It’s ten thirty a.m. and I’m making my way through an already crowded grocery store. I’ve listened to some news (all bad) on the way here and my heart feels heavier than the cantaloupe stacked high in the bin, an avalanche waiting to happen.
I have not felt this depressed since I tried to give up my morning coffee. I am starting to wonder if a weighted blanket might be a good idea. Don’t be ridiculous, I tell myself. But still, it is a comforting thought.
I want to grab all of the sugary things in bakery aisle, but I resist, knowing that self-destruction is not the way out. So I am left to deal with my raw emotions.
I am overstimulated because the crowded, noisy environment is competing with the thoughts in my head. I pull my carriage over to jot down notes on the back of my grocery list. It’s just a stupid essay, I think to myself, but it’s the first time I’ve felt like writing in weeks so I feel the need to capture the moment.
Why does this always happen in the most inconvenient of places? In the shower, while driving, while grocery shopping. Rarely does the muse come while I am at my laptop, fingers poised to capture the flow of words. Nope.
Lately I’ve been staring at a blank computer screen, my insides vacillating between numbness and nauseous churning. No words come out. Nothing seems good enough or clear enough or worthwhile. A waste of time, all of it, petty creative ambitions gone underground while I wait for my heart to thaw. Why does the muse hate me so?
But today my writer’s block is broken in Market Basket, halfway down the carb aisle. This is why I never leave home without a pen.
Back at home, I sign up for a daily action text. I text the word DAILY to the number 228466 and am prompted to give my zip code. I will receive a daily text prompting me to make a specific call to my Senator, on behalf of U.S. laws, on Planned Parenthood, on all sorts of rights on behalf of the welfare of the citizens of the United States.
I sort of hate the phone, and initially I worry I’ll be caught in some endless loop like calling Verizona or my insurance company, but I get through on the second ring. This is easy, and something I can do every single day.
Helplessness and hopelessness is what will keep me down, not action. Action is good.
I go to yoga class and breathe and sweat and stretch and get out of my head and back into my body and my spirit and that sweet space of presence.
But then my mind gets a bit restless again and I have to give it something to chew on, so I turn to books like I always do. I read books to help me understand what has happened and what my part is in all of it. I read Hillbilly Elegy and I ordered a book that my father has suggested, The Authoritarians. The author, Bob Altemeyer, explains in methodical detail, the roots of authoritarianism and who the authoritarian followers are. The book can be downloaded for free at www.theauthoritarians.com. My husband reads it first. He’s not typically someone who enjoys psychological analyzing but he says it explains a lot. I put it on my reading list.
I look for Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right. I want to understand, I do. The librarian tells me that there are a hundred and seventeen people in line for this book. I don’t think I can wait that long.
Then I decide I need to go deeper, much deeper. I need to rise above politics and read something that speaks to my soul. Call me dramatic, but this is no small matter. I need an intervention here. I feel we have entered a dark night of the soul, as a country, and we are all in this together. I want to pull my weight. I’ve decided that means taking action toward what I know is right and remembering that there is plenty I could be wrong about.
I remember that I have Marianne Williamson’s A Return to Love in my bookshelf. Before I begin reading it, I look the author up the on social media. I follow her on twitter, thinking she’ll be blissfully calm in the midst of the storm that is our political climate. Not so.
You know we are trouble when even Marianne Williamson is pissed off.
But anyhow, I start reading her book and it does bring me peace. I am willing to see the bigger picture, accept responsibility for my own feelings and actions. She says if you are in disagreement with someone, that even if you think the other party is 90% responsible, you should focus on your 10%. It’s not anyone’s job to change another or even to change another’s mind. I agree with this.
So I take care of myself so that I am bringing light, and not more darkness, into the world. I save my energy for the things I can do and can change. I try, and sometimes fail, to be more mindful of my words and my thoughts.
We can’t fight anger with anger or fear with fear. I knew this. I’d just forgotten for a minute. I got scared.
But I am back. I feel lighter now.
And mostly unafraid.