So many of us are so worried and sick that I wanted to say a little about how I’ve been coping and plan to move forward since I woke up to a Trump presidency. I’m hoping the ten strategies I list might help you, too.
First to tell you where I stand. The issues I’m most passionate about are transforming to a renewable energy economy and everything else we have to do fix climate, finding an alternative to consumerism as a way of life, and ending race injustice (the three are all very linked). None of the candidates really talked about consumerism, of course, but Bernie was great on climate and race. The Green Party was good, too, but I was too scared of Trump. So I went with what I thought was a sure bet—Hilary.
No, she wasn’t my favorite. No, I didn’t trust her. Yes, I felt we would have a lot of work to do to hold her feet to the fire and make her do what’s necessary. But at least with her I felt we had a foundation underneath which we could not fall. Don’t get me wrong. I also understand and care a lot about the issues surrounding the loss of working class jobs and being abandoned by the Washington, DC careerists that aggravated so many Trump voters. But as much as I stand with the rebellious tendency, I vehemently disagree that a vote for Trump, who abides racism and misogyny and outright cruelty, is the right way to lash out.
All of which adds up to how I felt when I woke up on Wednesday morning—disoriented and sad. I came downstairs and made breakfast for my 11-year-old daughter Bella who kept saying “How could this happen? How could this happen?” I turned on WNYC—New York’s NPR affiliate—but I could hear all the stories of grief and disappointment would be too much for Bella. I turned it off. We ate and I walked her to school.
I explained to her that a president doesn’t make a country. Citizens make a country. When there is a president who might do things that are wrong for the country and the world, that makes the citizens that much more responsible for standing up and insisting on doing what is right. We can still fix a lot, I told Bella.
After I dropped Bella at school, I was about to take the subway into Manhattan to meet a coaching client, but my client called to postpone because she felt she couldn’t do anything productive. Suddenly I was left with no commitments and facing myself and my feelings. It felt really bad. Here’s what I did:
1. Return To What Grounds You
I went home and meditated. That is the first thing I do most mornings which is good. Having a habit of returning to what grounds me really helps me as an activist. That morning, I let all the disheartening thoughts that were coming up wash over me but didn’t chase after them. I came back to my breathing. Slowly, I noticed that the floor was still brown, just as it was yesterday. That the suffering in the world I see was still there, just as it was yesterday. I kind of found myself feeling things are not much different, actually. Yes, some circumstances had changed but my true life-job had not changed one little bit…
2. Make Or Renew Your Vow
My true-life job is to live according to my vow, which is to center myself in the question: How can I help? I’m not being pious, because of course I am human and I get distracted from my vow. Probably a lot. But the point is that, even if Hilary had won, there would have been a lot of work to do. If I had woken up to her presidency, I would not have been overjoyed but only relieved. There would still be the November 15 march to go on in support of the Standing Rock prayer camp(check here for your local action) protecting our water against the building of the North Dakota Access Pipeline. There would still have been work to stop Hilary from cow-towing to the corporations. When I got up from my meditation, I felt like rather than pull my hair out, the real outcome was that it was just time to renew my vow—how can I help?
3. Break Down Your Stories
As I meditated, I saw thoughts arise about fellow citizens getting deported and police becoming more militaristic and EPA coal-burning rules being reversed. Through the meditation, I saw those thoughts as thoughts and saw that they were not truths but fears. Realistic fears admittedly, but if we open our minds to possibility—instead of closing them in the face of fear—then we may be better able to find pathways to help. Sometimes we become paralyzed by the stories we tell ourselves. Then we give up in the face of the prospect of things that haven’t even happened. We think we have lost. Remember, we haven’t lost.
4. Educate Yourself
Later in the day, I spent some time trying to figure out what Donald Trump really planned to do. Part of the reason we tell ourselves stories is because we don’t know the actual truth so we fill in the blank. Trump wants to abandon the Trans-Pacific Partnership. I agree with that. The Republicans have made some noises on penal reform. I agree with that. Then, there are, of course, all the things I disagree with. But educating myself on potential Trump policies helped ground me in reality instead of just fantastical nightmares. And also helped me know what actions to take.
5. Say Thank You To Those Who Inspire You
Two people I found myself thinking about were Josh Fox and Bill McKibben. I so admire how hard they work. I thought how they must have been feeling. I worried how demoralized that might feel. That they might feel they didn’t make a difference. It occurred to me that we all need to dust each other off and let each other know we do matter and we do make a difference. We need to motivate each other to work on. So I sent out some thank you notes, posts and Tweets. You can send some thanks out, too.
6. Learn To Listen Better
On WNYC’s Brian Lehrer Show, a young caller said that this is not the time to start saying how much we hate other voters. The caller said that there were some things the Trump voters were right about. It is true that neo-liberalism did send blue-collar jobs abroad while middle-class liberals complacently kept their jobs. The caller said, “I disagree that digging coal and oil out of the ground is the answer, but people have real grievances.” I disagree, too, that racist, natavist tendencies are good. But it is true that the American Democrats abandoned the working class in favor of the corporations. Naomi Klein wrote something about this here. Maybe it is up to us to figure out a way to help people feel less insecure and safe and supported in this rapidly changing world so they don’t turn to people like Trump?
7. Rest a little and grieve and heal
The day after the election was a wash for me. I thought of writing this post but the election results had exhausted me. So I allowed myself to rest a bit. Let yourself grieve. But then…
8. Remember That There Are People (And Planets) Who Are Really At Risk
There are schools in my neighborhood where kids showed up crying because their parents said that they would all have to move back to Mexico before they got kicked out. I’m looking for ways to stand in solidarity with my Muslim and Latino brothers and sisters. So many people are deeply scared they will be deported. Meanwhile, this election, too, was hugely bad for the climate change agenda. I realize that I have been a little lazy about my climate activism lately. I am going to re-up. What about you? (Remember the November 15 action).
9. Live According To Your Values And Join Communities That Share Them
We can gain hope by making change in our own lives and supporting others who do, too. For example, become vegetarian or vegan. Join a community garden. Find a way to become part of or ally with #BlackLivesMatter. Realize that voting once every four years and then whining about the results in not enough. Find ways to engage.
10. Get To Work Helping The World
Lastly, this is absolutely not the time to give up or withdraw. Just the contrary. If you are old enough to remember the Bush presidency, then you already know, fixing our world is not something we can outsource to the politicians. We can’t just go to our jobs and click around the political Facebook posts we like. We need to get to work and get involved. Now that some time has passed, I’m ready to get moving again. What about you?
By the way, I am going to talk about this post and have a conversation with anyone who is interested on Facebook Live on Sunday night at 8PM EST. Anyone who wants to tune in, you can find it here. I hope to see you there.
Meanwhile, please leave your own thoughts and feelings here. I’d love to hear what you are doing to cope.