A Week After: The Complex Emotions of Post-Election Season

It’s been a little over a week since Election Day, and the emotional roller coaster continues.

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Image from Tyrone Turner/WAMU

While many media outlets called the election on Saturday, and cities all across the U.S. (and even around the world) burst into spontaneous celebration and dancing, I have not been able to get the sinking feeling out of my stomach.

Many have talked about a “collective sigh of relief,” and yet somehow, I feel like I’m still holding my breath.

Maybe it’s my personality (I’m definitely a “glass half empty” person), maybe it’s my emotional numbness from this year, or maybe it’s the ongoing saga of Trump’s resistance to concede, but in this moment, I find myself struggling to locate my own emotions. Every feeling that I start to feel is immediately held in tension with its opposite pole. And in a year when our sense of normalcy has been eroded, I notice that even my feelings are uncertain. Uncommitted. Unable to land anywhere because all our familiar footing is gone.

I’m tired of hearing the word “unprecedented.” I’m tired of not having any sense of certainty in life. I want to just feel happy and relieved and able to move on, but I am still feeling a lot of concern about what this election reveals about our country. My emotions have been very mixed.

So this day, I want to encourage others who may also be feeling the complexity of this elections season. You are not alone.

One of my mantras this season has been “It’s okay to not be okay,” and I am trying to remind myself that it’s okay if my emotions are complicated. It’s possible to sit in the both/and realities in my midst, as exhausting as they can be sometimes.

Holding different realities in tension doesn’t make me a negative or critical person. It keeps me honest. It helps me have the bigger view in mind. And I have permission to be honest about the complexity of what I’m actually feeling.

  • It’s possible to feel joy and to celebrate wins from this election, while also feeling disturbed by how deeply divided our country remains, and how close the outcome actually was.
  • It’s possible to feel like the world got a little bit safer for you and your loved ones, while also feeling worried about the potential backlash of white supremacy and extremism that will be activated after this election.
  • It’s possible to feel relief at the thought of an empathetic and decent human being as the 46th U.S. President, while also feeling critical of his political record and skeptical of how much a new administration might actually accomplish.
  • It’s possible to feel elated about seeing the nation take the streets in celebration rather than protest, while also feeling concerned about the impact of crowds on already surging covid-19 cases.
  • It’s possible to feel tremendously grateful for the contributions of BIPOC in this election that carried many critical swing states, while also feeling sobered by the work still to be done in communities of color (who all experienced some shifts toward Trump compared to 2016).
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Garrett Archer/ABC 15 Arizona (left) and Environmental Protection Agency (right)
  • It’s possible to feel a sense of awe at the mobilization of the Navajo vote in Arizona, while also feeling ashamed about how undeserving either major party is of the Indigenous vote.
  • It’s possible to feel indebted to leaders like Stacey Abrams in Georgia, while also feeling humbled by others such as Tameika Atkins, Helen Butler, and Deborah Scott who have carried this work, mostly without acclaim, for much longer than one election cycle.
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Source: NEP exit polls, image by Bing Huo
  • It’s possible to feel excited about the nearly 3.6 million more Asian Americans who voted in this election than in 2016, while also feeling angry that Asians shifted more towards Trump in this election (from D+38 to D+17) than any other racial group.
  • It’s possible to love friends and family members who have different political beliefs than you after this election, while also feeling the need to distance yourself from them as an act of self-love and protection.
  • It’s possible to feel committed to the healing of the Church, while also feeling the need for her toxic institutions and oppressive theologies to be renounced, torn down, and reconstructed entirely.
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AP Images- A Trump rally in Colorado
  • It’s possible to desire theological and moral transformation in the approx. 80% of white evangelicals who AGAIN voted for Trump, while also feeling angry from giving so much energy to a group that has proven it is unwilling to change.
  • It’s possible to desire unity in the Church, while also realizing that it comes at different costs for different communities, and not all those who profess to be “Christian” are actually worshipping Jesus.
  • It’s possible to feel committed to fasting and praying for our nation, while also feeling troubled about how there are many fervently praying and interceding for completely opposite outcomes.

These are just some of the tensions that I’m sitting in today. I know it’s a lot. But I’m giving my permission to be a whole person, with mixed feelings, in a year and an election season that truly was like no other.

So what are you feeling in this moment? What tensions are you feeling and what complexities are you confronting in the aftermath of the 2020 Election?

God who feels,

We are grateful that you are not a God who demands of us an emotionally numb existence. That you have given us the kind of life that contains the beauty and interest of expression, is a gift that only expands. But we have become all too afraid of our emotional expression. We have seen emotion coupled with injustice and white supremacy wielded against us and society; and slowly, we have come to exalt thought and doing over feeling. but we now that hierarchy does not exist in You. Don’t let them tear us from ourselves. Restore to us an emotionally whole life. That abundant and complicated lie that contains the beauty of feeling- not that we would make masters of our emotions, but that we would honor them and the multitude of stories every feeling moment contains. Lord, keep us whole.”

-(Prayer from Cole Arthur Riley, @blackliturgies on IG)

Co-Pastor @bethelcommunitysl | Director of Advocacy @fphayward | pastor, activist, writer | married to @eubanksme | co-author of @lentenlament | she/her

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