I mean, there's the usual. The stuff I've already explained, about why I was voting the way I did in the first place. I want to thank those who voted differently but acknowledge that they're not necessarily happy about it, or who even, plain, don't gloat at all, because for some of us this IS genuinely not just a matter of the-one-we-liked-lost, but the-one-who-won-gives-us-literal-panic-
But as I tried to explain to the kids, doing a very bad job because my own emotions belied every "it's going to be all right" I said, it's not like the world is suddenly going to erupt into nuclear war this afternoon.
Besides, WE are lucky. WE don't have to deal with systematic racism. OTHERS are much more directly fearing for their lives.
I began to get the sense that there was something slightly selfish about my grief. It felt so personal, like I wanted to shout "But look what you've done to ME!" at everyone who voted. What HAD they done to me? Voted for a guy who triggers my bully-anxiety, so what, it's not like my health care or marriage legality or right to freakin' live in this country is in danger. Sure I could TRY to nobly insist it was all alturistic, that I really felt so bad for EVERYONE ELSE, but no-- I mean, yes, I DO feel bad-- but no, this personal grief IS INDEED personal. What bugged me so much?
Eventually I unearthed it. It's because I always started crying harder when I read inspiring messages like this:
authors, artists, creators: you are more important now than ever. you are more important now than ever. you are more important now than ever— jennifer laughran (@literaticat) November 9, 2016
Writer and artist friends: we are now the first line in the Rebel Alliance. Do your things, you magnificent, inglorious bastards. pic.twitter.com/alBohPTxGy— Space Viking Supreme (@SWSondheimer) November 9, 2016
Don't you dare give up.— Alyssa Wong (੭ㅇㅅㅇ❀) (@crashwong) November 9, 2016
We need you, your voice, your art, your fire, more than ever.
And most notably, this:
Because THAT is one of my ABSOLUTE FAVORITE QUOTES OF ALL TIME. I was keeping a quote book when I first read Fellowship, and at that I'd jumped up and ran to grab the dang thing because I needed to write that one down. It hit me hard in the chest this morning, like J.R.R. Tolkien had taken me by the shoulders, given me a little shake, and said, "How could you have forgotten what I told you?!"
"I'm sorry, Professor. I hear you. I hear the others. I'm just having a really hard time believing you right now."
WHO NEEDS MY VOICE. I worried for ages that my voice is useless because I'm too Privileged, because I'm not from a population that's been historically silenced. Ah, but then I found it again. I found it not enough to feel that I had any FICTIONAL stories worth telling, but I at least had, not just the right, but the DUTY, to speak up for those who AREN'T as privileged as me. So I started getting political. I started getting BRAVE. I started making statement after statement and long essay after long essay.
And I voted. Because Every Vote Counts.
Yeah, but I look at the returns for my county, and although it was obvious from the signs along the road, it just felt disheartening to see that MY vote, in my county, had been outnumbered two to one.
And I thought about my essays. My impassioned pleas here and on Twitter and Facebook, and the time last week I finally absolutely BLEW UP at my husband for his continued insistence that both candidates were awful so he'd stick with the one who "wouldn't take away [his] guns." And I thought, did it even matter?
Who even reads what I write except people who already agree with me? Who even CONSIDERS what I have to say? WHOSE MINDS HAVE I CHANGED by writing these things? Nobody. Nobody cares. I have no effect. I've failed.
Writing has failed.
So I had a well-timed counseling appointment this afternoon. By that time I'd pinpointed this problem, this stupid selfish thing that was upsetting me. As I said last time, my therapist was unsurprised by my general anxiety about the thing because that was going AROUND in her office. "What can help you from getting stuck here, though?" she asked. "What are you going to do in your own life? What do you have control over?"
She was paraphrasing Gandalf. I smiled.
But my eyes teared up again. "It's just that nothing ever changes. No one listens to me. I spoke, but I didn't change anyone's mind."
"Maybe you've got the wrong goal. Maybe you're going to fail if you go into it thinking, 'This one beautiful essay will CHANGE PEOPLE'S MINDS.' That starts to sound kind of nasty, actually, wanting to CONTROL WHAT OTHER PEOPLE THINK, you know?" She looked hard at me. "Instead, make the goal to be strong in your own beliefs. Believe in yourself enough to put your beliefs out there. You've done that. You've made something beautiful. It may seem like a small drop, but it's something. A small drop still makes waves.
"Besides, no great social movement happened overnight. Do you think it took just one pamphlet to win women the right to vote? Did Martin Luther King go out and make one beautiful speech and suddenly win equality for all? I bet all the great leaders had days where they came home, said to their families, 'Why do I bother? No one is listening.'
"But what did all those great heroes have in common?"
I grinned sheepishly, because again J.R.R. Tolkien supplied the answer, popping immediately into my head:
Why SHOULDN'T that answer have been ready in my head? I NAMED MY SON AFTER THIS GUY BECAUSE OF THIS SPEECH.
Heroes have lots of chances to turn back, but they don't. That's all. That's what makes a hero.
I could actually feel light seeping back into the wrinkles of my brain, sitting there. I started to believe in the inspirational messages again.
"So, what are you going to do now, so you don't slip back into that stagnant water?" she asked me at the end of our session. "What action are you ready to take, to keep things moving?"
"I--" I started to laugh. "...I actually want to write about it."
The Lone Power is always trying to get me to SHUT UP, one way or another. I've said it before and I'll say it again, because over and over It feeds me excuse after excuse, why I should just give it all up, stop trying to write, stop trying to be heard. It's always something new, but it's always the same in the end: "SHUT UP, AMY, NO ONE NEEDS YOUR OPINION." And it always results in entropy taking over, which is how I KNOW it's the Lone Power's doing.* You'd think I'd be able to catch It in the act quicker now. You'd think I'd recognize it sooner. But I guess that's how It works.
I need the reminders, every so often, that the only thing that makes a hero different from everyone else is that they don't turn back.
Don't. Give. Up.
*God bless you, Diane Duane, I don't know how you so deeply infiltrated my own personal theology, but it sure is handy for expressing my dilemma.