In the Dark Water

This time, I have struggled with getting anything on the page. I’ve been pulling along a strange, lingering lowness, an aggravating edginess, like an overstuffed workbag that you have to carry lopsided on one sore shoulder—you need to clean it out and make it a lighter load, but you’re tired. Tired.

A lot of things are feeling irritating these days. Little things, like my daughter getting wound up at bedtime from exhaustion and I know, I know, I know why I’m really upset, but I’m still struggling to sort it out, to separate the bad from the still, very, very good.

This nightmare of a president-elect, with all his stunts and assaults, is a national traumatizer. Even though I’m uplifted often by the work good people are doing, and the momentum and the shifting and the rising together like dragons ready for the fight and the love that pours out in this time of grief, most days I still feel like I’m dragging a weighted ball behind me. It’s leaving me feeling more depleted. Sad. If that sounds like depression, or trauma, then I think it is, in its way, and I think a lot of us are collectively suffering to some extent. I can clearly feel the difference of “the time before” and now, this, “the time after.”

A friend told me recently, after I emailed her about this here leap into a blog, “Creating beauty and love right now is a revolutionary act.” I think she’s right, and I’m thankful to her for that reminder. Creating beauty and offering love (to yourself, first—strap it over your own head or what good will you be to the person who needs help next to you) is probably the best remedy right now. It means holding yourself firmly, or gently, depending on the day, and allowing yourself to be absorbed for a moment by the beautiful, the sacred, and the calm.

Don’t get me wrong—and this is important—love right now still means revolution, and with that means growing comfortable with feeling pain. For me, it means still reading and talking about the hard stuff, still speaking up against injustices large and small, and, more recently, for example, still joining with a group of other fiercely loving white women to talk about what we can do that is not just “allying” but acting on behalf of our brown and black sisters, wives, brothers, children, family, and community. We are responsible for this work. We all are.

But being able to love and create beauty also means remembering that the good is there; it’s here, it hasn’t all been taken away. No, not at all. Like a spirit in the trees and an energy in the clouds, it existed before evil, and it will exist after. It doesn’t feel arbitrary or self-indulgent–never, but especially not now–to actively notice good’s presence; it’s the one thing I’m sure can never be sucked away by the dementor soon to be at the top.

My mother taught me from a very young age to look up at the sky, to be thankful for the rain and fog and clouds and fire, the flowers and dragonflies and the granite, warm from the sun. To notice. To make a story of the roaring planes and their tiny passengers soaring through the flight path over our house. “OK now, let’s see…that’s the 5 o’clock heading for…hmm…Paris! Madrid! Rome! They’re just settling into their seats now, and they’re about to order a glass of something good,” she’d say, with a mischievous twinkle in her eye. I’d look up and wonder.

A few years ago, in the winter before we got pregnant with our daughter, my wife and I took one of those planes to London. That trip was our first big trip abroad and it felt needed, important, because soon, our lives would be changing (for the better, for the harder, for the incredible responsibility of raising a kid in this world). Just us, we flew, and landed in London to wander during the magical days leading up to and through Christmas and New Year’s Eve. We hardly knew yet who we were as partners to each other, or as partners to our selves, or what hard work we’d be doing once the bliss of the eventual baby bump turned into the inevitable pushing and pulling to figure out who the hell we were now, now that we were parents and connected for life.

In London, that work laid on the horizon and we could see it nodding at us with heavy eyelids like it was saying, “take your time; there’s a long road ahead, and it’s the only one.” We knew, and we didn’t.

But we held hands as we walked, and we rode pay-per-use bikes with no helmets through winding parks and roads and busy streets where we dodged looming red buses, still tipsy from the mulled wine and lager we drank in the early afternoon. We looked up at the grey, low-hanging clouds and saw quiet charcoal dust slow-swirl in foggy drifts, and sometimes, we saw shimmering silver, when the northern sun’s tendrils reached just so over the edges of shadow.

We saw bullet holes in ancient buildings, and smelled the beer soaked wood of decaying bars reflecting the green and glint of draped evergreen and colored fairy lights from the ceiling.

We ate and did our damnedest to be merry everyday.

We heard our steps echoed on old paving stones. We felt cold, and sometimes on edge, because we were still young, and we didn’t know what was coming.

It was beautiful there, and quiet at Christmastime, and we offered each other love when, not knowing the answers, we stopped to watch the glimmering reflections in the dark water below the bridge we were crossing one night in search of smoky roasted chestnuts.

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