Friday, January 22, 2021

I'm not better yet: presidential trauma & what we need to heal

Talk about a juxtaposition (yay, an opportunity to use that word correctly).

My citizenship in this world.

For the past (almost) 10 years I’ve resided in New Zealand.

I was born and bred in the United States.

I am a US citizen. (and yes, we still pay our taxes)

I am a New Zealand citizen. (taxes here too)

During the first tornado season in the US, after we moved to New Zealand, the view from afar taught me a profound lesson about how those on the “outside” view the United States.

Having lived in areas that were relative tornado allies, I was shocked when I observed, from afar, a tornado warning in the area where some of our adult children lived.

Making mad contact with them to take appropriate shelter, as well as the unsettled feeling in my gut, highlighted the dynamic that was unfolding.

When you live in the path of tornadoes, it’s necessary to rest in a state of denial. “Odds tell me there will not be tornado in this area.”

Or as I counseled one panicked 10 year old after being caught in one, “odds are that another would not strike your street.” But one did the next week.

The tornado denial is much like the denial an American has to live with regarding the fact that a large faction of people are packing heat.

The first time I returned after that legislation was put in practice and was reminded by the no guns allowed visual, at the rest stop on the way to my family and at the cinema, a deep sense of unrest rose within me.

What you don’t consider while you are living in the midst of these impending catastrophes is that your psychological/emotional self works overtime to process or deny these unpredictabilities so you can continue to walk in your world.

It isn’t until you spend some time looking, from afar, at your old self or your current loved ones negotiating unsafe terrain that you understand the magnitude of living in that type of space and time.

According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs — security and safety are basic needs necessary for humans to live a functional life.

Unfortunately in an unstable environment of conceal and carry and the navigation of an emotionally volatile sociopathic narcissistic personality, everyone has felt unsafe. (hey, I have a license to use those descriptors; I’m not being rude, it is my clinical assessment based on four years of observation)

Unfortunately, trying to find that sense of security and safety that has been deconstructed to a greater degree in the last four years, frightened even more people to seek their sense of safety and security through weapons.

Quite a juxtaposition indeed.

The rate of gun violence rose.

The rate of mass shootings rose.

A sense of safety and security continued to decline.

Facts that are quite evident to the greater world looking on; especially a peace-loving mama who still has adult kids and grandkids living in the states. A situation most US residents are so enmeshed within, they may not be able to look at it objectively.

Typically leaning towards news-fasts, since the marathon news viewing I engaged in from election night on, I’ve been riveted and greatly stressed by the news coming from the US.

The day after the election, my husband was on a flight to San Francisco to support some of our kids in the aftermath of a personal covid crisis that coincided with a new baby’s arrival, allowing him to support multiple family at once.

That left me and our 16 year old in New Zealand for seven weeks to look through that lens from an even more anxiety provoking perspective as the covid surges in the states were reported.

If he became symptomatic or, worse yet, positive for covid, would he be allowed on the flight home?

The travel insurance wouldn’t cover covid. Could our life savings be eaten up if he ended up in an ICU?

If positive, he’d have to wait months for a return flight as all the mandated managed isolation beds had been booked.

Finally home on Christmas eve, it was acknowledged that it had been a beautiful journey of loving connection and support for him and our loves, notwithstanding those challenges to our basic needs of safety and security, much like everyone around the globe is experiencing across the board.

With the constant negativity and fraudulent claims being made and anger ramping, I sat watching the final congressional acknowledgment of the electoral college votes and a day of my life disappeared as the riot on the Capitol unfolded while I sat, eyes glued, heart hurting, recalling the disbelief of the election day four years previous–– which taught me that even the unimaginable could happen––until the final count.

Living in a state of waiting for the next tragic foot to drop; we didn’t need that step to be taken by the person who had taken an oath to protect their citizens. This type of instability which had been on repeat over the past four years caused great cognitive dissonance or as I politely remove my clinical hat: mindf*ck.

Yesterday morning, instead of beginning my inaugaral watch at 5 am in New Zealand, I had to get the green light from media outlets that violence hadn’t broken out before I could tune in, not knowing if my mind-body was up for immersion into more civil unrest.

After the all clear, as I watched the inauguration unfold, I was disappointed that I wasn’t feeling an overwhelming sense of relief.

Finally we were hearing uniting rather than divisive words. Plans were being made to systematically approach the pandemic. Healing was a theme.

Emotional literacy was returning to the White House as we were hearing of President Biden’s thoughts in expressions that were not described in extremes- — very very good or very very bad.

And then his honoring of those who had died from covid happened and it opened a floodgate within me. Sobbing, I was overwhelmed at the visceral effect the White House lacking heart and soul for the past four years had on me.

As my wise mama raised me saying, don’t tell me, show me.

Finally, we were being shown heart and compassion within the context of the President of the United States.

Not the first criteria we usually think of when voting for president and a quality I didn’t realize I’d missed so much until seeing its return during the inauguration day proceedings.

And, finally, this day had come. We had a new president and he wasn’t heralded in by bombings or shootings or massive discord as we’d feared.

Equal parts disappointing and understandable, today has not brought a euphoria, because these emotionally connected, openly expressive messages that were shared yesterday highlighted what we were robbed of the past four years.

When President Biden would speak, from the heart, of his deceased son, Beau, or the many who have suffered and died in this pandemic, or his flare of anger when he insisted as he was swearing in staff that if anyone ever disparaged a co-worker and did not treat others with dignity and respect, they would be fired on the spot, it felt like a leg I had been missing was being reattached.

Is it possible that we can now stand stronger and more united? Time will tell.

Yesterday highlighted the energy that is now being disseminated into the pores of the White House, while evicting the negative energy left behind.

This healing energy has been far too long in coming.

And we suffered for its absence.

No, the relief has not yet landed within me because the grief of what we were without during the previous presidential term, and the trauma left in its path, glows like neon.

We are a people whose basic sense of security and safety was held hostage for an entire presidential term.

No matter what your political persuasion was, the recent occupants of the White House robbed Americans of their basic need for security and safety within their own borders.

My family has long leaned heavily left and I know that our new president probably seems too centric for many of their political tastes, but when we see how extreme the right had yielded, it seems a law of physics that the only way we could have voted in change was for it to be born from the mid-ground.

And with this vantage point, far across the Pacific Ocean, what I know for sure is that I needed a U.S. president who holds the capacity to lead from the heart.

I’d be remiss if I did not mention that I have witnessed compassionate leadership through New Zealand’s Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, as I enjoy the freedom that comes from a systematic approach to the pandemic with no current community covid cases.

We need a United States President who has the capacity to hold the attention span and temperament to do the same for the US.

Who has a command of emotional literacy and can acknowledge joy and pain, triumph and failure and all of the colors in between.

Who has known loss, acknowledged it, and felt his feelings so deeply, his core is led to ease that type of suffering for others if at all possible.

Who can sit with discomfort and the unknown and not incite panic or distrust of each other.

Above all else, a president who openly expresses the desire for all of these things and expresses, foremost, a goal of mending the wounds that the last four years have torn asunder.


The Death Dialogues Project

a project created by Becky Aud-Jennison after loss eviscerated her — story heals

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