I am by nature a pretty optimistic person. I am like the kid in the old joke who sees the shed with all the manure in it and says that with all this shit, there must be a pony in here somewhere. I am a bit of an idealist and have never soured on the world. And then November 8 happened.
I cast my first vote in 1968. I would have voted for Bobby Kennedy had he lived and gained the nomination. And though it was not popular among people I knew, I voted for Humphrey because I had met him and in reading about him and listening to him, he seemed like me to be optimistic and to embrace the kinds of values I embraced.
When I cast that first vote, I had only months before been told by the chair of the graduate program I wanted to attend that he was putting me on the wait list even though I was well qualified, because he thought it a waste of money to train women for careers they would never follow. He could legally say that to me. And I could not when I got married 2 years later get credit in my own name or even keep my own name when we married. My income was not counted when we first applied for a mortgage. So I never imagined I would ever see a woman as president. I am not aware that the thought even occurred to me.
I was thrilled November 8 to cast my ballot for Hillary Clinton, for the woman who, it looked like would become what I had never dreamed possible, the first woman President of the United States.
Throughout the campaign I had felt how much misogyny was openly expressed. It made me angry and feel threatened. The open revelations of his sexually predacious behavior sickened me and knowing that it did not repel his voters made me uneasy, that a great upwelling of hostility toward women in general was happening.
On FaceBook I kept seeing and still see my brother post material supporting him, expressing major anti-liberal images and lies. My own brother, the very brother I adored when I was little and he was my funny loving big brother. I felt the enemy was in my own family.
As my husband and I sat down at 7 that night to watch the returns, I felt uneasy, more uneasy than at any time in the whole long and difficult campaign. Before there were many results in, I could feel it in my gut — that he would win, that the least qualified person ever would somehow beat the most qualified candidate I had ever supported, the woman who carried so much hope.
My heart broke.
The next day and all the days since patients have brought their own broken hearts and fears and anger and disappointment into my consulting room. I listen. I nod. I agree this is almost beyond comprehension. I have no answers.
I avoid the news. I don’t want to see his face or hear his voice or the voices of the people around him. I weep. I read books. I binge watch series on Netflix and Acorn TV, grateful that they offer me escape from the reality of the shattered dreams I feel and hear about and see. Gilmore Girls, The Crown, Paranoid. For the first 2 weeks I kept hoping I would wake up and find it wasn’t true, that there was an error. Even now as recounts begin, I dare not hope they will change the outcome. Catastrophic thoughts drift in and out — about what we will do if they succeed in destroying Medicare, cutting Social Security, eliminating the Affordable Care Act — and I make myself change the subject.
How do you mend a broken heart?
I try again to be my old optimistic self. I remember the words in Leonard Cohen’s “Anthem”
Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in.
And the Japanese art of kintsugi, which means “golden joinery” where broken pottery is mended with golden lacquer, making a broken thing beautiful. Like this
I am choosing to believe that this is, was a necessary thing that happened, that it is what was needed for us to wake up. And that we have new opportunity to make beauty in what feels now to be irreparably broken.The broken thing we live with now can be mended, never the same as it was, but beautiful again, beauty in the repair. And as we repair, the light comes through the cracks.
My heart broke. It will mend.