On staying woke and sane

Filed under: Writing |

On the week that Trump announced he was ending DACA, I cried several times every day, sometimes in public. It hit me hard, and close, the death blow that only narrowly misses. I shook all week from it, off my food, belly upset, nights full of waking up with my heart pounding. By the end of the week I’d made myself so sick that I took the day off work.

I say “I’d made myself” so sick because, in actuality, the end of DACA did not harm me personally. No immediate danger would befall me. It was just more of an echo of a threat, the raised hand in the movie that still somehow reflexively makes you flinch, especially if you’ve ever had a hand fly at you. Having once been undocumented, I could feel the shrill panic of the hundreds of thousands of young people who are American in all ways but on paper being told that life as they know it may cease for them in six short months.

When Trump was first elected, I was full of fire, ready to fight, on call 24/7. At the Women’s March on Washington, I fed off the collective rage and determination of the millions of people who were as shocked as I was. I signed petitions, I called senators, I sent letters. I watched the news almost obsessively, following every development. It seemed like a nightmare that was impossible to shake, but which I’d be best served to not ignore, lest it blindside me.

I started to see the articles early on: how to take care of yourself while still doing the work of The Resistance. Turn off the news sometimes. Pay attention to your personal care. Sleep. Spend time with loved ones. It sounded logical but sort of beside the point; we had an opposition to build. I shared every fresh outrage with a small group of committed friends and family and we gave each other steam.

I also stepped up my social media advocacy. As someone who wants to sell books, I’d been careful to not be overtly political while still expressing my views. After the 2016 election, the lid blew completely off that stance, and I ranted on Twitter, engaged hatemongers on Facebook (friends of friends, mostly, having long since unfriended any Trump supporters on my own friend list) and posted pictures of the Women’s March on Instagram. It felt like the danger had escalated, and staying quiet was simply no longer a viable option. One day history would judge how I had responded to this crisis, and I wanted to know I would be proud when looking back.

My anxiety increased. My son would sometimes ask me, “If this makes you so sad, why do you watch it?” I couldn’t quite explain. I wanted to witness. I didn’t want to be caught unawares. I wanted to know that if things really crossed into despotism, or war, there would be mechanisms to save us, and I wanted to see those mechanisms grind into action.

But, the week of DACA, I finally understood what the articles had meant when they said we should all have a self-care plan. This is not a spiked fever… this is a chronic disease. This is going to last and last, and we must be strong enough to outlast it. Fight, yes, call, yes, advocate, march, witness, speak out. But it was also time to turn off the news sometimes. It was time to exercise more, to spend more time with my hands in the dirt. It would not be shirking my responsibility if I made sure I was strong and healthy enough to be in this for the long haul.

I can’t say I’ve done a great job of disconnecting, although intermittent social media fasts have helped, as well as turning off the news a bit. Once school started, I began going for my runs after dropping off the kids. During the day, I’m back to jumping rope and lifting weights. I’ve gone to the doctor to address some long-standing issues affecting my energy, and I’ve stocked up on healthy food. My sleep is still utter crap, but I’m working on that too.

The formula will be different for each of us, but it’s important to find the balance between fighting and regrouping. Make no mistake: I still consider this to be the greatest danger we’ve faced as a country during my lifetime. Our institutions and traditions are under attack, and we are vulnerable to more Russian disinformation campaigns, careless posturing and the singular incompetence of this group of thugs and grifters in charge. We’re in trouble. We need every single one of us paying attention, making calls, making noise, donating money and time. But we need to be able to do it for the long haul. Do whatever you have to to make that possible.

Last updated by at .