I’ve spent the weeks since Election Day contemplating the worst case scenario for the next four years.
I’ve allowed my greatest fears to freely roam about my mind. My body has responded to each thought as if it were already true.
I’ve imagined the delegitimization and destabilization of our democracy, tweet by tweet. I’ve pictured streets filled with marching police, the muffling of our free press, the prosecution of crimes previously known as free speech. I’ve talked through with my family our breaking points, our last resorts, our options. Like many of us my anxiety levels are up, and my old friend depression has offered a white flag of surrender if I so choose.
I don’t choose.
Given the number of hours I’ve contemplated negative possibilities (and without discounting or forgetting the real and present danger a Trump presidency ushers in), it’s only right that I allow myself at least as much time considering the benefits. It’s only fair to my soul, the part of me that cannot subsist on continued negativity and fear, that I consider the gifts.
Perhaps we had grown complacent in our spiritual growth; human beings are naturally reluctant to change. Perhaps we had gone numb to the suffering of our neighbours; most of us prefer to see the world through the colored glasses of our choice. Perhaps our patterns and routines had lulled us to sleep; while routines can offer a safe harbor, they can also isolate us from greater reality.
But if we never feel constrained, held back, shut down, outcast in some way, why would we search and reach for freedom? If we never experience some sense of discontent, unfairness, yes, even suffering, how will we recall and stay committed to the search for a greater truth?
Perhaps our souls decided we needed a collective wake-up call.
Awake, we remember that evolution is cyclical not linear. Awake, we know that we must acknowledge and address our shadows before we can tame them. Awake, we know it is critical that compassion move beyond like-minded circles; that everything in life is fragile, temporary and up for renegotiation; and that spiritual evolution still requires shedding the old before embracing the new.
Right now we are shedding a layer of our collective innocence and naiveté about the degree of hatred, disgust, pain and intolerance brewing all around us (and inside us).
In our nakedness, we are momentarily blind and frighteningly vulnerable. But in this nakedness, we sit in the opportunity to grow into a greater collective wisdom and strength not conceivable, possibly not even considered necessary, had there been any other outcome.
Right now each belief, value and principle we hold dear—whether handed down to us by our family lineage, bestowed by authority or honed for ourselves—must be tried on for size. We’ll discover some have lost their relevancy. Others we’ve outgrown. Still others are outright false. Yet in the process of noticing which beliefs we choose to more fully embody in the world right now, we identify and name our deepest truths and core values.
Years ago, as I stood doe-eyed and gape-mouthed at my first ever Yoga Journal conference, Baron Baptiste posed this question in his workshop:
“If you squeeze a lemon, you get lemon juice. What will we get if we squeeze you?”
We are about to find out.
The squeezing may:
> Test our adherence to our moral and ethical boundaries.
> Challenge our tolerance for accepting or witnessing hate speech/actions.
> Question our allegiance to our core beliefs as individuals and as a country.
> Confront our commitment to fighting back against racism, sexism, homophobia and all other tools the patriarchy uses to maintain power.
And through it all, the sweet pull to fall back asleep, numb out or give up will tempt.
I can already feel myself changing, refining, carving, enlightening and transforming—and not for the worse.
I find myself endlessly curious and open to the possibilities that lie before us: who will stand up and lead the resistance? Who, besides the many who have already, will fold their morals and ethics like cards? And will our future selves be able to look without flinching upon our choices today?
Perhaps it is true that as a country we are starkly divided. But in this we are united: we are all part of the lemon juice.
I hope it tastes as sweet as it is sure to be sour.
Author: Keri Mangis
Image: @nytimes on Instagram
Editor: Khara-Jade Warren