Can’t stop, won’t stop.

The 2016 election campaign was brutal, particularly for those of us who knew what we were up against and were fighting hard to stop it. It was a long, hard fight, and every day it was terrifying. I’d tell myself, “come on, she can’t lose, she’s up against a proto-fascist who sounds like a kid who forgot to read the book for his book report. She’s clearly qualified, he’s clearly not. People will see that.”

But I’d drive through parts of rural Ohio that were thick with Trump signs, and I’d see the raucous fervor of his rallies, and I’d worry.

It turns out I was right to worry. Not enough people saw the dichotomy and not enough people saw the danger. But this post isn’t about that. Books will be written about that. Doctoral theses in political science will be published about that.

This is about the aftermath.

In the chaos and anxiety of the campaign, the one thing that kept me focused was thinking about what I would do after the election. I thought I’d shut off political news for a while – maybe a long while. I’d get around to doing a lot of the backlog of reading I’d been meaning to do, and I’d finally finish that damn cross-stitching project that I’d been putting off since last Christmas.

Then the election happened. A lot of friends of mine were stuck in the denial phase for a really long time, spinning conspiracy theories about how Trump would surely never actually take office. Surely the electoral college would intervene. Surely he would simply resign, seeing how unqualified he was for the job. Surely someone… anyone… would stop this.

I entertained these same thoughts for a little while, but only for a little while. No, I thought, we are going to get to January 20, and that man will be president of these United States. It is going to happen.

I did not handle this well. I’d been struggling with seasonal depression even before the election, and this sent me into a real tailspin. I kept seeking out someone — anyone — who would tell me that everything was going to be okay. I needed to hear someone say that it was all going to work out for the best, and I needed to believe them. I talked to friends, to family members. I sought out essayists, newspaper columnists, humorists, whoever. Nobody was selling what I wanted to buy.

What is wrong with the world, I thought. All I need is someone to say it’s all going to be all right, and nobody is saying it. Why isn’t anyone saying it?

The answer, which I knew and I expect you do as well, is that it wasn’t true. Things weren’t going to be all right. A deeply unqualified man, not bright, not kind, not capable, possibly suffering from a personality disorder, was going to take the helm of the presidency. Nothing is okay about that. No, we’re not all going to be just fine.

OK then, what now, I thought. I can’t just turn off the news, because that doesn’t stop anything from happening. All that does is make it a surprise when inevitably it happens to me or to someone I love. I can’t lie to myself that things will be just fine. So what do I do? Some part of me I think was still hoping that I would find someone — anyone — who would say, “Hey, I’ve got this. I’m in charge of this problem. Send some donations to the following organizations and your job is done.”

I’m not sure I can express to you just how much I was looking forward to kicking back and relaxing after the election.

It took me way, way too long to come to the realization that kicking back and relaxing was a luxury we were not going to have for quite some time to come. That kicking back and relaxing is something you get to do under a competent government that you trust. That government is not this one. It is not competent, and we cannot trust it. And no one person will save us.

We have to save ourselves.

So that’s what I’ve been doing. I’ve been picking up the phone and calling my congresspeople. Not because I want to or find it enjoyable, but because that is what we have to do right now. I’ve been writing letters. I’ve been going to rallies, and when my senators and representatives finally get around to having town halls, I’ll show up. I’ll keep track of local legislation and school board candidates and get involved with those. I’ll donate to candidates who will work for us and campaign against candidates who won’t.

These are things we all have to do now. Nobody will do it for you and nobody is going to tell you that everything is going to be ok, because it’s not. I’m sorry, but it’s not. And you can’t check out. Not permanently. If you need to take a break for a day, a week, then you do that. Recharge to get back in the fight — but then you get back in the fight. There are groups forming everywhere to help you. There are phone scripts, letter templates, plans and guides and step-by-steps. You don’t have to do this alone.

But you do have to do it. We all do. Not forever, I hope. But for now. We are fighting for our children, our brothers and sisters, our friends. We are fighting for people we don’t even know, because it is the right thing to do. We will lock arms and shield our most vulnerable and helpless as much as we are able.

