It has been a hell of a year. It is not the end of the calendar year, but tonight is the night before Election Day and it feels like the nation is balanced on the edge of a precipice. It feels like all the horrors of the last four years, and particularly of this last year, have been building to this point and now we are collectively holding our breaths. There are another couple of months in the year, but this feels like the right point to pause and reflect. It feels important to capture how I’m feeling right now, as we sit here at the brink and wonder what happens next.
I have been very quiet here on the blog. My last post was a video game review in July, and before that a post in April about the pandemic and how it hadn’t been too bad so far for me and my family. Since then, a lot has happened, and I’ve had a lot of thoughts about it that I would normally share here, but at a certain point it got to be too much. What could I say in the face of all that was happening? What good would it do to add my voice to the noise? I would just be echoing what everyone in my carefully curated social media bubble was also feeling and saying. How could I find the words to do justice to the pain and suffering that others are feeling, from which I am sheltered by layer upon layer of privilege?
I still have all of those doubts, but as I sit here freaking out about the election, I need to do something. Writing helps me process, so I’m going to write. I am going to resist the urge to rehash everything terrible that has happened in the last 6 months, or for that matter the last 4 years. You have all lived through it. You know.
I’m just so tired. The constant anxiety and outrage and despair and depression as I watch my country and the world succumb to the worst that humanity has to offer has culminated in sheer exhaustion. That is the other reason that I have not written much here, or anywhere else, this year. I’m just emotionally and mentally exhausted, so by the end of the day when I have time to write, I don’t have the energy to do it.
I’ve been trying to be kinder to myself about that. In this of all years, I have been trying to stop the negative self-talk that says I must spend every moment being productive. The last few years, and especially 2020, have taught me the value of “mindless” entertainment. It is ok that I just want to curl up and eat comfort food and play video games or watch dumb shows. Seeking out comforting non-productive activities is fine. There is nobody but myself who sets the expectation that after working all day and parenting into the evening, I should then do something “productive” instead of something fun and relaxing. Maybe someday I will have the energy for that, but right now I don’t and that’s ok.
I don’t know what will happen tomorrow. Odds are that Biden will win and Trump will lose, but the odds favored Clinton in 2016 too. That collective trauma, and the subsequent damage that Trump has done to to country and to each of us over the last 4 years, will be with us for a long time. I deeply hope that tomorrow is an absolute incontrovertible Biden blowout. Even if that happens, I worry about the violence that Trump’s cult will inflict, and the damage a lame-duck Trump and Republican senate will do. If the election is close, it’s going to be a huge mess. Trump has already said he will declare victory prematurely and fight against counting all of the votes cast, turning to the Republican-stuffed courts to overrule the will of the voters. If Trump wins, I don’t know what I will do. It will affirm the lesson that we all learned in 2016, that a huge portion of this country is so much more selfish and hateful than we want to believe. I don’t know how I can live in a country that looks at what Republicans have done in the last 4 years and says “yes, more of that please.” But I also don’t know how I could leave.
Another thing that this year in particular has taught me is the value of focusing only on those things I can control. There’s a reason the famous “serenity prayer” is so famous. Along the same lines, in Buddhism they talk about how much of the suffering we experience comes from “clinging” to the way we want things to be, rather than facing the way things are. It is a lot easier said than done, but there have been moments this year when things got to be too much that I have taken some solace in narrowing my focus on what I can control.
I cannot control what happens tomorrow. I have done what I could by donating, writing letters, and phone banking (though I am disappointed in myself that I didn’t do more calls), but in the end the results of the election are out of my hands.
I think what makes this so hard is that with the memory of 2016 fresh in my mind, and the events of this year so relentlessly bad, I’m afraid to hope. But, in the end I do hope. I hope that the country steps back from the brink, that new leadership finally gets the pandemic under control and stops the needless loss of life, that this election is remembered as the point where the country had a stark choice and chose wisely, and began the long work of fixing what is broken. I hope that soon we can all rest a little easier, and turn our efforts toward that work with a little more optimism. I hope.