I think the universe is trying to tell me something.
It’s been a hard month, this last month on the campaign trail. I’ve worked long hours and endured herculean amounts of stress and uncertainty. The anxiety led to insomnia and I spent hours upon hours in the middle of the night wide awake and worrying over what might be. Daytime hours weren’t much easier.
I knew going into it that it was going to be this way. I warned Killian, and asked her early on if she could step up and support me. She did. But as the final month of the election season drew near, I felt like I was standing over the edge of a cliff and about to jump.
A friend noticed and took me aside. “My word to you,” she said, “is focus on intent, not outcome.” Wise words, and I have done my best to live by them since then. It just isn’t easy to do.
Now, with the campaign over and other events unfolding, those words are true as ever, and I’m trying as hard as I might to focus on my intent and let the rest go. It just isn’t working so well.
Campaign night came and went. Most people assumed I would be overjoyed or at least relieved. After all, the president was comfortably re-elected and the Democratic hold on the U.S. Senate strengthened. And, yes, I am glad for these things. But my work involved state House races – this is what I have poured my heart and soul into for the past eight months. And, yes, we did pick up five seats in the House, out of the 10 we needed to gain a majority. Still, unseating an incumbent is no easy task, so it was not a failure by any measure.
But of the five particular races I was working on, only one won. I’m pleased as heck that she did, and that I’ll be seeing her face around the state Capitol come January. But the race I was working on the last week of the election – he didn’t win. The six days leading up to Nov. 6, I was walking miles and miles each day, knocking on doors and making phone calls for a candidate who didn’t make the cut. It’s just such a disappointment to pour that much of your heart and sweat into a campaign and come up short. It made my election night more bitter than sweet, and the aftertaste still lingers.
And then, as soon as the election was over, attention turned to House leadership elections, and another round of stomach churning stress. I’m told by those who have been here much longer than I have that this is the way it always goes. A new leader comes in, and rumors are floated around that he’s going to make all of central staff reapply for their jobs. Or that some number of us is going to get cut so that he can bring in his own people. Has it happened before? Yes. Is it like that every time? No. What will happen this year? I don’t know. There’s nothing to do but wait.
But perhaps most heavy on my mind is a situation with a friend’s cat. I offered to look after his two cats while he was in transition from one home to another. One of the cats is just adorable, a fluff ball of affection seeking out food at every opportunity. I can’t really say what the other is like, because he’s been hiding or lost for five days now. I last saw him wedged between the inside and outside wall in the basement, in a hole I didn’t even know existed. Since then, I’ve searched, I’ve cried, I’ve prayed, but I’m running out of ideas of what to do. I told my friend – the hardest phone call I’ve ever had to make – and I am in agony over it.
Finally, I have a surgery next week, a repeat of the one I had last year. They’re checking for cancer. I try not to think about it, but that’s what it is. Last year, they found none. I’m hopeful this year will bring the same result. But that’s what they’re doing.
Four situations grinding on me, wearing me down. Four situations – elections, work, cats and cancer – all with one thing in common, and the one thing is this: I’ve done all I can do.
In the election, I know I did everything I was asked to do, and then more. I never failed to complete a task. I never turned away from extra work. I never even complained about the long hours, because I was glad to work them. I was willing to do whatever we had to do to win votes. And I don’t regret any of that. I walked until my body was sore, until my feet were blistered and my hips and knees ached. I even got a horrible cramp that reduced me to tears in my arm – my arm! – from holding onto a clipboard all day. I put up with having doors shut in my face and phones slammed in my ear. I never said no to any of this.
And that was noticed. I’m lucky enough to work for people who see the hard work I did and appreciate it. I know because they’ve told me so, and just for having employers who do that, I’m grateful. So if the axe starts to swing and my neck is caught in the way, I know it won’t be because I fell short of what was expected from me. I’ve worked hard and with enthusiasm, and I hope that will speak for itself.
As for the cat? I don’t know what more I could do. We’ve called a builder to cut open the wall and look for him, set up a live trap, walked around with tuna fish and dry food and catnip and called his name, but nothing. He’s vanished, hidden either inside or taken his luck outside, and I don’t know how to find him. I won’t stop looking, but I know I’m doing everything I can.
And the surgery. I’ve done my part by reporting my symptoms like I was told to do last year, instead of ignoring them for almost a year like I did before. I owned up to it, and here I am again. But I’ve made sure I’m getting the care I need.
There just comes a limit to what we have power over. I can’t control an election, or make up the mind of a new boss or get inside the mind of a lost and frightened cat and make him come home. I certainly can’t stop whatever might be going on inside my body, not on my own, but I’ve done what I can.
I’ve done all I can do. I’ve focused on my intent; the outcome isn’t up to me. I’m at a point where I just have to stop and let the rest go, because no amount of wishing or working or wringing my hands is going to make me able to do anything more.
I just don’t know how to stop. Yet.