Can We Breathe Now? Soon?

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I go to bed early election night without checking the news. I’m already exhausted by this election. I read a while but my body is a coiled spring. Inhale: 1, 2. Exhale: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. Repeat with long sighing exhalations. I finally fall asleep with my dog Disco’s head on my belly.

At 5 am, the moon pierces the darkness of my bedroom. I’m restless. Disco squirms and nudges me to pet her. No! Too early. I put her in her crate, and she doesn’t complain.

Miraculously, I fall into a restless, dreamless sleep. At 7 am, I don’t want to get up. My belly clenches with fear remembering four years ago. Maybe there’s a landslide. Maybe there’s a disaster. Maybe there’s utter confusion.

I make a sanity plan while still in bed: ignore the news, shower first, walk the dogs second, and check election news after breakfast. I toss my plan the minute I see my cell phone, hold my breath, and look at the news.

No. No! Really? No landslide?  I feel a distant smoldering fear. Then, overwhelming grief about the rage and racism dominating my country.

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Was I fooled again? Did I hope for the hopeless? Rationally, I knew the count was far from over, but victory had already been claimed by the angry guy in the White House.

While I walk with the dogs, I review my own political history. I remember living in a small town in racist Missouri when I was a little girl. My family considered themselves liberal and didn’t discuss race, but even as a child I noticed how everyone knew “their place.” Was I a silent racist at 10 years old?

When I was 12, we moved to a town near Detroit where I was a white girl in a white public school, where everyone was quietly Christian. Certainly no Jews or Muslims or Buddhists. Was I racist? I didn’t question why my parents chose to live in this suburb.

Only photo of me with a black child although I lived in Missouri for 11 years

In college in the 60s as the civil rights movement was going strong, I saw another world and began to question. “I’m not a racist! Or am I?”

Most white people in this country deny their racism. Do I believe them when they vote for openly racist politicians? It’s OK if we cage immigrant children? The man in the White House says he’s done more for black people than Abraham Lincoln and we’re supposed to believe that?

“I’m not a racist.” I tell you. “I’m not.” Do you believe me? Do I know what secret fears are hidden under my liberal white skin?



As I finish this piece, the presidential race is called for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. I cry with relief, but the road ahead is not easy. First we have to get through the next few months of transition, and I doubt the present government will make that easy.

Once President-Elect Biden is in the White House, there’s much work ahead to heal racism, a pandemic, climate threats, homelessness, education, poverty, and much more. Is it possible? I’m considering ways I can help my country heal. I’d love to hear your ideas and plans.

For a blog about my childhood in Missouri, see Skin Color Defined Our Lives.  For a post about my naive belief in democracy, see The Girl Who Believed in Good Government.

  1. Oh, I have a feeling that your latest post Elaine will chime with many! For although I’m not American and live many oaks and oceans away in the UK, I also felt totally shattered by the election before we even entered what I now call “Election Week”. For every day I checked the news, multiple times, waiting, hoping, and despairing. OMG! There was so much angst and hand-wringing going on, I didn’t know what to do with myself.

    What a rollercoaster of emotions! I thought of you often and imagined you pulling on your walking boots and calling your four-legged companions for another reflective autumn walk. Then throw in the fact that we’ve just gone into another lockdown here and emotionally it all got a little bit too much to bear … no wonder I burst into (happy) tears when finally the winning Biden-Harris election result came through. Oh happy days!

    At the moment I’m just finishing another Inner City book, “The Parental Image” by M. Ester Harding and yesterday a Jung quote literally stopped me in my tracks. It goes like this … ““For what has been spoiled by the father can only be made good by a father, just as what has been spoiled by the mother can only be repaired by a mother.” And I couldn’t help thinking about how very important the archetypal role of President is.

    A sanity plan? I love that, I’ll be using that one now! Getting through the transitions makes me think of you midwifing your Monarchs and how the art of patience has been developing inside your own cocoon these past four years … the whole term when I think about it … as though your psyche knew that it needed to find purpose and a personal myth during the Trump years. Hopefully more food for thought! Love and light, Deborah.

    • I saw that quote because you shared it yesterday. It’s wonderful and so true–and the old “father” will not concede here and no one quite knows what that means or what to do. Lies fly with zero basis of any of the accusations. The sanity plan goes on, but I have to discipline myself to follow it and avoid news before breakfast. It’s strangely (a little scary) warm here for November, but early morning walks with the dogs are precious and joyful.. This morning, I didn’t look and my walk was peaceful–until I returned home and communicated with a friend who is very anxious. We go in cycles of anxiety, hope, and trust that nothing goes on forever.

