Waking Up Worried
the day after the inauguration…
(I began a different essay this month, but it will have to wait. As Inauguration Day wore on, my brief flash of joy that Trump was gone slowly descended into feeling not right. I slept for ten hours—a feat for me—and woke up uneasy. Worried. For those of you still breathing sighs of relief, I don’t blame you. But my worry is still present and quite real. I needed to write about it. I hope you don’t mind.)
There is no ebullience in my heart today. No sense of relief. Instead, pressure pushes at my chest. It takes concentration to sink back into meditation. To follow my breath. Listen to the whir of the furnace kicking on. Watch the flickering candle flame.
The pressure on my chest is a deep sense of worry.
The trauma isn’t over. The healing has nowhere near begun.
Perhaps this is a vestige of my childhood trauma, reaching up to grip my heart with its tiny, fragile, fist. That fist knows the tyrant is never really gone. Perhaps he is sleeping. Or drunk in a bar. Or off building houses. That tiny fist knows that violence is random, quick, irrational, and never far away.
There is always another shoe, waiting to drop.
Yes, perhaps that is some part of this.
But that is not all this worry is.
I’ve worried for months, of course, about what will happen when people’s unemployment runs out, or when the eviction moratoriums cease. I’ve shouted at politicians since March about rent and mortgage freezes and forgiveness, not this deferral of future disaster.
But at least for the past six months or so, I knew that as many of us as possible were pulling together to make sure people were taken care of if it was at all within our power. We shared resources. Gathered food and delivered water. Checked on neighbors. Taught children. Showed up for Black and Indigenous communities…
I did not have to worry that all the people who only woke up to realize there was a problem in our country back in 2018 would fall back into complacent sleep.
But I’m worried about that now.
Worried that the status quo will return to its oppressive, crushing equilibrium inside us, and be an unshakeable force once more.
We must still shake the tree, my friends. We must still share what resources we have. We must still rage in the streets. We must still hold fast to one another and make sure that we don’t starve, or founder in exhaustion, or drown.
Love does not sleep, my friends. Love keeps watch on what it loves.
Love also keeps watch on the enemies of love.
Now that the proximate threat has flown off in a helicopter, do we even see the danger anymore?
There is no “wait and see.”
There is no “give it time.”
Too many are dead. Too many mourn. Too many live on the knife’s edge of precarity.
White supremacists still threaten people’s homes with fires and people’s heads with bats. They still threaten immigrants and activists and anyone they perceive as not exactly like them.
The day after inauguration, after waking up with the worried pressure in my chest, I saw the news from my local streets. A cop pulled a knife on a protestor. Neo-nazis called a reporter “jihadi.” That same reporter was later sent to the hospital outside of the ICE facility because BORTAC and DHS set off a flash bang near her ear and filled a candlelight vigil with clouds of CS gas without warning. They arrested indigenous women with flowers, and a white man in a wheelchair.
The NYPD are still tackling people to the ground. Our prisons and jails are filled with Covid and lock downs and suffering. The carceral state is still the only weapon our country seems to use as a tool of justice. There are still drones to drop bombs.
The bulk of our resources still go to punishment and war.
There are children in cages.
We still seek to punish, when what we must seek is accountability.
And across the country, people still don’t have clean water.
And across the country, people still sleep on icy sidewalks.
And across the country, billionaires hoard wealth and resources as their workers die.
The abusive tyrant has not gone away, because the abusive tyrant is a great dragon snaking its way through every level of our society. It whispers in our ears that it will keep us safe as it drips poison into the water from its venomous fangs.
Dig in your heels. Hold out a hand. Find a way to love. Find an action that speaks that love to the world. There are thousands of small connections to be made. Millions. We are all cells in the same body. We can help one another survive, and even thrive.
We need accountability from all of those who hold the knife—and they are legion.
And we need to continue to do our best to help each other through. To fashion a new society that is better than the old.
We need to dream better, wilder, dreams.
We need to breathe.
I’m with you, my friends. I hope that you are with me, too.
Don’t Give Up.
January 21-22, 2021
This is reader-funded writing. One thousand blessings to my Patreon supporters who paid for me to write this, so I can give it away for free.