Fired Up, Part 3: Mitigating Despair
This was not my intended post. I wrote my intended post about economics and the importance of financial literacy. It was boring and long and preachy. To sum it up in a nutshell: if you’re like me and find that when it comes to the economy of our country, you do not know enough to argue more than talking points, it’s time to learn.
I wrote a second post that stretched into 3,000 words, exploring the nature of my own prejudices – how I am the product of poor, white, uneducated people and what that means about my belief system. It became a painful journey and tapped into all the reasons I am who I am today, for better and worse. It was one of my better essays and one I’ve decided to submit for publication.
The third post was an elegy to art and how it is more important than ever to keep creating, writing, painting, composing. Throughout history, the best art was created during trying times. And it reminds us of beauty and love and all the things that matter to us as individuals. Art is good, but it is not permission to remain passive while Rome burns.
It’s 3am again. I’m awake, thinking about how President-Elect Trump has promised to deport 2-3 million illegal immigrants. I think about jackboots and citizens’ brigades and children wailing and families decimated and weapons drawn. I think about the impending destruction of the EPA and the dirty water and air that will spread to encompass us, city after city. Flint was just the beginning. I think about all the barely tested drugs he wants unleashed on the public.
Every morning since the election, I awake to a fresh, raw sense that everything is going to be as bad as I believe. And I begin to fight it. By the end of the day, I’ve pushed it back enough to fall asleep at night, waking up at 3am, wondering if my daughter will be attacked in a public bathroom because she is at that stage where she looks more a boy than a girl. Wondering if public education will be destroyed. Wondering if we’ll be able to survive privatization of social security and medicare. And it begins all over again.
My fear is barely held at bay each day. My fighting self says do something, but my denial self says wait and see. Wait and see – the rallying cry for decent citizens everywhere throughout history, before the crackdowns, detentions, violations of rights, martial law. Wait and see – the blinders we wear when the abuses start. Wait and see – the mantle of disbelief worn before our neighbors are arrested, our children harassed, our jobs handed over with nepotistic abandon to the loyals. Anyone who has a sense of history knows that this is where we are headed, unless we stand up now.
But despair has a way of draining us, draining our hopes, taking away our sleep and our sense that things will be alright. It’s a situational depression that leaves us limp and walking through our days, distracted and anxious.
I made good resolutions about sourcing less biased information, maintaining my personal integrity, moving forward, but I was impatient and premature. There is still despair and a sense of hopelessness. I tried to read the news, but every story, no matter how unbiased, serves to confirm my worst fears. His loyals, people without ethical compasses, are being put in charge. The soothing denials even Republicans shared about how he’d surround himself with wise advisors have proven to be false.
What now? Denial isn’t working for me. Anger blurs my vision. Fear makes my breathing shallow. Unlike the protesters who, if they don’t destroy things, are the epitome of what makes this country already great – our freedoms to assembly and free speech, I can’t function coming out of the gate. I’m a slow thinker. I need time to process, weigh and decide. I expected too much of myself and that expectation only served to feed the despair.
For today, I will hug my daughter and husband. I will write three letters to the congressional representatives I helped to elect, sharing my gratitude and encouragement for the years ahead. I will make a donation to a cause I support, which will need the money more than ever.
I will walk my neighborhood, block by block and remind myself that people want to be good, want to be kind and compassionate, want to be seen. I will send good wishes as I walk past the apartment buildings of immigrants, I will smile and greet people as if we’re the best of friends. I will make eye contact with the Muslim women in their beautiful scarves and dresses and will smile warmly. I will honor what is right and what is good about my country.
For today, I will not read the news. I will not get hooked by my fears. I will get some exercise, take a nap, read a book, write until I’ve ecstatically wrung out every emotion, until the words blur on the page. For today, I will clean my home with gratitude and rake leaves as meditation. For today, I will let myself be okay.