Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Cleaning out my closet - reporting in from the campaign trail

I always get a spark of anxiety at the start of something new and I remain low-level anxious until I assimilate the change into my life and get perspective/control/organization/order.

Being an almost 41 year old woman who has shone a merciless internal spotlight on my weaknesses and worked hard to get to where I am mentally, emotionally, and spiritually; I have tried and true methods for assimilating, gaining perspective, exercising control where I can, imposing organizational systems, and restoring order to my life as quickly as possible after I’m thrown off kilter. I've armed myself with the correct tools and self knowledge and when a big change throws me off balance, and in order to make sure that low-level anxiety does not blossom I immediately work on righting the ship.

Ideally. Usually.

Since my interaction with MFD's campaign thus far has gone from ignoring it was happening to so much so quickly in petition gathering mode for the past month, I was not prepared. I fucking hate being unprepared.

I’ve lost shower invitations and forgotten to get back to people about fundraisers or regular life things. I’ve been trying to keep all the balls in the air and haven’t even attempted to figure out how to adapt to this new season in our life. First of all, what do I even adapt to? I have no idea how this goes, what's involved, what comes next - there’s no handbook for your spouse running for office, much to the dismay of people like me who rarely jump into anything feet first. I’m more of a wade in cautiously person.

I laugh thinking back to the end of the first Saturday of gathering petitions... I sat down and said whew! that was great...exhausting, but now it's over! Only to find out that it wasn't over at all - that the next day, and both weekend days for the next two weekends, we'd be hosting and feeding 10-15 volunteers from 9 or 10 to 6 or 7. I also didn't know our house would be campaign headquarters for as long as MFD is in the running. Everyone assumed the candidate's spouse knew that - including the candidate.

Being a person who is out of the house for at least 11 hours a day working a full time job, renting and managing a rental property, my own activism pursuits, this blog that I like to keep up with, two aging dogs that poop everywhere and a puppy that eats everything, framily, and the general operation of life stuff, I haven’t fully thought about what might be expected or required of me going forward, and what additional responsibilities I will take on because MFD will split his time between real estate so we don't starve (anyone buying or selling in PA or NJ? I know a guy) and campaigning with no room for much else aside from maintaining his sobriety and volunteering. I’m not sure how people with kids do this. Or people in races up the chain that require more visibility. I’m ashamed that I have supported or roasted people running for office without thinking of the huge impact just the sheer hours required, uncertainty, and vulnerability had on their families.

Now that petitions are in and we wait for a formal acknowledgment of him being on the primary ballot, I have some time to look ahead. It will be better and easier to handle the curveballs when I get whatever perspective/control/organization/order I can.

The mental toughness I have honed throughout the years requires regular maintenance: setting boundaries, practicing self-care, asking for help, honoring my introvert need to recharge alone, shutting out people with bad energy, not caring what people think about my decisions, and being psycho protective of my peace and time. When I do those things, it’s hard to knock me off my game. If I'm not vigilant and I slack on those things, the bastard quartet of worry, what-if, anxiety, and fear slip through.

And we all know 1) worry serves no purpose aside from depleting energy 2) Ninety-nine percent of what if scenarios will never happen 3) Anxiety is the monster child worry and what-if birth from the depths of hell 4) Fear is what stops you.

Needless to say through a month of chaos and uncertainty and WTF am I supposed to be doing and reacting rather than being proactive which I hate, I dropped the ball. I worried, what-if’d, was riddled with anxiety, and afraid. It happens. Far less frequently than it did in my 20s and early 30s when I was still figuring out how to sail this ship the way that enables me to be my best self, but it definitely still happens. And when it does, I need to acknowledge it does and press publish on the post where I say it does, lest anyone think other people are immune to those things. They come for all of us when we give them the space to. Releasing them out into the world reduces their power. 

Monday night I was happy with the accomplishments, team work, hard lessons learned, new friends made, time with old friends, and all the rest of what has come over the past month, but I was wrung the fuck out and that’s entirely on me. When I’m wrung out I have nothing left to give to myself or anyone else and I leave myself susceptible to the worry and what ifs and anxiety and fear, which is why I fight hard to not get to that energy depleted place. I am not who I truly am in that place. 

Has this been worth it so far? Yes. If elected, MFD will be a true representative of regular people because we ARE regular people. He has battled crazy demons. We have been down and out and poor and sick and desperate and in crisis. We have made mistakes, fucked up our taxes one year, done stupid shit, said the wrong things, survived, thrived. He knows how to come back. He can help other people do the same. He believes in service to community and he doesn’t just say it, he lives it. Was he born this way? No. I do not want or expect perfection in candidates or anyone in their life up until now or in their life going forward - none of us should want or expect perfection in others - but I do expect people to do better and be better once they know better. And knowing him for 28 years, I can say he is living that. He has put himself on the line to protect the freedoms and rights of others, many who can’t do it for themselves. This position will increase his ability to do that. I can’t let my fear of the unknown hold him back from doing something he would excel at. That’s not what partnership is. A ship in harbor is safe, but that’s not what ships are built for. Not his ship, anyway. 

