How Election 2016 Has Changed Me for the Better

me_vanou https://www.flickr.com/photos/me_vanou/5958633851/in/photolist-a5xyfp-dVQX8j-a9g9xX-8g9EjT-STaja-dGwTa9-aeHvLA-72BaM-btrC8U-pXTmvx-q1LCsj-8F37Ne-cUiBnA-nMUaB1-4jyEr1-dcKDfQ-6tKF42-bjLtYT-83mYWp-6pnWGR-8ytoZb-8yqkST-6HDVzH-4HU1hm-nj15N8-53niJE-4fivMH-6HJ1z7-4e6fbZ-9rYAb5-nFTtE3-qDEY7C-HdZUaY-bbUJNM-q96zgL-5WUYDc-nK1juV-7DZarw-4ik7Tk-nTGcWJ-rfQQw6-pT6nUL-bunoF2-nFT1vd-4TvXGT-qiqNu4-jVhE3J-5uWvcg-mHME8R-75XbXi "be quiet" (CC BY-ND 2.0) https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/
“be quiet” by me_vanou (CC BY-ND 2.0)

There’s not a lot of joy in this election. keke many other Americans, I sometimes wish I could sleep ala Rip Van Winkle through the next twenty-four days (I’ve already voted, so I could actually sleep for twenty-five days).

However, while watching Michelle Obama’s New Hampshire speech yesterday (video at the end of this post), I was reminded that this election season has changed me—is changing me more each day—and for the better. For the first time in my fifty-two years (the same age as our First Lady), I am realizing just how much I have allowed my own voice and emotions to be hushed.

How is this election season changing me?

Silence no longer feels like an option.

I am expressing my views more readily, regardless of whether those around me will understand or be offended or take me seriously or even listen.

I am examining more carefully what it is inside my mind and heart that holds me back and makes me feel powerless and less than, knowing I have the agency to change.

I am reminding myself that I can be compassionate and giving and supportive while at the same time attending to my own needs and desires and voice, that self-compassion and self-care are not selfish.

I yearn to follow Michelle Obama’s example in learning to honor my own emotions, in refusing to internalize the belief that just because they are a woman’s emotions, they are trivial.

“Maybe we’ve grown accustomed to swallowing these emotions and staying quiet” ~ Michelle Obama

As I am fortunate enough to be able to speak—and to write—I now more than ever feel obligated to do so.

hush

she stopped talking as an anorexic stops eating, slowly at first
forgoing the extra word, skipping the unnecessary reply in
favor of the nod or smile, a simple experiment, really, a
goal to improve oneself, until she got the taste for it
no one noticed as she purged the superfluous, sent
phone calls to voice mail, rationed herself to one
hundred spoken words per day by hoarding
sentences in a notebook and bingeing on
thoughts, saving precious syllables
for public use, bringing them
out only when necessary
speaking less and less
until she was finally
engorged and
silent

The above poem was one I scribbled years ago and recently pulled from a pile of drafts to share with my writing roundtable. Only now am I beginning to understand the depth and breadth of lives and experiences that make up the collective “she.” My understanding will no doubt continue to deepen, and I will continue to grow.

All because of a presidential campaign.

“We simply cannot let that happen. We cannot allow ourselves to be so disgusted that we just shut off the TV and walk away. And we can’t just sit around wringing our hands. Now, we need to recover from our shock and depression and do what women have always done in this country. We need you to roll up your sleeves. We need to get to work.” ~ Michelle Obama (read full transcript)

Post update: Michelle Obama transcript quotations added October 15, 2016.

4 thoughts on “How Election 2016 Has Changed Me for the Better

  1. Lisa,
    Thank you. This week has been upheaval. I was so distraught and then I watched Michelle Obama. I felt hope from that. I feel hope from reading essays like yours.
    Heather

    • Heather, I had the same experience watching Michelle Obama’s speech. It was a breath of hope and goodness. Thank you very much for your kind comment, and I’m glad that my words had some meaning for you.

  2. Like you, I too am finding myself speaking up more than I ever have. Growing up, my family felt that one should refrain from talking about politics or religion at social gatherings unless you knew your listeners very well. That to be careless in your talk could too easily result in inadvertently offending someone. And such matters were never to be discussed at work, partly out of self-preservation because you could run the risk of offending/angering your boss, but also, I think, this was the way the adults in my family felt that a diverse society should conduct itself. Respect others’ opinions and don’t force your views on anyone, and the best way to do this was through listening more than speaking. Yet this election–and in particular Trump’s message of sexism, racism, xenophobia, greed, dishonesty, and fear–is not so much about politics but in many ways challenges our very notions of right versus wrong. One cannot in good conscience remain silent, as a human and especially as a woman. Thank you for this post, Lisa.

    PS. I really like your scribbled poem.

    • Nancy, thanks very much for this reply. I can very much relate to your experience (and thank you for the kind words about the poem!).

      You wrote, “One cannot in good conscience remain silent, as a human and especially as a woman.” That’s it exactly.

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