This is it, the beginning of some difficult hours for this world. One of the things we’ve found most helpful in this troubled moment is talking with friends and colleagues, asking them to share their true condition, setting aside for a moment the conventional “eh I am ‘fine’ haha” response to which many of us have been resorting for
the last few weeks months years some time now.
May we all come through safely, in peace and solidarity.
The last couple of weeks in Lagos, Nigeria have been heartbreaking. Unarmed non-violent youth protesters demanding police accountability were shot to death by soldiers on October 20 under the cover of night, and the truth hasn’t been brought to light. This has given me a lot of sleepless nights, nightmares, and despair. I’ve begun to put my feelings down in poetry, but this has not been enough. It is tough to accept that our ostensible democracy is only a cover for insidious forces far worse than our last military experiment. Today, news broke that the government has started to compile a no-fly list of protesters. At least one person has been denied travel and her passport seized for providing legal aid to protesters. So how am I holding up? By being angry, but taking each day as it comes, looking for new ways to channel the outrage into some productive direction.Kọ́lá Túbọ̀sún
Me, well, I like to listen to my gut. It’s sensitive and expressive, and after a pretty bad food poisoning episode about five years ago even more so. It seems to know things before I do. Lately, it’s not so good. Won’t get into detail.Joh n Herrman
Just kinda waiting for the fires to start, I guess.Joe MacLeod
All you need to know about my current mental state is that I’ve resorted to writing fanfic about Trump explaining the plot of CATS at a rally. I’m doing great!Emma Roller
Not great! I think we will look back on this time as a profound absence of leadership—and not just with regards to the public health crisis. This bullshit of “giving parents the option” to decide to return their kids to school has created such inequities, such long-term problems, that I can’t help it will affect a whole generation of kids for the rest of their lives. Since I have two little kids at home with me all day, it’s hard to focus on anything else. We are staying safe, trying to do what is right, but there is little incentive to keep this up for many more months.Matt Bucher
So far, Taiwan has avoided any COVID-19 lockdowns, there have been less than 600 total cases and only a total of seven deaths to date. Pride was the other day, drawing 130,000. Life goes on as normal here in Taipei. But, on the other side of the world, it’s been a matter of some anxiousness to watch American presidential elections. I remember drifting through Taipei in a hungover daze, four years ago, seeing Trump’s face blaring from every television screen. Wondering if the coming days will see a repeat of that.Brian Hioe
I’m suspect there might be a mouse in here, on top of everything else. Or maybe it’s just the sound of my own nerves scratching at the inside of my skull.
At the very least, I don’t think people will be so easily anesthetized into submission as they were before 2020. I’m confident we’ll be ready to confront the next thing, whatever it might be.Maria Bustillos
Not well. This whole year has been a wreck of nerves, anxieties, and frustrations. All I can focus on is avoiding the worst case scenario. But for the last four years the most reliable prediction has been: things can only (and probably will) get worse.Gabriel Snyder
The balcony of our flat looks straight onto Table Mountain. This is true of a lot of balconies and flats in Cape Town, because the mountain is very much there in the middle of the city, but this is the first flat I have lived in where you can see the entire thing in one go. South Africa had a really strict lockdown at the beginning of the pandemic—no leaving the house for any reason except to get food—and it did briefly occur to me that I would go nuts. I can’t put my finger on exactly what it was that prevented this from happening, but one thing that did actually help was staring very hard at the mountain for at least fifteen minutes a day. I do not have a “meditative” nature, and cannot find it in myself to just sit there, so the way I did the fifteen minutes was tell myself that I was learning something, so that if for example the mountain disappeared, I would be able to recreate it from memory. It is a quite complicated-looking mountain: famously flat on top, and then with all these gorges and ridges running downwards in repetitive but