A weird thing happened. Since the election results first started showing the possibility of President Donald being a reality, two lines of a Cher song I haven’t heard in at least a decade, possibly longer, have been playing in my head.
“If I could turn back time.
If I could find a way…”
I told my husband. In his thoughtful, science-minded way, he replied, “Not possible. Even if you could go back in time, because of [insert scientific terms I don’t understand and therefore can’t paraphrase], you couldn’t change the outcome.”
“That’s not what I mean,” I replied. I do wish we could undo this election, but I wasn’t looking for magical thinking. I was feeling shock, sadness, anger, and grief. From the beginning of his campaign, The Donald’s flagrant narcissism, fear-mongering, ignorance, lies and bullying turned on all my warning signals. Danger! Danger! Do not approach! Steer clear! But many people didn’t interpret The Donald the way I did, and enough of them voted, or didn’t vote at all, to get us to where we are today.
In what feels like a different lifetime, I was married to a narcissist. And the puzzle I’ve been trying to decode since The Donald first got the Republican nomination is, how do you deal with a narcissist? I escaped with a divorce! But now this guy is here. He’s got influence. He’s seeking more power. I don’t agree with any of the “greatest words” coming out of his mouth. But he’s here. Almost everyday, some memory from my past life would come up in vivid detail. This was actually a good thing. I didn’t think I was repressing anything, but there’s a lot of rubbish still hanging around in my subconscious mind, and seeing The Donald do some crazy thing – and then seeing the mental gymnastics being performed to make that crazy thing somehow okay or workable or even just ignore-able for the sake of electing anyone but Hillary Rodham Clinton as president – was strangely therapeutic.
But I was so ready to be done with that. I wanted the security that electing an emotionally stable, educated AF woman to the White House would bring. I didn’t get that. Instead I got The Donald and his list of largely implausible and wholly dangerous (to me and my values), things to Make Narcissistic Americans Feel Great Again. And it scared me. I already lived that nightmare in my personal life, and now my extended family was pushing me into an arranged marriage with another bully?!?
Strange that his chosen campaign theme song fits so perfectly:
“You can’t always get what you want.
You get what you nee-eed!”
Because today, after the shock has had time to wear off, I got what I need. Not security, but clarity.
I don’t have any bitterness towards my ex-husband. It is my responsibility to take care of myself, and I didn’t do that in our marriage. That doesn’t mean his behavior was okay. It was insanity. Narcissists are dangerous because they manipulate others into believing their lies. Number one lie is that you need them. Their most greatest, huge tool – really, the most tremendous tool you’ve ever seen – is confusion. Their web of confusion is so great, it has the power to obscure all truth (but only if you let it).
The woman I am today doesn’t tolerate that kind of nonsense, but I’ve still been afraid. Afraid that I would abandon myself in order to live the way someone else wanted. Afraid that I would just keep my mouth shut and let the bullies take charge because I don’t like conflict (in many little ways, I find myself still doing that quite often). Afraid that the majority of Americans are crazy and that the only way to survive is to isolate myself.
Today I’m not afraid anymore, because I remembered that the divorce wasn’t the magic bullet that gave me my life back. I did that for myself in the months preceding my divorce. I stopped arguing with crazy. I stopped getting defensive about what I wanted, and stopped believing that I didn’t deserve what I wanted, or that the things I wanted (love, respect, peace) were impossible to achieve. It was the scariest thing. I didn’t want to get divorced. I wanted all the things I wanted AND to stay married. But once I accepted that divorce was a possibility, accepted that I had bigger choices than of simply how to keep defending myself from attack, everything changed. And life after divorce – well, it was like rainbows and sparkles and chocolate forests were suddenly all around me, where before I had seen nothing but a dark void.
So the truth is, I know how to handle The Donald as president. I can skip the years of ignoring the truth, hiding from unpleasant bullying, being confused about what the real issue is, being a victim of my own small-mindedness. I can skip straight to the part where I stand up for what I believe in, for the world I want to live in, and trust that others will help me. I know people are good. The fact that we all have delusions we have to find our way out of is not a reason to despair, or burn down the government, or build a wall, or move to another country.
There’s been a lot of commentary on what the slogan Make America Great Again really means. But whatever it might mean is irrelevant, because we can’t turn back time. Cher is just a romantic dreamer! It is not possible.
It is not fucking possible to go back in time! My fears about being dragged back into the dark ages are not possible. We as a species are moving forward and there are so many amazing things to discover along the way. There never was and never will be a single person to elect to make the world “right” or “great again.“
There are just choices. Countless choices. Some choices are better than others. How we choose to deal with our fears – that’s what will determine our future.