The wait begins. Perhaps bringing an end to these past few weeks of uneven sleep, unexplainable anger, the short temper and issues with focusing, and above all, the “doom scrolling.”
Yes, I’m guilty, for the doom scrolling is nearly as hypnotic as it is fruitless, and above all it’s overwhelmingly hard on the soul. Doom scrolling is fervent on the social media sites I frequent. Admittedly there are so many positives for the site that I am hesitant to leave. Just last week for my birthday I received nearly 300 greetings from friends from a dozen countries, and it’s the heart of the marketing efforts for my art. Yet I seemingly spend long moments of time, though not hours as some do, scrolling through the feeds that are full of doom and dread.
Television isn’t much of an escape, and never was for me. Political ads are mostly awful. My avid morning newspaper reading finds me skipping over some stories for I know our president will be quoted. Driving to town isn’t much of an escape for I see neighbors I feel I should trust flying Trump flags, and when I see one next to an American flag my blood pressure spikes.
So how do you escape? Henrietta Couillard, a therapist at The Family Partnership in Minneapolis, says, “Going to a calm place in your mind can help to ground you in more positive thinking.”
This what I’m needing, and what I seek. During our cold and windy days of the forthcoming winter here on the prairie I have found escape going through old image files when we’re not on a photo foray. Sometimes I will stop on an image to re-crop it, or work with the contrast. To somehow make it different. More appealing than the last time around. Doing so has helped me relive past trips afield. Then I would move on. Something revised, perhaps saved, wondering if any of it would ever see light beyond. For now, though, it is both an escape and a hope.
Both escape and hope were present when we went to a friend’s art opening over the weekend. Beautiful plein air watercolors from her travels around the world. Everyone was masked making it difficult for me to engage in conversations, for over these past seven or eight months I’ve learned that lip reading is a significant tool for my understanding conversations. Often I would be away from the small clustered conversations, engaging instead in Joan Eisenreich’s paintings. Seeing those colors, so bright, so hopeful.
Then it returns. This dread and doom, this gloomy existence. I was raised in a democracy. Yet over the past several years we’ve watched as what was at once an honorable conservative party create innumerable ways of suppressing voters of their democratic voices. Political pundits suggest that a fair and democratic polling process would end their reign at the White House and in the Senate. That is apparently their fear. And it doesn’t stop. Less than a week from our election day a federal court overturned an agreement reached during the summer between both parties. Two of the three justices ruled that ballots received after 8 p.m. on the election day wouldn’t be counted even if postmarked on November 3. Understand that in their fear they’ve also packed the courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court.
The day prior to the art opening news came of several pickup trucks surrounding a Biden/Harris campaign bus between San Antonio and Austin, which according to numerous reports attempted to push it off the road. Their fearful efforts were applauded by the president. He also blessed efforts in other areas of the country where road blocks to balloting sites were blocked by his supporters. Voters standing in line have been pepper sprayed and harassed. Armed terrorists have been recruited by the president’s son and others to patrol what they call “rough areas.” Do you need a translation? Placing armed white guys outside polling sites in non-white areas. Intimidation. Arming to create fear. We’ve become a Third World country.
Let’s be blunt: this political party is so thoroughly convinced that victory is near impossible without these various voter harassment and suppression efforts. In retrospect I think of post-WWI Germany and the rise of Hitler, of Cuba with Castro, and more recently of Sarajevo, a multicultural city where residents seemingly lived in such peaceful harmony it was paraded as near Utopian when the Olympics were held there. Then came the rise of a Serbian takeover that turned neighbors against neighbors, friends against friends, and family against family. Sound familiar? Is this happening here, with us, in what until four years ago was a beacon of democracy worldwide before our current president, his party and his cultish followers have turned into an international joke, and a fearful one at that.
Thankfully I have friends who are more positive and hopeful than me. Over the weekend Sara Wolbert was helping her partner track down a deer he had shot when they came across a dead eagle … our national symbol of strength and she offered a possible metaphor: “Even in times of uncertainty, there are opportunities to find strength. I’ve heard that some apex predators transition when the world needs their help.”
Seeing hope within a deceased eagle, which by the way is en route to a Native nation.
So, the wait begins. I’m nervous as are most of the people I know including my friend, Allison Maraillet. She, a child of the prairie, married a Frenchman and lived in France for years before they recently moved to be near their daughter in Quebec. This weekend she shared this quote from Napolean: “Je ne peux vivre sans champagne, en cas de victoire, je le mérite; en cas de défaite, j’en ai besoin.”
Translated: “I can’t live without champagne, in case of victory, I deserve it; in case of defeat, I need it.” So we wait with the tremendous hope that we’ll deserve it!
I’m feeling much the same way, but your message of at least trying to find calm amidst all the fear is a good one as we all work through the day hour by hour. Your writing has given me some calm – I appreciate your work.
Take care and thanks,
Ryan Pesch, Pelican Rapids
Thanks John – you articulated so well what so many of us are feeling. (cautiously optimistic with an underlying feeling of dread?) The past weeks I’ve had to explain what “tenterhooks” means (after I looked it up myself) to a lot of English-as-a-second-language speakers. I’m wondering how many times Napoleon has been quoted by someone living in Big Stone County…
Wonderfully written, John. Your writing sure does transport that calm – simply beautiful. Sitting here on the other side of the pond, waiting with you and sharing your hopes.