Losing My Religion – How Maya Angelou Saved Me From Post Election Grief

Losing My Religion – How Maya Angelou Saved Me From Post Election Grief

As someone who has a rather tenuous grasp on faith, I find it is tested on a regular basis. It’s as if God gets a kick out of watching my histrionics. I’m at least learning from the pattern though. As soon as I feel like I’ve got it all figured out, something horrible happens to completely rock my world. When it does, my immediate reaction is to shout, “Screw this and screw God! All this magic belief crap is bullshit and I should accept reality. You live, you die, and you become worm food.”

My temper tantrum doesn’t alleviate my pain and I’m left to stew in my thoughts. My misery does not lift right away, but eventually, I get tired of wallowing. I begin to consider my options of either changing my circumstances or changing my attitude – often a combination of both. Then the clouds slowly lift and life goes on.

There’s a moment between the time when my dark thoughts end and the tiniest bit of optimism creeps in, that I feel as if someone or something has had a hand in the shift. Sometimes it’s almost tangible. I’ll hear a song on the radio, or something will catch my eye, which causes me to stop in my tracks and break the endless soundtrack in my head. That’s when the change comes and I know it’s attributable to something greater than myself. When I can recognize that grace for what it is, I am filled with awe at its magnificence. I wish I could bottle it to save for later or for the next disaster. But I can’t; it’s like a dream that fades from my memory. Before long, my ego takes all the credit for my change in attitude and outlook.

After the election, I felt abandoned by my faith. The concept of grace seemed like a figment of my imagination. How could such a horrid, misogynist, racist, xenophobic person be elected by my fellow Americans? It must mean they too are equally horrid and everything I believe about there being goodness in the world is wrong. How could God let this happen?

Maybe there is no God. Maybe God is dead. My anger, frustration, and loss of faith has me contemplating liposuction, a boob job, and partial lobotomy to better fit into the new world order. I roll racist words around in my mouth to see what they taste like. They are bitter and it doesn’t take long before I realize the “If you can’t beat em join em” strategy isn’t going to work for me.

My tears fall, darkness looms, and I see no way of lifting myself, when I hear a voice. It’s not the voice of God, or my guardian angel – although I don’t know that I’d recognize their voices. Besides they’re both pissed at me for the “God is dead” thing. No, the voice I hear is that of Maya Angelou saying,

“Stop it! Stop it and be grateful.”

I’d heard her say that in an interview once and now her voice rings clearly in my head.

sad woman sitting alone in a empty room

I do stop it, more out of shock than of reverence. I answer the voice, “Are you freaking kidding me? You have no idea how bad things are right now.” I don’t say it out loud, but I wonder if this is how people felt when Hitler came into power. Did good people learn to put up and shut up before being rolled up into the wrong side of history.

I try to tell myself I’m being overly dramatic. I know plenty of people who aren’t horrible; certainly not Nazi sympathizers, who voted for trump. Maybe I’m the crazy one. Then I think about the threats of mass deportations, the Muslim ban, the pussy grabbing and now the cabinet appointees, ugh!  How can I live in a world where this kind of garbage passes for leadership?

Again the wise poet says with firmness,

“Stop it and be grateful.”

“For what,” I rail, “My whiteness? Do you want me to hide behind my race and privilege while the world around me burns? You, of all people should understand how wrong this is.” Her prose echo in my head,

“I note the obvious differences, between each sort and type, but we are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike.”

“That’s right. That’s why this is such a disaster. Now, get out of my head, you crazy ghost.” I’m not in the mood for inspiration.”

“What I pray for is humility to know that there is something greater than “I”. And I have to know that the brute, the bigot, and the batterer are all children of God, whether they know it or not, and I’m supposed to treat them accordingly.” 

I take a deep breath. I’m not good enough or wise enough, certainly not strong enough to keep up with the great Maya Angelou. Besides. I’m just one person. I think about the challenges she had to face, and feel embarrassed for my weakness. I hear the ping of my phone; a text from a friend about a gathering of women who plan to organize, fund raise and stay vigilant against the coming tide of injustice. I shake my head wondering how this tiny group can do anything, but respond, “count me in.”

I hear Maya’s voice one more time,

“You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may tread me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.”

I drag my sorry butt to a yoga class, eager to distract myself and quiet my mind. When I start the car I hear Andre Day’s voice belting out the chorus to her song, “I rise up.”

“Ugh.” I shout to the heavens. “All right already, I get it.”

I say a silent prayer of gratitude for whatever force enabled me to see things from a different perspective and apologize for losing my faith. I also give a shout out to Maya Angelou whose words never fail to enlighten and inspire. Then I vow to remember the grace I felt today and to learn to trust that it will show up tomorrow as well.

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