Folks who see me regularly in real life might be surprised to know how completely unraveled I’ve been since the election. Or, perhaps, they might nod in familiar understanding. I’m guessing I’m not the only one out there every day approximating some semblance of being in control, faking smiles, forcing small talk about the weekend, mechanically getting through tasks at work, buying groceries, cooking dinner, walking the dog, paying bills, making Christmas plans, sleeping, and waking up though as everything in the world is still normal.
Yes, we’re mobilizing all sorts of actionable resistance. Yes, we indulge in occasional nonstop political venting with sympathetic allies. But it still feels as though I’m living in two parallel universes, one where everyone wears a pantsuit and runs around cursing bloody murder at the unjust parody of it all, and another in which I have to face my students and pretend everything is okay.
I’m still going crazy with suspicion when I encounter white people at the supermarket or at casual get-togethers. I’m still reconciling how to interact with “friends” or “family” who voted for Trump. How can we make small talk about the weather when I just want to shake you by the shoulders and hiss what the fuck is wrong with you?
Life has mercilessly gone on in the month or so since the election, but I’m still trying to find a way to live.
Like, okay, John Quinones, you can come out now.
It’s not even just that Trump won—I’ll never normalize his brand of gobbledygook, but I’ll learn, over time, to live with it. It’s more that Hillary lost, and all that that means for meritocracy in America, and being the most qualified female candidate, and anti-intellectualism, and fake news, etc.
(I can’t even begin to reconcile the vandalism of Barack Obama’s legacy.)
People are talking about recounting votes and rogue electors, but I confess, again, that I’m unraveled. I feel like we might as well be trying to build a time machine. (Plus, my mind hurts trying to think of the violent side-effects of changing the outcome of the election.) Donald Trump is our Fraulein Maria.* We’re trying to hold a moonbeam in our hand.
And we’re writing.
I haven’t been writing a whole lot. The occasional blog entry. I just wrapped up a revision to a book-length project, which I am beginning to shop around again. But I haven’t been writing much new stuff. However, I am lucky to be in the company of many people who are, or who are at least deeply engaged in creative art and craft. In particular, I find solace in the intellectual discussions and exchanges we have at the Writing Center on campus. Sometimes it’s personal, sharing our experiences and strategies for negotiating this brave new world. Sometimes it’s more abstract, thinking about the many ways in which writing can bring people together.
Writing, to me, is a way of opening the door, and venturing into outer space.
It’s a way to remain centered, when everything else dissolves.
One of the few new pieces I’ve written recently was a collaborative venture with two of my colleagues at the Writing Center. It’s about incubating leaders through peer tutoring, but it’s also about reflection and mindfulness. Taking the time to help others and yourself succeed.
It’s going to take time. I’m giving myself time.
*if she were a Nazi sympathizer