What happens when you wake up in the middle of a nightmare, except the nightmare isn’t happening in your unconscious, but the real world you live in?
I woke up in the middle of the night to nurse Archer. I reached for my phone hesitantly. I didn’t want to see the results of the election. In the pit of my stomach, I already knew that we didn’t shatter the biggest, hardest, thickest glass ceiling. Instead, we smacked up against it and bounced right back down to the ground, bruised, in pain, and full of fury.
Yesterday I wrote about hope, despair, and the need for action to catalyze hope because hope alone isn’t enough. I taught about this in my yoga classes, too.
Hope and despair are at opposite ends of a pendulum and right now the pendulum has swung towards despair, but I am unwilling to allow it to remain there.
I’m tired of the familiar story of fear winning and love losing.
I’m angry at the unwillingness of those in power to take a step back and share the mantle of power instead of holding it hostage.
I woke up this morning at a loss for words, so I cried.
Then I rolled out my yoga mat and moved my body and cried some more.
In yoga we learn that choice and action are essential pieces of the puzzle when we want to create change. Even “choosing to abstain” is a choice. Doing nothing is a choice. Curling into a fetal position and weeping at the choices of others is a choice. Taking a stand for what you believe in is a choice. Fighting back is a choice. Love ischoice.
A week ago I proudly brought both of my children with me to early voting to elect the first female president, a candidate I believed in irrespective of her sex.
Milly and I have talked a lot about voting in the past week, what it means and what an important responsibility it is. She must have understood the importance there because she has easily been able to repeat to me what “voting” is.
This morning I talked to Milly about voting again. She doesn’t really understand about Hillary or the big orange monster, although she does listen to “Fight Song” on repeat and calls it “our song.”
I asked Milly if she remembered what voting meant. She said, “you get to choose what you want.”
I said, “yes, but so do other people. And sometimes even though you choose one thing that you feel is important, other people choose something different. What’s important is to do your best to make choices that don’t hurt other people.”
That’s the best I’ve got today.
I’m still heartbroken and crying every 5 minutes.
Also, when I dropped her off at school, she was sad (as usual) and didn’t want me to leave, but as soon as she walked into the class, she was enveloped by 3 of the girls in her class. They hugged her and she hugged back.
Sisterhood in action.
I think about that and I am motivated to be an agent of change.
Now more than ever we need to act.
The election might be over, but there are smaller actions we can take every day.
Some of the biggest shifts we can make are with ourselves, within our every day lives, within our families, and our immediate community.
Here are a few ideas:
Get to know your neighbors, your co-workers, and the parents of your kids friends. The bigger we make our immediate community, the smaller the world gets and that’s a good thing.
Remember, we are stronger together.
When you witness injustice and when you hear intolerance, speak up and speak out. Trump’s supporters said he spoke what many of them were feeling and what no one else was willing to say, but he clearly didn’t speak for everyone.
Certainly not for me.
Make your voice heard in whatever way you can.
DON’T BE A SLACKTIVIST
Posting dissatisfaction on social media isn’t enough. You’ll be heard primarily, by a gallery of your peers, most of whom agree with you.
There are many ways to act that don’t involve physically protesting or chaining yourself to a tree.
You can donate to causes that you believe in. Here’s a handy lost of pro-women, pro-immigrant, pro-earth, anti-bigotry organizations that need your support.
You can make choices with your wallet, supporting conscientious products and companies.
I have a whole list of small things you can do to rebel against the establishment. Check out my “Radical Mama” blog post for ways you can make a difference using one of the tools this country values the most, capitalism.
And yes, you can still post on social media. In the days leading up to and immediately following the election, facebook became an extension of my community. I hoped with them, cried with them, and am now acting with them to move forward consciously and powerfully.
BE A ROLE MODEL
Model the values you believe in. If you’re a parent, teach your kids about respect, integrity, compassion, and shared power through your actions. Teach your kids about the importance and value of diversity, choice, and freedom. If we say one thing and do another, it’s not only confusing but it’s also not authentic.
Our kids are watching. Our kids are listening. What do we want to show them? What do we want them to hear? What do we want them to do when it’s their turn to take action? What do we want them to say when it’s their turn to speak? How do we want our children to lead?
BE A LEADER
Not all that different from being a role model, just on a slightly larger scale.
Remember that being a leader requires a willingness to share power, not control it.
Yoga comes in many different shapes and forms, but most styles of yoga emphasize the need for balance, clarity, a willingness to reflect, a desire to do the work, and places a high value on the idea that we are stronger together.
TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF
The only way we can heal the world is to heal ourselves first.
If you are running yourself into the ground without tending to your own needs, you will suffer and so will everyone you are taking care of. Your actions have a ripple effect, whether they are big or small.
When you begin to place a high value on your own self-care, people in your life will take notice and start treating themselves better as well. That quality of personal care will begin to ripple out and make a big impact in the way we show up in theworld. When you care about YOU, it demonstrates that you also care about the world you live in.
