On this eve of Thanksgiving, I am reflecting deeply and with profound movement of spirit and heart upon two weeks of listening, processing and holding the feelings raised by the election. In my role with the CCAR, it was a tremendous privilege to help organize the call we offered to our members and to share in the leadership of that call with our insightful, skilled and heart-open colleague, Ellen Lewis. All that Ellen taught us that day has remained present to me in the passage of these weeks and has helped immensely. To summarize a couple of key points, Ellen reminded us to be attentive to the truth of our own feelings and to remember that those feelings can inform how we act but need not control our actions. She invited us to self-care and compassion, and to hold close the knowledge that, in times of heighted feelings (particularly anger, fear and anxiety), we are all prone – and this includes those we serve – to acting out and displacement. I know those teachings will have proven helpful to those who were on the call (or who availed themselves of the recording as found at on the CCAR member’s site) as they have to me.
Upon reflection, I have a couple of additional thoughts to offer, particularly to those who have been in pain over the results. First, I have felt and noticed heard people speak of feelings that resemble those of mourning. And I would caution us against buying too fully into that metaphor. As many of us know from pastoral work, when someone is gravely – even life-threateningly ill – it is not uncommon for people to slip into anticipatory grief. It is almost as though the psyche is saying, “If I just experience the anger or the sadness now, maybe I won’t fall into despair when the inevitable death happens.” And it is a dangerous place to go. Chevre, the patient(s), our own souls and the soul of our country are gravely wounded, but the wounds have not yet proven fatal nor even been pronounced mortal. As was the case after 9/11, certain ideas we had about how things were may well have died two weeks ago, or at least been seriously altered. But we are here, as is the nation. We need to avoid falling into the anticipatory grief which will prevent us from doing whatever is to be our tikkun in responding to the wounds.
And one piece of the tikkun – in the framework of Rebbe Nachman’s teaching, especially on this eve of Thanksgiving, we can be looking for the od m’at (see Psalm 37) – the little place where evil/despair/rage do not hold sway, and from that little place “azamra l’Elohai b’odi” (Psalm 146) sing our way into inviting abundance back into the world – abundance of love, of hope and of commitment to justice. On this Thanksgiving, may the little place sing to each of us and help us inch our way toward healing and sacred purpose. And then, back to the work.
Rabbi Rex Perlmeter is CCAR Special Advisor for Member Care and Wellness