The Price of the Election

This last week has taken its toll on me.  I’ve been sleeping poorly, eating poorly, and now, I’ve lost my voice.

To review, I have a condition called abductor spasmodic dysphonia which affects how my vocal chords open and close.  In my particular case, they get stuck in the open position.  It happens when my body is under stress, such as when it is cold, or if it is fighting an infection of some sort, or if I am dealing with a difficult situation.

This bout is purely because I am dealing with a difficult situation.  I am navigating a post-election America that has fallen through the rabbit hole.  Common sense has done a runner and so many people are quick to speak an accusing word.  I don’t know how to talk to people anymore.  I don’t know what is a trigger and what is not.  I don’t know what words will calm a situation and what will escalate it.  I have stepped back from my Facebook page because it is too fraught with danger.  I’ve retreated to Instagram, where I can post pictures with few words.  I’ve returned to Twitter because the post limit is welcoming.  So little can be said in those 140 characters.

And so, until my ability to speak returns, I will be hiding from the social media world.  It’s better for everyone involved.

The Next Chapter

As a daughter of immigrants from an Arab country, I’d say that this election caught my attention. As a Jewish woman, I’d say that this election caught my attention. As the mother of children, I’d say that this election caught my attention. I have never written a blog post about an election, but here I am.

The last 18 months have shown us so much about ourselves. It brought a reluctant candidate to the campaign with only 3 months left. It saw a woman be blamed for her husband and a man not be held accountable for his words, however damaging they were. It saw a spectrum of candidates from both parties fall to the juggernaut of the Press’s first picks. It saw parents have to decide how much of this campaign their children should be exposed to.

It saw supporters of both major party candidates behave in a less than stellar way. It brought out the worst of this miraculous country of ours.

I have not voted for a winning candidate in years, because I would rather vote for someone I can respect (I’m weird like that.) Each election I have been able to vote in, I have. I have participated in the process, and saw the results of what I participated in. Voting is so precious, that I would never squander it.

Now, we have a duly elected president – elect. Just like we have had every cycle since 1789. We are lucky in that we don’t get arrested or punished for expressing our opinions. So many others around the world cannot. We are blessed to have a democratic government that can change every 4 years. Is it perfect? Gawd no. And in that statement lies the explanation of the expression “the goldene medina” the golden country. It is a place of opportunity. One president won’t change that.

My personal choice for President was one of those dreaded third party candidates. Of everyone, he reflected me the most. I hope that he will run again in 2020, and be the force for positive change that he could have been this year.

What positives have come out of this? Interest. Determination. An understanding of just how far apart the different populations in the country are. Today, every person spoke about the election. People in the office. People on the train. Strangers passing on the street. Students. Professors. Children. Grandparents. Everyone was speaking about voter turnout and the importance of drawing together now more than ever. It was beautiful to hear people of all demographics speak with a common goal. In all the conversations I heard, they weren’t speaking in fear.  They were having a discussion.

In speaking with someone this morning, I mentioned that I thought that the president-elect is like a shock treatment for us, the citizens of the United States. We’ve become so divided, so angry, so intolerant, with such tunnel vision, that he is like a swallow of vinegar or lemon juice. It’s like we are being told “this is what division brings” and “this is why we can’t have nice things.”

I saw a statistic today that voter turn out for the 18-25 demographic was very low. They were so disgusted and disheartened that they didn’t show up. But my 14 year old son learned what apathy brings: a president that no one expected and what we don’t know what to do with.

So, here is my suggestion. Keep the conversations going. Don’t look at someone else with suspicion or fear. Be the change that you want to see. Reach out to your elected officials, tell them what you expect from your duly elected government. Bring respect back to our opinions. Remember what it means to agree to disagree. Don’t rely on the press for your opinion. Don’t let someone else co-opt you.

Like it or not, we are stuck with him for the next 4 years. Let’s decide that he is a one term president. Let’s decide together to demand better representation in the future. Let’s bring that future now. As a nation, let us acknowledge the pain and anger that got us to this point and work to make it better. This is what I am going to do. I will try to encourage respectful discussions. I will focus on what positives I can find. I will do this in my circle, and you do it in yours. Let’s not be lazy or look for the expedient way of doing things.

