You'd think that, with all these things on our collective minds, it would make it easier to write, but instead it makes it harder. The sheer volume of thought and emotion and alarming information slamming in from the public sphere, in conjunction with whatever we've got going on privately, is a lot to sift through. I am watching friends tune in and out again. In, because there is the illusion that maybe vigilance will keep us safe. Out, because they are swiftly overwhelmed by what feels sometimes like a cloud of flying shrapnel. It is unclear what we can do to save ourselves when the answer seems to be, always, "everything."
So intimidating; thankfully there are tens of millions of us.
Meanwhile, while apparently not one of those tens of millions are looking, somebody sneaks into the public park and cuts down the old-growth cedar tree you loved.
On Monday night, I went to a thing. It was called "Breaking Bread Together," or rather we called it that, having just invented it. Basically, it was an activist potluck. Because it was held in somebody's living room, it was limited to a group of 18 people-- the first 18 to show enthusiasm, not the most important 18 people in my very activist town, although there was a city councilman there in regular-guy mode. We brought soup and bread and vegetables and cookies and cakes. Two different people brought roasted cauliflower with pomegranate seeds. There weren't enough dishes to have both a bowl and a plate, or both a fork and a spoon, so I filled my little soup bowl repeatedly with different things and ate brussels sprouts and roasted cauliflower hungrily with my spoon. We sat on chairs or on the floor, in a wide circle around this guy's living room coffee table, and formally introduced ourselves one at a time, and talked about what was important to us and how we were feeling that night, Dec. 19, the day the electors voted for Donald Trump as President of the United States. We also tried to put together some kind of loose viral model for a series of similar dinners to be held by all of us, and others we would invite and recruit, all over our community.
Not all was Edenic. The mostly white faces around the living room individually lamented the relative dearth of people of color and of immigrants in our circle, when (our city councilman asserted) almost half of the residents of our town speak languages other than English at home. There are two towns really: the affluent, liberal, majority-white historic district, and the highly international, and much poorer, neighborhood loosely-arranged around the major thoroughfares. Each is to some degree intimidated by the other. One member of the group, expressing frustration about her prospects for finding dinner guests that were "different from" herself, said more-or-less these words: "Well, I mean, I guess I could go down to the bus stop on the corner, and start inviting people over to my house..." Inwardly I cringed. (Well, knowing me, I probably cringed outwardly as well.) We have a long way to go. Did people really not have any acquaintances that they could begin by inviting?
Not only did many in the group confess to not knowing an ethnically-diverse assortment of people, a number of them said they did not know any Republicans. "I don't know anyone who knows anyone who knows a Trump voter," said one guy. Really? And I thought my world was insular.
Someone suggested a group exercise-- I hate this sort of thing-- in which we all went around the room and said one word that represented how we were feeling, and in this way together we would "make a poem." (Everybody said adjectives, which is not a very good poem.) When it came around to me, I paused. The actual adjective in my mind was "skeptical," which I knew would hurt everybody's feelings. My skepticism was nothing personal, but rather (I realized at that moment) an innate part of my personality. (Put me in pretty much any situation, and "skeptical" will rank up there.) So I lied-- kind of a lie at my own expense. I said "overwhelmed."
Maybe it wasn't a lie. I am overwhelmed.
The next morning, I woke up to find that my 15-year-old, for the first time ever, had set up the coffeemaker before getting into the shower. They had left a note on the counter. It said, "I started coffee on purpose. -A."
While the resulting coffee had some flaws, at least it wasn't an accident.
As I've mentioned, I cannot stop eating. I managed to eat pretty normally on Monday, but I made up for it yesterday when I bought myself a fancy sandwich and chips for lunch, and then a bag of Jelly-Bellies for afters. By nighttime, a desire for wholesomeness had kicked back in, and I cooked a huge pot of vegetable soup: onions, garlic, celery, carrot, parsnips, cabbage, chard, green beans, and peas, with some fresh herbs, vegetable broth, and a little white miso. It's like I am ricocheting back and forth between wanting to nourish everyone in the world, and giving up entirely. I really want the former to win, but every night, after a day spent doing very little by my usual standards, I feel as tired as though I had walked for many miles. Just being alive right now is apparently exhausting. I said this to my husband last night and he tried to explain that it was because of the solstice, the long nights. Maybe, but I don't think so.
Here are some things worth reading:
Under political pressure, Kuwait cancels major event at Four Seasons, switches to Trump's D.C. hotel
What those who studied Nazis can teach us about the strange reaction to Donald Trump
Marion Pritchard, Dutch rescuer of Jewish children during the Holocaust, dies at 96