As I sit here again, in the wee hours of the morning, I have so many thoughts running through my head, I finally decided to get up and just write them all down.
We have a restless home right now. On any given night, my husband, my daughter or I, will wake to one of the others rustling about the house…this is after they’ve tossed and turned in their bed for a while, noting crackles of bones, sore muscles, upset stomachs, headaches, or a thirst that can’t be quenched by lying there…hoping the feeling subsides. I woke this morning to my husband’s rustling about…again…and I started to wonder, in the dark, why?
Four Years Ago
Of course, my mind straight edged its course to the Election. Well, everyone seems to be restless right now. But, why? To me, this election, at first glance, isn’t so different from the last. Two opposing candidates who are vastly different in numerous ways…but I don’t remember feeling this unrest. The last time I remember feeling restless like this, was the eve of my first daughter’s birth. When the weight of bringing a child into this world, and the enormous responsibility that holds hit me like a freight train. That’s the first time I can honestly say I truly took a look at the world I lived in and said, “Is this good enough?” And had a restless, wandering night.
I, and my husband, are in a unique position of having ‘been here before’ in that four years ago, we took our oldest daughter to her First Presidential Election. She was not nervous, but she was understanding that ‘this was a big deal’. We stood in line together as we navigated the right district with the help of an elderly and eager poll volunteer, right line again, until we were checked in by an elderly poll volunteer and ready to cast our ballots. I took a picture of my daughter as she was ready to go in and vote. I was told that was against the rules, to take pictures inside the polling center, and respectfully apologized, explained it was her first time, and put my camera in my pocket. I wondered then, and still wondered this morning, “why couldn’t we take a picture?” As a matter of fact, I am going to google that right now as I know I have seen people taking pictures in polling stations all over the place on the news … I’ll be back!
(Okay, interesting…basically, it is a First Amendment issue that has come up a lot with the whole selfie/social media onslaught of documentation. The defenders of ‘no photos’ are working in the line of secret ballots and a certain decorum in the voting halls and process; however, many states have decided to either a. ignore the ‘rule’, b. make a dedicated ‘ballot selfie booth’ with an unused booth, or c. go to court to uphold/take down the precedent. So now, there are states that allow photos, some that still do not, and, of course some that are “unclear” on the issue. We, in Wisconsin, still fall in that “unclear” category. lol)
Four years ago, we had a very traditional experience with our oldest. The vote was quiet and very meaningful. We walked out with our daughter, grabbed a cookie, put on the sticker, walked to our car, and waved to the gentleman directing what traffic there was, out in an orderly fashion. We went home and watched the news for tally totals and predictions and stories from the polling places around the country. The pundits talked and strategized and then came the questions and the wonder of when we might know. “for sure”, who won. Exciting!
Four years ago, I remember not necessarily taking note of things…I had a good job, I had a great team, and we did good non-profit work. We were supported by companies who wanted to feel a connection to the community, who wanted to help us help others, and fundraising was ‘fun’ for volunteers, donors, and sponsors alike. We provided many community programs and options for people to connect, get support, get educated and make lasting personal relationships. We saw each other in person at work, in meetings, at camps, at support groups and happy hours. We worked together with other organizations, with hospitals and clinics, with the government at local and national levels. We held ourselves accountable and our measure was by how many people we helped and whether we had a healthy bottom line to continue our work.
Four years ago, it was not perfect. We worried about things, sure. We were concerned about our daughters’ future. Paying for school, worrying about our aging parents, and what was around the corner were still things that kept my worry jar full. For the most part, we went out for a fish fry on Fridays, we watched the Packer game on Sundays, we got together with friends for weekends and family on holidays and we knew we all had different views on things from sundae toppings to politics. One was openly and cheerfully debated and discussed, and the other was politely touched upon with respect for the others’ point of view. We could, at the end of the day, agree to disagree and get back together the next weekend to smile, laugh, and hug at the end of the night.
Today, I sit in the early morning light now, with another daughter on the cusp of her First Presidential Election. I have been up for hours, in a restless house of worry, pondering why are we restless…
Today, two of us have voted early, and made sure our daughters have registered in their respective communities. We still want to go with our youngest to see her take those steps into the voting hall, and, part of me is okay with the fact that she wasn’t able to get over to the drive-through voting location. So, that’s new…drive-through voting. And, as I sat last night, noting some things, like a barrage of political ads, never change…and we all collectively roll our eyes and say, “stop the adddddddsssss!!!” I also noted a tear in my heart, not because I am “Sappy Sue” and it is a moment for my daughter in her ‘adulting’, but, because of how different it all is now.
