Smuggle Back Your Soul

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Your honey-do list for Tuesday has been handed to you for weeks now by everyone with a social media account and a certain political bent. “VOTE!” they say.

And vote you should. Well, probably. To be honest, before “VOTE!” should come “INFORM YOURSELF!!” Too many people skip that part. 

But for the sake of argument, let’s say we all go out on Tuesday and honor the incredible gift that is our flawed democracy by casting informed votes that we hope against hope will actually and honestly be tabulated.

Now what do we do? What happens when we wake up Wednesday and the blue wave hasn’t arrived or wasn’t as impressive as we wished? What if we instead meet further evidence of the unraveling of the republic? This is THE outcome to plan for, because Wednesday will arrive.

I don’t know about you but I’m getting too old to flush an entire day—let alone two more years—in mourning. So I’m wondering: What’s your plan?

Mine is to stay sane and happyish. (It’s always a delicate balance between these ears, so happyish is a reasonable goal.) For me, the means to sanity and happyish are community, service, fierce pursuit of joy, and protecting my own humanity. 

Community: I have groups of friends who are writers and artists and thinkers who collectively lift my soul in such a way that they become a distinct geography, a place to which I must return in order to feel like myself. Even with the difficulties that go along with group dynamics, the best communities supply us with sustenance we just can’t get on our own. 

Service: I do one officially service-y thing by volunteering at a rescue organization for birds of prey. To call it “service” is a slap in the face to people who work at soup kitchens and reading centers and cancer wards. I volunteer so I can be close to wild animals. That’s pretty selfish. But I DO help get things done when I’m there, and the animals DO benefit, and—more to the point—it’s an exercise in empathy, which is what animates all spiritual practices. 

We can also be of service on an hour-by-hour basis, as a holistic approach to life, through how we engage with people and the natural world. I’ll work on that one. It will help if I think of my fellow humans as featherless birds. 

Fierce pursuit of joy: We need to remember to regularly fling ourselves hard at what feels good. Ride a horse, if that’s your thing. Walk through woods, listen to the music you slow danced to in high school. Last month at the raptor center, I stuck my hand into a container of mealworms and felt a rush of delight at the wriggling at the bottom of the bag. Such a surprise! 

We must smuggle our souls back from the thieves. Hold close to wonder. 

And humanity: My new rule is that I’m allowed to demonize the despots, but only occasionally, not as a staple of my thought-diet. And I’m forbidden from demonizing real humans in my personal world unless I see a pitchfork and horns under a tarp in their trunk. This one can take some work. 

But after spending years now trying to understand how otherwise good people can support ideas and politicians I find abhorrent, here’s what I know: It’s not understandable. I won’t “win” them. They don’t want to understand me as much as I want to understand them. That’s part of how we’re different.

Still. I love them or not based on how they treat others and me. So, sorry, Don, Mitch, Brett. I might be an asshole, but you won’t turn me into that kind of asshole. I won't discard friends based on politics. I won’t do it.

That’s it. That’s my plan. And I will employ it even if we get a blue wave, because I remember the joy I felt when Barack Obama won in 2008; and I remember eight years of struggle and setbacks that followed.

There is so much work to be done, civically, culturally, and personally. We need to preserve our hearts for the trip ahead.