How A Book, A New Friend, and a Dream Saved My Election Week

Prologue:

I rarely write about politics. It’s corrupt, self-serving, and either bores the shit out of me or fills me with impotent rage. But Lord … what a year this week has been.

Prologue II:

In 2016, I brilliantly decided to go to the Dominican Republic during Election Week. (After I sent in my absentee ballot … I may be cavalier, but I’m not a reprobate.) I highly recommend absconding to paradise during election weeks. Four years ago this week, I was on the beach drinking out of a freshly macheted coconut (no, it didn’t have rum in it — DAMN).

I was drinking Dominican coffee with fried plantains for breakfast, lazing under massive palm trees, and snorkeling in crystal-clear water, then coming back to my 5-star resort and finding my concierge had drawn me a bubble bath dotted with rose petals, accompanied by champagne and chocolate-covered strawberries. (I can’t afford this every year, OBVS. There’s a reason I haven’t been back since then. Well … plus the fact that it’ll probably be quite some time before anywhere lets Americans in again.) My roommate marveled that I even returned to the land of my birth after finding out Donald Trump was elected, while I drowsed in glory on the Punta Cana beach. Admittedly, I was tempted to enroll in Spanish classes and find a job right away, but I had a mortgage … not to mention a husband … and it seemed irresponsible to abandon both.

Yes. This was where I stayed.

Prologue III:

I should’ve abandoned. Lord, I should’ve. But a hurricane probably would’ve taken me out.

Monday:

I start the week in good spirits. My absentee ballot was sent in and, according to the nifty tracking mechanism, received and counted several weeks prior. Completion of civic duty assured, I wake up and thank God for my blessings: safety, income/work, good company (in the form of my roommate and her two cats), health, a fridge full of food, a home gym, good books to read. I go to work (i.e. my living room) and don’t fuck anything up. It is a good day. I go to bed and brace for riots tomorrow.

Tuesday:

The day begins. It is extraordinarily, colossally bad. Ten emails begin my day. I frantically search for something I have no idea what a colleague is talking about. Another colleague attempts to school me on a draconian and needlessly uber-detailed flowchart, which has at least 3,000 steps I need to know, dates that contradict themselves, and obfuscating entries that render me to actually stop talking to her so I can try to collect my breath as tears form in my throat. I call my husband and have a panic attack. I have not had a panic attack in a very, very long time (thank you, antidepressants). I get dizzy, I hyperventilate, I can’t breathe, I sob. I weep my heart out as I tell him I can’t do this, I’m stupid, I will never get all these details, they’re going to fire me and I’m going to have to crawl home to Missouri from D.C. and work at a grocery store for the rest of my life. He is, as he has been for the last 19 years, a voice of reason. He tells me over and over to breathe, and I listen, and breathe, and eventually my head stops spinning. He tells me that I am incredibly smart, that I have started from the ground up at previous jobs and always learned everything (even though once I spent 45 minutes crying in my car in the parking garage after work from the stress until I could calm down enough to turn the car on and drive home), that he believes in me, that he knows I can do it. “You survived a fucking stroke,” he concludes. “You can certainly handle some fucking paperwork.” Despite myself, I laugh. He is right. I think back to the Lord God Almighty holding my hand as my brain was lasered through while I was awake. I can certainly learn a damn flowchart (albeit a huuuuuuuuge one). I scowl, stiffen my spine, and go back to work. I have cake for dinner, but, what the fuck. Sometimes that is self-care. I go to bed and prepare for riots tomorrow.

Wednesday:

