One Week Later: How to Cope

What a week.

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[Source: Instagram @momowelch]

So much has happened since I wrote on inauguration day that it’s difficult to find a single source to summarize it. Just for my own record, let’s do a quick recap.

The First Week

President Trump (a term that still triggers my gag reflex, and probably will for the foreseeable future) signed a record 14 executive orders and presidential memoranda during his first week in office (notably missing one about ethics). This included the overturn of the Affordable Care Act, the reinstatement of the “Mexico City policy” that bans foreign aid to international nongovernmental organizations that perform or discuss abortion, the revival of the XL Keystone and Dakota Access pipeline projects, the order to start construction on the Mexican border wall, and, most recently, the “temporary” ban of Syrian refugees and blockage of all visa applicants from seven primarily Muslim countries. That list doesn’t even include everything. His administration also coined the now-satirized term “alternative facts,” ordered a “media blackout” at the EPA and U.S. Department of Agriculture, continued to spew misinformation about voter fraud, and demoted the Director of National Intelligence and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff while promoting chief strategist (and alt-right conspiracy theorist) Steve Bannon to the National Security Council. Even that doesn’t cover everything. Pass the wine.

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More, more, more.

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If you feel your head spinning and blood pressure rising, you are not alone. We are in unprecedented times of political chaos (perhaps a redundant phrase in today’s world). I waited all week, in vain, for things to slow down. With each passing day, my anxiety and sense of heartbreak grew. By Friday evening, I experienced a strong urge to shut down completely simply to maintain my dwindling sense of sanity.

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Me by Friday night.

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As dizzying as the last nine days were, it’s important to remember some not-so-minor victories, if you will, along the way. Chief among those was the global Women’s March, where nearly 5 million women around the world marched for women’s rights, human rights, and equality. I was lucky enough to participate and the feeling I left with was, to say the least, one of hope.

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Some of my favorite signs from the Chicago Women’s March.

Another wonderful turn of events was the amount of rogue environmental and scientific Twitter accounts that emerged amidst the media blackout. And, because facts matter, it looks like there will be a Scientists’ March on Washington later this year, too. #sciencenotsilence

We also saw a short-term victory regarding the federal stay preventing the deportation of people detained as a result of Trump’s ban on refugees. In all of this, we must remember that the law still matters. The Constitution still matters. Even though these executive actions have been signed, that doesn’t necessarily mean they will come to fruition. Executives orders are still subject to judicial review. It’s also possible for Congress to create laws that would make funding for some of Trump’s endeavors harder (like the Mexican border wall, if we’re lucky). It’s startling that Trump has so quickly tackled some of the most controversial issues by way of executive action, therefore bypassing the approval of Congress, but what I’m here to remind you of is that it’s not necessarily the end of the story.

Wait, Isn’t This a ‘Mom Blog’?

“Wow,” you might say, “for a ‘mom blog’ she’s sure spending a lot of time writing about politics.” You’d be right, though I would like to clarify that the blog is self-described as one about babies, board games, and books. So you’d be a third right.

Maybe this political environment has no close ties to board games or books (except for the best-selling 1984, of course), but it absolutely does relate to babies and motherhood.

As a mother–as a parent–you are forced to confront a lot about yourself: your passions, your strengths and weaknesses, your ideals, and your values. You must think about what it is you want to pass on to your children (and what you don’t), and, hopefully, what kind of people you hope they become. It’s a heavy exercise, especially since we don’t necessarily think about our values in those terms very often. What we value is woven into our very fiber; it’s what makes us who we are. This is exactly why politics and motherhood go hand-in-hand.

Many of the things I hold dearest to me, the things I want to pass on to my children, like equality, kindness, and compassion, are being threatened right now in this bizarre political environment. The lessons I am trying to instill in my son are in direct conflict with what is being taught by our nation’s leadership. While he’s too young to understand what’s happening, I fear for the school-aged children who are learning that facts apparently don’t matter and can be made up to suit your needs. I fear that our children are watching the fear-mongering and learning that it’s okay to hate people who are different from you. It’s a (real) fact that bullying is up since the election and this is frightening.

Though I may not be able to control what kids around the country are absorbing or how it is shaping them for the future, I absolutely can speak up, make a difference, and one day tell my children that I did everything I could to fight for what was right.

This is why I have been writing about politics, why I’ve been thinking more about politics than ever before, why I’ve been calling my representatives, and why I now consider myself to be a political activist. If not for me or my generation, I’m doing it for our children. Our children, because what we do or don’t do now could have long-lasting effects on every child around the world. We are global citizens and the world and its children are watching.