I will see you all out there.

Here’s some things you can do.

Since my last update, things in this country have gone to hell in a handbasket. We have a president who may or may not be a diagnosable narcissist, may or may not be suffering from early dementia, definitely is promoting fascism and is friendly to neo-Nazis, and is apparently trying to dismantle everything about this country that makes it good, including national parks, public education, and god, I don’t know, probably cheeseburgers.

People have been organizing their asses off, which is good. But some people I’ve talked to feel really intimidated by all the organizing and protesting that is happening because they have phone phobia, don’t like crowds, or are otherwise unable or uncomfortable with the primary forms of protest happening right now (i.e. phone calls and in-person protests).

So here’s a list I brainstormed of things that you can do even if you can’t call:

1. Vote in every election, especially the 2018 elections. Obama was hamstrung after the 2010 midterms when Republicans took control of Congress. We can do the same to Trump.

2. Contribute money. As a poli sci prof of mine once said, money is one of the most powerful forms of speech in this country, no kidding. Money is power. Why is the NRA so powerful? Because they have a shitload of members who contribute a shitload of money. Donate money to senators and representatives you want to win. If you’re living in a “safe” district, a) maybe donate anyway, because if we have learned nothing else it’s that safe isn’t always safe, or b) find a representative in a swing district and contribute to them instead. Contribute to organizations promoting causes you support — the ACLU, the Southern Poverty Law Center, Planned Parenthood.

3. Subscribe to a newspaper. Digital or physical, whichever. More than ever we need independent journalism in this country as a check on authority, and newspapers are leading the fight. My personal suggestion is to subscribe to one national paper (e.g. the NY Times, the Washington Post) and one local newspaper, assuming your locality still has one.

4. Write an email or a physical letter. I know, we’re all told that making phone calls is a more powerful statement, but if you don’t feel you can make a phone call, WRITE SOMETHING. I’ve seen politicians quote from constituent emails at rallies and events before. Particularly if you can make an eloquent point, but even if you can’t, write an email or a letter.

5. Correct untruths when you see them. You don’t have to get into a horrible 90-post comment war, but if you see someone post a falsehood, post a polite correction. Don’t let it just sit there unchallenged. If they then come back and want to fight about it, you don’t have to engage in that fight. You left the valid information right there where others can see it.

6. Call after-hours. I KNOW you said you didn’t want to call, but one way to do this is to call after-hours and leave a voicemail. Write yourself a little script: “Hi, my name is X, I’m a constituent in zip code XXXXX, and I am calling to support Senator X’s position on the ACA. I really appreciate his support and wanted him to know I have his back. Thank you, I don’t need a response.” It is just that easy.

7. Join a local activist group if there is one. Going to a meeting of like-minded people is a friendly and welcoming way to get started on this stuff. They will likely have plenty that you can do, even if you don’t want to march or call. Maybe you can help other people make signs, or you can provide bottled water or other logistical support.

Please feel to provide additional info in the comments. Keep fighting the good fight.

OMOO, EMIR, and ULU, oh my!

I decided this year that one of my goals was going to be to do the New York Times crossword puzzle every day. That lasted until mid-January, when I missed a day because I fell asleep in the middle of doing a Friday puzzle and then forgot to finish it until after the Saturday puzzle came out. So I revised my goal to “do all 365 NY Times crosswords this year” regardless of when. Just, before January 1, 2017.

About a week ago I realized that we were getting awfully close to that deadline, so I had a look through my crossword app to see how many I had to make up.

There were… large gaps. Most of April and June were a total loss. July was about half-done. In August I picked up speed, and most of the fall was in pretty good shape. But still, there was a LOT of makeup work to do. It reminded me of my Intro Philosophy class, my freshman year at college. I aced the midterm, got lazy, did none of the work for the second half of the quarter, and wound up trying to read and remember both Nietzsche’s “On the Genealogy of Morality” and Rousseau’s “The Social Contract” in one night. After the final I was so exhausted that I fell asleep in the women’s bathroom in Harris Hall. Not one of my finer moments.

