I had become far too emotionally enmeshed in the election and was feeling anxious. Attending a 12-step meeting on Election Day helped. No matter what we shared with each other, we kept coming back to Step One. Good old Step One. Admitted we are powerless over our many problems, as well as what others say or do, and that trying to control others and outcomes just makes our lives even more unmanageable. Since stuff happens, the only real option we have, if we are to be honest, is working on ourselves and our reactions to what happens in and around us.

Whatever illusions I may have had that there would be a miraculous resolution to our national insanity were quickly shattered as we waited for election results. Instead of subjecting myself to compulsive TV watching, I retreated to my comfy chair with a cup of hot tea and a book. A good mystery not only distracts me when I need to get out of my head, but a good mystery helps right my world. In books, at least, good wins and evil is punished. Books have a way of resolving impossible situations. I can close the pages when finished feeling satisfied and hopeful about life and the world.

I read through most of election night and into the next afternoon. As the book ended with the good guys winning and evil being punished, it became easier for me to believe things will eventually work for the good. The story line also helped me recognize that I have been stuffing my feelings and grief. I just feel so sad about all this hatred and anger.

Sometimes we just have to allow ourselves to feel what we feel. Sometimes we just have to stop being brave and putting on a good front. Sometimes we just have to give ourselves permission to look reality in the face and acknowledge the full extent of our own and the world’s brokenness.

I find myself remembering the late 60’s, a time much like these. Angry, polarized, and fearful, it felt as if we were coming apart at the seams. Jack and Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King had been murdered. The Vietnam War and Civil Rights Demonstrations raged on and on. There was looting, pillaging, city blocks set afire. Everything felt chaotic and hopeless. At a church retreat someone reflected, “we have to grieve our way into hope.”

We have to grieve our way into hope. What a word for today!

I look out the window. The sun is shining. The sky is blue. Birds flock to the feeder. A tree clings to its brilliant leaves. While I have no way of knowing what tomorrow may bring, I have today and today is do-able. I can embrace today. I can find joy in the moment. I can take a walk, bake a cake, wash the dishes. I can be grateful for what is. That won’t fix our broken world or our polarized country, but it will help me be less angry and stressed. Then feeling better about myself, I can send out more positive vibes to others who are also grieving their way into hope.

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. Amen and amen.

Joyce Shutt is the pastor emeritus of the Fairfield Mennonite Church.

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