It was 5 a.m. on Wednesday, November 9. I was wide awake, after collapsing in bed at 1 a.m. What happened the night before had stirred in me my deepest fears. It couldn’t be true.
I quickly opened my phone and Googled “election.”
There it was, glaring at me in red and blue.
What. The. Fuck.
I thought about my mentally handicapped sister. My interracial family that included a black brother-in-law and three black nieces. My LGBTQ cousins. My immigrant Indian family. My pride of four sisters and four nieces. And all of us - the Muslim-Americans living in a post-Trump era.
Our president-elect had successfully run a campaign that 100 percent attacked everything that my family and I were. Our very, entire existence.
And so for the first time in my life, I cried over the results of an election. It felt like a betrayal in the deepest depths of my heart. This wasn’t like when George W. was re-elected. This felt tragic in Shakespearean terms.
I wanted to know who they were, the Trump voters. Why did they hate me and people of my ilk? I read news stories about the rise of white supremacy, how angry, misinformed white people got Mr. Trump elected.
As most of my friends took to post their grief on Facebook, I wrote that I felt like I had woken up to a dystopian reality where all of my male, white, angry childhood bullies were in charge. Several people responded to offer their support, telling me we would all rally against the currency of hate Mr. Trump so easily normalized.
But the strange thing about dealing with racism and hate in all its manifestations, is that it makes you feel so alone. I had been in touch with my sisters, family and friends who also were devastated, but there I was, laying in bed, afraid to face the day. I felt like I was that five-year-old kindergarten girl again who was facing off against my childhood bully, a boy named Jarrett who despised me for merely existing.
But my tears weren’t only for me. My Iraqi boyfriend was nervous about a Trump presidency as well. The first question he asked me that morning: “who won?” And so I cried again.
“Please don’t keep crying about this,” he begged.
He tried to sound cheerful, optimistic. He attempted to crack jokes. But I could read the terror on his face too.
After spending most of the morning under my covers (I'm a communications consultant who works from home) it was nearing 1 p.m.
“We have to do something today,” he said quietly. He suggested that we go to the National Museum of Women in the Arts. I was exhausted and numb so I went along with his suggestion.
When I walked outside into my new normal, D.C. was gray and gloomy. I slowly climbed on the bus and looked around. People spoke in hushed tones, their faces blank and vacant canvasses. A sadness clung to the air. When we finally reached the museum I knew what I wanted to see. After taking in several pieces, we climbed the stairs to the third floor, where the museum displays their one and only Frida Kahlo piece.
On that day, a tragic one for all of America, I stared at the Mexican artist’s self-portrait and finally felt a stirring of hope. Because if there is anything Frida has taught me it is this: we will survive but it won’t be easy.
Since then, it’s been momentary lapses of happiness and hope. I forget when I share a moment with friends. I forget when I go to the gym and work out. But I’m reminded when I log onto social media, read the news or get real with friends.
“Can you believe Donald Trump is our president?” I asked my sisters, several days after the election. We had just watched a romantic comedy to take our minds off the madness and when the credits rolled, we remembered. We shook our heads in disbelief.
Last night I had dinner with a childhood friend. She knows all about my past, my childhood trauma.
“I immediately thought of you,” she told me. “I know this is achingly painful with all of its many triggers.”
And so we said sorry, to each other. For being brown, for being Muslim, for being women. For our planet in a climate crisis, for women’s reproductive rights and the LGBTQ community. For all of us who are now being told we don’t matter. For this new painful reality we all are living. I am so sorry.