I hear myself sighing and saying “Oh my God” at random times throughout the day. I haven’t turned on TV news since about 9 p.m. on election night, although I follow print news closely–so I don’t doubt it’s as bad as I feared. I don’t have the comfort of denial.
I look on with admiration at those who can gather their thoughts enough to appear on interviews or panels, or write sweeping think pieces. I saw Roxane Gay’s address livestreamed from #FacingRace in Atlanta, and she took my breath away. But she, like me, said she was still unpacking, still processing.
So I have journaled. Not as much as I should–but some. Because processing my emotions is the only thing that will drive the numb feeling away, and I can’t afford to be numb. I have to be clear-headed to be most effective in Trump’s opposition.
At first, in shock and mourning, social media was my outlet. But that wasn’t, and isn’t, enough. Social media, although it’s powerful, has slowly eaten away at the energy I might have used for journaling–and sometimes my energy for writing, period. And it’s not necessarily bringing me closer to my feelings: social media is performance.
For me, social media is a place to rally, to comfort, to commiserate, to teach, to grow. Social media is not where I share my deepest feelings.
Social media is a character we play in public. Journaling reminds us who we really are.
— Tananarive Due (@TananariveDue) November 12, 2016
I had rediscovered my neglected journal a few days before the election, so we weren’t complete strangers when I needed to move beyond social media and try to unpack my feelings.
I still have a long way to go. I don’t cry when I journal, and I know the tears are buried in there. (Tears emerge most when I listen to music or play the piano.) And I haven’t yet written down my list of repercussions, or my strategy going forward. I must. I will.
But I’m acknowleding this event in history, documenting it, as my late mother Patricia Stephens Due would have said. (That, in itself, acknowledges that this is a fixed moment that will be behind us one day.)
I journaled about how I spoke to my 82-year-old father, Florida civil rights attorney John Due, who is always upbeat and was focused on his plans to meet with a local outgoing School Board president (that’s Dad; always moving forward); my 78-year-old aunt, who spent 49 days in jail with my mother for sitting-in at a Woolworth lunch counter in 1960 and was understandably anguished over the results; and a family member who was pondering leaving the country. I wrote about how my 12-year-old son, Jason, was full of anxiety on election night, asking if his friends would be sent away or if Trump would build a wall.
Two years from now, I might not have remembered details from those conversations. Or some of my elders may be gone by then, and I’ll have captured at least that brief snapshot.
I can’t pretend I’m great at journaling. My 2016 journal has about five or six entries. There’s a gap between January and July. So much is missing. So many of my thoughts are still tangled as I grapple with our new national reality.
But one day, this entire year will be fuzzy in my mind. It’s important to try to grab these strings of life, even–and especially–when they sting. I have never been suicidal, but I know people who have expressed thoughts of suicide since election night. (What if you would never hear the thought “I want to die now” buried inside you unless you shared it in your journal?)
Journaling prevents us from pretending events didn’t happen, from pretending we don’t have emotions about them, and from burrowing into distractions that will matter far less to us in the years to come than, say, a conversation with our father, or our child, or a friend who needed us, the year Trump was elected president.
Tananarive Due has won an American Book Award, a British Fantasy Award and an NAACP Image Award. She and her mother co-authored: Freedom in the Family: a Mother-Daughter Memoir of the Fight for Civil Rights. Join the “Revolutionary Art: Social Justice Writing” course she teaches with Steven Barnes at www.createthenarrative.com.