Today, I am taking note that I do not recognize the country I live in. I am worried for my daughter’s safety as she goes to vote. I am not able to walk in with her, let alone get scolded for taking a picture. When dropping off my ballot, I was met by a young, very polite and helpful poll worker wearing a mask, who gave me a sticker as I sat in my car, and I drove home, alone.
Today, after she gets off of work as an essential employee, I will drive with her to the polling station. She will mask up and go in alone. I have no idea who will meet her to direct her, or if she’ll get the dutiful nod from the elderly volunteer who winks and says with his expression, “good for you”. I have no idea who is going to be sitting at the table, checking her name…and handing her that ballot. One tradition we have kept…I have no idea who she is voting for. We have done our best to educate her, to have her educate herself and pay attention. And she has. Her choice is hers. I am so proud of both of my girls for voting, period. That 100-year anniversary of women fighting for the right to vote is not lost on me…
Today, I don’t know if there will be cookies…or stickers…will she need to ask for one, like I did this year? *Note: I do know that she is 21 and that I sound like she is 5. lol. Voting has been a ‘thing’ in our family. We have stressed the importance as a milestone. As a civic duty. Here, in the US of A, it is a Right. Understanding it is an honor and a privilege. So, yeah, I sweat the little stuff. I also make themed meals and do other dorky things throughout the year…that’s just me.
Today, I’ll be looking out for her. I’ll be worried about protestors; I’ll be worried about the walk to the car afterwards. I’ll be very curious to see how many cars there are…I’ll be worried for my daughter in another city…for all the reasons above and then some.
Today, I do not recognize my country. Cities are boarding up their businesses (those that are still open for business), in preparation for the Election. There is talk of ‘unrest’ — of violence, More Violence. People do not respect others’ lives or livelihoods, let alone opinions; they shout and belittle and insult. I’m not talking Republican or Democrat here; I am talking about All of Us. The US in the US of A. I do not recognize my country.
Today, I do not have a job. My office is vacant. Teams work individually at home and virtually in meetings. Fundraisers are online. No personal connections through walks, no rides, no camps, no support groups, no educational conferences, no happy hours…and connecting is a fleeting moment in various online discussions. Medical appointments and education are virtual.
Today, it isn’t all bad. I have had time to ponder. Time to clean up my backyard, focus on my health, get back to good old-fashioned looking out for my neighbors and making homemade treats. We have reconnected with some family and friends across the miles with virtual happy hours and games. The miles don’t seem as distancing any longer, in that respect. But, the miles between some friends and family…though few in distance, have brought loneliness and sorrow in their extended path. Discussions are challenging. It seems even the sundae topping you choose catches an eyebrow these days, and there is no civility or politeness in one’s own opinion, given or received. No Friday Night fish fries without repercussion, no Packer games without a slew of opinions, and not on the quarterback or the coaching. No tailgating, no parties. Weekends with friends are replaced with, well, yard work. Family get-togethers and holidays have been compromised and the hugs at the end of the night are… so very sorely missed by me… Talk of Thanksgiving and Christmas is not about who is bringing what, but about whether we will be around the table together.
Today, there isn’t a right answer, but ‘everyone’ thinks they have it, and is willing to share it. If you do not think alike, you have more than miles between you in an instant. And, sometimes, that is in your own, unsettled, house. Being kind is a slogan, black is black and white is white, compromise is not in our vocabularies…every word is double-clicked and scrutinized…what the hell is ‘cancelling’ for God’s sake?! Who came up with THAT?! Uh-oh, another google session…BRB…(upon Googling, basically, it says don’t bring up cancel culture unless you are okay with being cancelled. Well, I’m not okay with that, I am looking for employment right now after all, but I have to believe we can still ask a simple question…oh please don’t make this all about that question…)
Early this morning I thought of the phrase “charity begins at home”. What does that REALLY mean, I thought at 4am? Does it mean to teach that you take care of your own first, or does it mean to teach that no matter how little you may feel you have, there should always be something you can give to others? (yes, I googled it. The first definition is what I found, and, that it originally was phrased in 1382 as “charity begins with himself” — it is not a Bible verse, but many think it is…there’s something close, but they say no, not scripture). Anyway…something to think about.
So, there it is. My restless house musings…my lack of sleep snippets and my keeps me up at night thoughts.
Today, I now sit with a cold cup of coffee, realizing the day is here. A Presidential Election that has me fearful of nightfall no matter who wins. What will my daughters remember of this day…
I remember now, again, the restless feeling of 24 years ago…that time when I looked at the world and asked “Is this good enough”? I know now why my house has been restless again…