SO. From my childhood, I developed a sense of myself as a standing ox. (Side note: did you know that ‘ox’ isn’t a different kind of animal than a cow? It’s just a domesticated bovine that has been trained to carry weight, more or less. I always thought it was an entirely different animal.) My idea of ‘standing ox’ is very specific, and I have no idea where it came from, but to me, being a standing ox means being able to stand while being whipped and just keep standing. Maybe even while being whipped with barbed wire — but to keep standing. To keep your head down and stand, to endure, to take whatever abuse is lashed on you. I envisioned myself as a standing ox from childhood on. One of my spine tattoos is the kanji character for ‘endure’ and when a Chinese woman read my spine to me, she read that one as “you able to keep doing hard thing even though it nearly impossible.” I remember her reading of that character most specifically. That’s when I broke down crying, because her explanation of the character fit my own understanding of it so clearly.
So that’s something I can do, and do well. And nota bene: that’s not necessarily a strength. It doesn’t necessarily carry value. It’s stupid to keep standing while someone is trying to torture you or kill you. There is wisdom in knowing when to say ‘no more,’ when to leave, and I don’t regularly have that kind of wisdom. I am too firmly standing ox for my own good — but it is my approach to difficulty, and something I can do without even thinking about it very much.
An ability I do not have, but others do, is to resist insanity. To laugh in the face of gaslighting. To hear the lies and be unswayed by them, unmoved, to have my own psyche be unmarred. Nope, I do not have that ability. Even if I don’t feel swayed, or wonder if the gaslighting and lies are right, it makes me feel like my sanity can’t endure. I feel instantly panicked, it’s hard to breathe, my eyes fill with burning tears, my shoulders rush to my ears, and I struggle to put words together in a sentence. I literally pant.
So you can imagine how awful our country is for me, with the insane Republicans and their alt-right/Fox News-lies spouting craziness, their fake version of “reality” that doesn’t connect at all — this is my specific flavor of the misery, most of us have our own and this is mine. It’s debilitating and I have not been able to develop any ease with it, even after nine months of the administration. I was nearly shredded by the campaign season but I just kept thinking, as most of us did, that there would be no way. No way. Yes way, it happened and every day it’s insane.
Gradually I’ve withdrawn from the world. At first I thought I could fight alongside everyone, and when there are very specific experiences to join, like the Texas Handmaids, or anti-T rallies, or the Women’s March, I can do that. I can link arms with all those others who see what I see, who see what the whole damn world sees, and I can resist. But I can’t participate in the dailyness of it, and one thing I’ve realized here in my Heaventree haven is that perhaps what’s best for me, now, is to more fully withdraw. I’ve unsubscribed from the podcasts I listened to so regularly (Pod Save America and Pod Save the World, and the NYTimes Daily Briefing, etc.), but kept the storytelling ones. If Fresh Air is about politics, I just delete the episode. I don’t look at the Washington Post or the New York Times any more, unless it’s from a specific link to an article about something non-political. If you need to cope with all this by sharing it on Facebook and engaging in dialogue there, I support you — we all need to deal with it however we can in order to get through — but I just can’t do that any more. It’s too painful, too debilitating, too destructive to me personally. It’s not tapping my strength, it’s assaulting my most terrifying weakness.
So I am pulling an ostrich, and I feel a good bit of shame about it. Lucky me, with my immense privilege. I’m white and I own a home in the mountains. My daily life is not under any threat, nor is the daily life of anyone in my immediate family. I live in a progressive state that has mostly good politics. I sure don’t feel wealthy, and worry non-stop about not having work, not earning money, but relatively speaking I am. Lucky, lucky me being able to hide my head in the beauty, here. Lucky me, being able to act as if the government doesn’t exist. Lucky me, hiding in paradise and worrying about ticks.
I’m grateful to all of you who fight and keep all the insanity in front of our eyes, who work to keep all this from being normalized. So grateful. I thank you for carrying the load where I can’t. But if you ever need a standing ox, you know where to find me. I’ll be here at Heaventree, or in NYC, making or consuming beauty in one way or another. Marnie and I are going to collaborate on a quilt (she the designer, me the implementer….drawing on both our strengths!). I am writing. I will bake bread, and make good food. I will be doing yoga and walking and taking photographs. Time to get some knitting done for the winter, which is surely coming. And I mean that in a Game of Thrones way too, because my friends, winter is here.
Mindfulness project day 3 underway….day 2 was beautiful. <3 [and new post up on Heaventree]