We knew this was coming.
For weeks America had been told there would likely be no declared presidential winner on election night. And yet on the day after, Minnesotans still found themselves stressed, sleepy and seeking distraction from the uncertainty, capping a year filled with anxiety. Wednesday’s anxiety came not just from which candidate is declared the winner — and when — but what could happen next: recounts or legal challenges or angry reactions from supporters of the defeated candidate.
So we turned to doughnuts, caffeine, yoga, wine, exercise and all other sorts of therapies, including the warm sun of a perfect autumn day. Many did their best to peel themselves away from television, radio and smartphones — at least temporarily — in the name of staying sane.
A Minneapolis retiree changed his radio from news to classical music, and then went on a 3-mile walk around Bde Maka Ska. A St. Paul doctor whose wife was recently diagnosed with COVID-19 stayed in quarantine while walking the dog, doing yard work and, yes, constantly checking the electoral map. A woman sat with a friend at a sidewalk cafe in downtown Victoria, eating “comfort food” — grilled cheese and a glass of wine.
“I’ve voted and there’s nothing more I can do,” Terrie Myers said outside the cafe, School of the Wise. “Now I’m trying to adjust to being flexible and accepting whatever happens.”
It was as if an overstressed state had taken its therapist’s advice: Breathe. Practice self-care. And realize you can only control what you can control.
Lori Thonander of Minnetonka put 20 miles on her bicycle with a friend Wednesday, despite a fitful night of sleep where she woke up several times and blearily turned on the television to check for more election results.
“I even asked my Alexa … ‘Who is the president of the United States?’ ” she said with a chuckle. “It was a dumb question.”
TakeAction Minnesota, a progressive political organization, hosted a Zoom event Wednesday morning with a discussion forum, a place to process emotions, a virtual yoga and meditation room.
Kenza Hadj-Moussa, the organization’s director of public affairs, had to remind herself what the group had been telling people for weeks: This was not a normal election; results would take a while; nobody knows what will happen next. Yet she spent much of Wednesday scouring the Minnesota Secretary of State website for statewide results and tracking updates on the presidential race.
“Sometimes having more information isn’t helpful for our peace of mind,” she said. “I’m breathing through it.”
Music helped, from “Hey Ya!” by Outkast to the “Hamilton” soundtrack: “It helps me remember that our country was built by people, and it can be improved by people.”
After working 16 hours as an election judge on Tuesday, Karen Bjorlin spent Wednesday raking and cutting down hydrangeas and hostas in front of the yellow rambler where she’s lived for 22 years in Victoria. A Trump sign still stood tall in her lawn.
“Nobody wants this drug out,” she said. “It’s stressful on the nation.”
She believed Trump will win. If the election has to be decided in the courts, she added, it would be sad, but so be it.
“If that’s what it comes down to, that’s what it’ll come down to,” she said.
Matt Heinrichs of St. Louis Park said he knew we wouldn’t get answers by Wednesday but he was still surprised by it. As he sat outside a coffee shop in Eden Prairie with a friend, he said he was gearing up for the long haul of challenges and court battles: “It feels like a guarantee.” The way he’ll deal with the anxiety? “Drinking,” he said jokingly.
‘Anxiety creeps in’
Lauren Haverly, a 32-year-old optometrist in St. Paul, spent her day after the election in a bizarre situation: In quarantine. First thing in the morning, she called her wife, who was sleeping in a different bedroom after recently testing positive for COVID-19. The two Biden supporters remained cautiously optimistic amid the uncertainty.
“So many of us had Nov. 3, 2020, circled on our calendar,” she said. “Yesterday was supposed to be a culmination, and it wasn’t. The anxiety creeps in really quickly and easily. I feel like a yo-yo right now.”
Luckily, she had her dog, a terrier-beagle mix named Luci, who’d already been on two long walks before noon.
“I’m trying not to stay sedentary,” she said, “because that’s when my mind starts to go.”
A block from where a Minneapolis police officer killed George Floyd in May, Phillip Brassfield, a 27-year-old airline mechanic, drank his morning coffee in his front yard and surveyed a quiet scene on a block that’s been a center of action for months. The night before, he had voted for Trump. He was torn; Trump, he said, often acted like a jerk, but he worried about how Biden’s more strict approach to COVID-19 could hurt the economy.
Brassfield sees himself as a centrist, though, and no matter who wins, he will be fine with it: “We gotta work with what we’ve got.”
Over the past several months, Brassfield has experienced some bad things from living in this spot that’s attracted so many people — his motorcycle was stolen and crowds have stayed loud late into some nights. But there have been good things too: He’s gotten to know his neighbors; he’s had meaningful discussions with people he doesn’t agree with; he’s seen that, no matter how worked up people have gotten, we still have to live together.
“Everybody wants to fight,” he said. “People are so disconnected from each other. Americans need to stop fighting and start listening.”