A few nights ago there was a loud knock at the door. My husband and I were just finishing dinner while my youngest daughter played with some toys in the living room. He looked out and decided to open the door. I was expecting to hear a familiar voice, a neighbor or a friend stopping by. Instead, it was a man collecting signatures and donations for an organization. I could hear his voice but I could not see him. I knew he could see into our well-lit home, though. My heart began to pound. I would never have opened the door to someone I didn’t know.
I rarely operate from a place of fear and I don’t constantly create worse-case scenarios. I am generally optimistic, even a “glass half-full” kinda gal, but I walk through this world as a woman. A woman who doesn’t have the same advantage that my husband’s six-foot-four view gives him. A woman who managed campus frat parties and years of bad dates. A woman who doesn’t run through the reservoir unless it is crowded and well-lit. A woman who has a plan to protect her family with her wits and not her braun. It is a different way of looking at the world. It is simply how I have learned to operate in this world.
My husband doesn’t understand how I scanned this scene and made the decision to usher our youngest up the stairs and told her to read books in her bedroom. He doesn’t understand why I then told our six-year-old that if I gave her the signal, she should lock the door and not come out. (“Oh, isn’t this fun that we get to play this game?”, I tell her in a sing-song voice.) I turn on more outside lights to see if this man came alone. I open an upstairs window to survey the scene below. I shout down to my husband that our friends are due to arrive soon. He looks up at me and nods, quizzically. The man looks up too and we make brief eye contact. I smile, but give him a “dont-fuck-with-my-family” look.
When my husband comes back in, he can’t understand why his wife has been acting like a lunatic. I can’t articulate why I have been planning for the worst when clearly this was just a fifty year old, bearded guy, with a hat shading his face, collecting signatures and cash, with no identification at 8pm on a cold and dark Friday evening. I am not really looking for my husband to understand my behavior. I am looking for him to acknowledge that my experience as woman is different than how he walks through the world as a man.
For this very same reason, I don’t give the advice to others to just get over the election and move on. I don’t pretend I know what will be required of others as they will need to adjust the way they walk through this world. It isn’t even about which side you are on, but whether each one of us can acknowledge that some people’s lives will be changed- and not for the better. Some will feel fear that I can not understand. Some will panic while I have the luxury to remain calm. Some will be affected while I might squeak by, unchanged. It is like telling someone who is standing in a hole, while you are standing up above on the grass, to just look around and take some time to smell the roses. When they look around, all they see is walls of dirt and darkness. Instead, it is about taking the time to say, “I see you. I see your suffering. I don’t have to understand or have it happen to me to believe you.”
In the past, I am not even sure I truly recognized that others were in the hole. I feared if I did than I might find myself in the hole too. In my experience, I have discovered the opposite to be true. When I have reached out a hand and grabbed hold of someone else, it has not only elevated the person in need but it has helped me mend pieces of my own heart that I didn’t even know were torn.
Today is a new day- just like yesterday was and tomorrow will be. Today I will move past how the outcome of the election just affects me and my life. Why? Because…finding the good in others is like recognizing love in your own self. Because…I would want someone to do this for me. Because…people have done this for me my whole life. (Thank you to that frat guy who helped me take my drunk friend back to her dorm. After we walked her across campus, I realized I would be walking back with him, alone. He walked me back to my dorm, too, without incident.) And because…it is simply the right thing to do.