Monday, November 10, 2008

Where Do We Go From Here?

Last week, I received my newsletter from our Unitarian Universalist Fellowship. I scanned it for whatever tidbits of information I thought would still pertain to me—the fallen member who hasn’t attended a service in almost three years. (Being a fallen Catholic has its own issues, but a fallen UU?? Perish the thought.) As usual, I noticed the title of Sunday’s sermon: “Where Do We Go From Here?” Gee, I thought, I’d like to know that.

D. did too, so we walked down the street a mile or so and entered the building for the first time since the end of 2005. It looked much the same. Our nametags where just where we’d left them. There were lots of new faces, and enough familiar ones to make it feel homey. We struggled through an unfamiliar song or two, but remembered the words to our covenant. We settled in for the readings, which were poignant, and the sermon, which was amazing as always.

The congregation clapped and cheered loudly as our ultra-cool minister started by sharing his delight in the idea of a President Obama. His talk centered around the joy and challenges that have bubbled up in many (ok, all) of us in the congregation.

“Hold onto that joy,” he said, “even when reality and cynics try to take it from you. Hold onto it for a while.” He went on to describe a feeling that I share with him completely. A stone-like creature that has been sitting in my gut (or was it in my heart?) for, oh, about eight years now. A stone whose presence was such a familiar feeling that I forgot to notice it after awhile. Until it made me angry. Or made me sad. It sometimes made me tired. But mostly the stone made me feel hopeless—and my hopelessness grew.

It didn’t go away when I moved across the country in an attempt to escape it. It didn’t go away when I tried to surround myself with more people like me and fewer people like those in the administration. It didn’t go away when I positioned myself fifty miles from the Canadian border—just in case it got so bad that I had to leave.

The little stone in my heart didn’t go away, and I felt hopeless enough to stop trying. I stayed away from the Unitarian Fellowship. I stopped decorating my house for holidays. And we didn’t celebrate Christmas last year—not really. We were happy to have friends and family in our home, and we cooked and talked and ate and drank and laughed. But there was no usual holiday frenzy of excitement. There was no shopping for the perfect gift. There were no handmade, imperfect gifts, either.

But now I have joy. I have hope. I’m happy and proud again. I feel like being around people like me again—people who can now really, truly believe that our future will be better than our past. And I’m holding tight to all of it—the pride, the joy, the happy. With all of this, I know I can work toward the change I want to see.

I couldn’t do it without hope. But I can do it without that stone of hopelessness that was weighing me down. That stone that suddenly wasn’t there anymore as of 11:00 (Eastern time, because we were in Virginia) on November 4, 2008.

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Friday, November 7, 2008

Three Weeks Away

We have returned from our colossal, east coast trip-of-a-lifetime. It will take me awhile to process the changes I saw—in my parents, my siblings, our little godson, and my former city. I never thought this before, but I now know there are times when you should not go home again. This trip was a doozy.

Here's what I heard:

“It’s people like YOU who are the reason Obama won’t win.” (Because I’m one of those elistists, you know.)

“We have to talk to the stone-cold racists or he’ll never win Virginia.”

“Some people at church think he’s the anti-Christ. They hope he is, because he’ll bring on the End of Days.”

“How can anybody vote for that guy???” (Referring to McCain, with all manner of hand waving to accompany.)

But it wasn’t all politics. I also heard:

“I’m proud of you.”

“I love you.”

“You’re my best friend.”

I managed to stay with my in-laws and survive it. There was absolutely no mention of the election with the hateful email-sender. I ignored him as much as I could, and realized what a sad man he is.

We saw gobs of friends and family. We even attended an Obama rally, with 20,000 people of all races and ages. What a thrill! I screamed when I saw him like he was a rock star. But he was so much more; I didn’t scream when he was finished—I was too full of emotion and hope to do anything but smile.

We ate too much and exercised too little. We drove 2500 miles up and down the east coast, and paid as little as $1.95 per gallon for gas. We slept in six different houses and three motel rooms. We saw the autumn leaves change color in a wave from upstate New York to North Carolina; and we buried our toes in warm beach sand. We celebrated a new future for our country with some of our oldest and dearest friends, whom we miss so much.

And we are very, very happy to be home.