The Real Work

I admit I wasn’t of much use last Wednesday, the day after the election. I took the day to sit with my anger, my disappointment, and really my grief. In practicing mindfulness, you bring your awareness in the present moment. I tried to do that by not creating lists of the things that could have been done differently, not wishing that Trump supporters voted differently, not fantasizing about what could have been or projecting the worst that could be. Instead, I tried just sitting with the fact that Trump was the President Elect. It was difficult, but I sat with my emotions, giving them space, feeling them in my body and releasing them.

My friend author JoeAnn Hart, who writes with intelligence and wit about climate change in her fiction, posted on her Facebook page this poem by Wendell Berry:

The Real Work

It may be that when we no longer know what to do
we have come to our real work,

and that when we no longer know which way to go
we have come to our real journey.

The mind that is not baffled is not employed.

The impeded stream is the one that sings.

It was the next morning; I had decided to get back to work. My thinking was that what I needed and what the country needed was the same. Compassion and understanding. I write about love and loss and mindfulness. When I no longer knew what to do, that became my journey. And that is what I needed to do to move forward.

I am not alone in my feelings of bewilderment, in my difficulty in getting back to the page. A lot of writers have expressed their inability to write in the aftermath of the election. They are overwhelmed with fear and grief and surprise that so many in our nation would vote for a man who spouted racist, sexist, hurtful and hateful things during his campaign. There are others who feel they are being unfairly labeled as racists and sexist, etc., because they voted for Trump believing that he could affect change for them.

But Berry speaks to us of our real work coming to us at times like this. As a result of this election, many of us will write about our experiences now and during the next four years, others will be called to action and become activists for those causes we believe in, and others still will run for public office in the hope of affecting change. I recommend that we first breathe, sit with our anger, feel it, and release it. We can write through our anger, until we find a place of kindness, compassion and purpose. As writers, our job is to tell our stories with truth, so that readers gain insight as to what it is like to be us, to be our subjects, our characters. A communication of our shared humanity. Words—fiction, non-fiction, poetry and songs—can change hearts. This election should not shut us down, but raise us up. Give us motivation to take action by picking up the pen, sitting at the laptop, or strumming the guitar until the words come and the real work begins.

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