My heart hasn’t stopped racing since around 2am on Wednesday morning when I woke up from an uneasy sleep and reluctantly glanced at my phone’s notification. “President elect confirmed,” or whatever.
My fight-or-flight has been raging with fear for the last 80 hours, and as a consequence of that I’ve been motivated only by a desire to hide away from everyone in order to just be alone with my despair and dread. Of course, I can not and did not do that, but in the wake of what we must all acknowledge IS a national tragedy, I also could not and did not hide my dread and insecurity, like I usually do when my anxiety absconds with the reigns.
However, the difference between this week and literally every other time my anxiety has controlled me is that for once I am not evaporating from the heat of an invisible threat: the monster is real this time, which means I’m going to feel this way for a long time, and that feels really, really bad. Like, insurmountably bad. So bad I don’t know how to, and don’t want to deal with it.
And it’s not just me; I had a conversation with a female friend today in which first she and then I both revealed that our periods are acting erratically — in spite of being otherwise predictable because of the privileges of birth control access and healthy reproductive organs. What does that mean? It means that even the uteruses are currently revolting against the hateful fire that officially ignited on Tuesday, after smoldering for longer than most realize, or will acknowledge. This is significant: Our bodies are experiencing such a traumatic stress reaction that our uteruses are literally saying THIS IS NOT A TIME TO REPRODUCE, PARDON ME WHILE I TEAR THIS SHIT THE FUCK DOWN AND THROW IT AWAY IMMEDIATELY.
I’m sure we’re not the only women whose bodies are suffering along with our souls, just like I’m sure there are other people who felt nauseous, or dizzy, or lethargic, or frantic this week. Our emotional and stress reactions influence the biological ones, so feeling physically sick and exhausted is something a lot of us are also dealing with at the moment. Fun fact for the “helpful” advice givers out there: This is why the pleas to “calm down,” “just accept it and move on,” or “unite as a country under the new ‘leadership'” are offensive, ignorant, and ridiculous.
This is also why last night, with a three-day weekend in the palm of my hands, I unplugged everything, including (especially) my brain because I was so tired from crying and feeling scared and confused that there was nothing else I could physically or emotionally motivate myself to do.
So I watched a few episodes of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, read a few chapters in a Margaret Atwood book, and went to bed at 8pm. I stayed there, fast asleep but not exactly resting, until 8:30 the next morning, when I woke up feeling heavy, physically and mentally, because I’d slept too much and indulged too much the night before. But a day off without an agenda is one of the best things even in the worst times, so I felt almost okay. I put on the radio, made some coffee, talked to my cats, then vacuumed the floor absentmindedly, while continuing the conversation with the (now terrified, because of the vacuum) cats.
It was while vacuuming that I noticed the candle, still burning but mostly a puddle of melted wax since I’d lit it the night before, but forgotten to put it out when I stumbled to bed at 8… which means it was lit for over 12 hours, while I was dead to the world.
It’s important to mention that my living room, where the candle was burning overnight, is incredibly cozy — a cushy couch and a million throw pillows and cozy chairs and a classy rug on top of the squishy wall-to-wall carpet, and bookshelves stacked with beloved books and trinkets and it’s lovely but in that moment it was horrifying because literally all of the bullshit I just listed is incredibly flammable, plus I have two cats who jump and run and scream around the house all night (one of whom has lit her tail on fire twice before because she was too curious about a candle).
Before you wax religious in your interpretations, it’s not a miracle that the candle didn’t burn my house down; it’s a tragedy that I was distracted enough to leave it burning all night in the first place. I think it’s safe to say we’re in a “post-miracle” America and need to focus less on what our prayers and faith can hope for and more on what our hands and voices can do.
The optimists will say I’m a pessimist; the religious will accuse me of being an atheist; the conservatives will call me a bleeding heart, but the realists will point out that all of that name-calling is an idiotic deretraction from the fucking scary truth: not enough people care, or even believe that things are about to burn to the god damn ground.
Which means this isn’t the last bad, bad week.