How to Deal with…Everything

Now, before I go on even further, I must say that this week has made me realize two things, if nothing else. The first is why I am so invested in politics (see above). The second is that this investment has the real ability to eat away at my mental well-being. The anxiety and frustration I felt each time I read the news are simply not sustainable for my health or that of my family.

With the help of friends and therapist (I firmly believe everyone would benefit from talking to someone), here are my suggestions for how to cope.

Stay informed with trusted sources

First we must accept that this is reality. Denying that this is the world in which we live is not going to help any of us in the long run. I don’t identify with Trump in the least, but I do acknowledge that he won the democratic election and is now our president. In fact, I firmly disagree with the #notmypresident movement. It’s unhealthy for us to reject the truth because we don’t agree with it. On the contrary, we have to face it before we can move forward and make progress.

Once we come to terms with Trump as our new POTUS, we owe it to ourselves to stay informed. Instead of allowing myself to click from article to article–a surefire way to make my head spin–I am going to gather my news from a few trusted sources and try hard to filter out the rest of the noise unless I decide I want more information.

Some sources I recommend:

For an informative daily conglomeration of news, I recommend theSkimm.

Acknowledge your feelings

Just as it is healthy to accept reality, it is also okay to accept how we feel at face value. Trying to suppress or control our thoughts and feelings is a pointless exercise. We are human beings and should be allowed to fully experience a range of thoughts and emotions without self-judgment. The key is to not let them control our lives.

The next time I feel anxious about politics, I am going to try to acknowledge that anxiety for what is and let it pass without winding me into knots and turning into full-fledged panic.

Focus your energy

As hard as it is to not feel deeply about everything I read, I have decided that I must narrow my focus for the sake of my mental health. Plus, by focusing on a few key issues that mean the most to me, I am probably going to be more knowledgeable about those issues and therefore have a greater overall impact. That’s not to say I wouldn’t make a call to my representatives about something else, but my goal is to not get so far in the weeds on everything I come across. My brain needs some breathing room.

As of right now, here are the issues on which I plan to focus.

  1. Human rights, which is a generic category I’m using to include women’s rights, equality, refugee rights, etc.
  2. The environment, because I want my children and my children’s children to have a place to live.
  3. Education, because it is our duty as adults to secure a quality education for our children.

Get involved

Remember: our representatives are public servants. They work for us and therefore need to know what we’re thinking in order to do their jobs well. Are you passionate about a certain cause or bill? Contact your representatives.

Figuring out where to start

There’s an overwhelming amount of information about how we can get involved with our government and it’s hard to know what’s most effective or what exactly to say. I encourage you to subscribe to organizations that align with your values (for me this includes Planned Parenthood Action Fund, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the Natural Resources Defense Council to name a few). Following organizations like these on social media or subscribing to their email alerts is a helpful way to stay informed about what’s happening with the issues you care about and how you may be able to make a difference. Donations to these organizations are also a great starting point.

In addition to following individual organizations, I also really like things that package together easy-to-accomplish calls to action like you find at Donuts and Democracy, 10 Actions / 100 Days, and 5 Calls.

Voicing your opinion

No one really loves to talk to strangers on the phone, but from what I’ve read, it seems a phone call carries a lot more weight than an email in terms of getting through to your Congressperson.

Tips for the call:

  1. Be nice; the staffers have to listen to strangers rant to them all day long.
  2. Provide your name, city, and zip.
  3. State the issue and your position, then ask for the representative’s position.
  4. If (s)he agrees with you, tell the person taking the call that you support the rep’s position. If (s)he disagrees with you or is undecided, have a short prompt written to recap your position and why you encourage the rep to consider your stance.
  5. Say “thank you.” The Golden Rule and all that.

Find your Senators here and find your U.S. Representatives here.

Treat yo self

It is no coincidence that I started binge-watching The Vampire Diaries on Netflix this week. For a blissful 40 minutes an episode, I could focus on fictional bloodsuckers instead of the real ones at the helm of our country. Whatever it is that you enjoy, give in and indulge a little. We all need ways to decompress and relax. If that’s watching two attractive 30-year-old actors pretend to be 17, embrace it.

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Moral of the Story

It’s been an arduous nine days. Honestly, as much as I hope you enjoyed reading this post, the primary reason for me writing it was for my own catharsis (mission accomplished!). However, there is a potentially long road ahead of us, for all of us, regardless of party affiliation, and it’s important that we help each other digest the rapid-fire changes taking place in our country. The sooner we can accept what is happening and how it may conflict with our own values and moral code, the sooner we can decide how to fight against it.

