When my aunt died in June, the mourning came with a re-prioritization.
I got the phone call while eating dinner with my neighbors. After I heard the news, my perceptions of what was around me metamorphosed. There was grief. And in addition to the grief, I felt immense gratitude to be eating an abundant dinner with my neighbors. I felt immense love for my family members, who I would see soon to commiserate with. My food tasted different -- it was luscious and rich. I heard the cars driving by on the street outside more clearly.
The variety of the present moment -- happy, sad, everything in between -- was brought into sharp relief. Death has the strange ability to do that.
With death, the impermanence of this world smacks you in the face. As a result, you make sure to savor the little things. Your loved ones -- well, you really love them, and you tell them. That song you love -- it's like an expression of the essence of life itself, and you turn it up extra loud in your car.
Suffering can do that. It can transform us if we let it.
A similar thing happened on Tuesday night as election math poured in.
Somewhere around 8:30pm, existential doom began to set in on my forty neighbors and I as we watched. A liberal bunch, in their defiance of the triumph of depravity, they started a dance party. But I couldn't join in.
Grief was beginning to transform me.
I watched like it was in slow-motion, tears in my eyes. My neighbor, a 12-year old girl, brown-skinned and adopted, had been crying for an hour. She was worried about what Trump might do to people who share her complexion.
I reflected on the fact that a sexual predator was going to hold the highest office in the land. Later that night, my ex-girlfriend cried as she realized this might embolden the toxic strain of masculinity that is too dominant in our culture. "I don't want to be assaulted," she said.
I reflected on the narrow window, now perhaps about to slam shut, to avoid locking our only planet into catastrophic climate change. Our next president will block the Clean Power Plan, America's agreement from the Paris Climate Talks. Four more years of fossil fuel development will royally screw all of us (but the poor people first). There will be wars fought over climate change. There will be significant human casualty because of climate change. New York City, Miami, might flood. This is more expectation than speculation now.
And I reflected on the LGBTQ community, the Black Lives Matter movement, and all of the other groups that have been targeted by our next president's misogyny, bigotry, and xenophobia, who I imagined were very worried.
The list goes on. I adjusted to a reality drastically different from what I'd hoped for. The grief took over. We've all been there.
As I was mourning, my housemate Reen gave me one of the most profound hugs I've had in years. And I felt myself start to change. To be pulverized by the suffering, to have the soul crushed, existence questioned.
And then the grief passed, and it left something in its place. Rumi said, "the cure for the pain is in the pain."
I felt the same re-prioritization I felt when my aunt passed away. I savored every hug. I laughed more truly and fully than I had in months. I was overcome with gratitude for the people with whom I shared the experience. And the fact that hatred had won this battle made me all the more committed to the war. It came with an unshakable, steel resolve to do anything I can to fight for climate justice, social justice, economic justice -- for love.
So, for those of us who had hoped for a different outcome of the election: mourn. Feel all of the pain, the fear, the suffering. Feeling it is what allows the soil of your soul to be fertile for a new force to take root. The only force known to reliably defeat hate, which is love.
That's the only sensible response. If Trump engenders hatred and division, and if we don't like that, then in response we must become aflame with love. When we do, and when we band together, nothing will divide us. Sometimes love is soft and gentle, and sometimes it is fierce.
The only way I've been able to make sense of this world in the last few days is remembering the people I get to share it with. Let that be our fuel. It's our job to manifest the world we know we deserve. Our work is more important now than ever.
If the poor are to be raised up, if love and equality are to be given to all, if women are to receive the same pay as men, if the oppressed are to be liberated, if our atmosphere and oceans are going to remain habitable -- well then that's up to us.
We've got work to do. Clearly no one is going to do it for us.