Staying with the Troubles

It’s uncomfortable. This sense that you are out of step with the world and that when you dip your toes in, all you want to do is retreat. I’ve been doing the hokey-pokey all week.

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I’m still trying to process the election outcome. The daily news of one old white guy apprentice after another being paraded for administration positions in front of that other old white guy enrages me afresh. Representative government, my ass.

My husband continues to remain stoic, which sometimes aggravates me further. This morning I childishly said, “Well, I guess this doesn’t bother you, since you aren’t affected by it.”

He sighs. “It does affect me, because every morning after you read the news, we have these conversations.”

I am troubled. I’ve always considered myself a reasonable, thoughtful person, but I can’t seem to get a grip on the anger. I’ve been clumsily trying to reorient myself towards a mission of writing and service and being a decent human. I know anger, unfocused and misdirected, is a waste of energy.

canstockphoto8732102Anger directed is a different story. I did interview to become a community volunteer in my school district and sometime after Thanksgiving, I’ll start tutoring high school English language learners. In my imagination, I’m cancelling out one white nationalist and restoring a little balance to the universe. Still, I worry that I won’t be helpful, that I won’t be able to connect, that I’ll just be another progressive trying to self-soothe.

I’ve felt compelled to read more, listen to more classical music, memorize poetry. All the snide conversation about intelligentsia and liberal elites and derogatory comments about education have made me want to bathe in knowledge – and I am more determined that my child learn about climate change, evolution and sex. Isaac Asimov comes to mind frequently:

“Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.’

It’s unsettling, this nervous, apocalyptic-driven sense that something has gone horribly wrong. I am still working at the whole meditating thing (up to a whole 11 minutes now!). I began to notice how frantic my mind can be and that in the minute before the timer goes off, I feel desperate to be done and a sense of relief when I hear the beep-beep-beep. I let myself off the hook just when it’s difficult, when what I really need is to stay in that uncomfortable place.

Writing is much the same. I write until I’m mentally screaming at myself that it’s awful and how I don’t know anything. Then I hit a multiple of 500 words. I take a break and relieve the tension, take a walk, get a snack, breathe in, breathe out. I know I have to push past that critical voice to get to the good stuff, but these days, I just seem to be sitting in the trouble spot.

prisonwindowborderIn the midst of this all, I see that the troubles are exactly where I need to be in order to grow as a human and as a writer. We cannot strengthen our character unless it is tested. We cannot defend our freedoms unless they are threatened. We cannot become better writers or artists or humans unless we have obstacles to overcome.

A troubled mind is my new normal and I’ll be here awhile.

28 Comments on “Staying with the Troubles

  1. My question for you, Michelle, is… we’re you not troubled before? Was the world and all its ‘humanness’ all hunky-dory pre-Trump? We’re you satisfied with the status quo? Just Thinking…. and sayin’….
    I am thankful for my free Country, even with our ability to make bad decisions. I am a lover of my fellow human; in my compassion I travel. Ear and far to help others in Catastrophe and distress. I’ve been around the world and believe me, I am thankful to be right here, Trump, Hillary, and ALL.
    This, TOO, shall pass.
    In the meantime, let’s stop giving “the spin” our ear, try to get a grip and try to restore Hope to our panicking loved ones, and give the imperfect human a chance to see what policy changes might actually do to Fortify the USA.
    💕
    Assunta Thompson, RN, BSN
    Thrive Despite Circumstances

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    • I wrote a snarky reply before and I’m sorry if you caught that. Suffice it to say that I feel the way I do and you feel the way you do. Your comment suggests that I somehow don’t appreciate and love my country. What I love most about my country is the freedom I have to disagree with my government and with fellow citizens. Your comment feels like a lecture and if your goal is to grow compassion wherever you are, you might want to take a different tack.

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    • On the contrary, no intended comment, at all, on YOUR love of Country! Only my honest confidence that things here are not all as catastrophic as some folks seem to make out. I was actually trying to be reasonably encouraging. Consider reading it again. No offense intended Michelle. The questions weren’t rhetorical necessarily, just a suggestion in perspective. Peace. Assunta.

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      • I’m not offended. As I said, my feelings are my own and unlikely to mimic that of someone else. I do not share your confidence about the direction this county is headed in. I hope that I am completely wrong and pleasantly surprised, but I can only make judgments on what is being done and what is being said, not on what I hope will be done or will be said.

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        • Some pundits say Trump benefits from the very low bar that has been set for him. Expectations have been low for him at every cycle of this past election. I demand a competent President for the country, not for Trump’s own glory or for the Republicans.’ As far as Trump consistently being a petty narcissist — he doesn’t disappoint.

