On Election night I went to bed without having watched any of the coverage. It seemed like a good strategy, given that I have steroid-induced insomnia on chemo days as it is. As I write this I still don’t know who won. But the things I do know are brighter, clearer, and more hopeful than ever before. Before I climbed into bed I read a poem by Poet Mary Jo Bang “How It will feel months from now” that just “happened” to be in my inbox from the Academy of American Poets.
Here’s a snippet:
The walls of time dissolve whenever the lights are turned off.
The lights that made the day so easy to be with.
I fold myself away. No mirage
Of sirens hammering the glass front
Of the hospital down the block.
Stars guide the eye across the sky.
It will be like that. Again and again.
Ms. Bang says the poem is about how the quarantine can feel like a state of suspended animation. A perpetual NOW. This made me think about how focused we’ve all been on the election—as if it has the power to determine our happiness. I never talk publicly about my political views because I don’t want to offend my readers—on either side of the fence. I do my talking with my vote. I don’t intend to change that now.
What I do want to say is that we should not give politicians so much power over our happiness. No matter how the election turns out we still have fierce, beautiful language from our poets. We still have great books to read from the Holy Bible to Grapes of Wrath to To Kill a Mockingbird. We can still make our voices heard through writing, speaking, and making art as our protest and advocacy.
We still have the smell of fresh cut grass and rain and roses and fresh bread baking and the smell of a baby’s head.
We have the beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Kootenai National Forest, and the beaches of Maui.
We know what it feels like when a child puts her small, sticky hand trustingly in ours as we cross the street or how it feels when that child snuggles against our chest as we read a book to her. We still have baby kisses and the excitement of watching first steps and hearing that first word, mama (or dada).
We still have chocolate, pizza, ice cream, breakfast tacos, Whataburger hamburgers (#TexasForever), and hot apple pie. We still have sunsets, for goodness sake.
We still have the sound of our cats purring, birds singing, the wind blowing, the ocean waves crashing against the shores while seagulls call overhead.
Our voice can still be heard. Democracy is a function of daily living, not one vote, but every vote. Local elections are every bit as important to our daily living as the national ones. Our local elected officials decide how our tax dollars will be spent—on roads, on schools, on social services, on parks and recreational facilities, police and fire service, economic development, and cultural services—just to name a few.
So stay engaged. Don’t let that political fervor fade away, or worse, allow it to turn to bitterness and despair. Don’t turn away. Whether “your” guys won the big race or not, you still have work to do. Engage with your elected officials. Advocate for your needs. Make your voice heard.
Above all else, count your blessings, kiss your loved ones, and remember: God is still on the throne.