The week coming up is election week here in the United States. Lawns and corners are littered with "Vote for Me" signs and I often wonder what the point of them is since there are so many jumbled up together outside the local farmer's market and across from the bank and I have no idea who is actually running for what. There is even this home-made sign that I saw on my walk the other day (on a dead-end street, mind you) made out of poster board, a white-plastic garbage bag and permanent markers. Who is Liz? Why is she right? How can she save our democracy? Who's qualified for the Board of Ed? Who will keep our taxes lower and also, at the same time, help the needy (is that even possible)? Who should I vote for? After what seems like a decade of political vitriol with families and friends actually ghosting or cancelling each other, I am exhausted. During the president election two years ago, my daughter, husband and I sat down and each took a "who should I vote for" test that took us about three hours. And guess what? We all ended up voting for someone different based on our results. Since then, it's gotten more confusing, I have no idea who to trust about the "facts" or where to even begin to find them. I have one friend touting "this is true, for sure and certain and we should be very afraid of what's to come" and another saying the complete opposite, fear seeming to be at the forefront. The saddest part of all has been the vehement unkindness on very side. The continuing us/them mentality, the "we are right and you are wrong and we are going to make sure we say it in the most awful way on social media or even when we are out to dinner with you," and also the inability to learn and grow from those who view things differently than we do. With the fury that will be unleashed in the next few days when so-and-so doesn't win makes me want to pull my covers over my head and not come out until it's all over (but we all know it's never over). Even though I can't hibernate like my furry friends, I have come up with a little "soul care" plan for myself in the next week in order to maintain my boundaries and my sanity and my relationships and my very own sense of self. Here it is: 1. Look over my ballot and gather the information I can about the people and the policies. 2. Take a break from all things social media at least from Monday to Thursday (it's my job to post things there, but they will be done in advance via my scheduler app and they will be only things that encourage kindness, unity, grace, hope and what I view as being like Jesus). 3. Don't click on the daily news that comes into my emails and don't go looking for it. I view this week as a mini-news-free vacation. 4. Decide privately how I will vote and then go vote on Tuesday. Trust that none of it is the end of the world and remind myself that I will still be able to love God with my whole heart and my neighbor as myself no matter who makes into the governor's seat or onto the town council and whether or not I agree with their policies. No one and no thing can take that away from me. 5. Be adamant about looking for small and big things that I can be thankful for (this always helps me so much during this time as it's "thanksgiving season"). Post it on social media and in group texts with friends or perhaps send an old-fashioned thank you note to someone who has done something kind for me recently. [This one is a big one for me when I feel upset, confused, anxious or angry at the state of the world and especially the small world I'm a part of. In fact, I am attempting to do this for the first 24 days in November, ending on Thanksgiving Day.]
6. Remind my people (maybe even flat out) that they are more important to me than who they vote for and that I love them for who they are and nothing can ever change that. Turn this "cancelling each other out" upside-down and inside-out. 7. Find one way each day to look outside or get outside or even go to the garden shop at the local Home Depot (maybe I'll even buy myself a plant when I get there). Nature has a way of keeping me connected to beauty and myself and God and this time of year is extra special on that front. 8. Research one way to make a difference for those who are suffering. My daughter found this VERY COOL WEBSITE and I've been doing it every day since she told me (I answer 25 questions a day and will be doing that at least through this week along with my Wordle). Phew! That's quite a long list, but because times call for it, I'm coming at this from every side. Thankfully, even just writing these things down and sharing them with you gives me a little glimmer of hope that I will be able to care for my soul in the middle of the mayhem of the week ahead of me. I have a plan not to be blind-sided and wrecked in the process. Because along with the election, darkness arriving an hour starting today, and the somehow nervous period before the storm of the upcoming holidays means that I have permission to be extra mindful and extra diligent in this venture I am embarking on. And guess what, you have permission too.