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        • Trump is the ultimate circus barker, but the clowns he’s putting in positions of power are truly dangerous. Thanks to the whackadoodle he put forth for the Secretary of Education, I’ve got to spend the next few months calling and writing congressional reps to fight her appointment. It’s getting exhausting. You’re right, the bar is pretty low, when all you hope is that he doesn’t start world war 3 and that internment camps don’t become all the rage again.

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        • I too am hoping for the best. It’s hard to hear what is actually being said and done through the rhetorical spin… consider the ladders of inference at work. Not all old white guys are enherently evil. Not all jobs are being offered to old white guys. Nothing can be accomplished until end of January. To be determined… yes, hoping. And praying, as I have for every president since Bill Clinton. They ALL need our prayers.

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  2. Michelle, thank you. I hear you. Your reflections just got me off my tush, for the day.

    Because I have a deep connection with Haiti and have a permanent place to stay there, I’m tempted to bail out. But I think it would be best to forge some creative ties between communities here and there. Our answers lie not in winging it by ourselves but in making strong links across borders. I’m in high hopes that what’s happened in the U.S. might be chauvinism’s last gasp.

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    • I have a lot of hope as well, but seeing bad behavior being rewarded with power and influence is really sticking in my craw. It’s been going on since the beginning of time, but it doesn’t make it any easier to accept.

      You’re right, though – making and nourishing connections is critical for moving forward. Part of all this is the isolationism and anonymity afforded by technology, so that like-minded people can group and separate themselves from others. We can so easily find our echo chambers and learn so little.

      There is the big picture that this might be a last gasp. I am concerned about the long term outcomes (even a few years out) with the Supreme Court and destabilizing financial maneuvers, as well as the vitriol that has permeated our public discourse. Still, when the political feels personal, it’s time to focus on getting to 12 minutes of meditation!

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  3. Michelle your post is as personal as ever and I for one appreciate your honesty about how you are feeling. I am a little weary of the GOP and conservatives telling us to get on board now that their candidate has won, after eight years of obstructionist governing against a good man in the white house. I am a little weary of being told that middle and southern white folks are hurting. Well, okay, you’re hurting. Blacks and Native Americans have been hurting in much the same way for many decades–living in sub standard housing in communities with few opportunities resulting in wide spread drug abuse and crime, having their cultures spat on by bigots. Now that people of white European descent are really feeling the pinch we are told we are being punished for not listening to them. It’s bogus. Intellectuals are always the target of Authoritarians. So is the press. If you can turn the populace against the educated and the voices of dissent, they won’t mind a bit when you knuckle down on “those people”. They will gladly assist you as we saw at Trump rallies across the country. If the Trump crowd wanted to be treated as decent caring people they should have acted like it and demanded their Candidate act like it also BEFORE the win.

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    • I’m fairly fed up with all the discourse on the outcome – including my own, but I’ll never be on board with an unstable and unpredictable president, nor the pack of jackals drooling over the implementation of their ideological shortsighted schemes.

      On the other hand, I know that I have a limited amount of control and my opinion matters little to those in charge. I just have to keep working with the things that trouble me in order to move forward.

      I grew up with people who made me feel badly for being smart or a reader or anything that didn’t fit with their ways. So all the anti-intellectualism is a sore spot. The political sometimes is truly personal.

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  4. “It’s unsettling, this nervous, apocalyptic-driven sense that something has gone horribly wrong.” I’m feeling this daily – and sometimes I forget for a little while, and then the darkness descends once again. Here in AZ several woman (myself included) who had been part of Pantsuit Nation decided to pull our resources and get together to affect change and protect marginalized people in our VERY red state. By 10am the day after the election we were 80 people and we were feeling pretty good about ourselves. As of today we are over 7,500 people! I seriously wasn’t even sure that there were 7,000 democrats in our state!! We had a meeting to set up committees for community service projects and we had to limit it to 800 people because of the size of the venue. This project has been the only thing keeping me feeling hopeful…and even that can be fleeting. :-/

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    • Your organization sounds fantastic and something to be proud of – turning symbolism and words into action. It’s the best curative around, I think.

      I wish I had some better words of encouragement. I feel like a confederacy of dunces is getting ready to take over my country and there’s nothing I can do about it. Still, I am gravitating to the idea that we’ll find out just what we’re made of in trying times. All the sore winners who are telling everyone to toughen up and stop whining are likely in for an unpleasant surprise, especially when they find out just how tough we can be.

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  5. I am feeling like you do, and am trying to channel it into something useful. I want to not forget what has been said, what has been promised and what bullshit it all will be. Because I recall clearly during the Bush Administration that there was one transgression after another, that it was impossible to keep up the outrage. I think Trump’s administration will be very much like that.

    Of course I keep fantasizing that the Electoral College will do what it was intended to — make sure that the people don’t do something stupid like put a thin-skinned, small fingered psychopath into the White House. But I know it’s just a fantasy. Most of the time.

