Sunday Morning ~ Where the Fire Stops
Akulu-akulu ndi m’dambo mozimira moto. ~ Elders are (like moisture) in the marsh where the fire will go out.
~ Chewa proverb
October 25, 2020
I had huge anxiety swings this week; you could chart a graph by the news cycle. It’s been a real challenge balancing staying informed and staying sane. To boot, I watched The Social Dilemma and consequently spent one completely sleepless night. I also attended a deescalation training and, though learned and practiced new skills, got anxious about having to need them. Wow. What times we live in. To address this anxiety I turned off the notifications on my phone and stopped responding to bait set out by those I politically disagree with. This has helped. Cognizant of the danger of listening only to those I agree with, of being tribal, of living in the bubble of my choice, I still make this choice as a mode of self care. I’m aware I might lose perspective when I shut others out, but this week it seemed a better choice than alcohol. The shortening days, the colder nights, the uncertainty, the threats, the downright cheating and blatant lies, good lord, how can anyone be faulted for pulling the covers up over their head?
I debated watching the debate. I feared doing so alone would be unbearable. I miss having family here to share political drama. In my past life, electoral nail biting with my spouse was bonding. It’s hard to be alone during these times and am nostalgic for the political repartee I’d have with my ex. I can not imagine being part of a couple with opposing views right now. Holy cow. So I relied on social media and felt like I was watching with friends. This technology is truly amazing, no matter what horrors lurk out there. I held my breath during much of it. I’d had an opinion that Biden should just refuse another debate, considering the base comportment of his opponent. But then I thought, he will be the leader of the free world (please God) and will need to deal with adversity. He must do this. He must show us how he handles it. This shit is real. And I have got to say, my anxiety diminished along with time left to watch.
Biden was not my first choice of candidates in the primary. He was not my second choice. But right now, I am extremely glad he won. I watched and listened and could feel my heart rate stabilizing. I registered a deep feeling of confidence that he is the one to lead us out of this. Yes, he is an old white male, a characteristic I originally railed against. I’m tired of the patriarchy. But, he comforted me. He exuded a calm and wisdom I wanted to wrap myself in. I trust him. I liked when he admitted past mistakes. I held my breath as he stuttered and pulled himself out of it. I admire him and realize I knew little about him before now. I believe he is a good role model. I wondered who coached him in debate prep. I saw how the effort paid off. I thought about his transition team and all the brainpower, energy, and positivity working toward a reasonable recovery.
I was part of a volunteer group in Malawi in 2016. We sent in our absentee ballots without worrying they wouldn’t arrive or be counted. We were all shocked and devastated by the results. A week later we attended a mid-term conference in the capital to share project status, define goals, discuss cultural issues, and group support. It was a weird conference. It was low energy––fitting for our moods. The future of Peace Corps and the State Department was the elephant in the room we didn’t acknowledge.The Blantyre volunteers had taken the five hour bus ride there and and on the return trip the bus got a flat tire about halfway home. We ended up on the side of the road for several hours. I sat with a colleague the age of my kids, a brilliant woman early in her cardiology career. We talked about our anxiety about the election results. She was about to listen to a podcast, and I swear, I did not even know then what a podcast was. She handed me one of the earphones and told me to listen. It seemed an incredibly intimate gesture; I thought we looked like siamese twins. The podcast was both educating and entertaining me, hilariously. It was everything I needed to hear. I thought these guys were beyond brilliant! How can you entertain, educate, speak for everyone’s frustration and anger in a way that doesn’t turn people away? Are you just born with this talent? Over and over again for the past four years, I have been grateful for that flat tire. I never miss an episode of Pod Save America. Even the ads are funny, or at least not obnoxious. It’s just brilliant. The hosts are former Obama speech writers and aides, are incredibly knowledgable, progressive, and realistic. They always end with a suggestion for what we personally can do to help change things at that moment.
Friday, they interviewed Biden and it was both booster shot and balm. Yes, he has long and winding answers, but I found myself, again, grateful to this man who has served this country for a very long time and deserves a rest. Instead, he is rising to the call to take on the most difficult job in the world. Here I sit, comfortable and anxious, doing my paltry part and I think, he really is the perfect person for this time. I’m excited about his cabinet and those he’ll surround himself with. After listening to him I feel less anxious about a peaceful transfer of power. I believe it will happen. My heightened fear of violence is soothed. He knows what he is doing. He is the elder where the fire stops.
Love to all,