In the aftermath of the American presidential election and the dark days that lie ahead, I am here to do what I do best: write. As always, I will focus on survival. My entire life has been about survival, whether minute to minute or week to week. I have spent years under the knowledge that every good day I am given is a gift. And now, I hope I can impart some of this wisdom I have hard-won and wrested from my hardships – chiefly, my chronic disease – onto you.
A friend of mine, even before the election die was cast, was going through a pretty tough time. She is, without a doubt, one of the sweetest people I know. Incarnate angel has never been a truer description, and I am proud to symbolically refer to her as my ‘other mother’. She has stood by me when I could do little more than watch the pattern of the sunlight fall across the drapes in my living room day by day. I hope, too, that I can give her a little of what she has given me.
Anyway, she is having it a tough right now – medical, family, the works. Over tea the other day, I hear her talking to her best friend, my mom. The weight of her struggles gray her voice over the speaker. After an outpouring of emotion, there is a brief pause in which both she and my mom exhale. Mom is mustering up some kind of pep talk. “Well,” she says finally after a deep breath, “You just gotta keep sloggin’ through.”
My ears prick up over my coffee cup. I disagree.
“No. You do not slog through.”
She laughs bleakly.
“What should I do, prance? I’ll get my tutu.”
“No,” I said. “You won’t prance. You will have bad days, yes. It will be awful, and hard, and you’ll wonder if you can do it for even one more day. You’ll wonder if you can even continue being in this body, in this time and space, for another minute. But that’s not all that will happen.”
The white noise of a heart listening over the fuzz of a speakerphone.
“There will be bad jokes. There will be good cups of tea, and there will be sunny spots on kitchen faucets. You will pet dogs on the street. You will be with the people you love. The will be songs you like on the radio. You’ll do your best, and they will be hard days, but in each hard day there will be a few brief moments to savor. It’s up to you to hold onto them tight, and never let go. Those are the moments you are fighting for.”
When I was in the hospital, growing up as a kid, I collected my share of horror stories. I met a little four year old girl who had been operated on so many times she no longer had a belly button. I have gotten such bad news from a quavering attendant doctor that I have screamed and cried for him to get the hell out while I mourned my broken body. I have felt a complete physical paralysis from a bad drug cocktail, late at night, while my bedmates groaned and shrieked around me. American Horror Story has nothing on my childhood.
But in the deepest pit of places, places I try to scrub from my mind, even there I had my tiny golden moments. Stupid jokes with my dad over piped-in hospital reality TV. Wheelchair rides from my big sister up and down the corridors, even more treasured now that she’s no longer with us. Praying with my little sister in the thick silence of a hospital atrium studded with stargazer lilies. Microwaved tea straight from the warm hands of my mother.
This is not to downplay or trivialize the very real fears and pain we, the marginalized of the United States, feel right now as we look straight into the faces of our friends, neighbors and family and realize they do not see us as quite as human as they are. The hate crimes against the people I love and cherish are already here. But if we are to survive this, it will not just be on blood and fire in the belly.
We will need music more than ever. We will need art more than ever. We will need prayer, in whatever way you choose, more than ever. We will need, in the face of so much hate, kindness. We will still need those tiny moments to feed the softness inside us, the very thing we protect. Love. Equality. Faith.
Tomorrow the sun will rise on this world again and you will have a choice. Be angry. Be grieving. Be fighting. And through that grief, find those tiny moments throughout your day. They are there, buried in even the darkest places. Make those moments for others. Speak with more love to the people we care about. Speak with more kindness to the strangers next door. If you can genuinely ask someone how they are, and really listen to the answer; and if you have a spare dollar, give it.
There is no election inside your heart.
Do not slog, America. The tutu is optional, but if you like, I’m happy to lend you one of mine.