Feelings about Feelings about the 2020 Presidential Election

After a long week, Saturday morning we received a text that Pennsylvania had called the race for Joe Biden. We turned on the news. I cried in relief and smiled a lot, but as the day wore on a sinking feeling settled in my gut. The jumble of emotions reminded me that we all still have to live with each other. We have family, friends, and enemies who continue to disagree with us on a number of levels. We have similar grievances about the country but haven’t been able to come together on how to address them.

Saturday afternoon I supported my husband’s essay being posted on Facebook, which received mixed reactions. Reilly finally felt he was in a position to express his opinion. We spent the past four years discussing the DJT presidency and a lot of the damage that administration has caused. We both felt that DJT was not–by any measure–the best republican candidate. We assessed it against our own Christianity. We considered our disenchanted LDS LGBTQ+ friends, estranged from the Church and whose rights are being questioned. We considered our atheist and agnostic friends. I saw how disheartened many teacher friends were for the quality of American education; I took offense alongside the disabled community for brutal remarks directed toward people like my daughter. We stood by beneficiaries of the Affordable Care Act. We stood beside the prejudiced and injusticed. As an assault victim and a woman, I could see no way to support DJT. By extension he MARGINALIZED and OBJECTIFIED and DEMEANED…ME. And I was far from the only one. All these people were degraded and misunderstood. Dismissed. Reilly and I analyzed the actions of the administration as a whole and judged them as corrupt. (I mean, all presidencies are far from perfect, but the corruption from the past four years was on a much grander scale.) For the 2020 presidential election we weighed the options and determined the best choice was Joe Biden.

So of course I was pleased that our guy won, yet I felt uneasy about gloating. Reilly’s essay could have easily been perceived as gloating, kicking the opposition when they’re down. And I could see how it would be condescending in the middle of a defeat to hear, “You deserved so much better than DJT.” and “Please do better research.” I see that now. (Though he did warn of a patronizing tone.) In hindsight that has become much clearer, where two days ago people were telling me how to feel my own feelings. Which hurt my feelings. They had no idea how my heart was struggling with this concern, reconciling our victory with others’ downtroddenness and possibly losing friends. Which again: my fault. It’s almost always my fault.

For the record, I am not undermining any of the points of Reilly’s essay. That’s a solid essay. I’m trying to break down my own arrogance.

I think one of my big mistakes is assuming all my conservative friends come to all the same conclusions in all the same ways. This is just not true. It’s hypocritical of me to assume that. And this mistake umbrellas the major transgression of simply not asking people what they think. Out of all my conservative friends who could have read Reilly’s essay, one reached out to me privately and calmly and sincerely expressed how they felt misunderstood and marginalized. ONE. FRIEND. They didn’t counterattack; they extended grace. They provided names of credible conservative journalists. They said, “If you had asked, I would have given you a real answer.” They didn’t say, “I would have given you a reductive meme. Or commentary from Tucker Carlson.”

I don’t want to believe this friend is an exception. I really truly want to know if all my conservative friends feel this way. But I honestly believe that civil discourse on Facebook is a near-impossibility. For one, because I’m nervous about looking stupid, I always come across as superior and a know-it-all, and you may feel that I’ll shoot down anything you have to say, just to be contradictory. Please do not shy away: I am a bonafide dummy. I have not been ok for the past two days–angry at myself and guilt-crying–knowing I have hurt some of you. I hope we can both be fine accepting that we may not change each other’s minds, but I do want to understand you better.

Not only do I want to say I’m sorry, I want to go beyond lip service and ask for your thoughts. To share as much of your hearts as you are comfortable with. I want us to go beyond an intellectual exercise–and mere polemics–and into the nitty-gritty of our real, human, messy lives. Because Facebook is the perfect platform for being misunderstood, tomorrow (Tuesday 11/10) at noon MST I will be deactivating my account. Facebook Messenger will still be active, and you can reach me in other conventional ways: handwritten letter/phone/text/email/Google Chat/Zoom. I may not always respond quickly, because I want to be thoughtful and heart-centered, but I will respond. A few weeks ago a friend and I talked on the phone–you know, where we could hear each other’s voices on the things we doom-scroll 20 hours a day–for a whole hour! It was the most re-energizing thing! I’d love to do this with any of you.

For now, I’m going to think of questions to ask my friend. I look forward to all of us helping each other.

Just Keep Swimming

I posted this on social media two days ago: Monday, 6/24.

Just keep swimming.

This past Saturday was three weeks since Nana’s passing; two weeks since her funeral. June 22 is Nana and Papa’s wedding anniversary. Z woke up, and she led me through her morning routine. I asked what she wanted for breakfast.

