By Jan Warrington
Early on the day after Donald Trump was inaugurated president, I began to fret about the sign I was going to carry at the Women’s March. The sign, designed and made by a friend’s son, read in bold letters: “YUGE MISTAKE.” At the last minute I realized I wanted to convey a more uplifting, more positive message — something about hope, or how we could all get through the next four years together. So as I was leaving my D.C. hotel room I decided to abandon the sign on the street near the hotel. If someone else wanted to carry it, fine by me.
Then the hotel elevator doors opened —“What a great sign!” “Oh, I love that.” “Mind if I take a picture?” And then the elevator doors opened again to a lobby filled with a sea of pink — and that sea began to rush toward me. I was a pink pussy hat magnet. The adrenaline rush started — no way was I discarding that sign! All day long, my friends and I took turns carrying the sign, and we were deluged with photo requests. That night in our car on the way to Baltimore, we listened to Sean Spicer, all hyped-up and crazy-acting. Adrenaline still pumping, we guffawed, laughed, laughed harder.
My fellow marchers taught me an important lesson that day, and I am grateful. The sign wasn’t negative — it was truthful; electing Trump was a huge mistake. That morning marked the last time I worried whether my comments about Trump were too negative as long as they were based in thoughtfulness and in truth. That day, too, was the last time, for years, that I enjoyed a belly laugh at any thing Trump-related.
I remember well how I felt late on the night of November 8, 2016 — physically ill, any sense of well-being destroyed. I felt scared, angry, and helpless, and as those early Trump days passed at an excruciatingly slow pace, my feelings of powerlessness intensified. The word trauma can be overused, but it seemed apt — Trump’s election represented the potential destruction of much of what I value.
I began to realize that I was confronting an existential issue: that daily life — seeing friends, watching baseball, cooking meals, going to work, doing chores — would go on against the backdrop of a nation now led by a dangerously disordered man. How would that be possible? As a psychologist, I knew that a comforting answer could be found in research showing that connections with others — real, meaningful, authentic relationships — could offer us purpose, help us avoid despair. So here’s a consolation for me, and a deeply heartfelt one: Not once since that day of the Women’s March have I felt alone. And for that I will remain forever grateful.
Other than in my experiences as a group therapy leader, the value of belonging to a group has rarely been so clear. The notion of universality — the idea that we’re not alone in this world — is one factor that acclaimed psychiatrist Irvin Yalom believes helps people heal. His other therapeutic factors have felt so necessary these last four years — creating hope, helping and learning from others, feeling empowered by information.
Today, I am deeply thankful for Frank, grateful that he has been my fellow traveler. He graciously did not grumble when I woke him up to tell him of John McCain’s thumbs-down rejection of the Obama Care repeal, and he was as pleased as I was when I awakened him to tell him the good news from the Georgia Senate runoffs.
During these four years, we have been lifted up by family members — my sister, who has often been fearless in confronting those who have spread lies (“Joe Biden is not a Socialist!”); our niece, whose concern for those less fortunate is deeply felt and is demonstrated by her generosity of spirit; Frank’s sister, whose gracious expressions of appreciation for, and recognition of, those who fought to defeat Trump were often much-needed balm for my spirits. Most of us, Trump supporters included, want to be seen and appreciated.
And friends who continue to inspire? I cherish my fellow marchers; to this day we commiserate and encourage via group texts, as Frank does with friends and cousins. I cherish my pink pussy hat, knitted by a dear friend. I cherish those many friends across the country — the list is long — who shared valuable information and suggestions about how to help defeat Trump, from groups to join, products to boycott, organizations to support — as recently as where to donate to help Democrats win the Georgia Senate races.
I am grateful to friends who marched with the Parkland survivors at the March For Our Lives in 2018, grateful for those who participated in protests all across the country, went to Indivisible meetings, went door to door to help register voters, called senators and representatives, donated time and money to Democratic candidates. I am grateful for all the ways in which each of you contributed to the 2018 Blue Wave, the Senate successes, the election of Joe Biden.
I am grateful for friends whose texts and emails have encouraged me to hang in there when I was feeling down; grateful for walking partners who listened to my exasperation and worry; grateful for journalists and commentators who have tried to report and explain and warn us. I am grateful for readers of this blog.
I’m grateful for our neighbor who texted to tell me, when we were out of town, that the Biden sign in our window had been defaced — Joe’s face smeared with feces. And I’m grateful to my heroic 19-year-old pal who didn’t hesitate to clean up that mess; I hope it continues to make for a good story to tell friends.
And in this year of the pandemic, when we couldn’t gather with loved ones, when we had to be apart — I have never felt alone. A profound thank you. You remain sources of inspiration and support.
As we inch closer to Joe Biden’s inauguration, my inspiration going forward will come from the sign that my friend Sally’s daughter Sarah carried at the Women’s March. The first line stands out: “It’s about basic human decency.”
My hope is that each of you will remember this message (I have faith that you will), but please take a moment, make a toast, do a dance, and savor our November victory — then get back to work; the 2022 midterms are less than two years away! Dark days may lie ahead as Joe and Kamala try to undo Trump’s destructive actions, but I promise I’ll try to accompany you. I hope that we will help and learn from each other, we will share information, and we will (at times — not always) feel hopeful.
And one final note: The “YUGE MISTAKE” sign? There’s a picture on the Esquire magazine website — under the heading “12 Of The Most Clever Signs From The Women’s March In D.C” — of my friend Gaby carrying it at the march. Ah, for one moment, I can smile again. Thank you all. Now back to work.