Today I’m tired. I’m tired of calling my representative every day to explain things that should be self-explanatory: families should be together; peaceful protesters shouldn’t be arrested; guns are dangerous; health care is essential for well-being. I’m tired of witnessing unkindness and cruelty from Trump and his administration and then, when they get called on it, seeing them cry for civility and politeness. I’m tired of people defending abhorrent practices and policies while claiming that these inhumane acts provide the results we want. I’m not even sure who the “we” are, but I’m sure as hell not happy with the results we’re getting. I’m tired of not trusting law enforcement, the Supreme Court, various politicians. Hell, I’m tired of not trusting some family members because I know they voted for Trump and/or still support him. I’m tired.
The past two days we’ve seen the Supreme Court hand down several decisions that are detrimental to women, to workers, to Muslims. These are not good decisions that have been made, and their effects will be felt for many, many years to come. My thoughts on abortion are complicated because it’s a complicated issue. You know what isn’t? Unlicensed medical facilities should not be allowed to present themselves as if they were licensed medical facilities. I’ve never been part of a union, but it seems to me that all workers benefit from the negotiations that unions undertake; paying a partial fee to ensure that your rights as a worker, regardless of your desire to join said union, are protected doesn’t seem like such a bad idea. I’m not a Muslim, but I am a Catholic, and I know that there was a time not so long ago when we were viewed with suspicion and were unwanted. The assumption that Muslims are dangerous, which is what this “travel ban” is, does nothing to heal division and creates whole heaps of problems when it comes to the United States’ ability to claim religious freedom.
What I feel is that we are in the midst of constant erosion. When Trump was elected, I assumed we’d be protected by the checks and balances that are in place for precisely this type of problem. And yes, Trump is a problem. Today, with the news of Justice Kennedy’s retirement, I just want to down a tub of ice cream and nap. I won’t—well, it might just be a bowl of ice cream instead of a tub. There have been quite a few posts on Facebook lately about how resistance happens over time, not over night. A quote attributed to Michael Moore has been making the rounds as well: the one that talks about how singers, when singing a sustained note, take breaths in “waves” so the sound is maintained but the singers don’t pass out. The quote from Dory is also running through my mind: “Just keep swimming.”
Indeed, but maybe it’s okay to step back for a few moments and recognize how bad this is. I wanted a different word besides “bad.” I wanted to say that we step back, take those deep breaths, rest our weary hearts and minds, and then jump back into the fray refreshed. But it is bad. And we need to acknowledge that. What we don’t need to do is wallow or be so overwhelmed that we become paralyzed. By “we,” I mean “I.”
So today I’ve done this. I’ve recognized that this is bad, that this feels like that magic mix of grief and anxiety I’ve gotten to know pretty well over the past eight years. And as I write this post, I feel myself gathering the inner resources to keep moving forward.
So where is the rest for the heart? Where is the gentleness? It’s tempting, perhaps, to say there isn’t room for resting or gentleness; there isn’t time for loosening up and relaxing. But I don’t operate well that way, and I suspect most people don’t. Oddly enough, the hopeful thought that keeps coming to me is an anxiety attack I had nearly two years ago. I’d been having them with some regularity, and I was trying to decide if I needed to go back on medication. I’d woken up in the middle of the night in a panic. Hot, shaky, breathing fast, afraid. Several months before this happened, a friend told me how her therapist suggested that she surrender to her panic attacks. The immediate reaction to such an attack is often to fight it. And yes, until this night, if I woke up in a panic, I’d immediately get up, make tea, put my headphones in, and fight the racing heart and terrified brain. The routine helped me get out of the panic, but I’d feel shaky and alert for a long time afterward. But this night? This night I let the panic wash over me. It was completely different. I brought my attention to the oscillating fan in our room, and the beautiful coolness that brushed over me when the fan passed by. I let that steady me as the rest of my body and brain reeled for a few minutes. Eventually, they stilled, and I felt peaceful again. I felt steady and calm. I felt graced.
There are times we must fight. There are times we wail and gnash our teeth. There are times we put our heads down and push through the chaos. But there are also times we let it wash over us because that creates a focus and a steeliness that strengthens our resolve. When we’re so tired, so anxious, so overwhelmed—maybe the best thing is to turn toward that panic so we can see that we do, indeed, come out the other side.