I’m supposed to be writing a quiz to test how skilled my readers are between the sheets—but right now, everything feels empty and pointless. I’m not the only one who has woken up feeling, “Why am I doing any of this?”, nor am I the only one experiencing a gamut of emotion ranging from shock and fear to disappointment and disillusionment to outrage and dead inside. I find myself firmly rooted in nihilism. Humanity is in retrograde. History is on the wrong side of history. We’re fucked.
My first instinct is to rage at those telling me to calm down. Trite platitudes sound more like delusional, magical thinking. Sorry, but I can’t help but wonder how many people thought “God’s will” as Hitler came to power. It reminds me of when I once witnessed a shooting. What shocked me was how quickly my brain started lying to me: Those are kids playing with cap guns. It’s broad daylight in a residential neighborhood. Those can’t possibly be real gunshots. Delusional optimism is a powerful form of self-preservation. Sometimes it’s easier to reject the truth, even as it plays out in real time.
At the moment, though, the dangerous political truths I’m referring to are all hypothetical. We don’t know how bad—or how good—Trump will be as a leader. There has been equal fear mongering on both sides of the aisle and we are in new territory. A reality show star just upended politics. The amygdala part of our lizard brain is working on overdrive right now.
The sooner I move into acceptance, the greater my chances recognizing the long-term, appropriate response to our new reality. Do I find myself an international husband? Do I get an IUD? Is it time to seriously consider getting out of dodge? Is this America’s rock bottom? Do we start a revolution? Am I overreacting?
It’s impossible to discern anything when fearful, so for now, I’m putting one foot in front of the other and using my fucking tools. I thought I’d share them, because who knows? Maybe—hopefully—they will help someone.
FIRST, PUT ON THE MASK
Are you taking care of yourself? Are you eating enough? Getting exercise? Drinking enough water? If you have a therapist, have you checked in? Are you taking your meds? It’s easy to retreat in bad habits like overeating and alcohol during times of intense stress. We are no good to anyone if we aren’t good to ourselves. Make sure you’re listening to your body and meeting your needs.
It’s impossible to make good decisions when you’re panicked—even if you’re an immigrant, a Muslim or a woman. The best thing you can do for yourself right now is calm the fuck down. The sky isn’t falling. Imagine what it was like for people during the Black Plague. Everyone was literally dropping dead. They must have thought the world was fucking ending. It didn’t.
COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS
You have running hot water and food in the fridge (I hope). You have a smartphone and a roof over your head. Go outside and enjoy some fresh air. Look at the stars. Listen to your favorite music. Take stock of the things you can be grateful for; as stupid as it sounds, doing this is a good reminder that everything isn’t awful—and that it can always get worse.
RECOGNIZE YOU MIGHT BE EXPERIENCING THE SEVEN STAGES OF GRIEF
Everyone is processing this in their own way, in their own time. Don’t take this essay as me minimizing your pain. Feel the feels, but try to avoid indulging in them. I lashed out at one of my best friends last night. It will happen. Do your best to move on to acceptance as soon as you can. This feels like a death—but it’s not. It’s an election. And we’ll have another one in four years.
A lot of people are struggling right now. It’s not all about you. Reach out and check in on your loved ones. Get out of your own head. Take the high road, and when you’re ready, congratulate your friends and family members who are rejoicing in their victory. I know it seems like an impossible feat at the moment, but if Hillary can do it, you fucking can too.
CONSIDER YOUR PART IN THIS
This is a democracy. While I don’t agree with the results, the country has spoken. Half of America hasn’t been happy about the last eight years and they used their vote to express their dissatisfaction. It’s my job to hear them, try to understand them and look for ways to open my mind. Where are my blind spots? Where are my prejudices? What pretensions do I have? How has living in a liberal, elitist echo chamber blinded me from the suffering of millions of people in my own backyard?
We have no idea what the future holds. Try not to project the future and do your best not to conjure up doomsday-esque imaginations. I know it’s hard. If we have learned anything from this election it’s that nobody-—especially celebrities, trolls, pundits, pollsters and conspiracy theorists—knows anything.
DON’T GIVE UP
My honors English teacher taught us that when it comes to history, the pendulum always swings. This is the pendulum swinging. It will swing back. All progress isn’t lost. It doesn’t mean you should stop fighting for what you believe in. Maybe this election woke you up and inspired you to take action and pay attention for the first time in a long time. Good. Keep going.
Fear is what got us into this divided shit-show and fear is what will keep us here. There will be plenty more fear mongering. It’s easy to get addicted to the emotion and drama, but it’s not healthy or helpful. Step away from the computer. Put down the phone. Take a deep breath. Exhale. It’s going to be okay. And if not, we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it, together.