Category: Anxiety

Well-Behaved Women Seldom Make History

I had a new-to-me experience today: Today I felt fear as a persecuted minority.

It is surreal to me to write that. I am a white, middle-class, Christian, straight, cis, property-owning, American-born woman. I’ve experience misogyny, sure. But I have never felt persecuted. I have the luxury of living an unexamined life if I so choose.

But today, I sat as fear washed over me. I did not feel safe.

Two major events combined to make me feel this fear.  First, reports from Russia that Putin has signed a bill that decriminalizes domestic violence. The details of this bill are chilling:

Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed off on a controversial law decriminalizing domestic violence as long as it does not happen more than once a year.

The new law makes the first offense of violence against “close persons” such as relatives or children an administrative offense, punishable by a 30,000 ruble fine ($500) or arrest for 15 days.

I drive by the Women’s Support Services office on a regular basis on my way into work. I used to volunteer for the 24-hour domestic violence hotline. I’ve heard the stories of women, in their own voices, late at night. I learned about Tracey Thurman, who, in 1984, successfully sued the Torrington, CT police (a town about a 30-minute drive from my house; I went there this week to have my teeth cleaned) for violating her civil rights for ignoring her reports of the harm her husband continually inflicted on her. I remember the work WSS did to advocate for a state statute to make strangulation a felony. The statute was enacted in 2008.

I know that Russia is not the United States. Not yet, anyway. And I know that there are plenty of countries in which women have a particularly hard time (oh wait! The United States is on that list!). Given the role Russia has played recently in our news cycles, and given our new president’s professed fondness for Putin, this hit close to home.

The second was the Republican Senators’ vote to silence Sen. Elizabeth Warren during the debate on the nomination of Jeff Sessions to the position of attorney general.

Sen. Warren was reading a letter written by Corretta Scott King, the widow of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., opposing the nomination of Jeff Session to a federal judgeship in 1986.

Dear Senator Thurmond:

I write to express my sincere opposition to the confirmation of Jefferson B. Sessions as a federal district court judge for the Southern District of Alabama. My professional and personal roots in Alabama are deep and lasting. Anyone who has used the power of his office as United States Attorney to intimidate and chill the free exercise of the ballot by citizens should not be elevated to our courts. Mr. Sessions has used the awesome powers of his office in a shabby attempt to intimidate and frighten elderly black voters. For this reprehensible conduct, he should not be rewarded with a federal judgeship.

I regret that a long-standing commitment prevents me from appearing in person to testify against this nominee. However, I have attached a copy of my statement opposing Mr. Sessions’ confirmation and I request that my statement as well as this letter be made a part of the hearing record.

I do sincerely urge you to oppose the confirmation of Mr. Sessions.

Sincerely,

Coretta Scott King

After the Republicans voted to silence Sen. Warren, Sen. Tom Udall of New Mexico read King’s letter into the record. No one objected.

I feel that efforts are being made in diverse arenas to silence the voices of women.

I plan to attend a rally in Albany, NY, to support Planned Parenthood on Saturday. And I plan to keep writing.

Repeating History

I had intended to write tonight about what I’ve settled on as my top three causes. I was going to talk about how hard it is to face this onslaught of bad news on a minute-by-minute basis, and how I had to narrow my focus, and that even three might be too many.

And then Trump banned Muslims. On National Holocaust Remembrance Day.

My social media feeds are overflowing with protestations. I’m seeing live feeds from spontaneous protests at international airports. I am half-paralyzed with fear and hopelessness.

But I’m trying to take a little bit of strength from the fact that my social media feeds are overflowing with outrage. That the people I know and love are not staying silent. That we are all speaking out. That maybe the whole of the United States of America has not lost its mind.

I feel helpless. I feel tied down by my geographical location and my responsibility to two young children. But I am looking for ways to resist. If all I can do is boost the signal, I will boost the signal.

This is wrong. This is not normal. Trump must be stopped. History cannot be repeated.

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Dunning-Kruger-ing Myself

I read the most bizarre thing today. We started a hard copy subscription to the Sunday New York Times just before Christmas. I love having a real newspaper in the house, but I have a really hard time getting through it. Especially when the 2-year-old takes such glee in throwing it on the floor and dancing on it.

So I had a moment today to sit and read a little bit, and I came across this headline: “Women Who Voted for Donald Trump in Their Own Words.”

