Is there any way to express the level of gratitude I’m riding on today, which is possibly the last burst of energy that is keeping me awake and going?
Yesterday was arguably one of the more difficult days of my life. I need to forget the weather for just a second, which was cold and rainy, and the number of hours so many people stood in it, plastered with smiles, hopefully expectant, but realistic. Forget even the fitful sleep I had the night before, and the day starting before sunrise, already full of things to do and people to coordinate, with several group text messages going to prove it.
I wasn’t exactly a wife brimming over with patience, pride, or grace for my husband at 5:47am.
Politics has never been an idea that I thought I’d be banking in the experience folder of my life. And I actually believe there are plenty of insane people who do. Listen, I watched West Wing and The Good Wife. I’ve even seen the first couple seasons of Scandal. And if you want to put aside fiction for a second, we’re all pretty well informed of the national news. If TV is doing anything well, it is scaring average people out of ever wanting to be involved in politics. And in case you missed my post about small town political races, you can read all about my experience here. This business isn’t for the faint of heart.
I can’t say that a mayoral race for a town of 20,000 people can be accurately compared to either the real life White House or not-real-life Olivia Pope, but my stress level yesterday would have indicated that they are in fact identical.
One thing TV doesn’t very accurately portray: the crippling level of emotions swirling throughout all of it. I like to pretend I’m not a particularly emotional person, but the fact is, I am a fortress made of toilet paper tubes.
I spent the majority of the day at the elementary school my kids attend, greeting voters, handing out sample ballots, and thanking people for coming out. I should have been answering questions, but realized after a few that it was better if I just smiled and defaulted to one of the actual candidates to say what everyone wanted to hear. I brought candy. I didn’t wear warm enough clothes or have on any makeup. I felt weird and awkward and completely out of place. I was one of those people doing that thing that used to completely annoy me when I was just an average voter.
I hugged complete strangers all day long, genuinely surprised and pleased when they would approach and say they were voting for my husband. I took every icy stare of the “informed voters” as a prick to my heart and a confident and hard NOPE to my candidate. (You know, the people who–like me–make their way through the last campaign gauntlet visibly insulted by the suggestion that they would have dared show up in a position to be swayed.)
More than once, a neighbor came through with a smile and a hug, and to these, I just burst into tears. Like I was so hungry for even the tiniest display of actual kindness.
As the day bore on, John and I separate for much of it, I received periodic updates from others around our town at various polling places. Some places were downright contentious between the candidates I was supporting and the opposition. Insults were traded. Cutting last minute remarks were made, arguably on both sides, out of anger and that final exhausted desire to be done with all this.
It was by no means a gentleman’s competition.
I don’t even like sports. I’ve never been a particularly competitive person, and when it comes down to it, I like to fight battles with humor. It is maybe my only weapon. Not a lot of room for jokes on the campaign trail, I discovered. I’d actually describe it as downright hostile for anyone simply trying to be authentic. I was sick to my stomach for most of the day, and likely not hiding the general feeling of doom very well from my face.
Is it always like this?
Because John’s main opponent was a write-in candidate, the official results took an eternity to be released. But each polling place can do a print-out of their numbers as soon as the polls close. Each of these were collected. The results were an astounding landslide for all three incumbent council members and solid win for John as the new mayor. Walking in the freezing rain under the awning of Clemmons Elementary, John said, “We did it. We won.”
The feeling was almost identical to the moment I crossed the finish line in my first marathon and pretty close to how I felt when Eliott was finally born. Pride and excitement trickling through a thin veil of utter emotional and physical exhaustion. I typically only have one response to this feeling and last night was no exception.
We went to bed celebrating, while our phones, Facebook pages, and even email blew up with words of congratulations. We awoke to it this morning, and I had to stop myself from cut-and-pasting my thank you’s.
Because right now, I’m nothing if not thankful. Grateful, is probably the better word. And not because John won. I mean, yes, I’m pretty grateful enough people came out and voted to make this win a reality. Yesterday I was genuinely worried and believed he might, in fact, lose.
But more than that, I’m again, overwhelmed with the outpouring of help and support we received. I guess that’s how it always is. When we are most under attack, we find that our people are still there, still fighting for us and with us. Still praying, offering food, keeping our kids (and feeding them), and then showing up at odd hours in unfamiliar places, rock-steady smiles encouraging us despite the internal storm that only John manages to hide.
So here it is. My husband is officially the mayor of Clemmons, words I never expected to utter, not in my lifetime. Full disclosure: I didn’t feel any different when I woke up this morning, and John and I both keep sort of checking in and saying, “Nope, hasn’t really kicked in yet.” Listen, I’ll try not to let it go to my head. In the meantime, I’m ready to settle down for a just a bit, to dust my boots from campaigning, and to have my husband back on the weekends.
Clemmons, you don’t actually know and will probably never appreciate the full measure of this good decision that you collectively made yesterday, but I have no doubt you will not regret it.
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