Post-Election Chaos; Now What?

Two statements that only serve to ratchet up arguing with no intent to create dialogue: “All protestors are lazy, whiny, crybabies who need to get over it.” “All Trump voters are racist, misogynist, and hateful.” Neither statement seeks to increase understanding or promote conversation. Both stand simply as “I am right and you are wrong.”

Two statements that are uncomfortable truths but can serve to create dialogue: “Trump’s campaign was filled with hateful rhetoric. People who were the targets of those messages are legitimately afraid. Even though you may not agree with the rhetoric, it has already stung. Listen. Hear the pain. Hear the fear.” “In the aftermath of the election, you may feel angry and wish to cry out. Do so. But then get up and start doing the things that will bring about unity in your community. Start being the person this world needs you to be.”

In my own little sphere of experience, I have already heard four stories of those rhetorical targets being dismissed, insulted, and told to leave (and one of those four is my oldest son). If you supported or are even just okay with President-Elect Trump, please know that there are people suffering because his rhetoric has emboldened people to act this way. You may not. You may hate it just as much as I do. So please speak up with me. Please encourage your elected officials to publicly denounce the hatred and abuse that is way too prevalent in our country right now.

Also in my little sphere of experience, I am witnessing people creating groups for dialogue and action. Friends are looking for ways to perform acts of kindness in their neighborhoods. People are volunteering at places like the IRC. They are donating to places like Pregnancy Resources. They are seeking people who are afraid and offering solace and refuge. MLK told us all that riots are the language of the unheard. The unheard are making their voices known this week. In the weeks to come, those voices can still be heard in the millions of subversive acts we perform: service, kindness, organizing, running for office.

If people on both sides truly want to come together and work through whatever the next four years will bring, we need a lot less of the first two statements and a lot more of the second two. We also will need a lot less talking and lot more listening. We will need to acknowledge more and more the reality and the fear that many people face. We will need to recognize the humanity in the people we see around us.  We will need to stand up for those who being attacked.

There is a lot to do. I hope we will do it together.

(And for those who profess to be Jesus followers, we need a lot less patriotism and a lot more cross-shaped people—but that may be another blog post in the future.)

I Am Scared

I’m scared.

Fear is one of those wide-ranging emotions that can mean almost anything. A couple of weeks ago, some people dressed up in costumes hoping to instill fear in others. Some people probably spent a lot of time watching movies intended scare them (for the record, I still think The Changeling is the only legitimately scary movie I have seen).

Some people are afraid of things that may never happen: illness, job loss, relationship break-up, the Dallas Cowboys being good again.

Some people are afraid because so many bad things have already happened in their lives they just can’t imagine that life could ever get better.

Some people are afraid of bugs (rational fear) or clowns (irrational fear). I’ll let you decide how I came to decide which was which.

Fear does a lot to us. Heart beat accelerates. Breathing gets shallow. Stomach ties up in knots. Decision-making becomes harder. Some people fight. Some people flee. Some people freeze.

Fear can be overwhelming. It can be crippling.

I would love say something as trite as cliché as: “And when faced with fear you can do one of two things.”

I would love to say that. But it’s a load of crap.

When faced with fear, the potential decisions are limitless.

There was a time when fear would turn me to a bottle. Today, there are times that fear turns me inward. I’m not drinking anymore, but crawling into the couch and letting my eyes glaze over in front of the TV is just about as healthy.

When I want to overcome survive in the face of fear, I find great help in doing the following:

I breathe. Deep, cleansing breaths. In through the nose, out through the mouth. I count to 8 with each inhale and exhale. When I am afraid, I often forget to breathe. Or I start breathing so fast I almost hyperventilate. But when I make the conscious effort to slow down enough to breathe, my physical body calms down. Usually, my mind starts to, as well.

Then I admit why I am afraid. One important lesson I have learned in sobriety is that I rarely admitted why I was afraid. Now, I know how essential it is to name the fear. Now, I know how essential it is I admit to myself that I am afraid. For me, this self-admission also leads to an admission to God. As I acknowledge my fear, I let God know at the same time.

Then I tell somebody else. This is so hard. Sometimes, it’s my spouse. Sometimes, it’s a trusted person from my church. Sometimes, it’s a friend. Sometimes, it’s at a meeting. But I have to say it out loud. I have to let someone else know.

Does the problem go away? No.

Are all of my anxieties and worries relieved? No.

But do I feel isolated and alone and overwhelmed anymore? Absolutely not.

_________________________

Today, I am scared. I am practicing my deep breathing. A lot. I have acknowledged the source of my fear to myself and I have prayed about it. I have journaled about it. (I am even adding an extra section to this blog post about it.) And I have told several people; both in face to face conversation and via technological communication (that sounds so much better than “email”).

Is my fear gone? Nope. But I feel a whole lot better today than I did a week ago.

A little over 10 years ago, I would drowned my fear with alcohol. And every morning when I came to, the fear would overwhelm me again. About 8 or 9 years ago, I would have bottled up my fear inside and gotten real testy with everyone I came in contact with. And then I would have felt guilty.

Today, I don’t need to drink. I don’t need to isolate.

But I am still scared.

Maybe you are, too.

It’s okay to be scared.

Breathe. Admit it. Talk about it.

Feel free to tell me: comment below and talk about your fears and how you face them. Or email me. If you need to have a conversation privately, my email address is asecondtimepaul@gmail.com

Let’s talk.