Notes from a fragile, unstable state:

A fragile, unstable state— me, and also, my country, my planet. 


Where once there was certainty, integrity, a comfort with what the boundaries were— now there is confusion, anger, and loss. The country— and our bodies and minds— have been assaulted by four years of callous disregard for human suffering,  by a global pandemic,  by a reckoning with long-standing and newly visible inequalities, by ongoing police brutality, by destructive wildfires, by the death of a beloved figure of liberal legal action, and now, by an election dragging through days, with likely weeks or months to follow, of uncertainty and misinformation.


It’s November 5th. Voting was over almost two full days ago. I keep checking the news on the Washington Post, but I won’t look at Twitter, won’t listen to the radio, don’t trust myself to separate the signal from the noise. There’s too much distortion. I have a keen sense that even when an answer comes it won’t feel like an answer. 


Four years ago, I got to know fragility and instability well. I lost my sense of safety, so I started learning self defense. I learned gun safety. I strength trained. I started a meditation practice. Now, here I am again. I am building my mind for clarity, calm, focus. I am building my body for endurance, energy, strength. I am not starting from scratch, but I am starting again, in sadness and rage and fear. 


Finally, four days on, the election seems to be over, with disaster averted. Though the loser is grumbling and has not conceded, no one really seems to be listening. I’d like to feel jubilant, to feel excited and hopeful and full of promise, but I mostly feel an existential relief coupled with exhaustion and unresolved anxiety.


When I pause and reflect, I feel a faint echo of the validation and progress that seemed certain four years ago— the promise of a woman as head of state, that prize that it still seems inconceivable this country has not allowed. I felt heartbroken, incredulous, betrayed, then— for the combination of stupidity and cruelty of the new president, certainly, but on a deeper level, for the gut punch that sexism is so, so strong, even now. So today, I can muster a tiny half-smile of progress for the woman about to assume the vice presidency. I have to fight the bitterness of seeing so many strong female candidates lose to yet another old, white, man, but when I squint, I can see a win for women. 


I can see it, but it’s shifting around and under me. It feels unstable. And I am fragile. The fractures within me have never finished healing, never transmuted into resilience.  I find myself biking through the city on my way to work at the health center with tears falling down my face. I just feel so tired, and so defeated. Even good news feels uncertain.


The country I live in, it is more clear than ever, is not stable. The divisions we see now have deepened and mutated, strayed from reason and any semblance of shared understanding. There is no going back or agreeing to disagree– I cannot see a way forward that does not end in collapse. There is a fragile peace– and over the past four years, its fragility has been writ large. There is nothing holding the pieces together; no codes, no shared ethic. It’s just been a long agreement to play, more or less, by a set of rules. Rules that, we all see now, are a mirage.


The planet, too, is in a fragile and unstable state. We see disasters, think they are unpreventable and unpredictable, but they are not. They are accelerating change. As Octavia Butler taught us, all is change. We change and are changed by all. While change is happening around us, we are also creating change. And it isn’t all good. Or neutral. The acceleration of destruction is undeniable. The balance is off. The cycles of creation and destruction are shifting and shortening.


What we have lost, even in the moment of winning, is staggering. Lives, yes. Safety. Predictability, normalcy. Ignorance. Time.  I cannot look directly at the litany of loss without risking my own personal collapse.

Maybe collapse is the answer. Isn’t there freedom in  falling apart, letting go of the need to preserve, persevere, salvage? Letting what is coming come, and starting from what follows? Maybe it’s rising from the ashes like a glorious phoenix; maybe it’s a vast, universal destruction of the way we’ve come to know existing, maybe it’s just dusting ourselves off and looking at our lives, our government, and our planet again. Maybe its surrendering the illusions of control in favor of finding the tiny pockets where influence lives.


War? Weather? Catastrophe? Cosmic changes? Bring it on. I’ll be here. At least, in some form or another.

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