January 20th, 2017.
Obama - Let's Not Say Goodbye.
I'm a runner. I don't run fast, but I run far, and I run frequently. What keeps me bopping along, more often than not, is the beat of a good song, so I'm always on the lookout for great new running music. In the summer of 2016, I noticed a headline in my social media newsfeed which was 'The President's Playlist'. Nosy, in search of good music, and curious about our President's taste, I flicked through it and ended up trying out Gin Wigmore. Imagine my surprise and delight to discover that she is also a fellow kiwi. (hollar! homeland!) I fall almost instantly in love with her sound and then proceed to spend the summer of 2016 running to her album. One of her songs, 'Black Sheep', is about an unruly woman, but as the chorus screamed out 'ONCE YOU GO BLACK YOU NEVER GO BACK' I would bound along the street and imagine Obama bounding along his street too, listening to this same song, grinning from ear to ear, and realising with each footfall how he had made history. How he had become the first black president of the United States. How he was a glowing symbol of growth, and change, and strength, ability and unity. It was one of my favourite running daydreams. It was a fantastic time to be bounding along the streets, loving on everybody, and just thinking about beauty in the world in general.
Fast forward...er...about four or five months. I'm out running again but it's election week. I live in a small town in a conservative state, and 'Vote Trump' signs are popping up in yards on my running route like some kind of infectious disease. I'm hard pressed to find any 'Hillary' signs, in fact I counted two on that one strip of many, many houses. It's disheartening, and the instant desire to deface, dislodge, and displace said signs is overwhelming. I imagine high-kicking each sign into oblivion, with a different twist and 'HIYAH!' as I go - upping my cardio workout and also incorporating some cross-training (win/win). Failing that I lost all maturity and just imagined running with my middle finger out, stiff as a board, thrusting it firmly at the sign, the driveway, the house, and at any face that may be looking out from an overly smug and privileged household. (maybe they weren't all smug, but that is how I felt at the time) Then failing that smooth move, I imagined just calmly collecting the signs, one after the other, until the stack on my back was so big the traffic whizzing by could can clearly make out my action. This wouldn't have been to enrage the Trump supporters, but would rather have been to instill glee in all of the 'other' people driving by, to put a perk in their day, a pep in their step. To make them grin on their otherwise dismal ride into work (election time in the South is a very dreary time). However...did I do *any* of these things? No. Of course not. Because as my leg twitched mid-stride, as my middle finger tried to uncurl, and as my biceps prepped for some heaving lifting (hulk smash!), into my head came the obvious answer - What would Obama do? I know exactly what he would have done. He would have acted with much more grace than any of those thoughts had entertained.
You see, although Obama being elected was pivotal for history because of his race, his turn in office ended up being so much more than that. Here was a man who was hated (I would state unjustly) by so many from the get go. Not just by (questionable) people in the street, but by those around him in the American government. Here was a man who was blocked at so many moves he tried to make, and then damn near crucified because no changes were being made. A man who had to fight for his right to be president *after* his election. A man (and his family) who were held to different standards than those who came before them, and those who are regretfully coming after them. And the Obama's....they handled it all with such grace. Such dignity. They put up with difficult double-standards and situations they shouldn't have had to deal with, and they did it without flinching. They did it infused with love, humour, and, whilst dealing with this crap, they delivered clear, calm advice of how to still be a decent human being in this ridiculously broken world. They were humbling. They humbled me. They should have humbled us all.
Skip over the election, because FTSh*T.
I'm out running again, because that's what I do when I'm not working. 'Black Sheep' comes on. Gin screams out 'ONCE YOU GO BLACK YOU NEVER GO BACK' and PANG! Something like 'ouch' forms in my heart and I hit stop. I slow to a brow-furrowed walk. We did go back. America DID go back! America went so, SO far back. I instantly daydreamed my way into Obama's running routine again (I don't know, does he even run? It's my daydream, so I guess he does). It's the same song, playing on his playlist, and then it's him hitting 'stop' as abruptly as I did. Ow and ouch, friend. We did go back. I don't know how anyone can apologise enough. I decide I can't listen to this song anymore and I should probably delete it off my shuffle.
Fast forward to January 11th, 2017. I've woken as per normal, packed my kiddo his school lunch, cooked him a hot breakfast, helped him feed his pet rabbit, and then guided him out the door towards 2nd grade. I grab my coffee, sit down in front of my computer, and realise that the internet is blowing up with recordings of Obama's goodbye speech from the night before. I start to watch. Then I stop. I am always keen to hear what this man has to say, and I realise that this is an important occasion - but I just don't want to hear him say goodbye. More importantly, I don't want to hear him say goodbye to *America* - not when there is no valuable replacement in sight. No where, no way, no how. So I click stop. I sit in my chair awhile, looking at the ever-dashing and well tailored Barack, frozen on my screen, and let my coffee get a little cold. I feel my mood slipping, just a smidge, and convince myself this is no way to start my day. I try and think of how to pick myself up. I try to think of what Obama would do. And it's in that moment I realise...that even though this man is saying goodbye, he's already made his impact. He has already imprinted on my thinking, so how can it even be a goodbye? If I'm actually sitting here thinking 'What would Obama do?' then the man is as present as he has ever been in my life. Judge me or call me dramatic if you will, but instantly my mood brightens. I decide in that moment that I want to embrace grace, and proactivity, more now than ever. I dig up from a crumpled (but clean, mum, I swear!) laundry pile an Obama shirt a friend has thrown out, and thrown in my direction. I put it on and am *instantly* happy. I can wear this t-shirt for...I don't know...FOUR YEARS if I want to. I wont, but I could. And I decide, in that moment, to start spouting love off to random people just as loudly as ever. And I decide, in that moment, that I should paint a portrait of Barack Obama. Because, DAMMIT, this man needs a tribute, not a nation-wide mourning. And I decide that we - all of us - need to keep going, not stopping to shout at distractions (*cough*unfavourablenewcontemplations*cough*) And somewhere, loosely, in the back of my mind, I decide that I should write a big ranty, waffly, unorganised pile of paragraphs about why we don't really have to say goodbye to Obama at all. Which is what this mess you just read is attempting to be.
And I'm lifted.
That day where I employed Obama Grace on my running route? I ran swiftly past the Trump signs and instead blew kisses up the driveways of the Hillary supporters.
Deleting 'Black Sheep' from my shuffle? Didn't happen. In fact, I've run since then, and gladly shout-sung the lyrics around town. Because I didn't go back, and we don't have to.
And as for tomorrow? Friday, 20th January, 2017? I'm getting up early. I'm playing good music. I'm putting on my Obama t-shirt. And I'm sending positive vibes out into this world.