seeking the mechanism

Since November 9, 2016, all my creative efforts have failed. All my cooking has flopped. My baking, just awful — even things I’ve been making for decades and can make in my sleep. Knitting? Fail, fail, fail, frog frog frog. My writing has been clenched and just kind of awful, though I have had a couple of things that worked, inspired by deep veins of emotion about my family, in one way or another.

Why is this? Why has the election of this monster (and the assumption of complete power by the evilest group of politicians that have ever skulked in the halls of power in our country’s history) had this particular effect on me? I wonder about it all the time, because cooking and baking and knitting and writing are such common activities for me, things I do for comfort, for pleasure, for myself and others, and for a creative outlet. But even uncreative things are failing too, like housecleaning. I bang into things, drop things, break things, knock them over. Putting the dust mop away, I realize there’s a wide swath of dust on the tile in the small hallway, how could I even have missed that, anyway? Like, how would it even be possible, given the width of the Swiffer and the narrowness of the hallway?

I’m less interested in suggestions to fix the problem (except for complete overthrow of our government and restoration to sanity), because I feel like I know the things to try, and have been trying them: I slow down, take a deep breath, create a setting that’s conducive to my enjoyment of the task, be present, note each step, take my time, etc., and still it’s all failing. So, OK. I don’t assume this is some kind of brain damage that’s happened inside me, I assume it will pass somehow. But I am interested in the mechanism, in finding some kind of explanation for it.

I’m sure it will notch right into a larger question that’s also confusing me: why am I this devastated? My own very specific life is not affected, if by “my own life” I draw the circle tightly around my personal physical boundary and don’t include “my care for vulnerable people.” Setting aside my real and surely justifiable fears that the Monster-in-Chief will get the world killed in a nuclear holocaust, this too shall pass, and we’ll get him and all his cronies out of office and if we have learned nothing else, we’ve learned that rules and norms don’t matter one bit and that one person can just sit in the chair and on day 1 sign a bunch of papers to completely change everything. So, OK. We’ll set it right, and in the interim it’s just going to be hard going. Why am I this completely devastated, four months and three days later? And of course it’s not just me, we’re all still shellshocked, pulled inward, trying to figure out how to take the next step. We’re mobilizing, fighting, having small victories and planning big ones. That feels good, it allows for the idea of the possibility of perhaps a spark of hope. (Note the distance to hope.)

But why? There are parts I get; I learned that there are enough people in this country to have fallen for his monstrousness and cast their votes for him, and that shocked me. They walk among us too. I knew they were here, I guess I just didn’t realize how many there were. So is it simply that? I don’t live in the country I thought I did? They aren’t just the fringe lunatics? That’s destabilizing I guess. But it doesn’t feel like the answer.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers have been running sweeps all around the country, snapping up hardworking people, splitting up families — kids come home from school and their parents are just gone. That’s devastating to know about, it goes against everything human and humane and that I care about. Just typing those two sentences made my breath get stuck, brought hot tears into my eyes, and gave me a kind of panic. But that response feels like a symptom not the cause, and it’s the cause of the enormity of my despair that I’m struggling to understand.

Then I look around the world and see this virus of hate spreading from one formerly tolerant country to another. There was a terrible-wonderful passage in a book I recently read, Ill Will by Dan Chaon. One character in the book, Russell, is an agent of destruction, and the scenes that describe the abuse he had suffered as a child were almost impossible for me to read, even though they were presented in a peripheral vision kind of way, hinting and just letting the taint seep into you through your eyes. When he’s in prison later in life, a counselor says to him: “When you’ve been abused in the way you were, you have a virus. And the virus will demand that you pass it on to someone else. You don’t even have that much of a choice.” Russell thinks, The idea that I passed on a virus, and the virus would turn around and it was my own doom? That was so fucking funny. That was so sad and so funny. [Do read Ill Will, it’s powerful. Here is my GoodReads review.] But YES, a virus. It feels exactly like the world is being infected with a murderous, deadly virus, and I hope it’s not fatal. Maybe that’s why I feel sick.

You don’t have the answer either, I don’t think anyone does. Mark Halperin (senior political analyst for MSNBC and Bloomberg Television and contributor and former co-managing editor of Bloomberg Politics) said the election has “convulsed the country” more than any event since World War II, including the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. I agree with him. I guess we’ll all grapple with this until we get it figured out, and that is likely to take a long time because every single day the administration hurls more horrors at us. Every. Single. Day. It’s so disorienting.

I want my pleasures back. I want to knit beautiful things again and not have to just rip everything out.

I want to bake sumptuous cinnamon rolls for people. I want to make really delicious vegetarian food for my dinners again. I want to make.

Even though I’m not asking for answers, I am wondering: is this happening to you too? Is it still happening to you?