I don’t know what I was expecting, but I’m pretty shaken by what I read.

 

I started to list examples of what these women said and why I found it outrageous, but it just felt wrong to me. Like I was making fun of them, which I’m not trying to do. I’m trying to hear them, but it is so hard when what they say just doesn’t make sense.

I also read an article about the Dunning-Kruger effect, and it immediately made me question my intelligence. Which is what it’s supposed to do, according to Dunning. It’s supposed to make you stop and think and question what you don’t know. And that’s what I was hoping to get out of reading these women’s explanations for why they voted the way they did. But the cognitive dissonance was too great for my ears, and I had to put it down.

I had a moment today, listening to WAMC, listening to The Round Table, and one of the participants pointed out that Trump says he’s going to bring us universal health care. They immediately began to debate what that would look like, if it was even possible, but I had a moment, just one, small, fleeting moment, when I felt a spark of hope. Maybe he will, I thought. Wouldn’t that be awesome?

I mentioned this to James tonight, and told him that as much as I’d like to hang on to that fleeting spark of hope, I realize that it is much more likely that Trump has no idea what he’s doing and is just saying what people want to hear. “I just want a president who’s not a fascist dictator!” I yelled in frustration. “Why is that a naive dream?”

But I realized, then, what these women found in him. For one, small, fleeting moment, they felt a spark of hope after Trump said something they wanted to hear. Whether it was about bringing back manufacturing jobs or taking care of natural-born citizens ahead of immigrants, something he said sparked hope in them, maybe for just one, small, fleeting moment. But, unlike me, they were able to hold on to that.

It’s Going To Be a Rough Week

I’m struggling today, on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, to come up with a plan of attack for surviving the week.

I admit my instinct is to hibernate, to put on a cozy sweater, brew a pot of coffee, and snuggle up with a book, ignoring the world outside.

That might be the healthiest thing to do, but I don’t think it’s the right thing to do.

The public schools have a holiday today, and I get a holiday from work. I have mixed feelings about this holiday. Yes, I agree completely that King deserves a holiday in his honor. Our country needs to pause every year (more than annually, but certainly not less) to remember the struggles of our own people for justice and equality. But I don’t agree with the way most of us observe the day, especially not the schools.

Private schools mostly have school today, and most of them devote the day,  or at least part of it, to special programming. My high school, back in the 1990s, devoted the day to learning about the teachings of MLK Jr. and talking about race. Today, many schools shy away from true discussion and instead devote the day to service. Again, I have nothing against teaching children that community service is noble, but I don’t think it’s the right use of the holiday.

I had one conversation with my 6-year-old about the day, asking what she knew and explaining why I felt it was important. I had hoped to show her some video, or read a book with her, or do something more than just one conversation, but life got in the way today.

I spent the day bouncing around the Internet, trying to consume important information: I read the history of the WEB Du Bois Center in Great Barrington, MA. I read a lot today about John Lewis. I picked at King’s Letter from Birmingham Jail and turned on the video of his “I Have a Dream” speech. I read post after post on Facebook of my network struggling right along with me. Searching, searching, searching for a way to make sense of where we are today, in 2017. How did we get here?

I also spent time nursing a sick baby and playing games with an energetic first-grader. I cooked a pot pie. I took down the Christmas tree. I promoted the vigils I’m working on. I did laundry and dishes and still didn’t manage to get the dining room picked up.

I sat down to write, hoping the act would help me sort out the jumble of my head. Usually, it does. Usually, I can count on writing to make sense of my thoughts.

It doesn’t seem to have helped much.

I want to make a pledge to write every day this week. I think my brain is going to need it, even if I don’t figure it all out by the end of the post.

Maybe, at the very least, I’ll figure out a fitting way to spend my day on Friday.

A Non-Linear Progression

Today was a hard day. My morning diet of Facebook and Gmail was especially difficult to view. But I couldn’t stop.

The manic energy of my Facebook feed is reassuring. Almost everyone I know is worried about the future, scared of future policies, and trying to figure out how to combat them. This is good. This energy is a good sign that maybe, just maybe, we won’t let the country slide into autocracy.

But it’s exhausting.

I had expected today to be better than yesterday, and tomorrow to be better than today, etc. until the world felt somewhat normal again. But grief doesn’t move in a linear progression.