      I’m now working with a dream visitor as a companion for this pandemic winter. I’m sorry you have another lock down. Can you take walks in nature? The areas of this country that refused lock down and masks are in terrible shape. New York was in better shape, but cases are rising again and the schools are closing again after hopes that bringing the children together wouldn’t cause more covid if everyone was super careful and limited contact to small groups. It doesn’t seem to be working and most of the colleges are back to the online classroom. These are hard times, although I feel safe where I am. I’ve had lots of practice being alone, but my greater concern is the damage still being done to the world.

      M. Ester Harding was one of my first introductions to Jung. Her book ‘Women’s Mysteries’ written in 1971 is still on my shelf even though I’ve given many books to the library book sale. Not that one! I haven’t read ‘The Parental Image.’ Reading wise women like Harding is a good part of any sanity plan. Sending you love across the sea and hopes that we’ll soon have a resolution here and can begin rebuilding instead of continuing the destruction and distrust. Sigh…

      • Thank you so much Elaine for the richness of your reply! Yes, walks are all part of the “sanity plan” and we’re most fortunate (at the moment) that we live in an area with a low infection rate. Hard times indeed on so many levels and I think this is what’s so difficult because if it’s not one thing, it’s another!

        You’ve quoted them before but Marion Woodman’s wise words are now echoing in my ears today, “You don’t think the patriarchy will give up without a fight, do you?” Absolutely spot on! Oh, I look forward to hearing more about your dream visitor in due course. I’ll look out for the Jungian “Women’s Mysteries” book.

  2. We were watching the election from afar and I’m afraid that I was blooming addicted to the news of it. Until I wasn’t anymore. But a huge sigh of relief when it seemed clear that the Biden-Harris ticket had won. I know it’s not really over until the inauguration in January and there are still enormous hurdles to be overcome. I wish you all so well when those realities sink in .. and the work that must be done so that the US can once again be a beacon in its striving for freedom, liberty, justice. That the reality of the Lady of the Statue of Liberty means what it symbolically means.

    I was in Cape Town recently – about 500 kms from here and it’s such a gorgeous city, as are the outlying areas of it. The city is so well run, all is clean, people of all shades seem to get on. But in other outlying areas there is tension and strife, factions and protests and here in South Africa we continue to hold our breath wondering if and when we will ever be able to exhale. A big shot in the governing party is, as of today, facing charges of corruption and everything else you can think of. He appears in court on Friday. IF he gets nabbed for his nefarious crimes, believe me, there’ll be such a collective wave of relief. But, he’s got his supporters.

    Thanks Elaine for sharing your experience and reflections of this recent time. I was wondering …

    • I had a recent dream referring to Columbia, Susan, which I associate with the State of Liberty. Here’s a quote about her: “Especially in the 19th century, Columbia was visualized as a goddess-like female national personification of the United States and of liberty itself.” May she hold her torch high. (It frightened me to put up this post. It felt a little too raw and desperate, but that’s part of what’s happening, so I put my doubts aside and hit the submit button.)

      New York State has been a good place to live and my area is peaceful even though people don’t all agree politically. There are Republican areas (I have a Republican congressman I worked to replace, but he won the vote, so I accept), but the cities are clearly Democratic as is the governor and the majority state government. I’m proud the state is well led by Andrew Cuomo who has guided us through this pandemic and hard political times. Cuomo is no friend of the man still in the White House. I hope it goes well in South Africa for the head of the governing party–and yes these nefarious ones always have their supporters.

  3. I love reading about your beautifully written experience of the election and I loved reading this interchange between you and Deborah. You are both rocks that remind me to stand firm in my truths and express them honestly.

    I will keep choosing to hope for a better, more conscious outcome to the chaos and divisiveness we’ve experienced for the last four years. I will keep choosing to remind myself that hope changes nothing. Only actions do. I will keep choosing to practice becoming more conscious and loving and accepting of what is.

    With gratitude for your wisdom, and admiration for expressing your truths,

    Love, Jeanie

    • Thanks, Jeanie. As I said to Susan Scott, I felt vulnerable posting this piece because I felt so helpless after the election when I wrote it. It also feels good to tell my truth since I’ve been very involved with politics since becoming a political science major in college and getting involved in Anti-Vietnam War activism. So far, I always end of with hope because it’s a necessity and without hope, I can’t act. I’ve spent a few hours talking down frightened friends this week, but also have postcards coming to get out the vote for the runoff in Georgia. Stacy Abrams has been a beacon of persistent active hope. I’m grateful for her example. I still feel nervous about expressing my truths and history, but I did it. I look to our friend Jill Swenson as an example of a woman who is unafraid to say things that might be unpopular or jarring. I trust her for that reason. I hope all settles for your book opening this coming week.

