How Election 2016 Has Changed Me for the Better

me_vanou "be quiet" (CC 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.


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

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.

Y Is for Your Failure Resume

I will have to come back to discuss the topic of this (and the next post) in more detail later, but for now, please take a look at this “CV of Failures” from a Princeton professor and the Nature article that inspired it.

“Most of what I try fails, but these failures are often invisible, while the successes are visible. I have noticed that this sometimes gives others the impression that most things work out for me. As a result, they are more likely to attribute their own failures to themselves, rather than the fact that the world is stochastic, applications are crapshoots, and selection committees and referees have bad days. This CV of Failures is an attempt to balance the record and provide some perspective.” Read more

Tina Seelig’s “Failure Resume” creative thinking exercise is similar.

Y-3This post is part of the April A to Z Blog Challenge. For more on my 2016 theme of Private Revolution, see A Is for Ambition. Click here to read all posts in the Private Revolution A to Z Challenge blog series. 

X is for X (10) eXistential songs that I love

A friend and I were talking about music this week, which has prompting some thought as to why I like some songs and musicians more than others. While I like a good nonsense pop song as much as anyone, much of my favorite music addresses existential questions and the inherent (but freeing) absurdity of existence: Why are we here? How should we live? How do we deal with regret? Shame? Loss? Memory? What does it all mean? These songs not only provide a needed break or background soundtrack; they also are food for the mind and soul.

Below are ten existentialist-themed songs that I love, in no particular order and the first ones that came to mind that I could easily share here:

  • Paul McCartney: “Fool on the Hill”
  • Talking Heads: “Once in a Lifetime”
  • Elvis Costello: “Veronica”
  • Annie Lennox: “Into the West”
  • Queen: “Bohemian Rhapsody”
  • Hamilton Soundtrack: “That Would Be Enough”
  • Prince: “Sign O’ the Times”
  • Tracy Chapman: “Change”
  • Traveling Wilburys: “End of the Line”
  • John Lennon: “Watching the Wheels”

XThis post is part of the April A to Z Blog Challenge. For more on my 2016 theme of Private Revolution, see A Is for Ambition. Click here to read all posts in the Private Revolution A to Z Challenge blog series. 

W Is for Why We Blog

“In journeys at sea that took place before radio or radar or satellites or sonar… [logs] helped navigators surmise where they were and how far they had traveled and how much longer they had to stay at sea.” ~ Andrew Sullivan, “Why I Blog”

Why do we blog?

Andrew Sullivan answered this question in a 2008 Atlantic article in which he began by discussing the original of the word “blog” and its similarity to a ship’s log:

“As you read a log, you have the curious sense of moving backward in time as you move forward in pages—the opposite of a book. As you piece together a narrative that was never intended as one, it seems—and is—more truthful. Logs, in this sense, were a form of human self-correction. They amended for hindsight, for the ways in which human beings order and tidy and construct the story of their lives as they look back on them. Logs require a letting-go of narrative because they do not allow for a knowledge of the ending. So they have plot as well as dramatic irony—the reader will know the ending before the writer did.

Anyone who has blogged his thoughts for an extended time will recognize this world. We bloggers have scant opportunity to collect our thoughts, to wait until events have settled and a clear pattern emerges.” Read more

When I first read Sullivan’s piece several months ago, it changed my relationship to blogging. A blog’s value for the blogger often lies in its inherent imperfection and “letting-go,” in its day to day immediacy.

For example, even in a very busy month like this one, the A to Z Challenge is a way for me to think throughout the day of how a specific letter of the alphabet relates to the rest of my life. However long or short the resulting post (and even if I fall a day behind), it is a record of those thoughts, of where I am at this moment.

WThis post is part of the April A to Z Blog Challenge. For more on my 2016 theme of Private Revolution, see A Is for Ambition. Click here to read all posts in the Private Revolution A to Z Challenge blog series.