Monday, November 14, 2016
I Still Can't Sleep
But we will continue to write about the election, and some of my myriad reactions to what happened six days ago because it's still affecting me. I know that a lot of people in my life have started moving on in some facets of their lives. I see it in their reluctance to bring up the election with me, of talking about Trump or simply stating something tragic had happened, but it's time to push past it and hope for the best. It is the reaction that Americans have been taught to have when faced with something heinous-to find an equilibrium and once that's achieved, adjust to the new normal. It's how we deal with tragedies like 9/11 and Sandy Hook, with Hurricane Katrina and Trayvon Martin. Something bad has happened, but there's no way of changing it so we need to make the best of a bad situation.
This is usually a path of coping I find helps me as well. I carry some of the scars and battle wounds of these fights harder than others, but I usually can find a way to move forward and embrace that something terrible has happened, but we can hopefully find a space free of that tragedy to occupy. I will make it part of my personal political mission to prevent these tragedies going forward, to work harder for politicians who vow to end gun violence and climate change and bring social justice to all. I will occasionally protest and stand in a crowd of like-minded individuals, but by-and-large I find a way to exist.
But six days later, I'm not better, and I can't find that equilibrium. I haven't slept through the night since the election. Aside from last Tuesday, every night I have woken up in an abject, literal nightmare, dreaming about Election Night or a Trump presidency and what it will mean for millions of Americans like me in marginalized groups. I find distractions increasingly welcome, even if they aren't pleasant-I enjoy a pile of work dropped on my desk at my job more than I can ever remember, or will quickly spiral into a productive spat of cleaning my entire apartment, rifling through closets and creating messes and quickly cleaning them up. It doesn't take a therapist to point out that I'm trying to find order in a life that isn't giving me much of it.
I think the struggle is stronger and more real because I'm still trying to figure out what I feel. I know that I'm sad and I know I'm angry and I know that I'm frightened, but I can't process fully what exactly is making me sad or angry or scared. Am I angry with the people who supported Trump, or is it specific people in my life whom I continually have avoided texts and Facebook messages from over the past week because I know they voted for someone other than Hillary Clinton? Am I sad because I know what is at stake for the next four years, or is it simply because I don't know what to do, as I watch a homophobic white supremacist become a senior adviser to the president? And am I frightened for myself, or for other people in my life, or just for knowing that the next 4-8 years of my life are unknowable-that I can't count on a solid, sturdy presence at the helm of the world? I can't figure it out-all I know is that I'm still awash with emotions, and I still can't make it through the night without waking up in a dry sweat, dreaming about Wisconsin returns or cabinet secretaries.
The only constant that I can stomach right now, the only doubt that I can't shake, the one that is permanently scarred in my life now is this: "they hate me, so many, many people hate me." This is not something that I didn't know-I have spoken with some candor on this blog in the past few weeks about the scars of growing up in a small Midwestern town and being different, being a closeted gay teen who wasn't closeted enough to avoid ridicule. I know what it's like to be called heinous things to my face, I know what it's like to endure rather than thrive for years on end, in hopes that someone will come across and listen to what you have to say. I know from years of listening to relatives and friends and coworkers justify phrases with "I don't mean you, John..." and "Why can't they just be like the rest of us?" that this exists, but the way it's so rampant is just unnerving. I look at the dark red of my home county, a farming community that hadn't gone for a Republican since 1952 before this year, and realized that every fear I had growing up was justified-that I probably wouldn't have lived through high school if I had decided to come out a little earlier than I did.
It's very hard to live in a world where so many of the people you live beside every day voted for two men who had promised to strip you of your rights. I am still trying to stomach this, trying to wrap my brain around it and wondering how to move past it, or if it's a scar that I'll just need to push to the back of my mind before I develop into the closeted version of myself again: a quiet, deeply introverted person who can't trust any person initially without wondering what their motivations or attitudes are toward me. This isn't fun to read, especially if you know me in real life, I'm sure, but it's much harder to write and to live. My sense of faith in my fellow man took a severe blow last Tuesday, as did my sense of self-confidence and my faith that things will, indeed, get better. But perhaps more than anything, the thing that keeps waking me up is knowing that they hate me. Millions of people across the country, when armed with only the thinnest form of anonymity, proclaimed that they hate me, the me that occupies the "other" that they find so threatening and scary. I will eventually find a way to live with that, but because of Tuesday I don't know that I will ever find a way to get over it. It may remain, like so many emotional scars that marginalized communities in America must contend with, something that simply is etched into my brain and soul, immovable even as I find a way to move forward.