Holding My Breath on Voting Day

There are a lot of reasons voting matters. Think of your own. What do you fear? What do you hope for? Today, my fears and my hopes have so taken hold of me, I feel like I’m holding my breath, like I’m waiting to exhale.

I’m watching social media to see people calling friends and strangers to remind them to vote. I see so many ‘I Voted’ stickers. They are like little lighthouses along a coastline I hope is approachable by tomorrow morning. In my neighborhood, this morning, when I went to vote, the volunteers were all smiling. Most were over 60 or young Somali women. All smiling, all proud to be active today.

I’m finding hope today in one thing: A lot of people, people in much harder places and circumstances then me, than us, have faced worse odds and made bigger changes than anyone could have ever dreamed. Here’s a list of a few heroes (I keep saying their names like a mantra to get me through this day):

Maya Angelou
Ilhan Omar
James Baldwin
Andrea Jenkins
Emma Gonzalez
John Lewis
Jeannette Rankin
Ann Richards
Carla Hemlock
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Harvey Milk
And the young Somali women working at my polling place.

Thinking of these people is getting me through this day. I keep adding to this list. I’m keeping it in my notebook on my desk.

Someone on social media (Ok. It was Oprah.) reminded me that less than 100 years ago women weren’t allowed to vote, a law upheld by men who ruled our country. Indigenous Americans weren’t allowed to vote then either. Black people weren’t considered fully human according to our Constitution, and voter suppression and intimidation, especially against vulnerable Americans, is still political practice, even by the most powerful people in the country.

I walked to our polling place with my husband and my daughter this morning. People are still surprised that my husband and I have the same last name – that’s how new our rights are. We gave our names. We picked up our ballots. We took the most hopeful selfies we could. We voted.

We voted!

And now… working upstairs in my attic, I am holding my breath.

I held my breath in 2008. Would Americans really elect a black president? Yes. Yes, Americans would.

I am holding my breath now, in 2018, after two years of political bombs going off, hoping and praying none of them hit me.

Today, I voted, and I am holding my breath, maybe until tomorrow, maybe until 2020, maybe until I can fully believe, in the deepest parts of my heart, that the place where I live is led by people who believe we are all belong together, that when things are better for the most vulnerable among us, things are better for all of us.

I whisper to myself… “Maya Angelou, Ilhan Omar, James Baldwin, Andrea Jenkins, Emma Gonzalez, John Lewis…”

There is still time to get out the vote, to call your friends and family, to post on social media to remind people that they have this privilege and responsibility (and rights!).

And when today is over, we have got to keep working. Until then, I’ll see you online… I’ll be spending the rest of the day working on making more love find it’s way in the world (a conversation with our surrogate is coming!)… then playing with the best person I know.



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