The term “fight” seems strong, and I hate to keep repeating it because it feels a little contradictory to my positivity goal, but there really is no better way to say it. In trying times, we must fight for what we hold dear. And without sounding even more dramatic, I plan to prepare for this fight like any good soldier. I will stay informed, in tune with myself and my mental well-being, focused, and active. I will also comfortably indulge in life’s simple pleasures like television, romance novels, and ice cream. (That’s how soldiers prepare, right?)

This is just the beginning, but already I am ready.

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We would all benefit from channeling a woman who is this confident in red lipstick and a skin-tight leather suit.

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Today, I Am Grateful

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Readers, I refuse to label today as a black-letter day. I am still a bit dismayed at how we arrived at this time and place, where the words “President Donald Trump” aren’t followed by a slap on the knee, a hearty laugh, and a “gotcha,” but nonetheless here we are.

Rather than allowing myself to think about all that could go wrong (my therapist would remind me that the future is where anxiety lives), I am going to focus on some of the positive things in the world and in my life specifically. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still going to eat my feelings today, but my theory is this: if we continue to focus on being positive, grateful for and reflective of what is good and right in the world, the more we will want those things to build and continue. 

Acknowledging what we have going for us will help us see more clearly what we have to fight for, protest, question, and challenge. Plus, happiness breeds happiness, right? It’s just like how they say that if you smile long enough, you’ll actually start to feel happier. Maybe this technique is a bunch of kumbaya bullshit, but it’s getting me through the day and that’s what it’s all about.

So today, I pledge to inject my life with positivity (even if it’s contrived at times) so that I can, in turn, create more positivity. Here are things I’m grateful for right now.

I am grateful…

…for freedom of speech.

Without it, I wouldn’t be able to post some of these hilarious political cartoons that have helped me cope with our current political landscape.

…for humor in general.

We are living in a bizarre time and sometimes the best way to deal with the absurdity is to laugh in its face.

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…for the integrity, vigilance, humor, and poise we saw over the last eight years with the Obamas and Bidens.

I truly believe history will look back kindly on this period as a time of progress and change.

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Thanks, Obama!

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…for the press who have and will continue to pursue the truth even when faced with blatant disregard and disrespect.

We are counting on you, press corps.

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…that I have the access and wherewithal to seek out the truth.

In this frightening Age of Ignorance, I commit to fact-checking, ignoring the abundance of fake news and confirmation bias, and supporting my arguments with the data and not opinion. Science and data matter!

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Last Week Tonight is a must-watch.

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…for democracy.

Though I (clearly) don’t agree with the candidate who was chosen to represent us at the highest level, I do very much support our democratic process. I appreciate that we live in a country where we have the ability to vote for our representation and have our voices be heard (even, I cringingly suppose, if they are influenced by the Russian intelligence community).

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…for my voice.

Similarly, I’m grateful that I, personally, can voice my opinion to those representatives. Just this week, I called both Illinois senators as well as every single senator on the HELP Committee to tell them to vote “no” for Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education. My voice might not carry far, but at least I can use it.

Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn): “You can’t say definitively today that guns shouldn’t be in schools?”

Betsy DeVos: “I will refer back to Sen. Enzi and the school he was talking about in Wyoming. I think probably there, I would imagine that there is probably a gun in the school to protect from potential grizzlies.”

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(Here’s how to contact your senators to do the same.)

…that there are a lot of like-minded people right now.

Clinton won the popular vote by almost 2.9 million votes (with 65,844,954 (48.2%) to Trump’s 62,979,879 (46.1%)). This, as #45 would say, is yuge. It’s tremendous! It means that though he is now our president, the majority of Americans didn’t support him or condone his abhorrent behavior. We, the not-so-silent majority, must continue to band together to promote freedom, liberty, peace, love, and togetherness. We must help people understand that we are more alike than we are different and that fear has no place in America.

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“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” – Emma Lazarus, “New Colossus”

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 …that I’m proud to be a strong, empowered, and intelligent nasty woman.

I’m grateful that I live in a time where I am able to choose how to live my life. I can make my own choices about my body, my career (if not an equal paycheck), and my future. I’m proud to live amongst other strong women, and grateful that we can stand up for ourselves in a way women never could before. Women’s rights are human rights!

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…for my friends and family.

It goes without saying, but what would life be if not for the people in it? I’m grateful for those who love and support me, even if they don’t agree with my political views.

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A Little Reminder

Remember, in the United States, we stand together. We rise together and we fall together. I am the first to admit that I want our new president to succeed because I want our country to succeed. I hope our new commander-in-chief can change my opinion of his character and judgment, and pleasantly surprise me (maybe he’ll end up being a champion for human rights; it could happen). In the meantime, I’m never going to be silent, I’m never going to stop fighting for myself, for my family, for my rights, for the little guy, and for what I believe is right. What I am going to be is positive and forward-looking. Cheers, America, and may God have mercy on our souls.