irregular patterns. After staring at it unblinkingly for six weeks (the duration of the hard lockdown), I know it slightly better than I did before. I could at least describe it to the search party if it went missing, for instance. I could say that some of the gorges have these shadows that look like giant sevens, and that above the sevens are patches of rock that look a bit like the horn of Africa. The cable car station at the top has a bit next to it that looks like a little flight of stairs. Stuff like that—completely useless, but good to train your attention on. You look at a mountain, you feel like you’re doing something. Despite not being an American and resenting the extent to which the results of this election matter to those of us who cannot participate in it, I have obviously spent the last week feeling so worried my teeth are hurting. The only thing that has helped, even very slightly, is to stare hard at the mountain, telling myself that at least I would be able to describe it to someone if, for some reason, it went missing tomorrow.Rosa Lyster
I’m distracted. I’m thinking about the safety of my friends and family, and that of my colleagues who have to help untangle whatever it is that happens tomorrow under the ongoing threat of violence. In that, I am reminded that violence around access to speech, and, of course, the ballot is nothing new. I’m afraid I have nothing smart to say here. So maybe I’ll offer the wisdom of Chuck D (by way of Funkadelic?): “Day to day, America eats its young.” Here’s hoping the young are done with that shit and that their collective action will matter.Mike Kanin
I don’t feel very good. In part it’s because of the ten pounds of Halloween candy I have been responsible for for over a week now but that I’ve barely made a dent in despite my best efforts. But it’s also because of the thing. The fucking thing. It feels like we’re waiting to find out which type of cancer we’ve got. The waiting, as the fella once sang, is the hardest part. But then after the waiting is over all the other hard parts remain hard.
I did just notice that my neighbor with the Trump shit on his house who I almost had to fight earlier this summer seems to have moved out though? So I have that. Was envisioning some idiotic scenario where tempers would flare tomorrow no matter the outcome.
I’m planning on going to bed early tomorrow night in any case, if my nerves will let me. Nothing is likely to be resolved by then anyway. I’ll wake up at like 4 am with a dry mouth and think ah fuck and flip over and open the laptop and check if anything happened then I’ll put the rain and ocean waves white noise video on and try to dream of something else than all of this.Luke O’Neil
I feel like I’m holding up just fine. I’ve had the privilege of being raised in New York City by folks who thrived in chaos. I am grateful for any opportunity to participate in the alleviation of suffering wherever it may be.
It probably helps that I no longer watch cable news.Alex Brook Lynn
I am, physically, quite fine. I think constantly, but more so now, about how every day I take for granted that my basic needs are met. I have water, shelter, and food, and I do not start my day in a panic over how I will secure them. I work from home, saving myself the far more dire concerns of people who must be potentially exposed to the coronavirus so the rest of us can have potato chips and toilet paper.
Mentally, I am a mix of nervous, clammy, and a bit of calm. You know that feeling right before you perform in a school play or take the field with your team or submit a school assignment? That special mix of exhaustion and relief, that you have done all you can, mixed with the dread of knowing that this is when you will finally see the fruits, or lack thereof, from your work. That’s what comes over me in waves if I stop to think about it. After years of reporters trying to hold the president accountable, activists trying to stop, or at least slow down, the worst of the human rights violations, months of attempting to stay sane while staying inside during a global pandemic made worse by our federal government’s open mismanagement of it, after coming up with voting plan after voting plan after voting plan based on the ever-changing status of our various institutions, this is it. I voted. You voted (right?!?). You made sure everyone you knew voted (of course?!?). All you can do is wait and see. Or you can physically distract yourself with work or exercise or yoga or finishing that book or, ugh, finally washing those dishes, all of which I have done at some point this week.
