A few years ago, a writer friend gave me a bracelet that had a charm on it that said “stories save our souls.” I loved that phrase so much that I began to use it—and a variation (“stories save our lives”) when I signed books.
I knew it was true. Sometimes when things are so dark you cannot possibly live your own life, you can find solace in living someone else’s. Stories saved me when my fiancé died. They saved me when I had a miscarriage at 3 ½ months. And they are saving me now, with these encroaching dark days.
Recently, I saw an article about why Trump succeeded—and the answer was he had a good story. He told a story to the people who needed to hear it, which was here is evil, and I am good, and I will fight this. He told a story that made the disenfranchised feel heard, and even though it was a fairytale, it sounded like it could indeed save lives, albeit only the lives of white Christian males. I will make you proud again, his story said. I will bring back your jobs. I will give you your happy ending that you have been denied for so long.
And we, the rest of us, have to wait for them to realize his story is not true. It is not only not going to have the outcome they want, but it is going to make things worse. We have to wait for them to get tired of this dangerous story, to be fed up enough to listen, so we can replace that bad story with one that might truly save them.
So what do we do in the meantime? To make myself feel stronger, I tell myself stories to cope with the unknown.
Sometimes the story I tell myself is that my husband Jeff and our son Max and I move to Berlin. (Funny, since Berlin was the center of the Holocaust). Or Denmark. My friends come, too. All the people I love. We stay there until things calm down and then we can come back to a braver, kinder new world.
Sometimes the story is darker. We stay here in America and fight. The world is decimated. And then the Trump supporters realize they have been had and they join us, and we are all fine again.
Sometimes the story is that the United States splits up into different countries. We move to California, where everyone is welcome. Maybe we are the ones who have to have laws that keep those who are racist, sexist, and homophobic out. And then the other country will see how well-fed our people are, how they all have jobs, how our economy is booming, and maybe then they will stop and think that maybe their lives could be better if they followed our lead.
And of course, there is the story of doing a little bit every moment, of signing petitions, and talking to everyone, even to the Trump supporters you think will not listen. Find common ground. (You all love your families, right?) Even if someone believes that God will protect the earth and climate change is a hoax, you can talk to someone and say, but God works in mysterious ways, and wouldn’t He want us to take care of the environment? We can’t be the enemy if they know we are calm and reasonable and even that we will pay for a meal they can’t afford when we see them searching their wallets. Be the good in the world. Change how they see it.
Do your work, a little every day. Write. Paint. Put beauty into the world. Bare witness with what is going on. Give hope.
And maybe then, we can all have a happy ending.