When Hillary Clinton announced that she was writing a new memoir, What Happened, responses ranged from "well of course she is" to "how dare she?" As with most things that HRC does, half the country immediately erupted into outrage. We all expected this postmortem of the 2016 election to include some gut-wrenching details from election night, as well as reflections on the years of misogyny that Clinton has faced in the public eye, the deep divide in American politics, and perhaps a few controversial opinions on our current president.
What we didn't expect was some pretty useful advice for self-care.
After all the nausea and heartbreak of election night 2016, Clinton began to receive letters from her supporters. As she writes in the first few pages of her new memoir: “Letters started pouring in from people across the country, many so poignant that after reading a few, I had to put them away and go for a walk.”
One letter stuck a particular chord. Rauvin, a third-year law student from Massachusetts, wrote to Clinton to describe how she and her fellow classmates felt in the wake of the election results:
On Nov. 8, 2016, we felt a sense of devastation, powerlessness, and disappointment that we had never felt before. So we cried. And then we squared our shoulders, picked each other up, and got to work... Though our anger and disappointment fueled us, it did not consume us, make us cynical or cruel. It made us strong.
What stuck with Clinton just as much as this message of courage and persistence, though, was the post-script that Rauvin added with a few handy cures for the post-presidential-loss blues:
If I may recommend some salves: time with friends and family, of course, but also the first season of Friday Night Lights, the new season of Gilmore Girls, the Hamilton cast album, Martha Stewart’s mac and cheese, a good book, a glass of red wine.
"Good advice!" Clinton agrees. Mac and cheese and Hamilton are truly the universal cures to everything that ails the human spirit. And while we all must find a way to pick ourselves up and keep going in the grand, political scheme of things, there's nothing wrong with taking a day off to catch up on Gilmore Girls.
Other fans wrote in with equally practical advice on how to survive from day to day when you've won the popular vote but lost the election:
I hope you will sleep as late as you like and wear your sneakers all day. Get a massage and stand in the sun. Sleep in your own bed and take long walks with your husband. Giggle with your granddaughter and play patty-cake with your grandson… Breathe.
One friend sent Clinton the "Pledge of Unity Poem," written in the 1950's after Dwight Eisenhower defeated Adlai Stevenson in a landslide:
The election is now over,
The result is now known.
The will of the people
Has clearly been shown.
Let's all get together;
Let bitterness pass.
I'll hug your Elephant;
And you kiss my Ass.
Words of wisdom weren't the only thing that Clinton received, either. One woman sent a box filled with one thousand handmade paper cranes on strings. “She explained that, in Japan, a thousand folded cranes are a powerful symbol of hope and that hanging them in your home is considered extremely lucky," Clinton writes. "I hung them on my porch. I’d take all the luck and hope I could get.”
Nearly every one of these fan letters and packages urged Clinton to take a moment for herself. “I tried hard to let go of the burden of putting on a happy face or reassuring everyone that I was totally fine,” she writes, but it wasn't an easy feat.
When people asked how she was doing, Clinton tried to answer honestly, without spilling her guts to everyone she met. “If I was feeling defiant, I’d respond, ‘Bloody, but unbowed,’ a phrase from ‘Invictus,’ Nelson Mandela’s favorite poem.”
Mostly, though, Clinton tried to keep Rauvin's advice in mind. In the days following November 8th, she allowed herself to be supported by family, friends, and good books. She accepted invitations to plays and went on long walks. This newfound ability to focus on herself, to surround herself with people who didn't find her "unlikable," to read and watch and eat whatever she liked, was both freeing and bittersweet.
"For the first time in years, I didn't have to consult a complicated schedule," she writes, "I could just say 'Yes!' without a second thought."