Though it’s not something I like to brag about, those who know me well are aware that I spent much of my late teens and early 20s lost in the woods. I don’t mean the literal woods but the figurative ones. There was a time when I made many wrong turns and bad choices. This includes the choosing of a particularly bad, insecure, erratic, dangerous man. You know the type. He’s the guy who’s charming until he’s terrifying, who’s so very sorry (again), who never meant to hurt you, who was only joking, who will never do it again…promise.
While it may seem weird and counterintuitive…escaping, surviving a man like that is what fuels my hope on hard days. The fact that I shouldn’t be here at all makes me beyond grateful for the fact that I’m experiencing anything at all…even the bad stuff. It also keeps me grounded in what I have the capacity to survive, in the truth that a dark chapter doesn’t have to mean a terrible ending. It is possible to experience despondence and fear, to almost be lost forever and still go on to be found, experience joy and fulfillment…to move on.
And so it is with this perspective that I have been navigating the post-election dystopia. While many of my closest friends are understandably completely freaking out and sounding alarms, I’m finding myself eerily calm. It’s not that I’m not upset. Of course I am! I’m a mother, a woman, a human. THIS is NOT the America I want to show to my children or anybody else’s. America is lost in the woods and I’m terrified and sad. I’m resolved to do whatever I can to help her find her way out. This said, instead of shouting for America to come back, I’m conserving my energy…waiting and listening for a sign that America is ready to be found. I’m afraid that if I shout and chase, she’ll just run farther away…slip deeper into the darkness. I sense that at the moment America is still guided by the parts of her that are cockily convinced that she knows right where she’s going.
And so, while the best part of America is screaming, “What are you thinking?!?! Where are you going??? You KNOW this is wrong!” the loud, angry part of America is boldly marching into dangerous territory, confident in her chosen path. To the voices that are trying to convince her otherwise, America is shouting, “Calm down! It’s alright! He didn’t really mean it! He LOVES me! He WILL stop, change, be different, be better. You’ll see, silly conscience!”
Right now, a large part of America is so determinedly lost that she sees no need for a compass. She will continue to ignore the signs that she’s on the wrong path. She is not interested in a map. She will let the trees close in around her, convinced that his “love” and her own ragged breath are enough to guide the way. And so begins a very dark chapter for America.
But I sincerely believe that this does not have to be the end of America’s story. Though she may teeter precariously on the brink of oblivion before she’s ready to listen; hope remains that someday before it’s too late America will be humbled, will reach bottom, will find the clarity and courage to say to herself, “How many times does he have to show me who he is before I believe him???” And in that moment, she will cry for help and the well-organized search party that has been praying for America’s safe return will shout and wave flashlights and bring blankets and holler, “Over here!!! She’s over here!!!” And in that moment, America and all who have been searching for her will collapse with relief that she survived. Collectively, they will see that—while she sustained some damage and alienated many who love her—she will go on to heal, to hope, to write a different ending. This is the future I imagine on the hard days and I still have faith that this is the future I can help to write.