Unsurprisingly (I am 45 years old, this is not my first election rodeo), the votes are still being counted. I go back to work. I fix a problem in the first 30 minutes and am irrepressibly perked up. I text my husband this and he woohoo’s. Then he asks me if I have seen that Sam Heughan and Graham McTavish (of “Outlander” fame — my favorite books/TV series in the entire world — the books I’ve been reading for over a decade, over ten times each, so much so that the paperbacks are falling apart and the author, Diana Gabaldon, has pretty much ruined me for all other authors; not to mention I have a floor-to-ceiling bookshelf at home that is my Outlander Shrine, filled with not only the books — in hardcover, with signed bookplates by Herself, AND paperbacks — but also every magazine, laminated Jamie and Claire figures, and Scotland flag I could get my hands on) have written a new book called “Clanlands.” I laugh at him via text. “Have I HEARD of it?? I have an autographed copy coming from Waterstone’s in the UK that should be on my doorstep later today.” Of course, he muses. He forgot who he was talking to. But, he interjected, did I also see there was an audio version READ BY THE AUTHORS. I perk up exponentially, as only I perk up upon talk of an audition for a really good role, or when it’s time to start booking flights for a vacation, or a friend calls and says we’re going to the botanical gardens/shopping/out for lattes, or when I’m out walking and a stranger’s dog descends upon me for pets and kisses, and their owner lets them. “Nooooooo,” I purr, my eyes gleaming with what can only be described as lust. (I’m sort of glad my husband can’t see it.) “Is that on Amazon?’ I navigate to Audible and, after some confusion (as I am a die-hard PAPER BOOK FAN and this IS my first rodeo here), I download Sam and Graham’s audiobook, excitement rising in my chest like a tide. I press “play” …

Oh. My. God. It. Is. Fucking. Hilarious.

Sam and Graham have a jovial/grumpster relationship, in which Sam is likened to a nine-year-old grinning ginger idiot who loves tormenting the older Graham, who is taunted as “Lady McTavish” for his constant need for lattes, naps, a rest, and snacks. (On Outlander, Graham in fact plays Sam’s plotting uncle.) Graham skewers Sam for being a perfectly coiffed and made-up Adonis who will hawk anything (Sam has been a spokesperson for Barbour and Audi — Graham jokes, “The boy will push anything. He probably has an Audi hidden in his bathroom.”), as well as DO anything, including driving a camper van (the “Fiat Fiasco”) stick-shift without actually knowing how to drive a stick shift. Graham narrating Sam trying to start the van and drive out of the car park without killing them had me in stitches, all before half the chapter ended. Throughout, the melliflulous Scottish voices of Graham and Sam (my future husband, if anything happens to my current one) make my eyes slide closed with delight, and I snicker as they needle each other (“That is a calculated falsehood, Graham” or “That’s an understatement, boy”).

This book is joyous, informative, HIGH-larious, and as addicting as a box of shortbread. It is, in short, one of the highlights of my year. And I got it at just the right time.

Thursday:

Hmm. Still no president. Well … the pandemic necessitated MILLIONS of mail-in ballots; surely that’s what’s holding up the process. I have been watching Roots all week at night … my husband gave me the blu-ray for Christmas at my request. I love the classic miniseries — North and South, The Thorn Birds — but had never seen this one, except for a couple episodes I caught on cable once. Even being made in the 1970s, some of the scenes break my heart, particularly the hold of the slave ship. As Kunta Kinte’s daughter, Kizzy, is being betrayed by her white bitch ex-best friend, my Bible study leader, Lucy, calls to catch up. We talk for an astonishing 90 minutes. The conversation just rambles and goes anywhere … from our moms, to work, to healthcare, to the pandemic and the lack of hope in this country right now. I confide in her how, as I’ve grown, matured and gotten a look at the real world and situations that people have to deal with, that I’ve gotten quite a bit more liberal than the rigid girl who used to simply vote for the anti-abortion candidate no matter what, because it was drummed into me from childhood that life began at conception and abortion is BLOODY MURRRRDERRRRR. That’s a long topic for another time (this post is already long enough … if you’re still reading, kudos on your attention span and my gratitude to you for spending this much time with me). As we hang up, I almost say “I love you” to Lucy. I am a big proponent of friends telling friends they love each other. I end almost all calls to my girlfriends and sisters with “I love you.” Then I rear back … after all, I have barely known Lucy for two months. She might think it a bit weird. Well, hell … we were just talking about abortion and our moms’ cancer. She listened to me tear up. I texted her, “Thanks so much for the talk. Love ya.” She texted back that she loved me too. Just like that, I have a new friend in Virginia firmly in my corner. (It only took A BLOODY YEAR.)

Friday:

Oh my God, how do we NOT have a president yet??? It’s been THREE DAYS. JESUS was resurrected by now!!

