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.
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.
Anger 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.
In 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.