Becoming Badass Pollyanna

Dec 2, 2023 | Agency

Imagine election night 2016 in the United States and 4 of my friends and I were gathered in my best friend’s living room, connected to the mass of women and girls across the country who were anticipating celebrating the election of the first woman president. A couple of hours in, our enthusiasm began to drain, and trepidation crept in to take its place. We watched the wave of red spread westward across the map. Finally one of my friends turned to me and said, “Jamie, you’re a librarian. I trust you. Tell me it’s going to be okay.” I choked. I wanted to reassure her. I knew what she was saying was “tell me that man will not be our next president.” And I knew in my bones that it was nearly inevitable that he would be. But she’d asked me to tell her it would be okay.

The truth is I toggle towards hopeful. I have an innate system inside me that looks for the silver lining. I would say it happens separately from me, like I have no control over it, but the truth is, it is integral to my spiritual belief system. As my mind whirled through all that, I finally squeezed out the words she was asking to hear (It’s going to be okay) but I said it without much conviction.

Our party fizzled out early. None of us wanted to stay up past our bedtimes to get the inevitable bad news. The next morning when I popped the lid on my laptop, there was that face. As I took it in, I felt this deep sadness inside me—that a man who so easily spouted hate and divisiveness into the world had enough votes in enough places to become the leader of our country. It was a deep grief for the polarization that had increasingly been seeded and nurtured throughout the 2016 campaign. What struck me  was that there was a vast middle of us, some who could not vote for Donald Trump, and some who could not vote for Hillary Clinton—and none of us felt that our politicians were listening to us. And just maybe we were not as far away from each other as we’d been led to believe…even though we cast our votes in different rows on our ballots.

I stood there knowing I had not spoken the full truth inside me the night before. I reached out to her the next day and explained that when I had said it was going to be okay, I believed it would be, that I was coming from a place of belief in Life supporting our good. I told her that I hate to come out, but the truth is I’m a Pollyanna. I did not tell her explicitly how much shame I have around being someone who the more cynical part of me deems to be naive. There are hard things in the world. I see them. My heart breaks open when I hear about them. My rage spills out and colors the air around me blue. And then my being toggles back to what is possible, to seeing so much beauty and love and hopefulness in people.

I said if I was going to be a Pollyanna (and it is clear that that is not changing) I was going to be a Badass Pollyanna!

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