Wednesday, November 16, 2016

How To Make Lemonade


I sat at the dining room table on November 9th and sobbed. Hard. My eyes had already welled up with tears when I got the text from my daughter, and started streaming down my face as I told my husband what she had just shared with me. But it was his response that opened the floodgates, causing me to sit, bawling into my napkin for a good couple of minutes before I could go on with dinner again, puffy eyed and red faced. Even thinking of that moment now causes me to tear up again, a little overwhelmed with emotion. 

But maybe not for the reason you think.

OK, some of it is for exactly the reason you're probably thinking. I've definitely been moving through the stages of what's being called 'Election Grief' over the past week. Same stages that one typically suffers during the loss of a loved one. For me, it wasn't the loss suffered by Clinton that has reduced me to a crumpled, sensitive mess. Not exactly. For me, it's something much bigger than that. And it's not that easy to explain, although I'll try. (And if you just want to skip to the end to get to the good part about why I cried and how unpretty I am when I cry, go ahead...it's 5 paragraphs down, right after I mention how the biggest lesson this election is sending to our children is that now you can throw a huge temper tantrum and still get dessert.)

For me, watching this election going to Donald Trump is like what I imagine it must be like to be a parent who did everything in their power to raise their child to be a decent human being who makes good choices, is respectful, doesn't take advantage of others, uses thoughtful words instead of violence or name calling to settle disagreements, and shares with others. And somehow that child grew up to be just the opposite. This child turned into a monster who says all kinds of horrifying, inappropriate things, makes fun of other people, bullies, makes awful, violent threats, and encourages others to get on board with him.

I have to imagine what that would be like, because it hasn't been my experience as a parent. Maybe I was just really, really lucky. But I know there are a few kids out there like that, and if one of them displayed any of that behavior while at school, that kid would get sent directly to the Principal's office for disciplinary action. Because we all would agree  (I hope we would all agree) that any of that behavior is absolutely unacceptable. Whether its action, or just talk.


And yet less than two weeks ago, our country rewarded the awful, unacceptable behavior that would result in serious punishment if it was from a child with the highest honor we can bestow upon a citizen of this country. We have just given positive reinforcement to extremely negative behavior. And that is a tragedy.

What I'm afraid of - and experiencing quite a bit of grief over - is the concept that the citizens of our nation are giving their blessing to behave like a belligerent bully to get what you want. And that's just not cool. Not cool at all. I'm concerned that other citizens will take it as a green light to behave badly. Because hey, we're handing out prizes for this shit now.

As a mother, I have tried my hardest to raise my child to operate at her ethical best. I've even told her from her earliest days that if she ever wanted to be president someday, that she'd need to be at her best behavior from Day 1, and continue trying to be the best human she can. And she took that to heart. And now...none of that matters. Because when it came down to election day, we had to choose between the monster accused of being a criminal for hiding her emails (and allowing the One Percenters into her back pocket), and the monster accused of being a criminal for business fraud (and being the One Percenter). Either way, the other 99% of us lose. We are losing the trust of our children, who have just been shown that you can throw huge temper tantrums and still get dessert.

Back to my child, who, whether I think it's going to give her any kind of leg up in life anymore to be the respectful, ethical young woman she was brought up to be, is exactly that.

Would you like to know what she did the morning after the election?

That young lady made sparkling lemonade out of lemons.

She woke up, put on her big girl panties, and went to the Dollar Tree. She purchased two plastic crowns, and took them to one of her college professors who has two little girls that adore my daughter. She asked him to give them to Winnie and Calliope, along with a note that said, "We may not have it now, but (someday) we will have a woman president. Until then, I'm giving you these crowns, so you can remember you are important."

Winnie & Calliope wearing their crowns
I found out about it at dinner Wednesday evening. That's when I got a text from my daughter with a photo of her professor's two little girls with their crowns, and a Facebook post he wrote along with it claiming, "I'm so grateful to have a job where I get to spend my time working with students like Sophia who inspire me (and my family) every day."

That's when I got all proud and red-eyed. Then my husband - always the one to unleash the flood by pulling his finger out of the dike (although in our house we call it the eyeball pluck) - said, "Well, if you want to know the truth, I'm kind of glad Hillary Clinton didn't get elected. I'm still holding out hope that Sophia will be our nation's first woman president." I cried into my napkin for a good, long time. There were tears of disappointment for half of our nation, tears of grief for the other half, and tears of pride for my child and hope for our future all rolled into one 5 minute bawl.

This is actually right before the big crying spell, when I wanted to
show my daughter that her actions had gotten me kind of emotional.

And then I did the math. 16 years. It's really not that far away. Sophia Miller in 2032!

So right now, although it feels like half of our nation just died, I'm trying to keep some hope alive that the world won't end in the next four (or sixteen) years, and that we aren't entering into a new era of condoned bigotry and belligerence. But I'm still having a hard time with it. Originally I had titled this column "Elegy For Half A Nation" and put together a playlist of music for those who feel like like something just died inside of us. But I've changed my mind. Now, we're making lemonade! So while I'm still starting off today's "How To Make Lemonade" playlist with some elegiac music and a few pieces about feeling sorry for ourselves, it morphs along the way (and we'll even head to church), with songs that sing of healing, hope, woman power, a brighter tomorrow - even if that tomorrow is 16 years away - and lemonade.

Here's hoping you've found a way to make your own lemonade out of this crop of sour lemons. If you've got a song to add, a story of how you're getting through these dark times, or the best lemonade recipe to share, please do so in the comments section below.

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