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Surviving the Election

I don’t think we can live within our silos of righteousness any longer. We are divided and conquering each other on a daily basis. How many of you feel exhausted by the incessant bickering on network news, social media outlets and in water cooler conversations at the office or play dates at the park.

Whether you’ve chosen to take the high road and “not talk” politics (ostrich, head in sand) or you’ve lingered on every last word of your favorite (mis)informant—face it, we’re all misinformed—you’re being affected. There’s a heaviness and anxiety in the air and it’s palpable. People are losing it, people! Friendships are at risk, people are literally killing each other, getting arrested and feeling traumatized by the extreme actions of talking heads trying to get their point across.

What is this disunity costing us?

Our dignity? Our happiness? Hope?

Humans rely on one another. We must depend on one another for survival. While we certainly didn’t have the strongest teeth, muscles and bodies to survive in the wild, we developed the brains and consciousness to collaborate, to create communities, to belong to one another that allowed us to evolve where our physical prowess might have failed us as individuals alone.

It is in our belonging to one another and commitment to each other that we continue to evolve. This is the briefest and most basic summary on human evolution, but crucial to our social infrastructure. We belong to one another—and when we deny that, not only does our social fabric fray, but our insides break down, too. We become anxious, isolated, suspicious, other-blaming and at the extreme, aggressive and violent. When we don’t belong to one another anymore, when we don’t hold each other as our own, we divide, we “other-ize”. I made that word up, but you get it. We do this to our own families. We have so little trust and faith in one another that we separate. It’s just easier. I have spoken to countless people in the past few months who are not going home for the holidays, and who have distanced themselves from their families because of opposing political beliefs.

Politics is personal, deeply upsetting and disenfranchising because we feel misunderstood and misrepresented.

We have to come together now, more importantly, than any time in the history of our nation. I sound Pollyanna and poised for preaching, right?

But, next Tuesday, the bottom is going to drop out of some people’s self-possessed podiums and platforms; the wind in the sails of the vessels of change will drastically change directions for nearly half of the population. We are that polarized.

Wherever you reside in this time of political mayhem in our nation, you cannot remain unaffected. People are angry, confused, depressed, impassioned, and publicly and privately suffering. The suffering of some affects all, whether you’re well-off and thriving, we can only be as happy and healthy as the most suffering in our world (idealistic, I know). You have heard that saying, you can only be as happy as your unhappiest child. This is empathy at its most basic expression. When we belong to each other how can we go out and celebrate when someone we love is suffering?

How can we be happy when we know someone has lost because of us, or because we won? Yet, this is the American story. From civil wars, to atrocities against indigenous peoples, to baseball, basketball, and football, to politics, we are embedded in duality and takeovers involving winners and, subsequent losers. We, as Americans, don’t dwell in ambiguity and grey areas. We want clear winners. It’s less messy that way.

The only problem is the losers don’t go away. We will live with each other every day after this bitter election dissolves into an embattled new leadership.

We are angry and defiant, disillusioned and damaged as a nation. Where is kindness, connection and love for thy brother and sister?

Is it possible to step out of our own perspective to embrace others—embrace them, as people—not just their viewpoints?

I am having a hard time stepping off of my own podium of perspective to really accept the other side of the aisle. My guess is, a lot of us are. We are deeply embedded in our own way of thinking and believing that we are living in action of our beliefs. We forgot to see each other as breathing, living, struggling, scared, loving, simple, and at the same time, complex creatures of humanity.

We think, therefore we are.

We vote; therefore we have an opinion. Some will be validated next week; some will want to wreak havoc or dig their heads deeper in the sand or at least their toes in some tropical sand somewhere—to stay for the next four years.

How are we going to reconcile the loss as a nation?

How can we belong to one another?

A good half of us are not going to be happy with the outcome on November 8th. A good number of us are already unhappy with the choices we have.

My question to you, is what are you going to do with your loss?

What happens when you don’t win?

How do you handle getting something other than what you asked for, wished for and even, planned for?

A big part of what’s coming up for me as an empath, is the concern I feel for everyone not getting what they want. I also fear for those that do, because in my mind, no one wins when some of us lose.

Is this just the fate of humanity; that we will always be at odds with one another? Is this just as nature intended and since the beginning of time there was opposition? OR is there hope for us to redefine winning and losing, to dwell in the grey area of belonging, where there is no right or wrong, but a spectrum of loving, comforting, supporting and seeing each other for the vulnerable humanity that is in all of us, those simply surviving, brilliantly thriving and everything in between.

I picked a fight with someone who posted something with which I disagreed a couple of weeks ago. We went back and forth (in private) and ultimately saw and heard each other through our individual experiences and perspectives. It’s so much more convenient to surround ourselves with those that patently agree with us, but it’s never going to heal the wounds that divide us.

Next week, when we are simultaneously celebrating and decrying the outcomes of our highest election, I challenge each of us to be a part of the solution by building a bridge of compassion, empathy and acceptance to those that oppose you. Find one thing in common and step out of your silo and onto a bridge to theirs. Our survival depends upon our belonging.

  • Paula Koenig Ellison

    The amount of hatred that has been stirred up from this election will make the “winners” still be on edge. My personal opinion is that it will be either bad or horrendous. I am bracing for a fall-out from either winner.

    November 4, 2016 at 2:20 pm
  • Jill, This is one of your most beautiful pieces. Thank you for speaking out about this…
    I live in a state of disconnected, otherness based on my beliefs, political and otherwise. Me against the world/ neighborhood, husband, community, family… I constantly long to be surrounded by others that share my values. Even simple ones, like healthy living.
    Whether we share the same belief or not, I feel a greater sense of belonging just to know I’m not the only person marooned on an island of my own beliefs. Thank you again for sharing this important aspect of this issue.

    In Love and Kindness,


    November 4, 2016 at 2:38 pm
  • Angela McCormick

    This should be required reading. So good!

    November 5, 2016 at 3:00 pm

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