Checking in on “Surviving the Trump Apocalypse”

On December 4, 2016  I came out of my self-induced coma long enough to react to the election of Donald Trump with a list of 6 personal survival strategies that I thought I would need practice in order to help me get through the next four (I refuse to even think about 8) years.  I called that piece, “Surviving the Trump Apocalypse.”

The predictions I made about this wrecking ball of an administration were pretty right on, but far too generous.  It has been so much worse, in so many ways than I could have predicted.  I’m not going to catalogue all of that; it’s just too depressing.  The only saving grace so far has been that the Republican-held Congress is so fractious and inept that they just can’t get anything done especially when the boss changes course, undercuts his own people, and makes policy changes depending on what he has watched on Fox News that morning.

That is not to say that they aren’t doing great damage.  They have squandered the chance to take advantage of the robust economy they were left with and pass legislation that might further wage growth and help to rebuild critical infrastructure.  Instead, they have wasted 6 full months trying to undo the good work of the ACA, revealing the embarrassing truth that they actually have no plan to help all Americans gain the security of health care.  This, after 6 years of decrying and defaming the ACA and passing countless “repeal” bills.

OK.  I have to stop the ranting.

The six suggestions that I made for my own survival all still make sense to me now, although some have become more important to me than others.  But to review, here is what I was thinking back in December:

ISOLATE yourself from the news to protect your spirit and avoid immersing yourself in news that is going to make you feel depressed.

EXERCISE to help to lift your spirits and to join with others in communal activities like hiking and yoga.

CREATE–spend time in whatever creative endeavor lifts your spirits, engages you with others and makes you feel that you are bringing something good into the world.

PLANT SOMETHING–It feels good to watch things grow around you and especially if you have done the work to nurture new life.  I never envisioned the outright assault that the Donald was going to inflict on the environment, but now know that everyone must contribute something.

VOLUNTEER  for any organization that you know can use your help and for which you have a passion. Social services, immigration agencies, schools, and other things we have taken for granted could be devastated by potential budget cuts.  These organizations will need us.

CELEBRATE your successes, whether they are personal or collective.  We have to take joy in any sense of good we bring into the world.  We have to celebrate the light we bring into the darkness.

I have utterly failed at #1.  For the first couple of weeks when I was in deepest mourning, it was easy, but as this shitshow has developed, I simply cannot stay away from the news.  As one commentator said last night, Trump has assembled, “the most incompetent Cabinet ever” and they are creating jaw-dropping headlines daily.  Add that to the spectacular failures of Congress, the daily Trump tweet-storm, and the looming certainty that the Russian scandal may dwarf Watergate, and it has made it impossible for me to stay away from multiple news outlets.  If anything, it has increased my appetite for news because every day, sometimes every hour, brings about a new WTF moment.

I have certainly stayed true to #2 (EXERCISE) frequently spending up to three hours a day on fitness, mostly with long walks, hikes, and yoga.  I’m going bike shopping once the weather cools down.  It has been excellent tonic for my mind, body, and spirit.

Numbers 3 and 4 have combined somewhat for me.  Much of my creative endeavors over the past six months have centered on landscape design around the house.  I have planted over 30 new plants in the yard, and increased my composting capacity.  My Father’s Day gift was a kitchen scale and I began to use it to figure out just how much kitchen waste we were successfully diverting from the landfill and into our own compost.   I discovered that we have been composting close to 25 pounds of kitchen waste per month, a number that startled me since it is just the two of us.  It doesn’t make up for pulling out of the Paris accords, but every new plant, every small effort feels like the right thing to do. Also on the CREATE side, I’ve been writing more (sorry), and am considering enrolling in a drawing and/or guitar class in the fall.

Number 5 (VOLUNTEER) has not changed much for me.  I continue to deliver food for Mama’s Kitchen twice a week, and have upped the hours that I volunteer for the Solana Center, a local non-profit dedicated to teaching folks about sustainable practices (like composting).  I’d like to do more.

CELEBRATING successes has been a more quiet thing. People are afraid to talk about politics either to avoid conflict or too avoid surging down the rabbit hole of depression.  One friend has started a “First Sunday Sunrise” hiking group and sets out a monthly challenge.  She celebrates each hike on Facebook with pictures and videos and her group seems to continue to grow.  This is kind of what I had in mind.  I think about joining her group on every first Saturday night.  It’s just that being-somewhere-at-or-before-sunrise-on-ANY-given-day thing that I struggle with.  I did joyfully celebrate overcoming my fear of fun when I went both zip-lining and white-water rafting within four days on a trip to Colorado Springs.  I became so energized by the adrenaline highs that as soon as I got home, I busted out a gift certificate that had been mouldering for almost 6 months and experienced indoor sky-diving.  Anyone near me is tired of hearing me talk about it, but those three things have changed my ability to trust myself to be more open to challenging new experiences.

Make no mistake.  The nation faces dire times ahead.  This is how I’m coping right now. How about you?  Any ideas for the rest of us?

 

 

 

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Compost Geek

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I’m not sure how to explain my affection for rotting, organic material, but it all started in the spring of 2013. Having been a “yellow thumbed” vegetable gardener most of my adult life, I had a vague interest in composting, but no real working knowledge. When I saw that a non-profit in San Diego was offering a 4 consecutive Saturday workshop on composting and that completing the course would qualify me as a “master composter” I decided to suspend my ban on signing up for anything organized to attend the class.

Each class was 3 hours in length and we quickly learned the basics and then, in groups, began building our “hot piles” of compost, using a variety of materials that we had all gathered in preparation. By the following week, we were learning how to turn, aerate, and water our piles after checking the temperature to see if we had achieved the desired balance of materials. After four weeks, while hardly feeling a master, I felt I had the basic to get started on my own.

I raided several local Starbucks coffee shops for grounds that they will gratefully give away to gardeners and composters, and began begging, borrowing, and stealing any lawn clippings I could get from the neighbors. Mary and I found a container for the counter where we could begin to collect vegetable food waste and my gardener brought me bags of dried leaves from his clients who had groves of trees.

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I then assembled my first bin and began to mix the ingredients and in the end, had it filled to the brim. That’s when I began to go a little crazy and continually monitor and make daily reports on how just how hot the core temperature of the pile was to anyone who would listen. It fascinated me that if I just mixed together the right components, in the correct ratios, I could generate temps up to 160 degrees, a point at which they warn you that your pile could spontaneously combust. While I’ve never tried to make this happen, I’m intrigued that it might.

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My son tells me that he thinks I show more enthusiasm about composting than anyone he knows, but the weird thing is that any time I start to talk about it in a group, there always seems to be someone with questions, someone who needs help getting started, or someone who has started but needs some help troubleshooting a problem. I’ve helped numerous friends get started with their own bins and had people come out to the house and visit my small composting complex to get tips.

I am amazed at the amount of food waste that my wife and I create in the course of a week. It has changed our behavior entirely. I can’t just throw away a single banana peel or egg shell without feeling totally irresponsible. I can’t even guess at how many pounds of kitchen waste we have diverted from landfills over the past two years and instead turned it into amazingly rich soil amendment.

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Cleaning out the refrigerator!

I actually started to think about teaming up with the local Starbucks and the nearby Subway restaurant to begin regularly composting all of the perfectly compostable, but currently wasted food product that they throw out every day. However, I was daunted by the endless nature of such a partnership. I would need a team of people to keep up with the volume of compostable product and set up a network to distribute all of the wonderful soil amendment that it would produce. I pretty quickly decided that my sustainability project would be unsustainable.

So, for now, I will simply tend my own garden.

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