She looked at me and said, “Nemo.”

I very deliberately paused. “You want to watch Nemo? Ok, let’s go turn it on.”

We watched about 30 minutes of the movie when Reilly got home from the gym. After pausing the movie, we went upstairs and started eating the donuts he brought. Then Z headed back downstairs to finish watching. I followed her.

While the movie was playing I had my laptop open, writing and reviewing some personal thoughts. Then I heard Dory sing, “Keep swimming, just keep swimming.”

I stopped typing. This was the motto Nana had applied to her own struggles and afflictions the past couple of years. No matter the procedure, the pain, the fatigue, nausea, heartache: she pushed on. With a smile, even.

As Dory sang, I cried. As Marlin guided her through the swarm of Portuguese Man-o’-Wars stinging her, and Dory fought to stay conscious, she sang: Keep swimming.

After Finding Nemo, Z asked to watch Finding Dory. Young Dory sang “Keep swimming” when a current swept her away from her parents. She sang it throughout her search for her parents. That was how she survived. And succeeded.

I cried again.

It had been a while since Z watched either of these movies, and Reilly suggested she was feeling nostalgic. I agreed, but not just for the movies, but for Nana. I know she misses her.

Z knew what the day was. It wasn’t a coincidence she wanted to watch those movies.

Then while we were in Payson yesterday for dinner, Cousin Jessica made and brought these dogtags for all of us. A reminder of Carla; a talisman for how to live our own lives.

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We’re gonna just keep swimming, Nana. We love you.

A Break for the Tear Ducts

Places I’ve cried in descending order of frequency:

  1. Garden/Flowerbeds
  2. Shower
  3. Work
  4. Car, on the way to/back from work
  5. Talking to Z, tucking her in
  6. In my own bed, trying to fall asleep
  7. Family room

Today might be the first day in over a month I haven’t cried at all.

Weird.

 

It Was A Beautiful Day

June 8, 2019

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This was two weeks ago. I don’t know how that happened, where the time went. Not that it passed particularly quickly or slowly, but that it . . . moved.

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The service at the church was beautiful. Poignant music. Heartfelt words. A lot of tears. Some laughs. Many hugs. There are a million stories that could come from that hour and a half at the church. And a million more that could come from the hour-long viewing beforehand.

Graveside. Sunny, mid-60s.

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Z could not have been been better behaved. She understood the day.

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Carla would have loved these flowers. A coworker relayed that Carla actually chose her spray. Her colleagues were more than eager and happy to oblige her. For this day. This one wish. Something in the way her coworkers regard her is particularly touching to me. They were also her friends, but there was something about their relationship that somehow resounds with me.

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Two weeks sometimes feels like a million years ago. Sometimes it feels like yesterday. These perceived lapses occupy the same space. Or maybe they’re layered on top of each other. Or interwoven. I don’t understand it. Maybe a part of me wants to believe that understanding it will help me feel better. But what I should understand is that I’ll feel better with time. Whether that time is in slow-motion or warp speed.

And “feeling better” isn’t a singular event. I’ve felt pretty darn ok in certain moments. Laughed, even. I’ll take what I can get.

I’ll give what I can, too.

Today is Blake and Carla’s 41st wedding anniversary.

This isn’t an easy month right now.

We’re all going to watch Reilly’s brother play in the Utah Symphony as they accompany a screening of Harry Potter and Goblet of Fire.

Should be fun.

A Voice

“I sure do love you.”

This.

This is the soundbyte.

Over the last few months. Probably the last year. Carla would say that right into Z’s ear whenever she gave her a hug.

Whenever this memory bubbles up, I hear her loud and clear, as if she’s in the very same room. As if the memory is present. In real time. The inflection. The tone. The depth and pureness and sheer truth of this statement.

I don’t ever want to not hear it, for it to fade.

At bedtime, I try to say it to Z the same way Carla said it to her.

I want to keep hearing it. I want Z to hear it. Forever.

To feel it.

A Memory

Disclaimer: I’m grieving and have more feelings than I know what to do with. Writing is one way to sort through them. Not sure if they’ll make sense, but here they are.

Further back. In the month or so of receiving her diagnosis. Early 2017.

The bishop is over to give Carla a blessing. Reilly administers the oil. Or maybe the roles are switched.

I’m crying way before “amen.”

She hugs the bishop. She hugs Reilly.

She says to me, “Come here.” And she hugs me.

Comforts ME.

When she’s the one with less than 30 months to live.

Always a giver; always a fighter. Always loving.

