lot. I made plans, and I followed them. I took my power back.
That's where we are as we all take stock of this loss. Don't stay on the stairs. Come with me, and let's look at how we can make it down the sidewalk and out of the parking lot.
1. Make time to process and take care of yourself.
Start here. Do this first.
Take some time to process what's going on and how you're feeling, and then do something for yourself today. It doesn't have to be big or grand or great, but do it anyway. It can be related to the election or no. For me, it's writing this blog.
2. Know your triggers and have an exit plan.
Without a doubt, you're going to encounter conversation that you don't want to have. Take the time to consider how to exit out of them. It's okay to set boundaries and to say, "I'm not ready to have this conversation." You do not have to endure conversations that make you uncomfortable.
Know the signs that you are reacting. Here's a look at the signs of severe stress. If you're experiencing them, reach out.
3. Have a support system.
Again, speaking as a lonely blue in a sea of red, create a support system and stick with it. I've currently got multiple text chats going on with my sisters, my mom, and my aunt, and I've also got an incredible online support system.
Find your niche and rely on each other.
If you need help, please check out these resources:
National Suicide Lifeline 1-800-273-8255
Trans Lifeline: (877) -565-8860
Trevor Project: (866)-488-7386
4. Make a commitment to donate $5 (an additional $5 if you already do) a month to Planned Parenthood.
And don't do it because they screen for breast cancer or provide prenatal care or anything else.
Do it because abortion care is healthcare for people with uteruses, and every single person should be able to access it. They're going to need the support to fight that fight more than ever.
Yesterday, there was a Facebook group of Clinton supporters with more than 3,300,000 members. An extra $5 a month would generate $198,000,000 next year alone for Planned Parenthood to continue the fight.
I know that this isn't easy for many people. I know what it's like when $5 means more than just a cup of coffee at some overpriced coffee joint--when it's the difference between gas to get to work, or a meal for a night. To help support this effort, I'm going to be actively seeking and sharing ways to save $5 each month through coupons and whatever else I can find. This is my commitment to you.
I'm taking this one from a HuffPost piece I saw earlier: volunteer.
Right now, I'm sitting in a state that overwhelmingly went Trump. It wasn't a toss up. It wasn't a question. To be real honest with you, I'm feeling like an alien who's landed on a new planet, and I don't feel connected at all with my community. I'm making it a priority to remind myself by volunteering with my shelter tomorrow, and I'm going to be actively searching for other volunteer opportunities.
Reconnecting with our communities helps us remember why this fight is so important. It's a place to draw strength and support from, a place to find hope.
Here's the list HuffPo came up with. Please feel free to leave suggestions in the comments.
6. Help the Democratic National Committee.
I know some folks have serious issues with the DNC right now, and I'm not invalidating that at all. But...
In my district yesterday, three--three!--of our state legislators ran unopposed. All Republican. One of our Republican representatives has been in office since 2001 and still won yesterday with more than 62% of the vote.
These things matter. Schools boards, city councils, county councils, mayors, state legislators, sheriffs, coroners...these races matter. Having Democratic challengers *matters*. If nothing else, it gives us the opportunity to continue to point out our platform and correct misconceptions. It gives us the chance to reach into areas where we are demonized and say, "Hey, wait, I'm not a monster. I'm your next door neighbor. I run the barber shop down the street."
Ask what the path is for 2018. You can get involved with your state party here.
7. If you're a parent, go look at your children's home library right this minute.
I recently read a post that said, simply and powerfully, "You can build the wall. I will raise my children to tear it down."
As parents, we're in a unique position to craft the way our children will filter the world through the values we instill. Are your children reading diverse books? Do they feature people of color--both men and women? Do they show men and women both in powerful roles?
Stories are an amazing way to build empathy. When we read, we don't just see the words and make the pictures. We connect with the characters. We experience what they feel, what they know, what they endure. We look at the world through a perspective that is entirely different from our own. We invest in them and root for them.
And these experiences are absolutely not isolated--they are immersive and transcendent. They don't stay in the world of print, but leak over to cover our entire worldview. When someone is well read, they look at a person, and they wonder what's more to the story, and that is a place where empathy can grow.
As parents, it's our duty to provide these opportunities to explore the experiences of other people.
Check out Multicultural Children's Book Day, A Mighty Girl, We Need Diverse Books, the Children's Book Council, and Pragmatic Mom for a variety of titles to encourage diversity.
If you're not a parent, consider giving books like these as gifts to the children in your life. The holidays are fast upon us, after all.
8. Know who your politicians are and hold them accountable.Follow your politicians on social media. Stay familiar with their voting records. Hold them accountable. Email them. Write letters. Send bags of gummy dicks anonymously (I can neither confirm nor deny that I did this to a state rep who was particularly obsessed with passing our own bathroom bill here...)
You can find your national representatives online here.
9. Share how you feel about this loss and what the election meant to you.
This may actually be one of the most difficult items on this list. This election was immensely emotional and personal for many of us. I know it was for me.
There's nothing we can do about it. This is reality. The votes are firmly in--or at least enough of them. But sharing our experiences means reminding people that elections affect real people, people they know, love, and respect.
10. Amplify the stories of others.I'm a white woman. This election's result is tough for me. You know who it is more tough for? People of color, children of immigrants, Muslims, transgender people, folks in same sex marriages...
Do I need to go on?
And yet, often these voices are the ones that are the most overlooked in our society.
Wherever and whenever you can, amplify the voices of those marginalized groups that are speaking out. Be the amplifier: not the speaker, but the tool that helps the speaker reach a greater audience.
To say this election has been contentious is an understatement. We have peered into an abyss at the heart of our nation and seen an abscess oozing at its very soul. What we've found is that we're living in a world in which very different narratives are coexisting.
Over the next few years, we need to work together to try to heal the rift between those narratives. We need to lance the abscess, air it out, and perhaps, hopefully, start to heal. It will take time. It will require baby steps. We will trip and stumble and fall and get back up. We will fight.
We can't change yesterday, but we can keep pushing forward for an even better and greater tomorrow.
All my love to all of you.