Looking for lights in the void. [~1,100 words.]
It’s been a rough week since the results came in. I still haven’t found the energy to do a really in depth piece about what the election means to me, personally, and to many of the communities I have been and continue to be a part of. (If you’re interested in that, I’d recommend this piece on uncertainty and the unknown from Broadly.)
All I really have found the energy for is to really, truly embrace the few moments of joy I’ve had since the American electorate confirmed what many of us already know (i.e., that America, as a nation, has a high tolerance for every known form of bigotry). They’ve been small, fleeting, and all essentially forms of escape from the reality we’re facing.
But, in the interest of adding something to the conversation, I thought I’d share a few of them with you. Here’s hoping it gives you a chance to find some joy, as well. Mostly because I’m afraid that every scrap of happiness is something to cling to now.
Wednesday Night, In My Shower: Dancing To Psalm One
I’ve seen Psalm One–part of a collective called Rapper Chicks–twice since moving to Chicago. The last time was at a Feminist Friday event organized by Vocalo, one of the best local radio stations. While I was there, I had a chance to pick up a copy of Psalm’s new triple album, Gender Fender Bender. I haven’t had an album change my relationship with hip hop so much since I first started listening to Public Enemy and the Beastie Boys. (Grain of salt: I’m a white girl from the country, so…)
All day Wednesday, as I waited for some Hail-Mary-style saving grace to deliver me from Trump’s America, I turned to music to help me cope. I’m normally binging podcasts any free minute of my life, but everything I listen to on that front was either dissecting the latest news of the election or was a comedy podcast that felt too distant from the terror I was feeling.
Eventually, around 9 or 10, I decided to take a shower. Before I did, I queued up Psalm One on my phone. Before I was even done shampooing, I was (carefully) trying to dance out my rage, frustration, and sorrow. The dance party carried from my shower over into my bedroom, where I kept Psalm rolling on my big speakers as I grooved my way through getting dressed.
It’s hardly a secret that music helps people through hard times, but finding the right music can feel like looking for hay in a needlestack when pain is real. If you’d ever told me I’d be dancing the day after Donald Trump and Mike Pence were elected, I’d have probably said, “Sure, okay,” and quietly blocked you on all social media without making a fuss. But, sometimes, there’s just nothing else to do.
Thursday, In Virtual Spaces: Reaching Out To Friends
Thursday was when it felt like shit really started to set in, when all the terrible potential of Donald Trump as President presented itself. Think pieces were flying like birds who overslept on they day they were scheduled to head south. It was far too easy to feel alone in all the noise, and–as several think pieces argued–reaching out to actual individuals who I care for helped ground me.
The conversations weren’t light or fun. Even the comedians I talked to weren’t ready to make jokes. But I wasn’t either.
Even though most of the people I talked to are across several state lines, just commiserating a bit and reminding other of the importance of vigilance, self-care, and safety was enough to put me in touch with what it takes to move forward.
It’s really easy to call for unity in the face of divisiveness like what’s been happening. And I feel that a lot of calls for unity ring really hollow when you’re asking people to unify with others who openly call for their pain, their suffering, or their death.
What’s far more important to me is coming together with the people who understand the threats we’re facing together. The joy I found in somber conversations was a joy based in that hope that the same connections will continue to be fostered.
Friday Through Sunday, In Grand Rapids: A Weekend With The Band
I’ve been playing with a band called The Just Luckies since April. We scheduled this weekend for studio time long ago. Aside from having to travel through rural Indiana and rural Michigan, getting out of Chicago and to a space where I had a chance to focus on music was an unparalleled escape.
After arriving late Friday night, we spent Saturday morning recording some vocals and trombone before heading to a very windy, very cold beach for a photoshoot. Saturday night was burgers & beers before a very long day in the studio on Sunday. It was action-packed and stressful, but in a productive and creative way that reminded me how important activity is in a moment like this.
Sure, we talked about the election a lot. Three of the four of us are from states that went red. None of us were amped about voting for Hillary, but I don’t think any of us was ready for Trump. But we still found ways to laugh and share love and joy.
Ultimately, if there is one broad, generalized way I’m finding to cope with what would otherwise be debilitating fears about what my future and the futures of so many people I love look like under the incoming administration, it’s in activity. It’s about finding who’s there for you and letting others know you’re there for them (and not just with a safety pin).
Complacency of the privileged will continue to be a dangerous trap. And the active threats against LGBTQ people, people of color, women, Muslims, Jews, the disabled, and more minorities appears as if it’s only going to get worse.
But rage and resistance are something we can share in together. They are the shields that might give us a chance for joy in a time when the vote coming from our fellow Americans seems to say “me first” at best and “you never” at worst.
Joy has always eluded me. It’s only been in the last year or so that I’ve gotten in touch with it and seen the potential for it in my future. Even as that potential seems devastated by what’s happened and what might yet happen, it’s my hope that some kind of happiness–or the quest for it–will keep those of us willing to make the pursuit oriented and motivated through whatever is to come.
Like stars in the night sky, joy can be our guiding lights in the darkness.