A Memory

Disclaimer: I’m grieving and have more feelings than I know what to do with. Writing is one way to sort through them. Not sure if they’ll make sense, but here they are.

Sometime during Carla’s final two or three weeks. Probably Mother’s Day. Maybe the Sunday before. In Reilly’s parents’ house.

We’ve had dinner.

We’re sitting in the living room, just hanging out. All the kids are there.

One of them asks, “Do you want to go downstairs and watch a movie or something?”

Carla says, “I like sitting up here, talking to all of you.”

We stay upstairs.

We talk.

She loves it.

We love that she loves it.

Because we love her.

Last Monday

Disclaimer: I’m grieving and have more feelings than I know what to do with. Writing is one way to sort through them. Not sure if they’ll make sense, but here they are.

On June 10 after work I went with Reilly and Z to a friend’s dance performance at the Provo Library. This was two days after Carla’s funeral. I admit that emotions were still a little bit raw and just under the surface. We made our way to the ballroom on the 3rd floor. Shortly after we arrived my friend walked up behind me, said, “Hey, sexy!” and gave me a hug. As we embraced she asked how I was doing. I told her I was doing ok. She said, “Just ok?” By this time I was choked up, and tears were streaming down my face. We released the hug. I looked at her and said that Reilly’s mom died. She looked at Reilly, and he nodded. The performance was about to begin, so she went to get ready.

We found some seats and settled in to watch the work: a series of dances choreographed by a master’s candidate as her thesis. My friend performed the second dance, and then Reilly and Z left to browse the library, as Z was getting a little bit restless and loud. I kept watching the dance floor/stage. A few minutes later my friend made her way over and asked if she could sit by me. We talked for a few minutes until she had to turn on the music for one of the following dances.

In those few minutes, my friend listened. She held my hand. She cried with me. She said something that’s often said as trite, but she did it with such tenderness and compassion that it opened my heart up to being comforted and not just vulnerable. She said fortunately most of the world has experienced what we’ve experienced. If we pick a random stranger on the street, it’s likely that they’ve lost a loved one–a parent, a child, a spouse.

It helped being reminded that people would be able to relate. To understand. To empathize.

I told my friend that I didn’t mean to come to her performance to dump my emotions on her. I just wanted to be able to partake of something beautiful that wasn’t associated with sadness. Still, she listened. She danced beautifully. AND she called me sexy. I am forever grateful.

May 19, 2019

Disclaimer: I’m grieving and have more feelings than I know what to do with. Writing is one way to sort through them. Not sure if they’ll make sense, but here they are.

We all went out to dinner to celebrate Mother’s Day at Ruby River Steakhouse in Provo. We were supposed to have gone to Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse up in Park City on May 12 for the official Mother’s Day, but snow was (not) strangely in the forecast. Geez, Utah.

The whole lot of us. Eleven of us. We talked and ate. I sat at the opposite end of the table from Nana Carla. I looked over at her every once in a while, and I would see her sometimes lost in thought. Or nibbling at her food. Or talking to another family member. Or taking photos with her phone. More often than not I saw her smiling.

A deep, underlying sadness lay just below the surface of … me? My soul? The dinner? Did everyone know or sense this would be our last Mother’s Day celebration with Nana Carla’s actual, physical presence? I know we smiled for her, too.

On the morning of Monday, May 20, Carla sent five photos from the last night’s dinner to my phone. (Three not pictured here.) I replied.

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Ours, too, Nana.

We miss you so much.

Our Anniversary

Disclaimer: I’m grieving and have more feelings than I know what to do with. Writing is one way to sort through them. Not sure if they’ll make sense, but here they are.

Carla passed away on June 1, which happens to be Reilly’s and my wedding anniversary. We had plans to go out to eat. And attend a concert his brother’s band were giving at his parents’ home in Payson. Carla had other plans. As we were driving home that evening, Reilly promised next year would be better. I told him it was really nice of his mom to let us spend it sending her off.

Remembering her on our anniversary makes it fuller, deeper? more complete? Not sure what words belong here, except that it’s more. We might start a tradition of visiting her gravesite every June 1 to celebrate her. If it weren’t for her (and Reilly’s dad), circumstances would have been different, and I wouldn’t have met Reilly.

Carla was always really sweet, really friendly. Sincere, genuine. She always put others before herself. Even in her final hours I felt she was making sure we’d be ok. The best human–daughter, wife, mother, friend–she could be until her very last mortal breath. She continues to be her best self.

It’s an honor to celebrate my marriage, to share this joy Carla gave me in Reilly, by giving thanks to her every June 1.