Fired Up, Part 3: Mitigating Despair

canstockphoto10341986This 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.

canstockphoto0135359For 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.

Related Posts:

Fired Up, Part 1: Changing Where, When and How I Get Information

Fired Up, Part 2: Softening Perspective, Steeling Resolve

27 Comments on “Fired Up, Part 3: Mitigating Despair

  1. I don’t do the ‘sending hugs’ thing usually but making an exception ….really feel and identify with everything you say in this post and I’m in the UK ….much similarity between Brexit and Trump campaigns …well of course …we now find Donald Trump and Nigel Farrage have been ‘in it together’ all along ….ANYWAY feel so confused at the moment have had to ring in sick today …have been lurching from tears to anger to just keep your head down and get on with things for just over a year now …and events over there the last couple of days has prevented me doing the latter ….it feels like a ‘breakdown’ …However, like you I know I have to pick myself up and do something about it …but this is SERIOUS shit …and not just in America but will be sending ripples across the world …we are at a CRUCIAL time and I’m not sure people are grasping that ….or maybe they are and we’re ALL going thro this period of confusion

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks for not sending hugs, it’s appreciated. Sometimes, when I think my head can’t take all these overwhelming thoughts, I think “Hell, the sun might explode or we’ll get hit by an asteroid and none of this will matter.” For some reason, that makes me grin – just for a little perspective. I suspect we’ll have a middling to slow death from climate change, so we might have to put up with this kind of bullshit for a bit longer.

      If I were to offer comfort (not in the form of a hug), I would say this: You are not alone. There are good and decent humans all over this planet. Some of us will become subversives, some of us will protest. Some of us will give up our comforts, our freedoms and in some cases, our lives to fight for others.

      This is the time we strengthen and prepare ourselves for the challenges ahead. Gird your loins (and in this country, for women, that might be a literal thing), talk with people who share your values, think about what your priorities and causes might be and lay your heart and focus there. That’s my self-talk at this point. I get a little preachy at times – sorry!

      Liked by 2 people

      • That is absolutely fabulous advice. Thankyou
        Am feeling a little better today …ridiculous I didn’t go to work but I honestly would not have been able to function:D:D:D
        Better get my backside in tomorro tho ….hmmmm unless that asteroid hits still need to keep the roof over our heads and food on the table
        Hope you had a good day too 🙂

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  2. It is overwhelming, even for those of is who aren’t American. I now also blog on Huff Post Canada and, surprise surprise for the last several months have been writing mostly about Trump and the election. I have been absolutely shocked at the reaction I’ve been getting, the number of Canadians who have been so engrossed in this election, who share Americans fears and concerns, who have such strong opinions — and especially shocking is the number of Trump supporters. This past week alone my latest post-election blog got over 28,000 views. Staggering really. But what that says is, the whole world has a vested interest, we’re all concerned and we are all in this together. He may not be our president, but the anger and frustration and bigotry that elected him can cross borders. And the policies he does enact can and will, in some measure, affect all of us. Much remains unknown at this point (which doesn’t help to calm us down) but one thing is certain — the days of complacency are over.

    Liked by 2 people

    • It’s pretty brave of you to wander right into the muck of things. I’m finding it so toxic that unless I have a hazmat suit and a large bottle of wine, I’m staying away from political articles at the moment. Some commenters are horrible humans, determined to shit on anyone they can.

      I think there should be global concern. Now, I don’t have a problem with the US coming down a peg or forty – the age of the superpower needs to fade. The problem is that we have our fingers in so many pies, often uninvited, that it will impact other countries, both adversely and positively.

      And you’re right – especially for those of us who have just been disenfranchised by a carnival barker, complacency is finis.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Michelle, your thoughtful post raises the difficult question of whether and when to focus on self-care or activism. I think the answer is always that it’s not an “either/or,” but a “both/and.” The challenge is to manage our polarities so that we give more attention to each side as needed and when needed. It’s particularly challenging now, since we are hurting and must attend to self if we’re going to be in it for the long haul. But the external situation is also critical and “wait and see” may exacerbate the problems. Like so many things right now, there are no easy answers. We have difficult conversations ahead—the important thing, I think, is that we don’t let fatigue or discomfort or fear keep us from having those conversations. Thanks for this series of very thoughtful posts. They’ve inspired a lot of good discussion. Now, I’m going to burrow back under some blankets and curl into the fetal position….

    Liked by 1 person

    • Your whole comment is spot on, Donna and exactly the tug-of-war going on in my head. But I do believe it is going to be a long haul and I know for myself, I need fuzzy socks, cups of tea, some intellectual reading (after this last year, I feel pretty stupid) and a media fast. I do want to be in it for the long haul and the starting point can’t be an exhausted and demoralized human.
      I just took a lovely walk and settled in for some writing with a hot cup of tea. It’s important to have some good moments amidst all the angst.

