There’s a story among my friend group that we like to pass around when things go wrong. One of my friend’s mothers, while at a gas station, slammed a car door on her hand. She didn’t scream or cry, or really make any noise at all. She froze. When her daughter asked if she was okay, the mother sharply replied, “Shut up and let me feel it.”
The mother took a few deep breaths, and then she kept moving.
As news sinks in today that Donald Trump is our next president, I — like many Americans — feel frozen. I stayed glued to my laptop well into the early hours of the morning. My social media feeds were a mix of disbelief, gallows humor, panic, despair, and then blame. It’s the media’s fault. It’s Hillary Clinton’s fault. It was the internet. The non-voters, the third-party voters, the Trump voters — take your pick. People like me want to be angry at someone, because Trump’s victory is more than a bitter pill to swallow. To us, it’s a poison coursing deep through the veins of our country, and it thrives on hate and misunderstanding.
Trump’s new world is full of uncertainties, but there is one thing we can count on. This will be hard. It will be ugly. It will be personal for women, people of color, members of the LGBTQ community, and anyone whose stomach simply can’t stop churning. We grieve for the hopeful future of unity and understanding outlined by Hillary Clinton, whose legacy will stop just short of attaining the position of the most powerful person in America. We say our goodbyes to Barack Obama, whose work is sure to be washed over by a man best known for tacky hotels and a reality TV show, and not for being a politician.
Whatever future comes next will be the collective work of millions.
Work, work, work. It is a chant, one that exclaims the only way out of this is forward. It’s the sort of rallying cry I’m beginning to see surface as people just begin to cope. And I appreciate the intention. I will work, because there’s work to be done.
But to get there, we need to get past that first stage: the coping. However you need to deal with the news today is how you should be dealing with it. There is no shame in shutting off your TV, powering down your computer, and taking a minute to be alone with your thoughts. Sign off Twitter. Sign off Facebook. Unplug the router, if you want to.
In Clinton’s concession speech today, she addressed the pain voters are feeling, and that they will continue to feel it “for a long time.”
“This loss hurts,” she said, “but please, never stop believing that fighting for what’s right is worth it.”
Clinton is right. The next four years will hurt. They will be work, and so will the years that follow it. Social change is never a static goal, but a moving target we redefine through every piece of our culture.
Take the time you need to work through your anger, your despair, whatever you’re feeling. Tell the world to shut up, if only for a day. Let us feel it.