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What the 2004 Race Taught Me About Post-election Anxiety

In the spirit of coping with post-election anxiety I’ll share what I learned in 2004. I strongly disagreed with environmental policies of the Bush Administration and was devastated that Gore’s promise of a greener future hadn’t materialized.  So, I poured my heart and soul into campaigning for the Democratic candidate, John Kerry, based on his […]

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Zip opening to brighter future
Zip opening to brighter future

In the spirit of coping with post-election anxiety I’ll share what I learned in 2004. I strongly disagreed with environmental policies of the Bush Administration and was devastated that Gore’s promise of a greener future hadn’t materialized.  So, I poured my heart and soul into campaigning for the Democratic candidate, John Kerry, based on his environmental platform. 

I was joined by a small team of people committed to the same goals. The 8 of us spent most weekends selling raffle tickets to raise money for our initiative.  We raised thousands of dollars, and then as a grand finale, held an art auction gala. 

I was 7 months pregnant on the night of the big event as I stood onstage for a round of recognition that made me blush. It was thrilling to be able donate the more than $13,000 we’d raised to our candidate. 

And then election night came and we gathered to watch as the results rolled in. We were devastated.

After election night, I decided to pick myself up and redirect my energy. That money could have had a much bigger impact had we donated to an environmental non-profit directly. We were successful in raising the funds, why not just change our strategy and keep the momentum going?

I was excited to share my brilliant insight with the team. However, among the few people who answered my calls, one woman shared that her dad, who had been part of the team, had to go on Prozac to cope with the disappointment. 

So in the end, the impact it had on this terrific group of caring people distressed me more than the election results. And it dawned on me that we were fighting the wrong battle.

Of course, in hindsight, the contentious (for then) 2004 election was a walk in the park compared to now.  Which on the surface sounds bleak for our future.  Fortunately, when we look back through history, we can see that change is never linear.  In fact, some thought leaders and historians view this point as pendulum turnaround time. 

In their new book, The Upswing: How America Came Together a Century Ago and How We Can Do It Again, Robert Putnam and Shaylyn Romney Garrett argue that, though the U.S. suffered a similar confluence of political, economic, cultural, and social upheaval in the past, Americans were able to come together and organize to create change. And, these authors believe, we can do it again.

This article is a must-read for understanding our current national turmoil in the big-picture context and helping to stay our course, regardless of the uncertainty surrounding us.

The uncertainties and upheavals of 2020, the world-wide coronavirus pandemic, the very real awakening to the inequities of racial-social-economic injustice, the threat of catastrophic climate change, and the divisiveness in the fabric of American society, certainly challenge us all in understanding our place in our rapidly shifting world.

Yet the takeaway from my 2004 election lesson is that we can’t count on a broken political system to right these wrongs.  Pouring countless hours and dollars into a political race is ultimately diluting your ability to make a real difference.  It’s the causes themselves that need you. 

To be sure, this week will continue to challenge us, regardless of our political leanings.  These practices to strengthen resilience will help you to weather the storm.

The reality is, in the days, weeks and probably years following the election life will go on mostly as usual.  Both candidates have held the seat before. Our friends and relatives with opposing political opinions will hopefully remain our friends and relatives.

Let’s use today as a reminder that we have the opportunity to, in the words of Margaret Mead, “be the change you want to see in the world”. Luckily, we don’t have to take on the whole world in order to make a difference.

About Elizabeth Borelli, PCC

Elizabeth coaches individuals and conducts group workshops designed to guide women to rediscover their identity as they move through mid-life transition.  Over the past 5 years, she has helped hundreds of mid-to-late career women to find clarity, stand in their value and reach their career goals. 

Elizabeth Borelli combines her BA in psychology, multiple certifications in ICF-accredited life coaching, plant based nutrition, and YTT yoga teacher training into a unique mind-body approach to personal growth and professional development.

Visit her website at www.nextcareercoaching.com

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