In the last 8 years, I have not spoken negatively about our duly elected president.  I didn’t like him, nor did I vote for him, but I also didn’t demean, disparage or dishonor the office of the President by criticizing him in front of my children.  At the very least, I would expect others to refrain as well for the current president-elect.  I have seen some ugly comments out there.  If you cannot respect the person, respect the office.  It was here before him and will be here after him.  Let’s use these 4 years to heal, grow, and repair what is broken.

Yom Kippur 5777

 

And here we are, back again at the beginning of the Jewish New Year.  We have traveled across the year together, through the dawn of last year, through forgiveness and acceptance, though eating outside in the sukkah and and the miracle of Chanukah.  Through the fasts of Shevat, Adar, Tammuz and Av, through the Passover seder and the giving of the Ten Commandments.

Some of us have grown closer, some of us have drifted apart.  Some of us have stepped back, some have stepped closer.  Some have been warmed and heartened by our relationship, and some have been hurt and disheartened by our relationship.

To those who have drifted apart from me, I am sorry I didn’t work harder to keep you close.  To those who stepped back, I am sorry that I caused you to do so.  Please, reach out to me and let’s work it out.  To those who have been hurt by me, please forgive me.  I do not know what I did, so I cannot ask for specific forgiveness.

I would hope that even we do not become close again, that we become friendly and comfortable with one another.  The key to bringing peace is unity.  Unity is respect, unity is care and consideration.  That is what will bring Moshiach.

I would like to take this opportunity to wish you a safe and meaningful fast. i would like to also ask forgiveness for anything i did or did not do, said or did not say, unintended and ch”v intended (i’m human and i do have a temper. I admit it, though I am working on keeping it under control.)  May the new year be blessed for peace, safety, security.

Gmar Chasima Tova

The Energizer Bunny

Today is my grandmother’s second yartzheit.  There are still days when I don’t realize it.  There are days that my first instinct is to call her, or run over to the house to show her a picture of something that I just did, like say, graduate.  There are days I hear her in my head, giving me the advice I need or crave to hear her tell me.  But most of all, I am still trying to live up her vision of who I am.

6 and a half years ago, my grandmother had her first heart attack. As a result, she needed to have a pacemaker “installed.”  She had been a little out of sorts over the whole thing, and in typical me fashion, found a way to cheer her up.  I bought her this:

Energizer_Bunny

 

I bought it off of the Energizer website, as a birthday present for her.  Energizer, being good with the follow-up, emailed me a link for a survey.  This is what I responded to them:

I don’t have much time for surveys, but I wanted to tell you how special that energizer bunny was.  6 months ago, my grandmother got very sick very quickly, and we didn’t know what it was.  She ended up needing a pacemaker, and after having the operation, she told me she was like a toy, with a battery.

And so, for her birthday this week, I bought her the energizer bunny as a surprise.  what should have remained a terrifying memory is now something that can be smiled through, and laughed about.

Last week, I saw that bunny for the first time since she died.  My first response to seeing it was a bubble of laughter.  I remembered how Meme laughed when I gave it to her.  How she kept it front and center in her room.  But most of all, I remembered how she understood what I was trying to do.  She saw that I knew her pain, and she accepted with grace my clumsy attempt to make something hard and scary into something accepted.

Without question, my grandmother was the matriarch of our family.  Her gentle guidance is missed to this day.  But, in looking back at these little moments, we can still learn from her, and still see her grace in all that she did.

May the soul of Simcha the daughter of Machluf and Rachel be elevated closer and closer to the Throne of the Almighty, and may she act in death as she did in life, and be a guiding light and spiritual beacon for all of us, and may she pray for us now like she prayed for us our whole lives.

Adjusted Expectations

So, I graduated.  I walked down, wearing my gown, mortarboard, and undergrad hood.  I scored some serious SNHU swag, and learned a couple of things along the way.

