I Surmise: Lessons Learned.
I have a country house in what I call “Deliverance.” There is a development not far from me in Dover Plains, New York, that is called Sherman Hill Estates, and there is a Lee’s Lane, Grant’s Road and Confederate Road as well. People in the stores don’t wear masks, nor do my fellow shoppers, and when I ask them to pull them up, they show hostility in return. Lately, more and more signs have gone up for Trump. I mean, a lot of them in every yard. Every morning, Bay, my dog, and I get in the car, and we drive to Dunkin’ Donuts, where I get a large black coffee and an old-fashioned donut for Bay. Sometimes I sneak part of it for myself. It’s the way I start my day. Last week, on Monday before the election, there was a particularly long line in the drive-thru, and I had a moment to contemplate the past four years. I had turned off “Morning Joe”; I can’t stand him or Mika, but I listened anyway because it was the way I found out about whatever horrendous thing had occurred overnight for the past four years.
But this particular morning, there was silence in the car.
I realized how much time Donald Trump has spent in my head over the past four years. I thought about how every single day I was increasingly anxious as a result of some action that he’d taken, like, I don’t know, locking up small children and never returning them to their parents, or — let’s see — mocking the body of a woman who looks just like me, or denigrating anyone who stood up to him, or using executive order to sneak through laws that jeopardizes my daughter’s ability to breathe the air, or, or, or … What’s shocking is that I could go on and on and on.
I realized how many times I clicked on an article to feel the adrenaline rush of mocking him, or the fear and loathing of reading something he did or said that wasn’t something I needed to pay attention to.
I realized how many times a day I heard the sound of his voice and the visceral response my body had to it each and every time.
I stopped cold. I couldn’t believe I had been so stupid. That is all on me, not him. I vowed in that moment that after the election is called, I would never click on any link containing his name ever again.
So, I made a list. Here is what I gained and lost over the four years I dedicated to being “married” to him as my country’s leader. And here is my intention for how I will live my life moving forward, to make sure no one ever again has the power I gave him.
Gained: I learned that I, like Donald, use words like “very” and “really” way too much. It’s really good. It’s very serious. Those words are not necessary, and they only exaggerate the point I’m making, and not for the better. I will never again use them in front of a verb. Never. If you follow me and read my work, and you find out I have used one of those words, email me, and I will send you a dollar.
Lost: I lost approximately 1,500 hours of my life paying attention to someone and what he did, which never once built anything, just ripped things apart. I followed suit and did the same thing in return. I will not do that anymore. It’s time to rebuild, and my thoughts and actions will be devoted toward that end. My daughter, who must be thanked for her amazing work over these past two years for building a better America, asked me to stop posting negative things. She said it just pushed the other side away. I ignored her. OK, sometimes I thought better of what I was going to post, but I sure didn’t cross over to the side of building. Please don’t think this means that I will “choose kindness” all the time. I hate that ridiculous approach. How about “ruthless fairness,” which turns me on? Sometimes “kind” is an inappropriate response, but if I’m going to criticize, I will offer a solution to fix what I’m critiquing.
Gained: I exaggerate too. Sometimes I lie. I’ve read that sometimes we lie more than twenty times a day. I realize I don’t want to do that or be known as someone who does that. My initial response, learned in childhood, to say whatever a person wants to hear or gets me off the hook — as opposed to my own truth — will be no more. I will slow down and do it right. Think before I speak. I will take the hit.
Lost: Friends. My closest one is my BFF for forty-five years, my roommate in the ’70s. I spoke to her or otherwise communicated with her daily. Our friendship lasted through one child, three divorces, four marriages, every secret you can imagine, more laughs than I can remember, and so much more. And now it’s gone, never to be resurrected. We broke up in 2016 just before the election, reconciled last year, and split for good after I read her Twitter posts and realized that we are cut from different cloth. I have deleted her account, and I will not click on it again, but regardless, there is nothing to resurrect. I told her, “It’s not about politics; it’s about core values and your humanity … or lack thereof. We are done.”
Gained: I’m a Diet Coke addict. So is Donald. I promised myself that if he lost, I would never drink another one. I don’t want to share anything with him. It’s a gain because Diet Coke is incredibly bad for us. But it’s also a loss. Diet soda has been a companion since collage (I started with Tab. Remember Tab?) — 58 years, and we have shared a lot. I will miss it. I have none in the house and do not intend to stock up. I have given up D.C. before, and then fallen off the wagon months later, but I am hopeful that this time, I will stick with it.
Gained: My sanity. I have been so tense. So sad. So angry. So afraid. One or more of these emotions has been part of my day every day for four years. Already, yes, already I feel better. Even the cable news shows I’ve been watching since they called the election for him have not made me tense. When they mention him, I can feel he has no power any longer. Maybe he still does — of course he does, actually — but he doesn’t for me anymore.
Here is what I realized today: The impeachment didn’t take him down. The Kavanaugh hearings, his asking Ukraine for help in taking Biden down, his using my fucking White House lawn for political events that are illegal, his ignoring the separation between the arms of government — all these things didn’t bring him down, although they should have. In the end, what brought him down was my vote. And yours. Wow.
It’s over. This dark, dark era is over. I turn to Lincoln. Here is what he said as he took power during a time as dark as this. I will read it every morning until my thoughts and actions mirror its intent.
“With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and a lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”