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?