Anyway, I’ve been doing about five crosswords a day for the last week, and I’m starting to see MAI TAI and OREM and SSE and EWER in my sleep. But goddammit, I am going to finish all of these puzzles by New Year’s Eve, because I said I would, and that is that.

I admit it is slightly disheartening to realize that I turn 40 next year and I have learned nothing about time management since I was 18.

You might say it’s Dickensian.

My mood is not great in the best of winters, and this is not the best of winters. This may, in fact, be the worst of winters. I’m not sure. The point is, seasonal depression plus regular depression plus election-related angst (the cherry on top of the depression sundae, if you will) has all settled in for its long winter’s nap in my brain.

Sometimes I’ll say this kind of thing out loud to the wrong people and they will look very concerned and they will say the thing that I hate more than any other thing, which is: “How can I help?”

Oh god, that is the worst thing. Don’t do this. Don’t be this person. I don’t know how you can help. If I could come up with that kind of targeted plan, I wouldn’t be in this situation. Like, maybe you can help by not making me have to come up with suggestions of things for you to do so that you can feel helpful? It’s like when you get guests who show up early for a dinner party and they say, “Give me something to do!” Dude, if I need help I’ll ask for it. Coming up with a chore for you so that you can feel useful is adding to my workload right now. 1) Baste turkey, 2) get rolls in oven, 3) chop crudites, 4) come up with something for Bob to do so he can feel useful. You just added to my list, friend. That’s not helpful. Don’t add to my list.

I’m basically okay, anyway. I’m functional. I’m getting out of my house, and not just for work. I’m eating too much and sleeping too much and snapping at people too much, but I’m making it.

(Jesus, I am out of practice at doing these posts.)

Thanks, I guess.

I don’t do those daily posts of thankfulness in November. I tried it once, and about halfway through the month I found myself struggling to come up with something to post. Fanning through the index cards of my life trying to find this, that, or the other thing that seems a little better than what other people have, did not seem to be in the spirit of the event.

Which is not to say I’m not thankful for this, that, or the other thing. For example, I’m thankful that the cats have chosen two, and only two, pieces of furniture as their personal scratching posts. I’m thankful for the job that allows us to afford things like the extra 10 bucks for the Douglas fir at the tree farm instead of the Scotch pines that are stabby and picked-over. I’m thankful for em dashes even though I don’t use them much these days. I’m thankful for the guy who runs the Merriam-Webster Twitter account.

It is perhaps not a terrible exercise to force ourselves to think about all of the good and worthwhile things in our lives, just as the light fades from the sky and the leaves fall from the trees and the world shutters itself in preparation for winter. Every winter feels like an ending, and this one I think feels more so than usual. So I’m thankful. For family and friends and food and a few other things starting with F.* I’ll be even more thankful when we’ve survived until spring again.

*Frappucinos, obviously.

Still hate thinking up titles.

I am, it would seem, constitutionally incapable of keeping anything I write. I wrote an online web journal for years, then let the domain expire. And lost the flash drive that had the only backup of all that writing. I started another web journal, wrote in it for a while, let it expire.

I always think that someday I will regret losing all of those words, but I never really do. Mostly what I regret is having to redo the site design when I inevitably decide to start writing online again. Like now.

But the words are ephemeral. I think I don’t really like having a huge amount of writing following me around, like boxes and stacks of paper accumulated in a hoarder’s house. I want a clean slate. It’s the same thing that drives me, every so often, to throw away everything in my house that isn’t nailed down.

I mean, not everything. We keep the books, the artwork. The piano makes the cut. But the binders of old schoolwork, the mementos saved from years’ worth of July 4 and Christmas parades, the outgrown toys, the correspondence…I let it reach a critical mass and then it all goes at once, in a great cleansing purge.

My writing is the same, I suppose.

And at any rate, most of it is still hanging out in the Internet Wayback Machine, if I ever felt inclined to retrieve it.