I really hit the wall last week. I’ve struggled, as most people I know have, with the fallout from the last election. Each day seems to bring some new horror or fresh insult to my sensibilities. I vacillate between outrage, and numbness as I’m regularly faced with things I imagined only a few months ago were unthinkable.
I’d been avoiding talking about how I’ve been feeling, even as the stakes seem to climb. Part of that comes from the fact that I know my feelings aren’t unique. I simultaneously have so much to say – and at the same time don’t have anything new to contribute to the dialogue. And the rest is a mixture of powerlessness, and a sense of guilt that what’s happening is impacting others so much more than me. I’m keenly aware that as a white, straight, married, middle-class, employed, educated, middle-aged woman, I am far down to list of those who are at greatest risk for discrimination and persecution. Who am I to feel so affronted when I am, in many ways, so much safer than most?
But there are precious few degrees of separation between many people I care for deeply and what feels like imminent danger. And, although I’m aware that there is, and always will be, suffering and injustice; the proximity and rapid rise of these particular events are causing me to question what role I should be playing as an American…and as a person.
I’m desperately torn between my feelings of utter ineffectiveness in the face of what feels like a slide into dystopian nightmare, and a sense of myself that has never been willing to believe that I can’t change the world if I just apply myself (probably another manifestation of the privilege into which I was fortunate to be born).
All this led to a minor scene of me, sobbing quietly in the middle of a beer garden courtyard on a Thursday night, while my poor husband struggled to pull me together. I’ve always been a person of action. Doing nothing doesn’t work for me.
So I made a list of things I’ll do, with the absolute understanding that there are laughably small in the face of the mounting crisis our country faces. I hope that these are temporary measures until something more substantive comes along, steps that can hold off the despair I’ve been feeling until something more concrete presents itself….
1) I’ve changed my party affiliation from “Independent” to “Democrat”. I have a newfound understanding of the impact of “down-ballot” races and the importance of local politics. I need to vote in primaries. It’s silly but I sort of cherished refusing to align with a party. Being “Independent” seemed so courageous. I’m letting go of that vanity.
2) I bought an online subscription to the New York Times. I need to be better informed about the issues. Not in a “sound-byte” social media way, but in manner that really understands what’s happening, and what can happen next. Plus the free press needs support. No more reading for free. I can afford to pay for quality news and I will.
3) I’m learning Spanish. I got an app and a subscription to Babbel. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a while. My grandmother was born in Cuba, coming to this country in her early teens, and her parents were from Spain. As a Spanish-speaker, I might be able to help someone in need. And I’ll be able to understand media from Spanish-speaking countries. I feel like that might be important.
4) I’m trying harder to take care of myself. Eating better, exercising more, making sure I’m seeing doctors when I should. I don’t expect to lose my health-care but it may get more costly and coverages may shrink. Plus my mental health is better when my physical health is at it’s best. I need all the stamina I can muster.
5) I’m making a commitment to write in this blog weekly. I’ve really struggled with this because there’s just so much to say, and I don’t know that any of what I have to express is original. So many voices have been brilliantly expressing the things I’m thinking about it. So you’ll be hearing more from me these next few months. If you read my blog, I’m grateful. I appreciate your comments. If what I have to say resonates, I hope you’ll consider sharing. I don’t intend to present my viewpoints as unique. They’re just mine. And I’m trying to leave myself a trail of breadcrumbs to something that feel like sanity.
A dear friend of mine shared a quote with me this afternoon for Sun Tsu’s The Art of War (which I really must read), “In the midst of chaos, there is always opportunity”. I am hoping with all my being that this is true.