  4. You ask such import questions, Elaine. How will we ever come together? How can our country heal? How can we work on the vital issues ahead of us if we can’t talk to each other? I’ve been reading and studying and learning and writing about this for the past four years. There are many books out now on how to do just that, my LEAPFROG among them. But what is so striking to me now is how often I hear my own ilk say they want “them” to read it first, how “they must do the work.” I’m not immune either, I recognize. So I’m now focused on how attached I am to my opinions, how resistant I am to entertaining the notion that I could be wrong. Perhaps I’ve missed something. Perhaps I’m being myopic?

    I’d like to see less stridency on the Left, more gentleness so that as folks from the Right begin to entertain that very same notion (“perhaps I’ve missed something”) they will be more willing to engage in conversation, more eager to make a genuine connection with us. It’s in that desire to connect, as we are able, that our salvation lies. At least that’s how I think about it today.

    • Thanks for sharing your wisdom, Janet. To me, it feels important to question everything. The places where I thought I was doing my part, my attitudes, my assumptions, and the places where I can do more. I need to keep working to build faith my country won’t get so cozy with dictatorship again. I hope to see less stridency, less anger, and more gentleness from all sides. When the leader of the country revels in rage, it gives people permission to act from their basest instincts. Yes, we can be angry and resentful, but what will we do with those feelings? Can we transform our intense feelings into compassionate action? The Dalai Lama always advises well in this way. He’s curious about someone else’s perspective and religion, but insists we must be kind. May we have boring calm times ahead.

  5. Elaine, my last blog post subtly confirms how I feel about race, but I wonder sometimes if I’m racist too, ordained by growing up in a predominately white community, as you did.

    When my Jewish walking partner asks, “What do I think about the election?” I will tell her that I have prayed for Kennedy, Nixon, Carter, Reagan, Bushes I and II, Obama, and Trump. And I will pray for Biden too.” Although Trump has scored some points I agree with on foreign policy, he lacked the civility I/we look for in a Chief Executive. Too bad. Don’t we want all presidents to succeed in promoting the common good, not adding tension and divisiveness, I ponder.

    I have been surprised how invested people in other parts of the world have been about this election, like your friend Deborah above. My friends in Canada and Europe would agree.

    Biden by temperament and experience will not go shooting off epithets and slurs. I see the national temperature dropping to a less hostile level over time, but we will still probably have an uneasy peace.

    I vote for the Prince of Peace, who exhorts “Love you neighbor!”

    • Marian, thank you for your last blog. I have extremely close friends who are brown-skinned, but I didn’t begin to have broader connections until I went to college. I remember those early systems I lived under without protest. There was many churches in my small Missouri town, all divided racially. I also love the Prince of Peace and feel compassion and peace are the only true paths. It feels our nastiest impulses were released with official permission and I believe this scared the world. So many counted on us as a noble democracy. My European friends were under great pressure from family in Europe to return to their home country. There was a fear that things would explode here. I pray that will not happen. I was grateful to seew people all over the world dancing for democracy.

  6. I so appreciate yours beautiful and honest post, They always are but this one in particular has won my heart. I think we have all been racist at one time or another. Simply being quiet and not speaking up for what we all know is wrong is a sign of that. But most of us are asking the hard questions and hopefully waking up to what we’ve been hiding from.

    I am breathing mush more easily since the election. We have so much work to do to bring our country back to what we believe it should be. A certain orange man has opened many eyes to what we’ve been doing to ourselves and our world. Let’s get to work.

    • I’m with you Joan. I’ve signed up to help via mail with the Georgia runoff elections and sent a donation to Stacey Abrams I briefly listened to her speak the other night–just solid hard work with no self-aggrandizement for all she’s done or illusions that the way forward is easy. I’m grateful for these strong courageous women and I’m glad I can do something small. Looking back at my girlhood, I’m amazed at how little was said–and then came Martin Luther King, Jr. Looking at what’s happening in Washington, DC, I’m AMAZED that Republican Senators still deny the clear outcome of the election. Why are they so afraid of the truth? I know why DT is afraid and he ought to be.

  7. Dancing for Democracy sounds like the perfect release! 😀

  8. Don’t get me started. I’ve been paying just as much attention to your last 4 years as a Canadian, who lives 100 miles from your New York border. Sadly, much of what happens in the US we get the trickle down in various ways – economically and politically. The world exhaled on Nov 3rd, despite the cyclone of damage he will leave behind – especially the racism. But I have to bet there is more destruction to come before January, mostly because he’s enabled. I could list a 101 things but I’ll leave it at children in cages. Joe will be a great start, but I think it may take years to clean up. Enough said. God bless America.

