November 13, 2020

Even Though We Knew, It Still Sucks

By Vega Subramaniam

Biden 306; The Donald 232. Woohoo, this means that I can get a good night’s sleep tonight, right? It’s finally over? I can rest up for the ongoing movement work? I can go back to paying attention to the things that matter to me?

Oh, if only.

For four years, we were waiting for this nightmare to end. Hoping the election would be a repudiation. Surely, come November 3, we could take a breath and calm ourselves and slow down, even for just a few months.


Can’t say we weren’t warned. We were alerted for weeks and months that: (1) it was unlikely that we’d know the results of the election on the day of; (2) Biden/Harris would nevertheless likely win; and (3) because of that time lapse, the current person occupying the White House would wreak as much havoc, pain, and terror as he has in his power to do (i.e., a lot).

And yet, when the time came, it still sucked. It still sucks. Both being forewarned, and yet still being…not blindsided because forewarned, but…nevertheless disappointed. Overwhelmingly so. Gut-punchingly so.

If only the knowledge of an onslaught was all it took to mentally prepare for it or to plan around it. Knowing that there are rapids ahead when you’re whitewater rafting doesn’t mean you get a bye. You still endure the pummeling, you with your silly little oar. You’re still buffeted between terror, thrill, and disorientation, over and over again.

And yet through the pummeling and whiplash (and grief because nope, no repudiation, and yep, 70+ million votes for…[insert appropriate horrifying word that completely escapes me here]…), regular stuff still needs to happen. I need to get work done. Mala and I need to care for our parents. There are personal projects I’m working on that matter to me.

What sources of strength and focus do I need to draw upon in order to just keep doing my life? It’s so easy to want to sink; to want to let the oar slide out of my hand. Instead, how do I stay true(r?) to my own commitments? How do I keep hold of my oar? (I mean, besides throwing money with vigorous and untethered abandon at the Georgia senate election runoffs, obviously.)

For me. keeping hold of my oar means

  • Maintaining my own daily practices, which keep me grounded in reality rather than drifting in wild panic.
  • Staying connected to my little team on my little raft.
  • Staying connected to and learning from the vast community over geography and history who’s traveling down the river with me.

In more ways than I can count, what’s most supporting me right now is maintaining my daily routines with a rigor I haven’t practiced in a long time. Drink some water, light a candle, burn some incense, take some deep breaths, set an intention, write for a bit (make my bed, brush my teeth, put on some clean clothes). Doing this serves as a reminder that I can stay fully present, that there are things I still control, and that each day still has an arc and meaning.

And as I think about whitewater rafting, I don’t think I can overstate the extent to which creating predictability for myself prepares me to hold onto my silly little oar and row through the rapids.

But of course, it’s not just me on the raft. It’s a team of us. And when I fall backwards, the rest of the team keeps rowing until I can sit back up again. I am well aware of my team, the ones who keep my raft afloat while I scramble to right myself.

And it’s not just my little team. As my colleague reminds me, Arizona was a 10+-year strategy. Georgia was a 10+-year strategy. It’s a mighty team all across the country. That’s a reminder equally comforting and inspiring that I can let my oar drop for a minute, and also that when I am able, I need to pick it back up—not just need to pick it back up, but can’t wait to pick it back up, because what an extraordinary cross-country team I am blessed to join.

What practices do you rely on to keep hold of your oar? Who do you depend on to row with you through the rapids? What larger dream gives you comfort, buoyancy, and fortitude?

I’d love to hear.




  1. I’ve been experimenting with this recently:

    Dealing with my reticence with it has been intriguing – why not celebrate my tiny victories? Why not be nice to myself more often?

    • vegamala

      Yes yes yes yes yes yes YES to small celebrations of tiny victories. Not (just) to make you feel good. But (also) because it works. I am liberal with celebrating my small wins and taking a moment to acknowledge myself. It makes a world of difference both to my wellbeing and resilience as well as to helping new habits stick and grow. I love BJ Fogg’s Tiny Habits. I am also a big fan of Kristen Neff’s work on self-compassion.

      I, too, will follow with great interest your journey toward unearthing “why not be nice to yourself more often?”

  2. vegamala

    I’ve heard from a couple folks that “routine” is *not* what they need right now, and maybe is even the *exact opposite* of what they need. Routine feels stifling, while wildness, ambiguity, and a bit of chaos feel necessary. I am here to say: more power to you. I love and am grateful for our diversity.

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