Just announced! Darby Orr (composer, writer, yoga teacher, dashing and charming husband extraordinaire) and I are heading up to the Santa Monica Mountains for a one-day retreat-from-the-world. Come join us! Morning yoga, creative flow workshops, nourishing lunch by Love Them Apples (yours truly), and an end-of-day pie to top it off.
Yet another ad for another t-shirt with another feminist or empowerment statement has popped up in my newsfeed, and again I find myself considering buying it. I haven't plunked down any money, because I'm not generally one for t-shirts or, for that matter, clothes shopping, but this has become an almost daily consideration. Today I wondered how my personal style would change if I actually got all those shirts and wore a different one each day. I don't know if my office would allow it, but maybe. It seems that there are enough ads to keep me in new shirts for at least half a month, and I like to think the profits support the cause. I could always throw a sweater on for work.
Today this t-shirt consideration led me to a realization that the grief many of us felt on November 9th, and have continued to feel beyond, was not only grief over the loss of our preferred candidate, our outgoing administration, our country as we saw it, or democratic values as a whole. Those are all huge. The political is very personal. Maybe moreso for some than others, depending on where we each fall on the nonlinear privilege spectrum. But everyone breathes. Everyone needs clean water.
Today, as I looked at another Superwoman graphic hashtagged with RESIST, I realized that there was another grief we have individually and collectively been feeling: the grief over the loss of who we were before. When we woke on November 9th, subconsciously but without a doubt, we must have known we would be fundamentally changed because of the election outcome. Change, the philosophers, yogis, and psychologists tell us, is the death of something. Even in the best of changing circumstances, we feel a certain amount of fear, sadness, anxiety. But this is not the best of circumstances, and the election outcome has long term implications. The country has changed, and, passive or active, we have changed with it.
Looking back on the last few months, I now see the death of us as we were. Conversations are different. Not once since the election have I sat with a friend and not talked politics. Not once has Darby and I skipped a recap of the news at the end of the day or first thing in the morning. We've all witnessed and/or experienced wonderful things in the past few months - babies, marriages, publications, travel, beauty somewhere somehow. Yet, the beauty almost seems like it's "despite." It's apparent in the things we post, buy, talk about, dream about, the way we answer the question "How are you?". Something fundamental died; something fundamental has grown in its place. Maybe we're all still adjusting to it, and reluctantly at that, just as we would with the death of anything we are not ready to let go. Who are those people who post so many negative news stories? Who are those people who wear t-shirts?
About 10 or 15 years ago I was with my dad at an amusement park and (despite my lifelong aversion to roller coasters) I let him talk me into a loop-d-loop thing where you hang upside down and flip around till you want to puke a life's worth of living. I was not certain that I'd die there in loop-d-loop hell, but I felt closer to it than even that time I spun out in 360s on an icy road south of Boston. The third time I saw the traffic behind me through my windshield, I remembered to take my foot off the brake and drive out of the spin.
On the loop-d-loop thing, I had no control at all. Totally captive and trying to be a good sport for my dad, who really wanted to ride the coaster with his oldest kid, I squeezed my eyes shut and prayed that my dad wouldn't see what a complete scaredy cat I was.The ride started up terrifying loud. My feet dangled free so I crossed my ankles and pressed my thighs to the seat. And to completely divorce myself from near-certain disaster, I started singing that thing I'd done countless times in my life on clarinet and oboe and piano and ear training classes: arpeggios and scales. Do me sol ti do ti sol me do. Re fa la di re di la fa re.
I don't know how many keys I went through, but by the time we landed I'd discovered that when the world turns terrifyingly upside down and threatens the bejesus out of me, when I cannot control a damn thing, when the previous force of comfort insists on pulling the rug out from under me and throwing me up into the air, there's still solace somewhere in that deep visceral place, where color and sound connect.
So bring on the poetry.
Bring on the paint.
Bring on the words and dances and trumpets and violins.
Bring on the songs, the flavors, the light and shadows.
Bring on the humanity that hearkens back to cave paintings, and fire pits, and tales of wolves and glass slippers.
Bring on the session players at the corner table of Timmy Nolans and The Burren.
Bring on MOMA and the lights of LACMA, and the Guggenheim's long ramp through Picasso.
Bring on Patty Smith, Robert Mapplethorpe, Cindy Sherman.
Bring on the Cure and the Civil Wars and Judy Collins.
Bring on Kara Walker, Richard Serra, Robert Smithson, Kiki Smith.
Bring on paper, water, pens, dye, needles, thread, cantaloupe, basil,