It’s been a month since US voters cast their ballots and I’m finally able to write about what the whole experience has meant to me. I was, like many Americans, deeply concerned by the hate and racism that bubbled to the surface this year, particularly during the run up to the election. The whole experience was obviously deeply divisive and, in many ways, eye-opening.
There is certainly an undercurrent of tension, fear and frustration that brought us to this point, but there’s more than that. There’s this whole raw and ugly side to ourselves that we finally have to come to terms with. And to me this is the silver lining. Yes, we heard some horrible, shocking things being said publicly during the past year. We heard stories of hate and injustice. And we saw traits in our neighbors and in ourselves that had previously been well hidden.
But that doesn’t mean they weren’t there before.
This ugliness within has been brewing for a long time. I’m not a strong enough scholar of history to tell you if we’re talking decades or centuries, but if I had to bet I’d go with the latter. So much progress has been made, but a lot of it is obviously surface level stuff. We still have a core sickness, a cancer, that all of the fear mongering of recent months is just feeding. The sickness is there to be sure, but it’s time to take action so that we stop going down this unhealthy and downright dangerous road.
Yes, the ugliness in ourselves is hard to look at, but I’m grateful that we are getting to see it, because the only way to make real progress is to see what’s really and truly there, to face our worst fears, to face our worst selves.
And now that we’ve all survived November 8th and the run up to it, it’s time for the healing to begin. The sun continues to rise every morning and there are still plenty of good, kind and giving people out there, doing their thing. What we need to do now is to make a new commitment to focus on what we CAN control and how we can best move forward.
The only road to meaningful change is going to happen with one person at a time who refuses to be ruled by fear.
One person at a time extending a hand across the aisle.
One person at a time going out of her way to perform an act of kindness.
Just one person, and then another and another, saying, “Enough is enough.”
And this is really important. Fear is infectious and, like a fire’s flames, it has the power to engulf and dominate not just individuals, but families, societies, countries… But nothing productive can come out of this place of fear. We aren’t rational when we exist in that fear state. And if we get stuck there, we can’t move forward into any kind of real prosperity, abundance or love.
But the good news is, most of the time fear really is ‘all in your head.’
Unless, say, you’re being chased by a lion, fear almost always comes from imaging all of the things that could happen. You may have heard that top horror filmmakers usually will not show an audience what the monsters and demons look like, but will instead allow the audience to create their own image in their minds; an image that is much scarier than anything the filmmaker could have dreamed up. It’s the same with the fear we experience in our own lives. The vast majority of the time we fear things that don’t even ever happen. And if they do happen, we deal with them and, looking back, wonder what we were so scared of in the first place.
Does any of this sound familiar: “I’m so scared that I’m going to get fired from my job and lose my house.” “I’m scared that my husband will leave me and then we’ll have no income.” “I’m scared I won’t get into the college of my choice.” “I’m scared that the audience won’t like me.”
The list of fears is infinite, and everyone has their own special favorites, but just as the fear exists only in our own heads, we also have the power to eradicate those fears simply by taking control of our thoughts and actions. Fear can take a lot of our time and energy – so much so that it robs us of one of the great joys of life: living in the moment. It can also lead to irrational decisions and a skewered sense of reality (imagine the quality of life in the extreme case of someone who is terrified to step outside of their house).
So, how do we make a shift away from a fearful society into one where we the people are back in control? The way we do it, I think, is by a decision that we choose to make, one by one. A decision to not fear our neighbors. A decision to respect our fellow humans and to treat them with dignity. A decision to not lash out with anger, violence and insults, but to do everything in our power to make the world a little better. We each have our own gifts and our own light to shine on the world, and the world needs each and every one of us to show up and do so.
So, let’s agree to let go of our fear and despair and to move forward into a place of enlightenment and joy. The decision to control what we can and to not buy into the fear factor is, I believe, our biggest weapon and one that I intend to exercise every single day as we move forward into a brighter world.