    • You’re already started, Debby, and I wouldn’t try to stop you. May I apologize for the criminal deeds of my country? At least you border NY State which has remained well led and relatively sane. If we can get rid of him, DT leaves so much damage, but more people are awake to the ravages of racism and more are speaking out and doing the work. Stacey Abrams in Georgia is my hero. She’s calm and determined. The children whose parents can’t be found? And the indigenous people who have their land and water stolen? We can go on forever with the injustice in this country and it’s no longer secret. It’s out there for everyone to see. May the cleaning and the grieving begin.

      • Amen my friend. And I love that Staci Abrams. I told hub she is going to be president some day. God bless! 🙂

        • Isn’t Stacey Abrams amazing? I just learned recently that she’s written 8 successful romance novels. How come it took so long for me to find that out? Blessings to you and your husband. Be well and safe–even if you can’t escape to a warm spot this year.

  9. That is a very deep look digging into the inner soul. Thank you, Elaine, for your honesty and your thoughtful analysis. I am a Persian and our highest point about belonging to a higher race those days in the time of Shah, it was the pride of Arians based on the Persian history. And as I remember, at the end of 70,s it went too far; they wanted to decline the defeat at Marathon to Greek! In that time, Al and I were much outraged.
    Anyway, Biden had won but the result is surely disappointing. I hope sometime somehow, there will be a light at the end of the tunnel.
    PS: I get no notification when you answer me, I must always look for the post and check it out! is there a trick to get the notification?

    • As children, we often go along, but there were moments when I knew things were wrong. Yes, the Persians have a racism problem like most cultures in our world. I’m told racism against the Jewish people is alive and well in Eastern Europe which breaks my heart. China is horrifying for Tibetan and Muslim people. Canada has done well with melding many people, but hasn’t done well with the indigenous.

      We hoped and prayed for a landslide, but the election shows how deeply divided this country has become–and that division is used as a weapon by many elected politicians. My husband Vic felt that defunding education which began in the Reagan years was a way to make people uneducated and easier to brainwash. He was right. He noticed that his college level students were less and less prepared for rational thinking because of poor public education. There seems to be a trickle of light coming through and the planet Mars goes direct tomorrow, so I hope things will move–in a positive healing direction.
      (I may not always click the notification box, so I’ll make sure I do. I haven’t been reading much except politics and novels and feel my own writing is flat because of fatigue. I badly need a rest from constant stress, so I let things slide. My energy will return!)

  10. Amen, dearest Elaine, as you wrote the education in the right way would be a solution for many problems. And as the Germans say: Hope dies Last! Take care, my lovely sister.

  11. I’m still uncomfortable with the presidential situation and will probably continue to be that way until after I see Biden inaugurated. unbelievable to me how much so many will still do to try to keep Trump in office. I do not trust that he will leave without a whole bunch of trouble, and can only hope and pray that Biden and Harris will be able to help our people find peace.

    • I’m uncomfortable, too, Robin. I expect DT to make as much trouble as possible and to do all he can to bring down the country. It’s hard to believe the situation we’re in. A mix of clowns and spoiled children trying to derail democracy and getting close to doing it, although I think the tide is turning. I can’t imagine the difficulty that Biden and Harris will face and the difficulties we all face trying to heal the deep wounds. I can only hope that putting the worst racism, selfishness, and disregard for the earth in the open where it now is will make people see what’s being done. Lots of patience and prayers needed.

  12. Thanks for another deeply thoughtful and honest post, Elaine. Not only do I resonate with your words, but also, as another reader expressed, “I loved reading this interchange between you and Deborah. You are both rocks that remind me to stand firm in my truths and express them honestly.” Your being willing to express your vulnerability, in my mind, reveals your true strength.

    I don’t know if you’re familiar with Resmaa Menakem’s book My Grandmother’s Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending Our Hearts and Bodies, in which he helps us understand that healing racism begins with the body. In an interview with Resmma, Leslie Langbert said in her introduction: “The powerful thing about his book is that it’s written for several different audiences. It’s written for persons of color; it is written for those of us in white bodies, and there’s a significant section for those who are working in law enforcement and police. Resmaa takes his training as a somatic therapist to really provide tools and ways for us to be able to come into noticing what we’re holding- what we’re carrying in our body, and how we can begin to heal that specifically around these patterns that we carry.”

    As I am writing this today, the formal transition to the Biden-Harris is happening at last. And now the real work can begin.

    • Thanks for your kind comments, Anne. Deborah is withdrawing from social media for a while to work on a third book. I know this is the only way to get a book written, but I’ll miss her. I love her first two poetry books.

      I’m not familiar with Resmaa Menakem, but thanks for introducing him to me. Sounds like I need to add his book to my winter book list and listen to his TED talk. I’m now focused on writing postcards to Georgia and look forward to being free of election efforts soon. I’m grateful DT got bored with his temper-tantrum so that the transition can begin. We have hard work ahead–but first Georgia. Thanksgiving blessings to you. I hope you can be with your granddaughter.

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