Yesterday was rough.
Today, get up, get motivated, make a choice, do the work, fight hard, love one another, and CREATE HOPE.
I am far from happy about the results of this election, on all levels of government. I am utterly terrified at what might happen to my country and the world in the next 4 years.
I also believe that sometimes in the deepest, darkest despair, we can still find a light to lead us out.
Be the light.
I promise to be a beacon if you will, too.
Being a mom isn’t easy.
This seems like one of the greatest understatements ever spoken, but it’s no less true.
Some days are easier than others, full of hugs, dance parties, giggles, puzzles completed, piles of books read, and nature explored.
Other days are harder and I am just trying to make it through and keep us all alive without emotionally scarring my children.
On those days, one of the questions I find myself asking is “why is it that people have kids?”
I don’t ask this question because I think I made a mistake. Or 2 mistakes, for that matter. I don’t ask the question because I regret becoming a mom. I am grateful for my amazing, brave, silly, kids every single sticky handed, tear-streaked, snot-nosed, bipolar day. Even on the hardest days, I am glad to be their mom.
I ask the question, “Why did I have kids,” to remind myself of the reason.
The biggest reason for me, and I think many people, is that I am hopeful for the future.
I look at my kids and I see the incredible possibilities ahead for them as they grow up. I see the world I want them to live in and I’m hopeful for that world. I see the amazing things they could do and I’m hopeful for their potential experiences. I see the change they could help create and I’m hopeful for their passion and their ideas.
I have the highest hopes for my 2 kids, but hope is not enough.
Hope needs a catalyst.
In order to make our hopeful visions of the future more likely, we try to teach our kids how to create a better world than the one we live in now.
Hope alone is not enough. We need action.
Without actions, hope is an ephemeral thing that lives in our hearts and our minds but doesn’t exist in real life.
This is much harder.
It’s also true of everything we do.
You can’t wish your way into a handstand. You have to practice it over and over and over and over again. You need to fall out of it more times than you get up into it. You need to struggle and fail and learn from your mistakes and try again.
Because then when you finally do “get it”, you have a deeper appreciation for your success. You also have the tools and the skills to do it again and again and again on your own. As a bonus, you also now know how to TEACH it to other people who want to learn how to handstand.
Even when you’ve had success, you’ll still have days that suck. You’ll struggle like you’ve never done a handstand before. You’ll get frustrated. You’ll rage. You’ll have trouble understanding why on this day it’s just not working.
You might fight with yourself. You might stomp around on your mat. You might swear off handstands.
You’ll probably even feel despair.
Despair can be a great motivator, too.
The trick is to let despair in and to see despair for what it is, the emotion that lives in the shadow of hope. If you can keep showing up on your mat, even on the shittiest days, despair doesn’t win.
Because when you show up, you are reminding yourself that you are hopeful. You believe that you can do better. You believe that you can make a difference.
(I might now be talking about more than handstands. More than even parenting. This might be everything.)
I think human beings are inherently hopeful. We believe that the future is bright. Whether your future is full of handstands or happy, healthy kids, the idea is the same.
Hope is not enough. We need action.
I reminded myself of this yesterday, after a particularly rough morning with my daughter. We were late for school and I made the mistake of helping her put her shoes on and in her anger, she hit me, hard. I was so exhausted from packing up our house and waking up at least twice a night for 6 months to nurse her brother and never having a break from either of my kids, that I nearly hit her back. I was so angry at her. So tired of doing this on my own. I was so over the threenager drama. I was so tired of being pushed to the brink of rage by my defiant child. I was so emotionally exhausted from being the only adult in charge. I felt despair. That reaction was something that felt like the worst choice. A choice that didn’t represent me or the love I have for my kids. It showcased my despair.
I started to cry. I asked myself why I had kids in the first place. I cried some more. I asked myself the question again. Hope started to creep back in. But I had no time for action other than getting her in the car and driving her to school.
After school, when I picked her up, I made a different choice. We needed to get home quickly, but instead of forcing her to get in the car immediately, I chased her around on the grass in the warm November sunlight. I tried to think of what I wanted to teach her. I tried to act in a way that would make her smile and feel loved and less stressed. It was a small action that made the day and my heart more hopeful for us, as mother and daughter. Also for her, someday, as a mother or an aunt or a friend.
I remind myself of this on this day when we are hopefully about to elect our first female president. The world right now is full of anger, dissonance, hostility, and despair. The future doesn’t always feel so bright.
As Whitney Houston once sang, “I believe the children are the future. Teach them well and let them lead the way. “
I voted early, with both my kids in tow. Milly asked what the word “Vote” meant and I explained it to her. This morning when we talked about how she and her grandma were going to go vote together, she said, “voting means choosing what you want.” Which was pretty much what I’d told her a week before.
As we head into this final day of a long, stressful election, this is what keeps coming back to me. I believe my children are the future. I don’t just want to hope their future will be bright. I want to show them how to create it.