    Great song.

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    • I think, too, it’s important not to spend too much time focused on his stupid, outrageous comments while not paying attention to what is actually being done. Like a magician who distracts you with one pussy-grabbing hand while crushing civil rights with the other.

      And you’re right about the outrage. It’s hard to maintain and not very healthy or useful. I’ve been cutting back on the news just because it’s exhausting to be pissed all the time. Here’s hoping that the small personal actions taken by the many can counter some of the damage done by the few.

      I hope you have a nice Thanksgiving, Elyse.

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    • Elyse, I would add to your comment that I recall the horrors of the Nixon administration – a misguided president backed by a suspect staff, civil unrest, police brutality, Kent State, impeachment. It was a volatile time. And that was before social media. I fear that history will repeat itself, or worse. I agree with you about the Electoral College. It is not serving it’s intended purpose and, therefore, should be abolished. I keep hearing that’s impossible and it makes me livid.

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  6. Slightly tangential to the (understandable) angst expressed here, your post’s title “Staying with the Trouble” made me think of Donna Haraway’s latest book, the intro to which you can read over at Duke UP (a quick web search will reveal it). It may be of interest. It has my been playing gently with my attention.

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    • Thanks for sharing that reference. I read the introduction and wow, that’s some dense text. Considering how I’ve been fighting my lack of focus lately, it might be a read for a later time!

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      • I’ve been going a few paragraphs at a time to tell the truth. Slow reading and proper digestion with lashings of thought. No hurry. No destination. This might be just the thing for now? Blessings on your furrowed brow.

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  7. Michelle, thanks for your post. I think it is a good reflection of The pain many people are feeling after the election. I personally swing back-and-forth, from trying to hope that Trump might turn out better than we think; to a real sense of fear about all that could go wrong. Sometimes, I feel as if our country is in mortal danger, and might not survive as anything resembling the America we have known. Since the federal government seems to have fallen into the wrong hands, I often think that the best course for me is to work to strengthen my state and local government institutions, in the hope that our state and local governments can survive even if things go horribly wrong at the federal level. I sense that I am not thinking completely rationally, that I’m in a state of shock and I am failing to fully comprehend what has happened.

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    • I’m with you on the swinging back-and-forth, John. I think it’s human nature. My fear with that is, of course, the complacency of hoping for that which is not in evidence. Trump himself may pose less of a danger, especially as he seems to be backing away from his campaign rhetoric. The real concern is Pence and the other ideological extremists Trump intends to put into positions of power.

      I don’t think you are wrong about strengthening local institutions of government. These are the same institutions which will have to stand up to the overreach of the federal branches of government. They need to be prepared for that.

      I’m not sure I’m quite rational yet, either. The flare-ups of anger come with each news story and I sense I’m frothing at the mouth a bit. Trying to focus on actions that might be helpful is all that I can do.

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    • P.S. – John, I forgot to ask what your newsman’s take was on the state of the media and some of these meetings being held with the press, like The New York Times. This is where my irrationality comes in, wondering if he’s now “doing deals” in co-opting the press.

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      • My impression is that Trump is the ultimate salesman, a masterful manipulator. He seems to be very flexible in adjusting his sales pitch and focusing his powers of persuasion on the individual or group in front of him. It remains to be seen how much he can manipulate the media.

        With the Internet and social media, we seem to have entered a new world of misinformation and propaganda. Sometimes what remains of the mainstream media seems reduced to reporting on and trying to counteract the misinformation and propaganda. I don’t want to think about where this all leads. I’m trying to watch less of the cable news, not follow the hour by hour reports, because I think the cable news is hazardous to my physical and mental health.

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        • Ha – I agree that some venues are definitely hazardous for one’s health. Since I don’t rely on social media for news and I eschew news sources that do, I’ve missed out on a lot of the fake news reporting we’re now hearing about post-election. I feel grateful for that.
          One thing I’m more willing to do than in the past, is to pay for online subscriptions, in order to support having a full staff of reporters. It may be an unsustainable business model, but it’s the only thing I can think of doing now.

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  8. Over here in Brexitland (not far from Bafflesby, as it happens) I find the biggest pain for someone who regards himself as an idealist is having to fall out with people who don’t share my idea that humans are wonderful … if that makes any sense.

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    • It makes sense, Dave. I think this election knocked any idealism right out of me. That so many people supported a man with no ethical or moral compass suggests that petty nihilism is alive and kicking here. I have to believe in the potential to be better humans, or else what is the point?

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  9. The quote is apt. It seems that society is dumbing down everywhere information flows – newspapers, political speeches, software, etc. under the guise of “user-friendly” and “plain English.”

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