My first response was numbness and utter shock. I literally felt nothing. I wasn't sure whether I'd woken up properly. Being in an airless hotel room in Abuja exacerbated the sense of disconnect and unrealness (is that even a word?).
My first real emotion was fear – fear for my family, our economic security. As a UK citizen living in France, what will this mean? We were planning to sell our flat in London and buy in France, but that dream is now on hold. My savings are now slashed, what little pension I had is now diving in value.
Then guilt – it's with a healthy sense of self-awareness that I note how privileged I am to have these worries. What about those who aren't so lucky?
Anger, Disgust, Fear
Then anger came, how could these idiots ruin our country. How could Cameron commit such a stupid act of electoral terrorism. The mental finger jabbing begins.
Then belligerence and arrogant defiance, we must fight – how can we overturn this? What elite tricks can we deploy? They're fools, we can't commit economic suicide like this.
Then disgust – at Farage's gloating face, at his disgusting comments about 'not a shot being fired' – what about the two to Jo Cox's chest and one to her face? Nigel, what about those? Where's your fucking humanity.
Then deeper fears – unacknowledged fears. I'm a second generation immigrant. I am not white. In my youth, I have experienced violent racism – I have had to run from violent threats, I have had to stand up to ignorant hatred. These were pushed away, after all, despite its complexity, my identity is still overwhelmingly British. I don't feel threatened. Yet. No, must be more hopeful than that. We must fight hatred. That word again, 'fight'.
Then more scheming. What will happen in the politics. Will Cameron go? Do we want him to go? Actually, I think we need stability and we need moderates to handle the complex negotiations that will flow from here.
Slowly acceptance creeps in. We are here. Where do we go now and how do we go there? Yes, fight, we must fight. But reading the angry voices on my various social media feeds, fear came back – we can't fight, we shouldn't fight, that just feeds the fire. Darkness cannot drive out darkness. The country has spoken and it has spoken in a fractured and divided voice. It was close – but who won doesn’t really matter, Brexit or Remain, we would still have the same problem. Just looking at the map of results showed a stark picture of a divided nation. The turnout was massive – 72% – there are genuine reasons and passions behind this outcome. The anger and hatred being poured forth by my allies is as worrying and disturbing as anything else.
So rationality starts to come back – we must be constructive, we must not give in to forces of hatred and division, we must not hate the Others (now the Brexiters). We must take up the exact same route that I advocated just last night.
At a practical level, there is work to be done – the civil service will now be tied in knots for years while they valiantly try to ease our passage. If nothing else, I'm a civil servant!
At a societal level, these is work to be done – we have to find a way, together, to heal the differences – and that starts with understanding, not anger.
On an immediate level, there is work to be done – I am currently in the middle of a project and need to get my head down to deliver on a complex issue in a tight timeframe, I don't have time to think about this.
So that's where I am. I clearly need to do some hardcore internal processing to work through this and find the calm centre within that guides my actions without. I'm clear on where we as a nation need to get to, but I need to start with myself – I need to find it in me to put aside anger, fear and hatred and find courage, patience, openness and understanding to try to make sense of this and find my place. And I need to keep bringing home the bread whilst I do this.