The day before an election—musings on life and the campaign process

In less than 24 hours as I write this, the polls will open up in Portland, Maine, and to say that I am nervous would be an understatement. I entered 2021 with two ideas kicking around in my head. One was to seriously consider running for a seat on our local Charter Commission. The other was to truly open myself up to the possibility of finding love again. To be honest, I wasn’t sure where either of these ideas would go.  After all, I had never run for public office and had some deep reservations about opening myself up to more public scrutiny. Years of running this site have turned me into a local public figure of sorts and as a writer, that’s not always comfortable for me. 

As for finding love again, I wasn’t sure where that would take me, since one can’t just order up a partner and love, and living in Maine as a middle-aged Black woman meant that the options would probably be slim to none. But life often has other plans for us. Not even two weeks into the new year with a paid subscription to a dating site, I did meet someone. It’s been a turbulent ride and this man has helped me to grow in ways that were unimaginable—and it also has become clear that despite the mutual fondness and affection that exists between us, we are not destined to be together.

As a Black woman, living in a largely white space, it was heady and intoxicating to briefly partner with a man of color, but sometimes people are only meant to be with us for a season. The gift of wisdom as we grow older is being able to know that compatibility is about more than adoration or love. For now, ideas of love are on hold though I remain open to whatever the universe has in store for me.

Which brings me back to this election. 

I decided to run for the Charter Commission because as our city’s constitution, I think it deeply matters who is at the table during the review and revision process for the charter. It is also a one-year process and given that the last Charter Commission was convened in 2008, it felt like a great way to look at structural changes without the usual tensions of things like re-election, etc. 

In my mind and based on the advice I received, I also assumed it would be a relatively low-key election and campaign process. 

Let’s just say it’s been a wild ride. A record number of candidates threw their hats in the ring, there have been political tensions, it’s also an election that has captivated the local media (such as here and here), and given my own relationship to the local media at times, it’s been stressful. Stressful enough that in these last weeks before the election, my body has been sending clear signals that I am stressed beyond belief. My resting heart rate in the past month has been higher than it was a year ago, when I was sitting in Chicago waiting for my Dad to pass away in the early days of the pandemic and against the backdrop of the national uprising in the aftermath of George Floyd’s killing. 

Personally, this run has been one of the most difficult things I have ever done, and also one of the most rewarding. I have met so many amazing people, and the spirit of generosity that exists between the majority of candidates has restored a great deal of my faith in our collective humanity.  

I became a member of the Rose Slate, a group of women candidates in this race who are all first-time candidates. We are intergenerational and multicultural and we believe in our collective humanity in this process. We are progressives and we think that politics don’t have to be harmful. There are other candidates as well who are running inspiring campaigns. 

In choosing to run, I have had to accept that failure is also a possibility and I won’t lie, that is a harder one for me. Public failure is most certainly not attractive and yet I can say that regardless of the results of this election, it will be okay. 

In a weird way, the last six months between navigating this campaign and a fledgling relationship have forced me to go deeper in living my values. Namely, seeing myself and leaning into my own shortcomings and being okay with them. I can’t speak for anyone else but running for office has made it clear what my strengths and shortcomings are and—in the case of my campaign—accepting help from others. Help is hard to accept and for this Black woman, I am not always good at it. But in a campaign, you can’t do everything yourself. No matter what you think. You need others. 

Even today as I write this, I had to make an extraordinarily hard decision to cancel a speaking engagement. I have never done this and it was hard, but I spent this last weekend before election day canvassing in brutally hot weather and I am physically spent. I am also dealing with last-minute campaign activity and a host of other tasks. To say that I could show up on Zoom for a talk tonight and bring my A-game was to lie to myself and my panic attack in the shower today made it clear. 

Win or lose, this campaign has actually been a blessing on many personal levels. I have grown as a person and while I hope to make a difference in our city, the change that has started with me during the past six months will no doubt play a part in whatever work that I do moving forward.

For those who are local, if you live in my district and haven’t voted yet, I hope that you do go out and vote—and obviously I hope it is for me. If you are a local and you don’t live in my district, you need to vote as well if you haven’t already done so. 

If you aren’t local and have just been following my journey, I would encourage you to think deeply about how you can create change in your own communities. Electoral politics isn’t everyone’s jam, but I do believe we must all be a part of creating the change we wish to see in this world. We can’t depend on others to create an equitable and just world, and as powerful as my writing and speaking has been for many, or even my position as the executive director of Community Change Inc, for me that work is no longer enough. 2020 reordered our world and requires all of our collective efforts. Be the change you wish to see in the world. 

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