On Election Night 2016, once I realized it was all over except the crying, I figuratively slumped to the floor, and I couldn’t manage to rise until the birth of my first grandchild seven months later. That momentous event in my own little life lifted me up, even though I now fear for my baby-boy’s future in a world where Tyrannosaurus T (i.e., the nefarious dotard-in-chief of the USA) and his buddies soil the nest daily and then proudly crow about their latest poo-poo as if it deserves enshrinement in a trophy case for worship. Like so many others, I suffer from Post-Traumatic Election Disorder.
After the election, I worked my way through the usual stages of grief, and I added new stages not previously invented, such as the stage of avoiding any discussion analyzing how this catastrophe happened, the stage of listening to fifty different artists perform their version of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah, the stage of the recurring dream that the Obamas still inhabited the White House (and that they invited me to a dinner featuring organic vegetables from Michelle’s healthy-eating garden), the stage of imagining moving to Canada, the stage of fantasizing a different election outcome over and over and over as if in Groundhog’s Day, the stage of refusing to look at media images of (or listen to) Tyrannosaurus T, the development of a survival plan stage, the media diet stage, the find new kinds of organic dark chocolate and consume large quantities stage, the fear of traveling anywhere in the U.S. outside California stage, the despair about the failure of those in power to recognize and address climate change stage, the visit the ocean stage, and the reading sci-fi escape novels stage. (To name a few.) The stages continue. I will never completely shake this grief. I continue to seek new ways to cope, to shake this pervasive sadness, to resist, to deflect the onslaught. I write postcards, call, and email congressional reps every day. I have contacted McCain, Murkowski, Collins, and other senators so often about healthcare that they probably confuse me with their health insurance provider.
Lately, with Tyrannosaurus T shouting “YOU MAMA” at the deranged Korean kid next door who got nuclear weapons for Christmas, I’m having Bay of Pigs imminent nuclear annihilation flashbacks. I feel tempted to practice the 1960s duck-and-cover safety position under my desk. But at my age, with these knees, I can’t risk it. I would get stuck under there. (I should probably stash some chocolate under my desk just in case.) If things weren’t so dire, it might make a good joke. What’s the first thing to go in a nuclear holocaust? Your knees. Last month, scientists warned not to use conditioner in our hair after a nuclear bomb detonates because it will cause radioactive particles to bond with our hair follicles. This begs the question, what hair? But apparently a lot of people in Kentucky have stopped using conditioner as a precautionary measure, even though Tom Price has debunked the warning as fake science. Although Price would not recognize a scientific fact if it sat on his face.
My children humored me when I insisted that they renew their passports in case we need to flee the country. A Jewish phobia, they said. Then Charlottesville happened. We have secured current passports. A few weeks ago, my daughter, who lives in SoCal at the other end of the state from me, said, “Mom, if the world collapses, I’ll try to make it home to you.” I replied that she should do that, and that I would find something for us to eat, adding that I know how to process acorns to make them edible. (Edible, yes. Tasty, no. I think tasty requires assistance from authentic indigenous people.)
This is the week between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. For Jews like myself, this is a time of reflection, revelation, resolve, renewal, and rededication to the work at hand. We contemplate how to turn things around to improve our lives and do a better job. During this time of teshuvah (turning), I am making a concerted effort to get past the election and to really move forward. I will always grieve for how much potential we lost in that election. How much progress we lost. So much loss. But I do not want it to prevent me from forging a hopeful and meaningful life; a continuing joyous life. Especially so if we have limited time left on this glorious planet with the miracle of our loved ones. I will join the hopeful, those who believe in the future and will work to make it become. Fundamentally evolution does not happen in the realm of politics, anyway, but in the life of the spirit.
During two months this past summer, four grandbabies arrived for me and three of my peers. These dazzlingly miraculous babies deserve to have beautiful lives in a beautiful world. Visualization to manifest such a future is not enough. Resistance during this perilous time in our nation’s history is not enough. There is no alternative planet. Mars remains incapable of supporting human life. You can’t make chocolate there. But despair is not an option. So I have talked my figurative knees to getting me up off the floor. It’s much easier to coax the figurative knees to work than to coax the real knees to work. (Because they are fake knees. Wow, the art of humor is coming back to me.) I must get to work to build a future for my children and their generation, for my grandson and these other new arrivals and their generation, and for those yet to come whom I will never know but whose lives depend on my ability to recover from my election trauma and get back on the job. I have to say that I agree with Groucho Marx: “I’m not crazy about reality, but it’s still the only place to get a decent meal.”