6 thoughts on “seeking the mechanism”

  1. That horrific monster has messed not only with our hearts, but our souls and I think that that is where the difference lies. How do you suck the life out of someone’s soul? I think that he has accomplished that and it’s way more damaging than hurting someone’s heart. There will always be special people in our lives who can help heal a damaged heart, but when your soul has been stripped, there’s a sense of hopelessness and it affects all we do on a daily basis and the reality is that we are pretty helpless. Four years of this is just more than any of us can take. I’m grateful that I believe in the power of prayer, because right now that’s about all we have. I love you beyond words and I do know that we will survive this horror. Things will just not work as well as they used to before Satan Trump took control.

    1. I think you’ve found the target — and it must be some kind of dark magic he has done to poison our souls the way he has. Maybe it’s just the foul hatred he spews into the world, and the way so many light up and think he’s wonderful that’s so poisonous. I wish I shared your deep connection to prayer; I pray, but I don’t think I have the kind of confidence in it that you do, so it always feels like a desperate and perhaps impotent effort, although I put all my heart into it.

      We are helpless, and those who should be helping us are sitting idly by, so it’s that, too: no help is arriving, so we’re even more alone. What a despairing situation, and I sometimes feel so overwhelmed by it that I just have a scream in my mouth, desperate to fly into the air. I feel something like a panic attack now and then, my chest gets clutched and it’s hard to breathe. What a nightmare. I don’t see how we can survive for years of it either.

      Satan Trump, he sure is Dixie. oxoxoxoxoxox

  2. Convulsed the country is right! And yes, I am still feeling like I’ve been hoodwinked. I cannot abide the words ‘President Trump’. The whole thing makes me want to swear using all the really bad words I know and then with some I have made up. I keep thinking and talking about how this happened and I have no answers. My house is a mess, I keep having to rip out my own knitting and I can’t shut up about the staggering poverty I saw in the South. Just what in the holy hell is the deal? How did it happen? I cannot make sense of the abject poverty I saw with my own two eyes that was then topped off with a Trump sticker on the rotting trailer door. The only thing that comes to mind is that the people who voted for him loved his bullying ways and his ‘tell it like it is’ approach. Or that laying the blame at other people’s feet is the way to go. The phrase ‘he’s only saying things we all think’ sticks in my craw. He’s not. He’s not going to give the poor jobs or health care or anything else. He doesn’t see them. He doesn’t see us. And I’m still really bitchy about it. xoxoxox.

    1. I was lying in bed early this morning, thinking about how my house is a wreck, my life feels like a wreck, why can’t I get it together. What a perfect image, the rotting trailer door with a Trump sticker on it — I don’t understand, I can’t understand, none of it makes any damn sense. And maybe that’s part of it too? That none of this makes any sense! Up is down, black is white, what? It’s very destabilizing.

      I can’t abide the word president with his name either, can’t do it. Can’t even type it. No ma’am. I’m sorry our knitting is being affected, that feels like a rotten cherry on the shit sundae, doesn’t it. At least we can bitch to each other, and at least we do know some people who see what we see. That saves me. xoxoxoxoxoxoxo

  3. I’m in a funny state about this whole thing. On the one hand, I wasn’t surprised that he won. I knew we weren’t ready for a female president, and I knew that white women weren’t on board in the numbers that we needed them to be. And that’s something that I struggle with all the time anyway – how do women not see the ways that they are oppressed in this country (and the world)? How can they continue to choose patriarchy over progress? I also know that my friends and colleagues of color weren’t surprised. To some of them, this election almost felt like a vindication – this is what bad looks like for us all the time, where have you been?

    But all of that said, I also move in and out of a state of shocked horror. I think, mulling this over, that the heart of it lies with something else I’ve been worrying and fretting over for a while now (the joys of being an educator in conservative North County) – the total disregard for verifiable information. How can we have any kind of real public discourse about the things that matter when there’s an entire political party that insists on its right to its own facts? In the face of all evidence to the contrary? That’s where I get hung up. How can we talk about how to mitigate global climate change if half the nation refuses to acknowledge the evidence that tells us that it’s happening? How can we talk about real economic reform with a party that engages in faith-based economics? How can we talk about gun control with a group of people who refuse to even allow data to be gathered on gun deaths? Basically – if we don’t even share a set of core information about the world and how it works, and moreover, if we don’t even share an understanding of how information is gathered and assessed, how can we ever come together around anything?

    Yep. That’s where I get stuck. Every time.

    1. YES, JOCELYN. That is where the rug pulls out from under my feet too. The emotional stuff, the losses, the fear, all that is bad enough, and the policies that are going to devastate us in so many ways, just awful . . . but it’s this parallel distorted world, and the bridgeless gulf between us and them that blanks me. I have a friend who is an enthusiastic Trump supporter and most days I think, “Ah, surely this is finally the thing that will change it for her” and then I realize that her view of him, and his actions, and the whole world, is just so different from mine there is no point asking her. I don’t look at those media, because I feel too gaslighted and I get too filled with despair about how we can ever move forward. How did this even happen? I know they’ve been priming the alternative fact well for a very long time (and he has, particularly), but where we find ourselves now is just so disorienting and the problems are so grave, I feel hopeless about it.

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