Yesterday I went for a walk with my friend Cornelia. It required that we climb a few hills, face down a brisk wind, thrash through brush and foxtails, step gingerly along bumpy uneven ground, and even clamber up a creek bank once, holding onto a rope to stay steady. But it was one of those magical walks, infinitely rewarding. I feel grateful to have the time, geographical proximity, and mobility to be able to hike like this, especially with a good companion. Cornelia and I have similar styles; we can walk briskly while gabbing, and we don’t wear down too fast. About midway through we found a spot out of the wind, and sat on the warm ground having lunch and tea, aware of the day as a gift to be cherished. We figure we can keep up this sort of thing for maybe ten more years, then we’ll see.
I’m feeling very vulnerable. I talk all the time about the sadness I carry, and I’ve never made a secret of my ongoing struggle to fend off depression, but lately it seems that I’m grappling on a deep level not only with my own personal baggage, but with political and global issues. It seemed to me that our world was turned upside down November 8, and the feeling has not abated. I realize that in some ways the election shed light on existing problems that needed to be resolved, but God…how could anyone have ever believed that this was a solution? And so we now face corruption, lies, destructiveness, greed, intolerance, cynicism, and unprecedented incompetence every single day. It’s toxic and exhausting, dangerous and disillusioning, and just when you think it can get no worse, it gets worse.
But I want to do more than whine, and I know relentless hammering turns people off, (in fact, I’ve probably wearied my readers right here) so I’m trying to rant a little less while staying meaningfully involved, fighting back with donations, calls, and emails, participating in a local organization, and putting forth whatever effort I can, hopefully in ways that are more than symbolic. It is a struggle that demands of us a monumental kind of patience and steadiness, all the while hoping we can turn the nightmare around before irrevocable harm has been inflicted on our nation and the world.
Yes, I realize this is sounding awfully gloomy, but as political writer Sarah Kendzior said via Twitter this week: “You can’t see the approaching mushroom cloud through rose-colored glasses.” We have to look straight at the reality, refuse to normalize or get used to it, and stand up against it. What is happening is not presidential, not patriotic, not sensible, not okay. I don’t think things are going to be “okay” within my lifetime, but I’d like to see us on track, at least.
I ran into a friend at a party recently whom I had last seen right after the election. He was delighted to see me upright and out in public. “You’re doing a whole lot better than you were last time I saw you,” he said. “I’m so glad you’re making peace with it.”
But he was wrong about that. I have not made peace with it. It’s just that I can’t constantly be raging, or weeping all the time; I can’t let it own my whole life. It’s a little like the deal I made with myself after the deaths of people I loved, most recently my mother. I realized at some point that if I am going to live a life, I have to sometimes shove the grief into the background. Grief and I coexist. That’s not the same as peace.
But a walk outdoors with a friend is no small thing, and I came home from yesterday’s feeling renewed. Cornelia and I have known each other for nearly twenty-five years; our daughters were childhood best friends. To the left is my favorite photo of us, taken at my daughter’s wedding. I was trying to gracefully see her off into her new married life, and Monte and I had just given a little speech about it, and although I’m smiling bravely, it was an emotional moment for me. (Not pictured, but nearby, was Vickie, my other tall Bestie.)
I see this picture every day, since it’s affixed to my refrigerator door, the ultimate gallery. And I like it because it reminds me that even when I’m falling apart, there are strong dear friends who will help to hold me up. Like yesterday. The journey we’re on is not as we expected, but here we are, still walking.