It has been nearly impossible to get words on the screen these days. The energy in the air is both stagnant and buzzing with stress and anticipation. Coronavirus fatigue is palpable as cases surge around the globe and the stakes of the US election have nerves frayed.
My current emotional state brought me back to the days of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010. Still considered one of the biggest environmental disasters in US history, it lasted from April 20 to September 19. I can still feel the stress from watching the “spill cam” with the knowledge that animal and plant life in the Gulf were being destroyed and would likely never be the same. Watching gallons of oil pour into that vital ecosystem was traumatic. I just wanted it to stop.
Since Inauguration Day, maybe even before, Americans far and wide, have been experiencing a daily trauma at the hands of a narcissistic sociopath, enabled by a group of power-hungry, soulless bastards who do not give a damn about the citizens of the country. I scroll through my Facebook feed, checking in on friends and family and I bear witness to the impact of daily trauma–fatigue, overeating, grief, drinking, rage.
We watched as 2020 took Chadwick, Ruth, and Eddie, meanwhile the Monster-in-Chief, pumped up on steroids, is essentially blackmailing the American public, takes zero responsibility as a COVID-19 super-spreader and has callously poised himself to take health insurance away from millions of Americans with the hypocritical ramming through of a Supreme Court nominee. The abuse is unrelenting, blow after blow.
The imperative to rid ourselves of this disaster of a president is beyond the soul of the nation. Our mental and physical well-being are at stake. My 74 year-old mother’s sanity and my son’s future and hope in the world are at stake. The slow ticking of days until January 20th is haunting and urgent. We simply cannot endure another four years of Donald Trump. I just want it to stop.
Living with the reality of Trump atop the largest platform in the world has been trying for all of us. We cannot deny this fact. For many the impact has been acute with the loss of a loved one, business or a home–the grief and repairs will be enduring. But for most of us, it’s unclear what healing will be required to recover from this national nightmare. I live at a distance from the United States and yet I still bear the weight of this national tragedy.
Recently, I was moved by a Demi Lovato song titled “Commander in Chief” that the Lincoln Project used in a powerful political ad. The images and lyrics were undeniable in their conviction, not just of the president, but of all of us. One line, in particular, should inspire us to examine deeply the state of our character.
“If I did the things you do, I couldn’t sleep. Seriously.”
How do we emerge from this moment committed to being better every day? Trump will not become better. He’s emotionally incapable of it. But, what about the rest of us? Will we immerse ourselves in love, joy and gratitude? Will we shift our focus from power and possessions to collective action and the creation and appreciation of beauty in the world?
My son, Emmanuel, is a self-proclaimed and unapologetic introvert. Since he was little, he has lived contently in his internal world not inclined to demand too much attention. Unfortunately for him, he was born to two outrageously extroverted parents who can be hyper-obsessed with his well-being. We exhaust him with probative questions about his emotional state. Perhaps we’re projecting our own stress and mild depression onto him. But during these difficult times, it is really hard to tell if he’s okay because no one is okay.
During my latest bombardment about school, potential thoughts about college, and a 3-point plan of ways for him to stay active while virtual learning, Emmanuel interrupted me and said he took a picture the other day that he meant to send to me. I took a pause from my motherly lecture and opened the photo on my phone and just like that, Emmanuel disarmed me with this:
A bunny. In an instant, this teenage boy who had graciously listened to me go on for about 30 minutes about whether or not he was depressed and if he wanted to take a gap year and that he should start weightlifting brought me back to our days of our long hikes in the Bay when he was little and would spot the most obscure bug on a leaf in the brush.
Emmanuel came upon the bunny while walking in his neighborhood and he said the bunny didn’t run off afraid, but let him approach and then continue on his way. And for the couple of days that followed, I can’t tell you how many times I have thought about this bunny and how my 16-year old kid knew that seeing a picture of it would bring me a little peace and joy during these insane times.
I know staring at a bunny picture will not motivate real change. I’ve been disappointed to hear all the news stories about how online holiday shopping should start earlier and could be on the rise. Really? Who gives a shit? Has the fact that our planet is completely falling apart because of our excessive consumption and waste not sunk in at all? How many fires will it take? How many storms and floods? No matter as long as Target, Amazon, and Walmart are making the big bucks. . .
In another attempt to escape the insanity, I watched a beautiful documentary the other evening. A well-timed recommendation from a friend. My Octopus Teacher is an extraordinary story about a man who meets an octopus and examines her world and the brilliance with which she navigates it. Both longing for connection, they manage to build a relationship, animal to man, as equals. The beauty of the film is that the man never imposed on her world. He never acted entitled to it, he merely observed it. And from it, he learned enduring lessons about life, in particular, how to seek and experience joy.
As a nation, we have been subjected to a joyless, empty shell of a man in Donald Trump. There is no joy in his presidency, nor in his presence and I realize now that this is the trauma. In the Obamas, we saw a family who smiled, loved, and laughed. They were playful and elegant and even if the policies of the administration did not match one’s political leanings, we still felt good seeing their light shine.
I hope we are able to reclaim our joy when Trump loses this election. But, it’s not just about Trump. I believe we will all have to redefine and rediscover joy. It has to be more than something we wish for during a season. It has to permeate our daily lives in order for true healing to occur. Perhaps that will mean resetting our values and reimagining our institutions. Or turning to the most humble creatures among us to teach us the lessons that we need to learn.