As I write this morning, I’m listening to mournful Max Richter music and thinking about what it means to be alive now. The tectonic plate shifts in the first months of 2020 broke apart “normal life” all around the world. Here in America the virus forced us to confront the economic inequality and health disparities that lay beneath the way our country works. George Floyd’s murder was the tragic catalyst that opened millions upon millions of eyes to the racism that was embedded in America’s DNA before there was an America.
So I sit at my desk, aware of the rubble of a way of life all around me, thinking about the way forward. The Twelve Steps have convinced me that despair is the wellspring of hope – that hitting bottom is an essential step in healing. You can’t get better if you can’t fully face what’s wrong.
Are we finally hitting bottom as a nation? Are our eyes finally opening? If they are, that’s the most powerful reason for hope I can imagine.
As we start to reimagine and rebuild our culture, can we collectively meet the hopes and dreams of everyone in our deeply flawed and potentially beautiful country? And how can/should I be part of that?
In 2013, just after I turned 50, I left my day job, mainly because I was sick of it all, but also because I had an inkling that I needed to not waste whatever was left of my life. Over time it became clear that I should write. And so I started – quite tentatively at first, fighting the huge voice in my head that blared, “Shut the f*** up, no one cares!”
That voice is still there, telling me to shut the f*** up, because I’m a cis-gendered middle-aged white lady. It tells me that writing is not enough. (I know that my writing is a necessary but not a sufficient contribution. There is so much more to do.) It tells me that my voice does not have a place in helping heal our culture. But there’s a much quieter voice underneath that one. It tells me to just keep going, to just not quit.
So I keep going, inspired and encouraged by the healing gifts that magnificent writers, musicians and artists give us as we navigate through despair. Mohsin Hamid’s novel Exit West, which came out in 2017, has been exactly the inspiration I’ve needed right now. This paragraph changed everything for me:
“The locality around Marin seemed to be rousing itself from a profound and collective low in those days. It has been said that depression is a failure to imagine a plausible desirable future for oneself, and, not just in Marin, but in the whole region, in the Bay Area, and in many other places too, places both near and far, the apocalypse appeared to have arrived and yet it was not apocalyptic, which is to say that while the changes were jarring they were not the end, and life went on, and people found things to do and ways to be and people to be with, and plausible desirable futures began to emerge, unimaginable previously, but not unimaginable now, and the result was something not unlike relief.”
I am so grateful to be reading now, to listen now, to see now. As gut-wrenching as 2020 is, I believe that we can build something beautiful, something previously unimaginable, out of the rubble. We will create plausible desirable futures. I can’t wait to see our new world.