The older I get, the more I become convinced that life is just an endless loop of learning the lesson of the serenity prayer over and over again. I imagine I will mutter it to myself a lot on Tuesday night.Diana Moskovitz
The destructive forces are a fact of life, but they accelerate when chaos knocks at the gates. And because chaos and vulgarity seem to go hand in hand, it is at times like ours that the cultural traditions through which consciousness is deepened are most tenuous. Staying attuned to what endures can not only mitigate the chaos we feel internally but keep us connected to what really matters. Valuing culture, the life of the spirit, the rich heritage embodied in our most caring and best institutions and traditions—these are our wall.James Shaheen
I voted, which was a relief. I’m ultimately the middle-aged dad who holds things together. Run the company, keep the kids on course, that’s my job. So I’m doing that. But of course I’m seething, I cannot believe they did this, that we are here, with this death count. I’m just incredibly angry all the time while telling everyone else to remain calm. If I could draw a political cartoon I’d draw a crowd made up of doctors, subway conductors, and skeletons watching a violent boxing match between two tired old men, while right outside the stadium entrance a kaiju labeled Global Warming is sitting there with an open mouth and 30-foot teeth. I gave a lot of money away.Paul Ford
I’m ok actually. I get a bit anxious sometimes, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t love this shit. I’ve always felt it’s much better to have hate and bigotry out in the open and fight it than have it hidden in institutions and ignore it. It’s going to be a fraught week, and my thoughts are with people more vulnerable than myself.James Stout
For us, the routine includes checking the continual stream of FEC filings from groups with names like Grit PAC and Drain the Swamp PAC (of course, a project of the swamp). We’ve been reporting on money in politics for coming up on 15 years, which included following the rise of the Tea Party and right-wing authoritarianism, so I’m nowhere near surprised by the experience of the past few years under Trump and Mitch McConnell and former House Speaker Paul Ryan. But my spirits have been brought lower by the right’s unimaginable response to this year’s coronavirus pandemic, the impossibility of basic measures like mask mandates and investing in functional testing. I understand a lot of people feel this way, I’m just noting its weight.
Depending on how the next weeks and months play out, I think there are plausible paths forward to overcoming some of the worst obstacles. But as climate degradation’s effects unspool for the foreseeable future, I think many of the features the political system is now exhibiting unabashedly will persist for the next decade, and it seems necessary to work on ways to speak clearly and effectively about where things stand.David Moore
In our house we are currently going over the worst ever election results in our lifetime in our countries of residence. In order: 2000 (US), 2016 (US), 2010 (UK), though I would also put in a strong shout for the Thatcher/Reagan ‘79/‘80 double bill. And looking at ‘the best dog video ever’ on the Internet. Through these fragments of information you can judge how the holding up is going…Emily Bell
I’m doing alright, I suppose. Going for long walks helps. So does petting a cat. The future is a challenging place for us to think about some days.Myriam Gurba
I feel like I should be better at answering this one, as I’ve been workshopping different ways to say “mostly pretty bad, actually” for years now. I’ve got a few responses I could give you if we were having this conversation in a bar, or across a table, or some other place that is currently inadvisable or actively dangerous to be. Having to type it into this little box feels worse, not because it’s an unpleasant way to communicate—it’s what we’ve got, and it’ll do—but because it’s so much like everything else I have done and will do today.
And honestly at this point, it feels normal. It does not feel good, and has never felt good, and lord knows I myself do not really feel very good, but I recognize all of it. It is a tiring thing, to be aware all the time of all the broken things you can’t fix and to feel the imminence of every ugliness you can’t stop and to be reminded so constantly of the shamble of lies leering out gap-toothed from where important load-bearing institutions were once supposed to be. I’m never really out of that realization, although there are times when it’s further from me than others. It’s just that, again, the most reliable escapes from it are foreclosed for the moment. I can’t tell you this in person because I can’t get to you. I can’t tell my friends, or my family, in anything like the way I want to do it. It’s not safe, it’s not practical, it’s just not something we can do right now.
So it’s hard to focus, it’s hard to think about anything, or any one important thing, for long enough to feel like I’m really at all on top of it. But it’s normal enough, now. I have my home and the life I’ve made with my wife here, and different imperfect ways of reaching the people and things that filled that life out. I have some hope that not all the dread is forever, and some optimism that the vile era—which has been much longer than these last four years, but has found a suitably garish and stupid apotheosis over that period—is dead on its feet and primed to be replaced by something less delusional and more humane. I have some faint sense that, in time, all of this will pass and we’ll begin reoccupying our life again in some way. I don’t know when and the dials start spinning when I consider the how. But I do have some hope, and that is what holds me up from one day to the next.David Roth