  • When someone my age mentions that they graduated, the first thing someone else will assume is that the graduation was for an advanced degree.  Saying “what?  you never had a bachelors before?” will not improve the situation.  Trust me.  NOTE:  Not a great assumption for someone who felt like a failure because it took 25 years to accomplish something as simple as a bachelors degree.
  • When someone tells me that I’ve inspired them to return to school and get…..I will undoubtedly look at that person like they have 2 heads.  How can I be considered an inspiration?  I barely survived.  I took the slacker way and went to school online.  I may have graduated with honors, but not the honors I should have gotten.  I failed at that by the smallest of margins.  How could someone like me be an inspiration?
  • The inevitable answer to “so how does it feel?” will be a shrug.  I finished classes 6 weeks ago.  In that time, my life has been very full.  I even managed to take a full 48 hours of vacation.  But how do I feel?  Honestly?  Like I collapsed at the finish line of an extreme running event.  I have been pushing myself so hard for so long that I don’t know what I feel like, beyond drained.

Despite all of this, I am overwhelmed with the support that I have received.  My husband bought me all of that swag (tee shirt, sweatshirt, baseball hat, mug, car decals).  My kids want to recreate a picture we took at my husband’s graduation 16 years ago.  The calls, messages and texts from friends and family have meant so much.

In the time of graduation ceremonies, be kind to your older students.  Not everyone had the opportunity to do it on schedule, like the guy in Massachusetts who was a janitor at a college and got his degree in engineering in 8 years.

Class of 2016

Two and a half years ago, I began what some are telling me was the impossible journey.  It started in September 2013, with Intro to Marketing, and ended on April 5, 2016 with Non-Profit Seminar.  In between there were tears, frustration, pride in my successes and embarrassment at my more unsuccessful classes.  There were some real bumps along the road, such as the death of my grandmother, changing jobs, and some other things.   But now, I’m done.

Sunday morning, I will be marching down at graduation…a graduation that took 25 years to accomplish.  I’m a bit shell shocked, to tell you the truth.  I went from being a high school graduate with some college courses to a full fledged college graduate.  I don’t know what will come next, but for right now, I’m a college graduate.

Given that my graduation is in New Hampshire, and that’s a significant distance from home and hearth, friends and family, for me and for other graduates, Southern New Hampshire University has arranged for a livestream of the ceremony.

If you are interested, and have 3 hours to spare, this is where I’ll be.  Being either the only or one of the only undergraduates walking down at the Graduate ceremony.

Thank you for taking this journey with me.  No, I’m not considering getting an advanced degree.  There is only so much I can put you through.

Thank you…Mom, Dad, Esther, Hadassah, Leah, my husband, my kids and anyone who had the misfortune to ask me what was going on at any point during the last 2 and a half years.  You probably got an earful about accounting or sociology or Andre Rhodes, MBA…and for that, I apologize.

Amy, Class of 2016

 

What next?

I came home from work tonight to a list a mile and a half long.  All of these things are important, all need my attention, and all have to be done by April 17th.

First on the list was homework, because I only have 5 more days to do that.  Oh, did I forget to mention that I will be done with my coursework this week?  Between when I finish and when I walk down at graduation (yes, I am walking down), I have a house to prepare for Passover, a forgotten room to empty and declutter, numerous house things to address because now I will be able to focus on them instead of school, and prepare to relaunch my business.  Let no one say that I sit still.

Back to tonight.  After stopping by to welcome my sister-in-law and her family back from their bar mitzvah trip, I walked into my house and promptly got overwhelmed.  The kitchen looked like a candy factory exploded after the kids once again divided up the candy again.  The stove was a disaster.  The kitchen table overloaded.  The dining room table full of things that didn’t belong there.  Every single place I looked, there was something else to address that no one else saw.  And I stopped.  I stopped and looked around and started at the front of the house, where my computer is and my final paper is waiting for words.  And that overwhelmed me too.

So I vented.  And now that I vented, I am going to get back to it.  I am emerging from a bubble that lasted 2 and a half years.  One where all of my energy and focus was directly externally and I had nothing left for anything else.  Life has been knocking on my bubble for the last 6 months, and little by little it is creeping back in.  But the crack is widening, and I fear I will drown from the initial wave of all there is to do to catch up to the last 2 and a half years.

There really isn’t anything to do except stand up and survive it, but, to say it is going to happen will help to bolster me when I need it.  There are 5 days of left of college, 3 weeks until Passover, 4 weeks until relaunch and 6 weeks until graduation.

/vent