Like so many Americans, G-ma has been diverted from her usual ruminations on grandchildren and family and turned instead to pondering this historic time in our nation.
Anyone with their eyes open in America this week has watched shock ripples that will be recounted for many generations to come. For me, processing shock (and its close cousin, grief) seems to require a strange sequence of polar opposites. With no intent to trivialize or make light, but only to affirm the oddities of humanity, I confess to the following map of shock in the days since the Great Eye-Opener (or GEO, also known as the American president election on Nov. 8):
Sometimes couldn’t eat; no appetite. Then, I consumed doughnuts three straight days at the office, followed by candy later. The sound of the television or radio was unbearable, then I found myself obsessing over every morsel of consumable news, everywhere. One night was insomnia, then one night it seemed I would sleep until the next decade (and sorta wished I could).
Meanwhile, a funny thing happened on about Day 3, post-GEO. I was brushing my teeth and casually listening to a TV commentator, and suddenly I was overwhelmed by so many people opining on what everyone should think, do, feel or envision now. How exhausting, how useless. It’s too much. I switched the TV off.
Spitting out the toothpaste with greater-than-usual velocity, I looked in the mirror, and a thought occurred. Maybe I should pay more attention to the inside of my own head, and start my examination there. And really consider what I’ve done, just me. Maybe, Mirror, those things are not quite as obvious as they seemed. Before.
The Mirror looked back with some questions.
“So,” the Mirror began, “Did you do what you thought was right for your country this past week?’
Well, I thought so, I began, tentatively. I voted, early, even, wore my sticker to the office, wrote a check to my candidate, did my best to stay in the discussion in some places and out of it in others. I stayed up later than anyone my age that I know to listen to the results and grapple with the implications. I prayed for insight and understanding.
“And?” The Mirror inquired.
And, what? I stared back.
“Do you think what you did mattered? Was it enough?”
Oh, you know, it was about the same as most people I knew—more than some, less than others, but generally the same.
“Then I’ll ask you again,” said the Mirror, one eyebrow raised, like my mother giving us the mean eye when we were kids. “Was it enough?”
Dang. This is hard. I fumbled for a response, but the Mirror won’t break my gaze. And probably won’t like the first answers that float up. They’re about status quo, and meeting my obligation, and how so many nice people think politics is icky, and sometimes I do, too, and sometimes my friends don’t like it on Facebook, and at least I didn’t write in some crazy person…on and on.
But the Mirror is not going to let me off with this, I can tell. Best I can manage, without averting my eyes, is: Okay, no. In the deepest part of my conscience, down deeper than what rustles the pillowcase on the average night, I don’t think it was enough. I’m not smart enough to know the precise factors that would have changed what happened this week, scientifically, analytically. All that stuff. But yes, fine, OK, I admit it, I could have done more.
“Now we are getting somewhere,” the Mirror agreed, lowering the eyebrow just a fraction. “Would doing more have made a difference?”
I don’t know that! I started to raise my voice. I can’t know that. Who can say? I’m just one person!
“Okay, One Person,” the Mirror volleyed. “That’s true. But we are talking about you, after all. You are the only person we can manage. And you think there could be a different answer, or we wouldn’t be having this little chat.”
True enough, I sighed.
The Mirror pressed on. “Sounds like you think next time should be different. Must be different. Fair? If so, what does that mean?”
I don’t know! My voice rose again, with just a shade of embarrassing panic. It’s only been three days! I don’t know what to do next time! Or, now, even. Join the march of women on Washington? Give more money? Help start a new party? Wear my friends out on Facebook until they all erase me from their feeds, or find new Facebook friends? Talk more about this at cocktail parties, or talk less? More yoga and meditation, and better kindness to all peoples? C’mon, Mirror, help me out here—surely you can think of something!
“Go away,” the Mirror said, calmly but firmly. “Go away and find out. You were a reporter once; you know how to ask questions. Start talking to people. Watch for ideas. Follow the people you respect whose conscience points them the same place that yours points you. Take a step, even one. If it’s the wrong step, take a different one. Remember what Dad always said: Do Something, Even if it’s Wrong. Then come and report back. I expect an update. Don’t wait long. It’s time.”
The Mirror is right about that last, for sure. It’s time.
I switched off the light, and left the room.