Saturday:

I regretfully open my eyes. I was just having the most incredible dream. (I usually have anxiety nightmares, so this was a welcome change!) I dreamed I had inherited a mansion. I was walking around the ground floor. A massive staircase descended to huge white double front doors. To the side was a gorgeous sitting room with gleaming wood floors covered in a beautiful Persian carpet. Above a fireplace with a crackling fire, a huge Christmas swag had been hung, sparkling with ornaments, satin bows and glittering pinecones. A brocade wingback chair sat by the fire, graced by a huge teddy bear with a Christmas hat, and wrapped gifts spilling around him to the Christmas tree that someone had already put up and decorated. I marveled at the swag above the fireplace. This was the kind of house I had always wanted, but will certainly never afford in this life. “I can’t believe this belongs to me!!” I exclaimed, then ran to look out the windows flanking the front door. Alas, the mansion did not sit overlooking a beach, but a massive green lawn, flowing so far into the distance that I couldn’t even see a street. I was just filled with completion and delight. There was no pandemic, such a thing had never even been dreamed of, and I couldn’t wait to have everyone I knew over for Christmas. Then I slowly opened my eyes … and Pinterest. I foolishly thought, maybe I can stumble across a similar picture to post for you all …. a picture being worth a thousand words, after all. I searched for about 30 minutes (that’s about the limit of my attention span when I have other things to do), but of course I couldn’t find something similar. How do you find permanent proof of a dream?

This was kinda close.

They say you can’t dream of people or places you haven’t seen, so how could my brain conjure up this vision? As I woke up fully and became coherent, I thought … Oh my God. Maybe that was my Heavenly mansion. “In my Father’s house are many mansions. If it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” (John 14: 2-3)

I’m not a huge proponent of dreams being messages. While being a woman of faith, I also put staunch faith in science (yes, those of us do really exist). Probably because my mom was a nurse and my dad is a pharmacist. I’ve read that dreams are merely bits of your life that your subconscious scrambles around, sometimes making sense, sometimes not. But … just a few times … I truly believe I’ve dreamed something prophetic. When I was in college, I dreamed that my sister was living in squalor in a shack with a naked light bulb hanging on a string from the ceiling, and roaches running everywhere. I relayed this dream to her with glee (we sort of hated each other then; I was mainly telling her to be mean and needle her) … but it had the unexpected result of her knuckling down to her studies. She passed her CPA exam and is now an executive at a Fortune 500 company. She probably has no memory of this dream and might think I am claiming some credit for her success, like an oracle … I’m certainly not, she did it all herself and she’s a bloody amazing woman. But that dream … it was over 20 years ago and I’ve not forgotten it.

Another one, and by far the best one, I had eight months after my mom passed away. I hadn’t had any dreams of her, and was quite sad, since I longed to see her again. I dreamed I was at a church service in my childhood school. Service ended and I was talking to some friends. Then I glanced around … and there was my mom, sitting in a pew wearing the exact same black and white outfit she’d worn at my college graduation. Her face lit up and she grinned a big, rigid, exaggerated, goofy grin, and waved her hand back and forth con brio. I felt punched in the gut. It was one of those dreams that was so real, I honest to God thought she’d come back to life. I hurriedly tried to make my way over to her; she grinned exorbitantly and waved again, like she’d been hiding this secret for months like a Christmas present, and was overjoyed to finally be springing it on me. I was enveloped in a mass of people, and by the time I got to her pew, she was gone. But the look on her face … the joy, the peace, the happiness … I woke up knowing she was in Heaven, that she was so much better than fine, that she was young and vibrant and waiting to see me again; that there were gifts in store she couldn’t wait to show me.

So, this Saturday morning, after dreaming of (I hope) my Heavenly mansion, I got up, made coffee, and was finishing “Clanlands” on audio when our new president was declared. I got down on my knees (figuratively, since I’m old) and thanked God. Four years of immaturity, narcissism, defiance of common decency, and racism had just been expunged by the American people. My roommate and I got tears in our eyes watching Van Jones on CNN. It was 75 and perfect outside. I decided to go for a walk. The first song that came up on my shuffled playlist was “Hope in Front of Me.” I grinned, walked into a big patch of sunshine, and passed a lamp post that had a paper taped to it reading, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me.” There were signs everywhere. I had survived the week, sprinkled with blessings in the midst of panic and sadness. A book, a new friend, and a glorious dream.

But in 2024 … I’m thinking Punta Cana again.

2 thoughts on “How A Book, A New Friend, and a Dream Saved My Election Week

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