As I write this — before Election Day — I am experiencing the unbearable nervousness of waiting. Whenever you read this, you may still be experiencing that after Election Day. Thanks to the mail, and the pandemic, and a lot of political blah-de-blah, we may all be waiting a long time.
So I am looking for things to help me wait.
It won’t be easy. I am one of those people who, when a novel becomes too suspenseful, leaps ahead and reads the ending.
But right now we are all stuck in a situation where there is no turning the page, no peeking ahead.
And to make it all the more unbearable, the stakes couldn’t be higher. It’s as if I might walk out the door to a shining, beautiful day where things that were turned upside down are right-side up again…or I might turn the knob and walk into the current nightmare, to be continued.
Either way it’s unlikely we’ll know on Election Day. Experts can’t even tell us how long we will have to wait.
For some of us this threatens to be a re-run — or perhaps I should say the sequel — of a very bad movie.
In the year 2000, it was unthinkable — unbelievable! — that we still didn’t have definitive word on who had won the presidential election by Thanksgiving.
I had volunteered to be a final-count poll watcher for my party on Election Night. When I left my house, shortly before polls closed at 9 p.m., Al Gore had won the popular vote by half a million votes and been declared the victor in Florida, which gave him the Electoral College victory.
By the time I got home, Florida had gone from blue to red on all the TV maps, and everything was in doubt.
The ordeal wasn’t over until after the Supreme Court rendered its verdict on Dec. 12. In the closest possible split decision (5-4), they ordered an end to Florida recounts, which the Democrats had requested. That effectively handed Florida, and the Electoral College victory, to the loser of the popular vote: George W. Bush.
The next day his opponent spoke and offered his concession “for the sake of our unity as a people and the strength of our democracy.”
I wish it had worked.
There are only a few other times in life when there is waiting like this — waiting that is unavoidable for something big.
For me, the first was waiting for my wedding date to arrive. My parents had the plans well in hand; everything was ready, and all I could do was wait. Even the seating arrangements were done.
I remember thinking, shortly before the big day, that I couldn’t wait any longer. I suddenly understood why people ran off and eloped. It even crossed my mind to do that ourselves. We would come back, of course, for the ceremony and reception, but we’d secretly already be married so as to take the suspense about that, at least, off the table.
My husband-to-be, however, pointed out that I would probably still have to explain it all to the rabbi, so I booked myself into my first-ever facial and spa day instead.
Now, thanks to the pandemic, I can’t even do that.
It’s like being suspended in limbo, which starts a song playing in my head: Jimmy Cliff’s “Sitting in Limbo.” It has a lovely background melody that flows like a mountain stream and lyrics that speak directly to me:
“Sitting here in limbo
Waiting for the dice to roll
Sitting here in limbo
Got some time to search my soul
Well, they’re putting up resistance
But I know that my faith
Will lead me on.”
Waiting can be even more difficult when you’re waiting to become a parent. You know your life is going to change, but you can’t really know how or how much.
Someone explained it this way: “It’s like a bomb going off in your life — in a good way, but still by the time the pieces come back down, they’re unrecognizable.”
Parenthood was worth the chaos it brought me. But now, the possible victory of a man who won’t even commit to a peaceful transition if he loses? No.
For me, on this Election Day, our nation’s life has already been blown apart. What I am waiting for now is to see if there will ever be a way to put it back together.