I’m busy. I love being busy all the time so I can bitch about how too busy I am and don’t have time to put my feet up ever.
If I could bear to read them (remind me to burn those things) in 30 years of journals I’d find biweekly accounts of how overwhelmed I was and exhaustive recitations of all I had to do: wash the kitchen floor, get groceries, answer twenty parent emails, go to the gym, make dinner, swear off sweets, lose five pounds, plan my classes, grade 150 essays, be up at 5, at school by 6:15 to run off the day’s handouts. I was also supposed to work on the great American poem and if I didn’t—often the case—my life was pointless.
In retirement I have adeptly managed to stay busy. Taught part-time, became a literary translator, started this blog featuring two 800-word posts a month, managed remodels of my study and kitchen. I quit teaching a class last year to take a job developing a university literary translation curriculum. That was fine: four months of too busy to complain about, after which I’d teach the class in January and be too busy again.
Meanwhile, the election happened. Winter arrived. The January class was cancelled. For over a month now, I have not been busy. As it turns out, time to put my feet up does not make me happy.
I know I’m depressed when I spend half my afternoon playing solitaire. I know I’m depressed when my post-election adrenalin rush dissipates, and the idea of more phone calls to politicians makes me want to weep. My Facebook feed is peppered with horrible cabinet nominations, threats to the Affordable Care Act, the environment, civil rights and….a Matsushima Bay tsunami washes over me.
After the election, I donated to the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, others. Now I receive daily emails from all of them and their cousins reporting that the world is definitely ending and they need more funds now. One sent me a photo of the Grand Canyon studded with oil wells. My depression curls up, decides to stay a while. Another round of solitaire. Or are there any new cat videos?
Maybe I should stand down and let the power-crazed Repubs dismantle half the government, all our social programs, ban people of other religions, build a stupid wall, turn our air and water dirty as China’s. Eventually, those actions will come back to haunt them. Eventually people will realize they have no better jobs, no health care, no new immigrants to do the work Americans refuse to do. They’ll wake up and say, oh shit, what have we done? I can play solitaire and watch it unravel.
Then I remember The Lorax:
Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.
This month’s ACLU magazine has a photo of Trump on the cover and says, “See You In Court.” That’s the spirit. So this week I made myself call congressional offices to say they should leave the ACA alone until they develop a replacement. (They’re not listening, but what else is new.) I called my Republican senator and told him not to confirm Jeff Sessions for Attorney General or to hold hearings on nominees not yet vetted. I signed petitions and sent emails.
And hey, enough of us were doing that kind of thing to get a response. Republicans were feeling the pressure and delayed some confirmation hearings to allow candidates to be vetted. A presidential transitions expert said the Trump transition is further behind schedule than any other in recent decades. Billionaires have complicated financials and are slow to provide information. I also heard some Republicans are starting to feel uneasy about repealing the ACA without a plan to replace it. Huh. Go figure.
O.K. then. I may have to wade through depression mud to get there, but I’ll keep doing those phone calls.
I started looking for volunteer opportunities in areas under threat. Maybe environmental protection or teaching English to refugees. My neighbor volunteers at a local clinic, says Denver currently has many Eritrean and Ethiopian refugees. This will be a small gesture, the action one person can take. That’s fine, because I believe in Margaret Mead’s famous statement:
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.
I’m joining the Women’s March (men welcome) here in Denver on January 21. At last report, over 16,000 had signed up. We’ll march “to support social justice, human rights and equality, and to demonstrate that we will be vigilant in protecting these rights moving forward.” It’ll cheer me up. Civic Center at 9 a.m. See you there?