To say I’m struggling is an understatement. To quote my friend Julie, I am a citizen and resident of a country quickly transformed into tyranny. And yet, I am white, cis-gendered, and able-bodied. I am educated. I have a supportive, loving family. I am in no real danger of losing my health insurance and not being able to pay for services, or being deported, or attempting to support a family on benefits that keep being slashed while paying off student loans on tuition that keeps being raised.
But many are not that lucky- my friends are immigrants with visa issues. My public lands are being haggled like marketplace goods. My country is divided in a way that I’ve only read about in textbooks.
I keep trying to tell myself that it will be OK- that I will pull myself out of this depressive rut I’m stuck in. That the people will come together to protect freedom of speech, our public lands, and each other. That I will get opportunities to write. That my day job will get easier.
I realized the other day- things aren’t fine. Our country is facing a serious crisis with significant implications for future generations. My personal relationship struggles won’t miraculously solve themselves. Depression won’t just go away. And learning to live with the reality of the situation without losing your mind is an important skill, especially for those struggling with mental health issues. Because the issues won’t go away on their own, and maybe not ever. And learning to sit with that is the most critical skill I’ve learned this past year.
Yesterday, stress over a work project deadline sent me into a panic attack at work. I’m forgetting to eat properly, and few things bring me true joy. There is a constant sense of impending doom, the feeling that that no phone calls, or Facebook posts shared, or protests marched in will be enough to save the things and places I value.
The only thing that brings satisfaction and relief is creating art- in my case, writing. The last few months, I was momentarily paralyzed by the overwhelming flood of information on social media. I’m still struggling with the onslaught that shows up every time I open my phone. But I’m learning to sit with it.
Some of my artist friends struggle with feeling valuable in a world that seems to desperately need practical skills. I disagree. Even people in jails, in refugee camps, in ghettos, in places people should never be seek to create art. It is as necessary as food and shelter. Telling stories and creating narratives is how we celebrate the beauty and also how we make sense of the anguish and desperation.
So I’m going to keep writing. Because this world needs more art. Because it calms me down. Because it focuses my anxiety. Because the best way to fight tyranny is with free minds, and the best way to bridge people is by sharing experiences. Because I want to.
Don’t mistake my acceptance for complacency: things won’t get fixed overnight. Our country has a long road ahead of us to repair, and I have a lot of work to do at home. So when people as me these days how things are, I can’t say “fine”.
Things really are not fine. And they won’t be, for a while. And right now, that’s OK.
February 1, 2017