Again, I had seven or twelve topics I thought I might address today — it’s manic out there, I tell you — but I think it’s important to document the process through the grief. So, instead, I offer just one article today. Masha Gessen writes in the New York Review of Books “Autocracy: Rules for Survival.” This article really helped to focus my manic energy today as I floundered from topic to topic, issue to issue, feeling to feeling.

My favorite bit:

But in the face of the impulse to normalize, it is essential to maintain one’s capacity for shock. This will lead people to call you unreasonable and hysterical, and to accuse you of overreacting. It is no fun to be the only hysterical person in the room. Prepare yourself.

Election Disaster 2016

In the weeks leading up to Nov. 8, 2016, I felt a vague sense of dread. Maybe vague is the wrong word. Omnipresent is more accurate. Despite all the people I know who denounced Trump, despite all the articles posted on Facebook explaining why he was the wrong choice, despite the growing excitement around electing the first woman president, I felt, in the back of my chest, that we were all wrong and that Trump would win.

And he did.

The wound is so fresh. Less than 16 hours old. I have not even begun to come to terms with it. Yesterday I was giddy with excitement, taking my two daughters to the poles to witness history. Today I watched my daughter’s face crumple when I told her the results, watched her come to terms with this reality, watched the fear grow on her face as she worried about whether her Mexican classmate would be able to continue to attend her school.

But in these past few weeks, even as that feeling of dread grew, so did my resolve to not stand by and watch history unfold. I am not going to sit on the sidelines, a well-behaved woman. I am going to be loud, I am going to march, I am going to make this world a better place.

I don’t have a plan yet. I have lots of ideas bouncing around my head. And I’m trying to capture them in an effort to fight back the waves of depression when they come.

I am trying to find a way to use my talents for the cause. I can write. I can research. I can learn. I can pull ideas together and explain and present them and help others to understand.

I don’t know exactly what shape this will take. Some ideas:

1. Data security, Signal and other ways to encrypt your life
2. Legislative updates and breakdowns and explanations: How will what our elected officials do impact our daily lives?
3. Maker/Homesteading skills: Tutorials and ideas to do for yourself
4. Acts of kindness, love, and heroism: finding things to celebrate in every day life
5. Local community: Make a difference on a grassroots level

The election is lost, but the fight has just begun.

Blood from a Stone

Or a baby, as the case may be.

Today I had the inevitable but no less traumatizing experience of holding my baby down while phlebotomists attempted to fill impossibly large vials from her impossibly tiny veins. She struggled and she screamed and she kicked off her shoe. And I wanted to tell them to stop, but I didn’t, because these tests are important.

I couldn’t even think how to comfort her. I thought about singing, but I couldn’t remember the words–or the tune. I resorted to shhh…shhh…shhh… and resting my cheek on her head.

Phlebotomist 1 told me that she was upset about being held more than anything. She said this as she wiggled the needle in my baby’s arm and Phlebotomist 2 and I failed to hold her still.

It’s 12 hours later and I’m still reliving the moment. And kicking myself for not making them stop sooner on that first attempt that was obviously not bearing fruit.

I never have the right words in the moment. My brain doesn’t respond quickly. I need time to think and to process. Now I can imagine telling them to stop. At that moment, I did have the thought, but I didn’t want to risk having to come back another day and try again. To put her through this torture a second time.

I hate that I doubt myself in the moment. I hate that I don’t react quickly enough.

I wish I could find a stock answer that acknowledges the circumstances and also allows me the space and time I need to formulate an authentic response.

Two Weeks Later

That first post annoys me, now. I read another January 1st blog that was nearly identical. Why does anyone start a blog if they have nothing to say?

Life is moving along at a grind. Sick babies and overwork and not enough money. But the bills are paid for the month and the baby’s hair is getting long and there are cupcakes in the kitchen.

And snow! I love that we finally have snow. I don’t like the bitter cold and the wind whipping through the 100-year-old windows in my living room, but I love the cold.

This fall, I came across the Norwegian idea of koselig. The closest translation is cozy, but it’s a feeling of closeness with friends and family and hunkering down against the winter, making your own warmth.

I’m trying, this winter, to cultivate koselig. When the worry about money and health and being stuck inside gets too thick, I put on fuzzy socks, light a candle, and snuggle my family.

I can’t say the worry never wins, but I have been able to beat it back at times.

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