Over the last few months, I've been unable to control my emotions: anger, numbness, sadness, hopelessness and anxiety frequently plague my moods at unpredictable intervals. I haven't had a decent night of sleep since November 8th; my dreams veer towards nightmare on most nights. I often prefer the companionship of Netflix or Amazon Prime over my friends.
I am not being hyperbolic. The results of the US election compounded by the realities of Brexit have fundamentally challenged (and arguably rejected) my world view. I believed the increasing globalization of societies, economies and people was a good thing, because it multiplied our shared interests which amplified our ability to address global challenges like climate change and gender parity. As global citizens, I thought we had a better shot at making the world more equitable for everyone; and I thought that was what everyone else wanted too.
I was wrong. Maybe.
The surge of populism and the backlash against globalization has proven that we are still living in a world where national interests trump global equality and harmony. Where the demand for walls outpaces the desire to dissolve boundaries. Where one person can only gain if another loses. Where specific genders, ethnicities, and religions are superior to others. Where bullies win despite hateful and violent words. Where only some have the opportunity to succeed.
This is what is driving my insomnia and tears.
I don't want to live in this world, and it's taken me months to realize that I don't have to. It's been heartening to witness the surge of political and community activism in the US and across the UK. Friends who have never taken a strong political stance before are now leading campaigns to defend women's reproductive rights, the environment, refugees and immigrants, or access to quality public education. Citizens are sharing their stories, creating communities, and marching for their beliefs. The battle to defend shared interests and a global, more equitable world is on.
As for me, I've been stunted by emotional turbulence, but I am (slowly!) realizing that my current state is simply unsustainable, so I am taking small steps to prepare myself for the fight. Here are a few things I am doing to help me get out of my bedroom and onto the battlefield.
Voicing my opinions more strategically and concretely...
Veteran Dean campaign manager Joe Trippi has partnered with a tech startup to launch Countable, an online tool which empowers US citizens to have a louder voice in the national political debate. The service gives the public simple, concise summaries of legislation and enables them to send direct emails to their respective elected representatives about that legislation. It makes it easy to get in touch with Representatives and Senators and express opinions about potential laws.
Putting my money where my mouth is...
Non profits have experienced a surge of donations since the election. That's a good thing, no doubt. The 1460 fund makes philanthropic giving strategic and easy. The donor advised fund focuses on organizations fighting for issues that could potentially be under attack in the Trump Presidency including women's reproductive rights and the environment. The fund's founders, Alisha and Carlos Miranda, do all dirty work of identification and due diligence; they also cover the fund's management fees, so 100% (and in some cases with gift aid 125%) of each donation goes directly to the benefiting charities.
Picking my battles...
I've learned the hard way that social media exacerbates my emotional turmoil and undermines my efficacy in fighting for the world I want. I now do my best to avoid unproductive Twitter and Facebook debates, and I actually pick three days a week where I stay off all social media platforms. It helps me to retain my sanity.
Descending from my soapbox...
I have never been an amazing listener. I often hear what I want or interrupt a perspective that doesn't align with my opinion. In the last few weeks, I have deliberately tried to improve this failing. I have accumulated unfair stereotypes about Leavers or Trump voters; instead of dismissing them, I now ask them questions to understand the root of their opinions. Even though I don't agree, I am attempting to acknowledge that other perspectives exist and are valid. (This one is still a journey for me...)
Building my own "Pantsuit Nation"
It turns out that neither Netflix nor Amazon Prime is particularly empowering. After realizing the sheer amount of hours I've wasted in front of my iPad, I've enlisted a group of women whose careers focus on social impact to support me. The emails we trade and the stories we share get me through the day and reinforce that I am not alone. We're going hiking and plotting in June.
My father has been central to my coping strategy. He forces me to acknowledge that we are not the first generation to be confronted by a political leader or movement we abhor. He got through Nixon. I can get through Trump. Our generation will survive and thrive. It's about persistence, discipline, and resilience. It's also about listening to the voices of older communities who have more wisdom than we often appreciate.
These are a few of the weapons and strategies I've amassed to prepare myself for the long crusade ahead. Concrete and productive actions are helping to keep my feelings at bay. Every day, my personal purpose strengthens.
Despite 2016's setbacks, I don't think I was totally wrong - the world isn't full of hateful and selfish people. There are lots of communities and people who share my beliefs and vision of the future. I know now that we are #StrongerTogether, and that in the end, love will trump hate. We just have to fight a little harder to realize the world we want. And that's a fight I am now ready for.
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