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  4. Amen to your conclusion, Michelle. I myself have a nap, exercise, chores and writing planned as the day unfolds. And now I have completed The Green Study binge. Edifying, sister. Peace, John

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  5. Thank you for stating the words that I feel but fail to write with your eloquence. I had written a positive post, praising Clinton for paving the way despite the end result. But when each day brings more disturbing developments, it is hard to maintain a sense of optimism or decorum. Trump is surrounding himself with those who either drank the Kool-Aid or wrote the recipe, and it’s making me sick.

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    • It is a bit hard to take, but also serves as a bellwether for his presidency. It means that we do not get to self-soothe about him changing. It means he will attempt to do all the awful things he said he would, unmediated by the gravity of his office. That’s information and likely useful in the scheme of things.
      Still, I can’t stand to see his face or the pack of jackals surrounding him, so I’m going to check out until all the horrible people are named. I’ll take it all in one shot, instead of the dribs and drabs and rumors. Then I will likely hide in a closet for a couple of days.

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      • It’s quite a conundrum. I want to bury my head in the sand and, at the same time, feel obliged to stay informed and on high alert. I think many of us (over 4 million according to the change.org petition to get the electoral college to right this wrong), feel like a deer in the headlights.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Thank you for showing me that I am not alone in the 3am panic wake-up thinking of my future and the futures of us all. I become quickly overwhelmed with grief and fear to the point where my brain cannot and will not settle on any thought for more than a few minutes. I fret about the Supreme Court nominee who will make decisions for decades to come. I work in immigration so I have to deal with people who are now terrified for their lives. I have made a decision to make a serious stab at taking steps to make healthier choices (a very difficult thing for someone with impulse control issues) because I can so easily see my health taking a beating with the negativity, both my own and from those around me. Keep up the amazing words, because so often you hit the nail on the head of what I am going through. 🙂

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    • I think it will have a long term, devastating impact on our country between court appointments, bad policy and all the bad actors involved. You must have a painful perspective on the upcoming immigration changes.

      When I’m going through a bout of depression, situational or otherwise, I keep a list on my desk of basic self-care I try to do every day. For me it’s meditate, journal, vitamins, floss, exercise, read, write and connect. Most days I manage to do everything, no matter how short a time. It’s the act of deliberate care that matters and not what the activity is or the duration. Even starting with one act of deliberate self-care can make a huge difference.

      Thanks for the encouragement on writing. I’m being quite the blabbermouth these days.

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  7. I know just how you feel. The queasy feeling in my stomach is not subsiding.

    The NY Times says to mitigate election depression by cleaning my freezer. WTF? If enough of us do it will hell fit?

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Pingback: Fired Up, Part 4: Screw It, I’m Going to Smile Anyway | The Green Study

  9. While i do agree trump is a bit of an idiot, hes not the biggest idiot ever. Franklin delano roosevelt put people of asian descent into camps. I don’t pretend to understand Donald Trump. One thing is for sure, he’s not president yet, so we can’t say too much can we? He is impulsive, and he does objectify women. That’s his personal life. Perhaps he will maintain a professional career that abides by social norms(whatever those may be).
    Just try not to get worked up until bad stuff happens. If it does. And im not a trump supporter or an economy major so i cant really say anything. But be hopeful.

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    • You are not alone in taking a wait-and-see stance, but waiting around until things get really bad is not my approach to life. Instead, I will support the causes and humans that will be hurt by this regime. I can only make judgments on what he has said and done, not on what he might say or might do.
      I’m reserving my hope for the American people, not for Trump et. al.
      Thanks for taking the time to read and comment.

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  10. I’ve experienced the stages of grief since election night. I’ve decided that the best thing I can do is act against the toxicity and fear and myriad of phobias is to be kinder, to spread a smile to a stranger who may then pass it along to another stranger. While that may sound Pollyanna-ish, it is the best response I can think of. Fighting toxicity with more toxicity has done turned the political process into a sideshow and, as a result, elected a reality television star to office. The US has survived war, the country has survived polarizing presidents (Jackson, for example), and it hasn’t crumbled up and died. We are not defined by our political process, but merely people that take part in it. We are defined by our actions and how we treat others. So, I will smile at a stranger and let them know that there are people you don’t need to fear.

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    • My next and last post in my post-election hand-wringing series was titled: Screw It, I’m Going to Smile Anyway, so we’re on the same wavelength. For me, too, starting to do things differently is helping. My lemons-to-lemonade is that I’ve been galvanized to get back into community work and to use my writing skills to send pointless missives to politicians. It’s not much, but it’s something.

      While we only participate, many have taken on the role of surrogates for whatever candidate they voted for – it’s harder to distinguish who they are from who they voted for when it’s gotten so toxic. I’m just trying to remind myself to see others with a curious mind about who they are as humans. So smiling at strangers and getting past blank, guarded stares is a good way to start.

      Liked by 1 person

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