I hit my brick wall five days before the election.
It wasn’t even 8:00 p.m., but already pitch black outside. With my dog’s leash in one hand, and my phone in the other, I was looking down searching for a text someone said they had sent, but I never got – not paying attention to the direction my dog was leading me. Without warning, my dog took off, causing me to stumble forward, falling nose-first into the side of the my neighbor’s brick mailbox.
I couldn’t feel my face at first, only the blood running across my chin. Before I was off the ground, I reached up to feel my teeth – making sure they were still there. Everything was wet with blood – both from my nose and from scratches that ran down the side of my face to my upper lip which was beginning to swell.
I was a mess.
It had a been a trying week. Halloween costumes to finish, followed by missed school-days because of fevers that wouldn’t break. There was a diorama project, a make-up piano lesson and a work conference call at 6:30 p.m. – scheduled at the same time as the piano lesson. My husband and I seemed to be running in opposite directions all week. Running, running, running until I hit a brick wall so hard it broke my nose.
I am not one to look away when hit in the face. I question what the lesson is. I ask why did I put myself in this position? What am I’m supposed to be learning here?
At the time, I thought it was me coming face-to-face – or face-to-brick-wall – with a schedule gone mad. It’s easy to get sucked up into a forward-sprinting pace. Kids have basketball practice and piano lessons, work needs your attention, dinners need to be cooked (or carried-out). There are emails to send, texts awaiting your response. Dishes to load, clothes to fold, dogs to be walked. Toothpaste to buy and bills to be paid.
The small relief I had the following day was not having to go to an office and explain what had happened. My company is set up so that all employees work remotely. As long as there is WiFi, I can do my job. I did send the picture of my bloody nose to two colleagues.
“If this pic ever leaves Slack I’m not talking to any of you again,” I half-way joked in our direct message thread.
The photo was worse full-size on a desktop screen versus the smaller image I had originally viewed on my phone. My bloody nose, my empty stare, still in shock when I took the selfie. One friend said it was the perfect zombie shot.
“It’s still sore. and it hurts to laugh – which I can’t stop doing every time I look at that picture,” I added.
My other friend responded immediately, “I can’t look away.”
By election day, my scratches were nearly healed and the swelling was down, but my nose was still tender. My daughter had another piano lesson that night. Pulling in our driveway after the lesson, I realized I had left my purse hanging from the chair outside her piano teachers’ room – a 20 minute drive from my house.
My kids went in the house and told their dad I had to drive back to get my purse. I put the car in reverse and pulled right back out of our driveway. Here I was again, running, running, running. I reached up and tapped gently on the top of my nose – it was still sore. Instead of turning on NPR, I played a Davide Bowie CD and tried to breath, listening to Suffragette City. I felt a lump in my throat.
On the way back home the second time, I stopped by my grandmother’s house. She’s 99 and was playing pinochle with her usual Tuesday crew.
“I just needed to feel good, and being here makes me feel good,” I told her. I drank a glass of ice water and kissed her on the cheek before heading home. No states had returned results yet, but I knew my home-state of Indiana would go Red – and neighboring Kentucky. As more states turned red, I sent a text to friends, quoting Bob Schieffer, “There have been no surprises tonight. I think that is very important to understand.”
This was before Florida went red. Then Michigan. Pennsylvania.
For me – a longtime Hillary supporter – it felt like a punch in the face.
Ever since election night, I’ve been thinking about that brick wall I hit days before. How not paying attention knocked me to my feet – attaching it to my complacency and how I’ve taken for granted the freedoms I’ve had throughout my life.
I’m stuck on how I need to stop looking down, trying to find something that’s not there.
There’s so much bundled up inside my head right now. I’m still not on level ground – I sway between anger and fear and keep Googling “kubler ross stages of grief” to determine what stage I’ve reached. I do know I want my daughter and son to have the same freedoms I’ve had – won by those who fought so hard before me. I also want to be able to write without fearing who it may piss off – and how far they will go to bully me back into silence.
I return to my question what am I supposed to be learning here? I try to channel Ekart Tolle, focusing on his words: “Life will give you whatever experience is most helpful for the evolution of our consciousness” – the same quote I have pinned on the cork board above my desk. I keep a solid grip on the things I do have – my health, my children, my husband and our extended circle of family and friends that surrounds and embraces us with love and compassion.
And I try to find the courage not to be scared – to write where I am without fearing what is next.
I haven’t figured out how to not be afraid by what’s happening to our country. Like you, I’m wobbling through the stages of grief: numb one moment, furious the next, up-all-night terrified at what the future might bring for my children, and shamed almost out of mind at how we’ve allowed this to happen.
Mainly, though, what I feel today is this sense of seeking for a purpose to latch onto, for some way to help. I don’t know what that looks like yet but I believe it’s there and that I’ll find it if I don’t stop searching.
I so get this, and feel this. I can’t recall ever feeling this helpless or terrified about something outside my family and close friends. Like you, I’ve started writing, looking for sense, for purpose, for something I can’t get my head around just yet. I know I need a long detox break from the news but I can’t look away just yet. Jesus.
Whelp. Beto has lost in Texas and it’s 2 years after your post. My stomach is in knots even with the seats we are picking up in the Senate. I loved what you wrote and yes it’s timely. I feel so sad again. Not to stop fighting but because I feel so f I ng battered. We wager on.