What I didn’t expect was the backlash from my liberal friends. The expectation that I would be as outraged as they were was palpable. Oh honey, I wanted to say, I was done with outrage years ago.
Allow me to explain.
The recent election has seemed to further divide America instead of uniting us. As a true political independent in a country that seems to want its citizens to vote party line all of the time, I am used to feeling a bit on the outside. My votes for the recent election were almost evenly split between Democrats and Republicans. I vote for the best person for the job—not according to a political label.
When Donald Trump won, the nation was stunned. I won’t belabor the election, because I am sure you are all as tired as I am of talking about it. I did not vote for Trump. His comments on women, in particular, raised my hackles. I’ve been a feminist since I could walk, born into a matriarchal family with a mother who was ahead of her time.
And yet, there we sat, facing Trump as our president elect. While disappointed so many of my fellow Americans had ignored his hateful rhetoric, I understood that the man himself was not hateful. He is flawed. He is all too human. But I do not believe he is the next Hitler or KKK savior. I believe he runs loose at the mouth, lacks filters and did not realize the full extent of his ability to capture a disenfranchised audience. Had he accepted the gravitas of his position, he would have learned to parse his words. I do believe that.
You do not have to agree with me on my analysis. But please, listen to the small bit of wisdom I can impart—based on life experience—about how to deal with someone who comes at you in a way that could (if you allow it) make you act like a victim.
I do not speak of my divorce often. I don’t feel it is anyone else’s business, frankly. But here, let me make a parallel. I married a man who had a good heart. He was one way—steady, solid—and then changed. He just did. People do, you know. I won’t go into the why’s and wherefore’s but it was scary. Life turned on a dime. Everything I thought was, wasn’t. Very suddenly.
In addition to the change, the man who I thought would never purposefully hurt me, did. Many times, in many ways—from commentary to financial impunity to using the kids as pawns. Throughout this process, I am sure there were times when he was just trying to hurt me in any way he could. He was in a rage and ready for revenge.
But, what I came to realize—as I tried to paint him as a villain in my head—was that many times, he was simply seeing things through a completely different lens. To me, a crazy lens. A selfish lens. A lens that made no sense. But—no proselytizing on my part was going to change that lens. It was what it was. And he was both things—a good man and a nasty man—in the same person. Most of us are.
I could choose to do what so many now do after the election—protest, proclaim the unfairness of it all. The courts were of no help. The harder I worked and the more he did not, the more I seemed to “owe” him and the less he had to help our family financially. Did it make sense? Not at all. Was it what I had to deal with? Absolutely.
I realized, rather quickly, that victim mode did not work for me. For my kids. And I realized that if I threw his hate back at him, the situation escalated. I had to be kind, respectful and decent to a man who—at the time—was none of those things toward me.
There are no words to describe how hard this lesson was for me. I was being asked to learn how to show loving kindness to someone who acted like an enemy. I cried, angrily, many nights because of the frustration. But I realized acting in any other way showcased all the wrong lessons for my kids.
So, I was kind. I was not a doormat. I was firm. But, I worked with him on many issues. I fought for what I could fight for, realistically. And I let the rest go.
I focused on the infinitesimally small area of commonality we had left—the few places where I could see light in him, where we could agree on mutual love for our kids.
I will not lie and say it’s been a perfect road. I never know if I’m going to get Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde—at least that is what it feels like on a bad day. But, I control my reactions. I forge my own day-to-day reality by focusing on the good I’m here to accomplish, the goals I have for myself and my kids.
While the U.S. election has far more import than any one marriage, the life lessons I have learned—painfully—apply for me. I did not go into victim mode. I did not feel someone had total control over my life simply because the presidency changed hands. I know criticism, sniping and throwing hate back at the “other side” doesn’t work. Because there really isn’t another side. We’re all in this together. Finding our common humanity works.
And if it works in a situation as crazy as mine was about five years ago, it will work again in our larger national crazy scenario.
I remember attending a school board meeting almost a decade ago. I was distraught over the lack of leadership within our school district, the lack of a clear direction. I asked a question of the school board president about how he planned to address the inequalities in access to modern technology throughout the district. His answer? Technology was a “niche.” Something the school board should not have to worry about—the PTA could take care of it.
A ridiculous, uninformed, unenlightened answer? Obviously. As I listened to him in disbelief, it hit me. I had been thinking all was being taken care of for our children because the “grownups” were in charge. Then I realized, “I AM the grownup.” And the people in charge were clueless.
I wish I could tell you I ran for school board. I did not. But, I did switch my son to a private school, one that gave him a stellar education. And—by the way—was rife with technology.
We are the grownups. Divorce, bitter election, the poor and hungry, discrimination—whatever we have to face, it’s always been up to us. Leaders serve at the pleasure of the people. Let’s focus on the areas of commonality—do you think our tax code makes sense? I don’t. Let’s allow our businessman president to get our financial house in better order. And healthcare? Let’s figure out a way for all of us to feel secure, to have choices.
Let’s be sure we’re paying attention and doing our part. And let’s start now. The wailing and rending of garments? It doesn’t do any good. Trust me. I tried it.