A schoolmate of mine was the third contestant to be fired on the third season of The Apprentice, apparently getting the axe for “stupidity.” He was exactly like Donald Trump, he said, except for younger. And with better hair.
The world has gone crazy stupid. How in the hell am I supposed to make that right for my daughters?
It’s winter, but I keep thinking about summer. I keep thinking about sleepaway camp, where you either shit too much or shit too little. Ask the camp infirmary — they’ll confirm. It’s the No. 1 reason their expertise (and sympathy) is sought, the result of your body struggling to absorb whatever it is that you’re feeding it…mostly Lucky Charms, chocolate chip pancakes, chicken fingers, and green olives. Imbalance of that sort and magnitude is not just unhealthy, it’s straight-up dangerous.
In dark days such as these, in the month of December instead of July, when you drink tea instead of Bug Juice and load up on things like spinach salad and beef stew, shit still matters. The body can be back in balance, but the spirit can be in trouble. Give too little, the world falls apart; give too much, and you do.
My optimism is threadbare. It’s hard to make sense of anything anymore, hard not to squeeze my eyes shut and put my hands over my ears. Every headline is about human tragedy. There’s the slaughter in Aleppo, and the warehouse fire in Oakland. There’s the stabbing at Ohio State University, and the crash of the Chapecoense soccer team’s plane. There’s toxic water in Flint, and earthquakes near the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. There was near desecration of Sioux ancestral lands by oil pipelines that have since sprung a leak. A billion Yahoo! users found out last week that their identities were compromised in 2013, and the goddamn ivory-billed woodpecker may actually be extinct. Fucking climate change is for fucking real — which brings us back to Donald Trump’s boardroom. Don’t even get me started. I go to sleep every night afraid of Twitter.
I don’t know what will pop up next on my News Feed. This morning, Merriam-Webster announced the Word of the Year for 2016 is “surreal.” This afternoon, the top story was Russian cyberattacks compromising our free elections, and a few minutes ago, a truck plowed into a Christmas market in Berlin, killing nine people and injuring 50 others.
How am I supposed to absorb and respond to this horror without losing my mind? I can no longer think about what to feed my girls for dinner without thinking of the barefoot and malnourished children in Syrian refugee camps. I have no idea how to dial back my empathy. I can’t get to that place where I feel just enough.
There are people telling me what I can and should do: Write to this congressman, donate to this organization, attend this rally, sign this petition, like this post, drink this drink, #this, #that.
This is what I need to do: Rise and meet the day.
The best I can commit to is hitting the snooze button one less time, waking those few minutes earlier to take a few deeper breaths and ready myself for the work of change. I do it in my classroom between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m., and around our dinner table at night.
Can we agree to open our eyes, knowing outside is a (sur)real world in which any small act of hope, or gesture of compassion, is something? My girls can show me, however implicitly, that they understand; they just need to get up the first time I ask and get dressed by themselves. Let me see them demonstrate some initiative and power, and I’ll know it can get better. I’ll pour my coffee, and toast them some waffles, and then we’ll make plans for the day. “It’s so full of promise,” I’ll say with a smile. They’ll believe it because I’m their mother. I’ll try to believe it because I must.
Then, I’ll give them a hug.
Getting up in the morning is a first act of courage, no less noble than any other. When we are each as brave as we are able to be, when we commit to giving as much to the day and to each other as we can, then together we get the job done. Love can be our product, and peace can be our boardroom.
I know the stocks will soar.