Emotional Response to Political Setbacks

What happens when politically one has one heart’s set on something and things just do not go the way one hoped?

In political life, this happens constantly.

(And this one of those lovely times when it’s much easier to be a blogger and chit chat, rather than to be in the actual political ring. How lovely.)

My own “mild” experience with something like this, is the “infamous” bike lanes.

Right from my very first High Street meeting, January 1999, which was chaired by Newburyport City Councilor Erford Fowler and then Newburyport City Councilor John Norris, “traffic calming” instead of “traffic lights” was a major theme.

And I remember so clearly, Councilor Fowler turning to me and saying, “You gotta learn about this.” We were all excited. Here was a “solution” to the traffic light thing not happening on High Street.

Good grief, be careful what you wish for, because, by golly, I learned all about “traffic calming.” Who knew.

And ever since 1999 bike lanes were a major component at almost every meeting on the subject I ever went to, a solution to slowing down traffic, without traffic lights on High Street. Bike lanes repeatedly, always got the big “thumbs-up”.

Ah, but when the bike lanes actually started to get implemented, I think it was sometime in 2004, all hell broke loose.

And for me it was, “Say what? No, no one threaten to harm your grandmother, and the bike lanes are what everyone actually asked for.”

And recently, I was told that when being shown houses in Newburyport, MA, realtors were apologizing for the “bike lanes”. So, I’m certainly surmising that the bike lane thing still holds the same highly-charged, visceral response now, as when they first went down however many years ago that may have been.

So what were the choices. Become bitter and angry that things didn’t go the way I thought they would. Ask myself “how important is it?” And actually, bike lanes really are not that important. Let the whole thing go and move on to whatever might be next (like becoming a blogger, good grief).

And folks in the political world have this dynamic happen to them all the time, on different levels of importance.

And the folks that I’ve seen who have managed to transcend the vagaries of the political process, are those who have not become bitter and angry over whatever. Have asked themselves some version of, “how important is it” (and rarely is it that important). Have a sense of humor and let whatever it may be go, and move onto the next thing, whatever the next thing would be.

And as we see this new Newburyport City Council 2008 take shape, the “how important is it?” thing, and the “letting it go” thing, with a hefty dollop of humor, could be crucial to how effective this new Newburyport City Council could be.

If frustration, anger and bitterness take over, well, we’ll just have to kiss political achievement goodbye.

But if there is a sense of humor, working together (unity, what a thought, my) and realizing that some things would end up working Ok, and some things would have different levels of accomplishment, it is possible that things could actually have a chance of working out alright.

Mary Eaton