Was It a Mistake to Vote Early?

Was It a Mistake to Vote Early?

I decided to vote early this election, something I’ve never done before. I’m not sure why, but I had this urgent need to “check the box” and get it out of the way. I thought maybe it would relieve this oppressive weight of uncertainty that seems to be pressing down on me, limiting my joy and threatening my serenity.

I fight hard for joy. I fight hard for serenity.

Every. Single. Day.

I thought voting early might help. I was tired of the onslaught of media fodder that routinely shocked and disturbed me. I’ll vote, I thought, do my part, and then reclaim that part of my mind so troubled by each new revelation.

I’ve been angered, and saddened, and surprised over and over again.

I don’t like surprises.

I like consistency.

And track records. And promises supported by facts.

And kindness. And respectfulness. And humility—the definition my father once taught me that means “remaining teachable,” a lifelong process that contends we all can learn from others, our circumstances, our past, and especially our mistakes.

As I wheeled down the ramp of my van and took my place in line at my designated early polling place, a tall ball-capped gentleman came over to me and said, “It’s about an hour wait from here.”

I looked up to his hooded eyes, hidden further by dark-rimmed glasses, and thanked the mysterious man, but kept moving.

Then I began to wonder.

Why did he tell me that? I scooted up to the person in front of me and parked, but my mind kept rolling. Was it directed to me because I was in a wheelchair? Or was he suggesting I should come back later when it would be less crowded? Or maybe he was overstating the situation, hoping I would give up and go home. Was he trying to encourage low voter turnout? Was that legal?

Good grief, Becky! I scolded myself. Maybe the fellow was just being nice! Have I allowed this election to change me that much? Does it have me questioning each action for a motive or an agenda?

Can I no longer recognize sincere kindness?

Then it began to rain. I pulled my rain jacket hood over my head and tucked my cell phone in my lap, protecting it and my spinning mind from the elements.

Dozens were ahead of me. Dozens lined up after me. Yet, I felt alone. Everyone seemed to be chatting. About a vet appointment. A soccer game. The umbrella that was left in the car.

Was I the only one who had squirrels running around in her head?

When I finally wheeled into the building, the line hooked right, and then unexpectedly doubled back on itself, allowing more folks to come in from the rain, I surmised. I began to connect faces to the overheard conversations. These were just people, with lives outside those lines, coming to share their opinion with a vote.

Our unpredictable jaunt reminded me of my morning quiet time reading from Mark Nepo’s The Book of Awakening. He describes a bird’s eye view of traffic, with roads as “arteries” and cars as “cells” that circulate through the streets; never sure of exactly what is around the bend since “the dilation and constriction of events” is something beyond his control.

Like our lines.

And the course and tone of this election.

“No cell phones please,” a gent reminded me, pointing to the phone in my lap. I stopped to put it away, feeling this “body” of folks blocked behind me. Together, we hovered at the threshold of the voting area where more lines formed and more rule-enforcers waited to direct us.

“In truth,” Nepo points out, “like little cells, we race up and down the pathways collecting and dispersing, feeling crowded then lonely, and somehow just doing so keeps the world body healthy.”

That’s a comforting thought.

I must admit that feeding that ballot into the machine did give me a sense of value, of worth, of contribution however small to something much bigger.

“Breathe out your concerns, and feel yourself as a healthy cell whose simple movement is cleansing the world body,” Nepo offers as a closing meditation.

Let’s hope so.

Or, as Peter Marshall, once Chaplain of the United States Senate, said, “Lord, when we are wrong, make us willing to change; where we are right, make us as easy to live with.”

Amen, Brother Peter. The winner of this election needs to take a long hard look at that prayer. No one has a mandate; each campaign has inflamed nerves that need to be addressed by our leadership.

Mostly, we will need to heal.

“Here’s your sticker,” a smiling man said as he gave me proof of my adventuresome trek. “Have a good day.”

“You, too,” I said, and took the time to smile back.

And I meant it.

There, I’d done it. Early voting wasn’t a mistake. I felt lighter, relieved, and somehow more open to whatever is next for our country.

Let the healing begin.

How about you? How has this election affected you? Tell me about it. I’d love to know.

My best–always,

Becky  (Nana B)

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