I had goals for this week. I was going to really settle in at my new job and finally get ahead on all the tasks I’d let pile up while adjusting to it. I had a post that I was writing, which wasn’t ready to be published on Wednesday morning because of how much work I did for my real job on Tuesday, but I scheduled time to write it. I was going to have it ready for you to read right now.
I found out that the Capitol had been overtaken by a white supremacist mob via one of my workplace’s threads on Slack. It’s not that I was shocked by the action itself — I have been living in fear of something like this happening for four years, and have been in a more constant state of alert since early voting started in the fall — but I was disoriented nonetheless. You might think you’re prepared, I guess, but when it comes down to it, you just don’t expect a coup at 3pm on a Wednesday.
It was hard to untangle what I was feeling. I’ve lived through a lot of American atrocities at this point, and in this one I felt oddly muted in comparison, as if my body had activated numbness as its defense mechanism now that we’re entering the boss level. I could only identify that I was desperately lonely. As I spent anxious hours scrolling alone, I wanted a partner to support me or family to care for me or friends to gather round so we can all lift each other’s spirits. And I felt that desire so acutely because wanting more — significant political change, a world that doesn’t feel doomed — seems like too enormous an ask to be attainable.
I considered, not seriously and then almost seriously, texting my friends and saying, “Let’s pool our stimulus checks and rent a cabin upstate and retreat there until spring.” I picture a big group, larger than what the CDC would approve, fleeing to a big cozy house with plenty of room for everyone. In our makeshift commune, we’d rotate meal cooking duties, which would help on days like this one when simply feeding myself feels too overwhelming. We’d make art and read books. Since I’m making this all up, I should say that I wouldn’t work, but I can’t actually fantasize about anything with a plot hole like that. It simply wouldn’t be realistic for me to take time off because I’m so new to the job. We’ll just say that the cabin has very limited wifi so I can still work remotely, but any non-work sites are blocked on its network. Since this is a fantasy, though, we’ll say that the coziness of the environment would make me perfectly focused, productive, and creative.
The news would get better as we hid from the world, and we’d eventually emerge like bears from hibernation to a society with its problems under control. I’m exhausted enough to be a coward in my dreams.
“The problems will be fixed,” I imagine, my use of the passive voice obscuring the fact that people have to act to make that so, and the related fact that I am a person who should be working on that. But I’m a small person compared to the problems. Current events are Goliath and I don’t feel like being David. I feel like escaping and hoping some David steps up to the plate and figures out how to craft a slingshot out of PPE while I curl up in a ball, miles away in a charmingly rustic locale. Admitting that makes me realize how badly I need to sleep and log off and take care of myself. I know that there are a lot of Goliath-like obstacles out there and we need all the manpower we can get to keep them at bay.
In New York, the sirens have started again, the sirens like we had in April. Every ten minutes I hear an ambulance go by, rushing more victims of the plague to our overcrowded hospitals. Some days it’s truly so goddamn unbearable to endure existence in this stupid world and all you can think about is hiding away. I would like a cabin to escape to, and I would like a hug, and I would like an ending sentence for this piece that’s not a total fucking bummer. I’d like a point to work up to.
Smarter, more resilient people are writing things with actual points. I try to draw meaning out of this fully inevitable nadir, but you can only learn from information that’s new. All I can truthfully say that I’ve learned is that sometimes the war starts in the middle of the workday and all you do is refresh your browser, abandoning your workload and feeling bad about it. You plan on picking it back up in the morning because our world is bad in many ways, and one of those is that it doesn’t have a pause button. One day you’ll look back at this day as some kind of turning point, but you don’t know what kind it is yet, and until that’s clear you’ll just keep clocking in and trying to tune out the wailing.
You can find a mutual aid network near you here to support those in need in your community.
You can read more about abolishing the police here.
If your elected officials are disappointing, please make their lives hell.