Saturday, October 31, 2020

Hard things are hard: 4 years later, 3 days before the 2020 election


Photo by Pete Souza (@petesouza), Former Chief Official White House Photographer for President Obama

On November 6, 2016, I wrote a blog called “About my America” That day, like millions of others, I felt anxious about what that, 2016 presidential election will mean for our country.  In that blog post on November 6, 2016, I worriedly asked:  “Will America be alright? Will the world be alright? Will there still be freedom of speech? Or will I have to tell my child that for "everyone's safety," it's best to keep our views private? Will I have to hide that I am an immigrant, a refugee, a woman, a person of Jewish descent, or that I have an accent? Or that I am an American citizen? Or anything else that makes me who I am?” and several others…Many at the time said that I was being hysterical and was overreacting.

Four years later, three days before the 2020 presidential election I once again find myself pondering, with heaviness my soul, what awaits us.  

There is so much to say and yet, like over the past four years, I am so often at a loss for words. Does living through a pandemic completely rob you of the ability to coherently express yourself? Possibly. For example, how does one comprehend the deaths of 1,190,661 in the course of several months (as of today) many of whom died alone and not go completely mad? I just don’t know.  It is simply impossible put into words.

Michelle Obama said a few months ago that she developed a “low grade depression”. According to Harvard doctors the symptoms of low level depression (a.k.a. dysthymia) are:

  •        feelings of hopelessness
  •        overeating or loss of appetite
  •        insomnia or sleeping too much
  •        tiredness or lack of energy
  •        trouble concentrating or making decisions

Is this what we are collectively and individually experiencing? Possibly.

But it is not just the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic in the context of US, the world’s political climate and actual physical climate, in fact, feels more like a gut punch which renders you completely breathless…and near lifeless but still alive to experience the full range of emotion and pain.   

But there is more. Something has changed within me over the past four years. The sheer volume and variety of painful, excruciating, heartbreaking and outrageous circumstances definitely do something to the psyche. How to describe this change? I am not sure. I know for sure I have not lost my ability to feel. Otherwise, I would not be this anxious today. But something changed. I see the signs:

I am experiencing a constant buzz of anxiety running through my veins
~ I cry more easily and I laugh more freely
~ I'd like to think that I love more deeply 
~ I care much less if at all about the judgements of others
~ I became an expert in doom scrolling
~ My tolerance for the regular every day, pedestrian bullshit has diminished significantly (those who are closest to me may say that it has become non-existent)
~ I think of my grandparents and my mom even more often than ever. And since I can't ask them directly anymore, I mentally ask them “Are you worried about me? Do I still live up to your expectations of me? Are you still proud of me? How did you survive all the things you had to live through?”  
~ I have seemingly lost all ability to pretend (especially to pretend that everything is fine)
~ I have gotten older…

President Barak Obama had a plaque on his desk at the White House and it read “Hard things are hard.” According to Pete Souza, Obama’s photographer, this plaque was given to President Obama during the fight to pass the Affordable Care Act in 2010.  I have been thinking about it a lot.  My best guess is that the biggest thing that change is just this: I have developed this hardened vigilance and an irreversible realization that life does what it does regardless of our wishes. And that reality is inescapable and, in fact, is meant to be lived no matter what is the set of circumstances are set before us. And that hard things are hard, and the only path forward is through.

I heard someone say that this kind of pre-election anxiety, the kind I am experience along with many others, is akin to waiting for biopsy results. Does our country have an incurable cancer? Will we need chemo therapy? Will we simply go to hospice to die? Or is it a small nodule that can be easily removed and with some homeopathic therapies we will be back on our feet? I just don’t know.

So what’s my point with this rare and, arguably, not the most eloquent blog post? Do I have words of wisdom, inspiration, encouragement? I am afraid I do not.

I just wanted to say if you are anxious, I am with you.

Even if we are anxious for completely diagonally opposite reasons, I am still with you.

My spirit honors your spirit even if my world and political views do not match yours.  

What I now know for sure is that hard things are hard. And there is no way around, just through. And so,  no matter what happens this election or any other day, we must persevere. 

We still have a life to live, families to raise, a country to cherish, art to create, a planet to save from a climate catastrophe and so much more.

May America choose wisely this November 3rd and may the best in us prevail. Amen.