Has this been comfortable, easy, or free from fuckery and fear? No. Did I want it to be? Yes.

But now, a break from this part of life for me. Time to breathe and position myself to be prepared for whatever comes next, to remain true to who I am while supporting him as he pursues what he knows he can be.

And getting my shit together usually starts with the pedestrian act of cleaning out my closet: a space I can totally control.


  1. Wild applause. Not for perfection or putting him or you on a pedestal. Nope wild applause for doing, keeping things real & sharing. That is courage . That is hope.

  2. You need to write a book. Those 4 points are so spot on, as is this whole post. I'm similar to you in a very slight bit of anxiety perks up when something new is thrown my way or I choose to try something new. Managing the anxiety has become something I've learned the past year or two, but when I don't take care of myself, and try it all to 'stay afloat' I burn and burn fast. Right now I'm trying to right my ship and this post was very helpful, thank you.

  3. I love most everything you write, but these true peeks at your life are always my favorite. When you combine inner workings and outer workings, past learning, and present struggles and make something relatable to anyone, I nod along the whole time. I feel like I have unintentionally learned so much from you about setting boundaries, saying no, and being my own person despite what my spouse is doing. The anxiety reminder is great, no matter who you are or what you are doing (and something I tell myself daily). Glad you are taking time to do what you need while being as supportive as ever and sharing this along the way. I hope you get some rest, junk food, organization, reading time, and all the other good things needed to recharge and right the ship.

  4. This post made me cray. You are such incredible people. YOU are incredible. MFD will be a shining light in a political world filled with turds and self-serving power mongers, and I will send you sparklies to you to keep yourself sane and whole during his journey to get there. I believe in you, and you always have a fan in Upstate NY.

    1. Uh, it made me CRY, not cray. LOL

  5. THIS was a beautiful post to read! God bless!

  6. If anyone can do this, my friend, you can. I understand your angst with such a large new beginning. At 66, I find myself self employed.. something I never saw happening. I'm much happier, but sometimes overwhelmed, digging my way out from under. I read myself, on a much smaller scale, in your amazing writing. You've got this.

  7. I learned that from training for a half marathon, I don't know how people with kids do it. Totally check different issues I know, but it just shows you really don't know a situation until you're in it. & I know that you are going to figure it all out & nail all the new duties & obligations you have in your life.

  8. Such a strong woman and I know you will come out of all of this smarter and wiser. And successful. Inspiring others with your truth. I applaud you both! 🙌🏻

  9. My late uncle's mantra was control the controllable and leave the rest to chance. Man is it hard, but it is the only way to get through life. You are a badass! I don't know how people with kids do it either. Keep being true to your being an almost 41 year old woman paragraph, I need to print that out and paste it somewhere!

  10. So, this made me cry. Tears of love and pride. I'm truly in awe of you both, no bullshitting. If there is anything I can do from down here in Dixie Insanity, please let me know. I'm grateful you're my friend.

  11. well you should definitely write the handbook so it's out there for other people. i never really thought about what something like this would include, the impact it would have on the people running or their families. so thank you as always for being honest and sharing it. i am with you, i hate being unprepared and out of control. when i am, i do the same thing - i retreat to something i can control, like my closet or a book. you gotta do you. hope you get some rest and control back soon. and of course, all the luck to MFD!

  12. This made me tear up, as well. I too don't seem to think about the strong women and men behind those running for office and how brutal it can be.

    Also, when all of this is over, I need you to write "the handbook for your spouse running for office." Because I know I will enjoy reading it. Kthanks.

  13. Sending you all the hugs, I hate being unprepared too. But what you guys are doing is AMAZING! I can't believe you are juggling so many balls at once, but you've got this!

  14. Hey, even HRC was probably a mess the first time Bill ran.

  15. I love so much the "has it been worth it" paragraph. I believe he will be a great representative for regular people. But I also want you to have some semblance of normalcy. I hope you get to the closet soon!

  16. You fit so much into your life's schedule, it's amazing and most of it is selfless. I admire you and MFD for truly trying to make the world a better, safer, happier place despite having full-time jobs, 3 pups, social responsibilities etc.! I hope you find balance with all that you already do and all the new things that have come your way! Let me know how I can help any bit from FL. xx Emily @ Martinis & Bikinis

  17. Nothing really worthwhile will ever be easy. It's so strange the way we can really be forced to learn this in the oddest of situations (like 10 years ago, this was probably not what you pictured!)
    I think MFD will do great things representing regular people, whether it's this year, or down the road.

  18. As always, I love your honesty and everything about this post is classic Steph. Owning your shit and 100% real. I like the fact that MFD has struggled because he will be able to represent humans. Real humans. And he'll do it because he has a proven track record of doing so without any reason to except that it's the right thing to do. I'll be here to remind you to take care of you - you can't be expected to remember EVERYTHING during this season of transition, new beginnings, and uncertainty. ;)

  19. Wow. I really REALLY loved this. I always appreciate honesty and transparency among bloggers, and you've definitely laid it all out on the table here.

    I think MFD will do a great job if he's elected to office. I think most of us would love to see a regular person with a regular life and regular struggles in office. I know I would.


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