the “normal” you seek isn’t normal

HI, all.

Hope everybody made the best they could out of the holiday season.

I think I might actually be more fortunate than a lot of people out there, since for the past 15 years or so, the vast majority of my friends are folx who live at great distances from me, and we’ve spent most of our time communicating via email, text, phone, snail mail, and other messaging services for years. So when the pandemic really cranked up, I didn’t miss “hanging out with my friends” because they’re all elsewhere. We continued to just do what we’d been doing and communicating like usual.

I also didn’t miss going out to restaurants or bars because prior to the pandemic, I lived in a small city for years with limited dining options (that I liked) and limited bar options (again, that I liked). I spent most of my time hanging out with my neighbors, as we shared a driveway and had more fun grilling out and shooting the shit than going anywhere.

So I didn’t really “miss” anything except being able to go to movies on a regular basis and hang out in a coffee house. And I do miss being able to be in a public space without a mask, but the reality is, that’s just not what the situation offers, so you make adjustments to circumstances. In this case, it’s a matter of survival. I’m in decent health, but I don’t even want to dare gamble with covid-19. I mean, read this about how covid pneumonia destroys your lungs.

No fucking thank you.

And here’s the thing. This virus is here to stay. It’s out of the box and will most likely never be eradicated. We will eventually have better treatments for it in addition to vaccines, but this thing will end up endemic, like the flu, and hopefully with lesser symptoms so that it ends up being like the flu, that the majority of people are able to survive.

That’s years away.

In the meantime, this pandemic has ripped open the realities of life in the US (other countries, too, but let’s stick with the US). It’s exposed how fragile our infrastructure is, how fragile our allegedly democratic institutions are, how fragile our healthcare system is, how exploitative our employment system is, how fucked our climate is, how gutted our education system is, and how capitalism has created and perpetuated gross inequality. It has also exposed the absolute vindictive corporate banality at the heart of US politics. And the pandemic has provided opportunity and cover for theocratic (in particular) right-wing extremism to further burrow into all these systems to ensure that inequity continues and to tear down whatever institutions we have that provide any modicum of support to make everything privatized and thus rife for further exploitation.

Grifters, politicians, and assholes of all backgrounds have capitalized on pandemic mis- and disinformation, which spreads even faster than the omicron variety of covid, and thousands of people in the US have been radicalized into extremist ideologies through the rampant misinformation and disinformation on every social media platform there is.

This IS America. It was built on systemic inequality/inequity and corporate interests, on empty consumerism and white-centric institutions. THAT’S the “normal” people want to “go back to.” What they mean is, they don’t want to have to think about others in their communities (by getting vaxxed and masking up); they don’t want to think about anybody beyond their own noses. They don’t want to think about anything beyond their own comfort, and it probably scares them that things are really screwed up and they don’t have the wherewithal or social/relationship tools (on any level) to deal with any of it. Bravado is often a mask for the fearful, and there’s a lot of that spreading across social media.

The godawful inequity/inequality in this country shouldn’t be “normal.” The continued exploitation of workers shouldn’t be “normal.” The destruction of public education by right-wing corporate interests shouldn’t be “normal.” The constant buy buy buy of craptastic shit that you think makes your life better shouldn’t be “normal.” We shouldn’t be filling landfills with mountains of trash and call that “normal.” We shouldn’t be okay with fucking the hell out of our healthcare system because we want things to be “normal.” The continued buttressing of racist systems that have placed horrendous burdens on BIPOC shouldn’t be “normal.” The continued policies and legislation against LGBTQIA+ people shouldn’t be “normal.” The further demotion of cisgender women, in particular, to nothing more than walking incubators shouldn’t be “normal.” The attempts to further normalize extremism shouldn’t be “normal.” And the constant rhetoric of violence and threats circulating across social media and even in the real world shouldn’t be “normal.”

But that’s what “getting back to normal” means. It means no longer having to think about all the stuff that scares us, no longer having to look in the mirror at what we’ve become, and we can just go self-medicate with whatever to make ourselves feel better and keep on ignoring the fact that shit is really fucked up and the US looks more and more like a failed state.

I don’t want that as “normal” anymore.

Change is painful and scary and fucking hard. But it’s necessary, and I want a world that does better. I want a country that does better, a political system that actually gives a shit about people, and institutions that actually give a shit about people. I’m hella over this corporate/capitalist bullshit. If that’s “normal,” no fucking thank you.

So it’s on us — those of us who do still have the capacity for empathy and sympathy, who try to do what they can for their communities because it’s the right thing to do, not because there’s anything in it for them. It’s on us to take care of ourselves and each other so we can bring about a normal that benefits as many people as possible in every way possible. Hell, yes I’m scared. I’d be an idiot not to be. This is new shit for me, too, this failed state stuff. But there are lots of people in the world who have gone through similar and worse and persevered and did the right thing even in the face of insurmountable odds.

So instead of “normal,” I like to envision “better.” And that’s what I’m working toward.

Everybody stay safe out there and take care of yourselves and each other. We’re all we’ve got.

Stress sucks

So, I have realized that I am under an intense amount of stress and I am taking steps to address that and figure out how to bring my levels down because stress can make you sick in a lot of different ways and could eventually kill you.

Everybody is stressed. I get that. Some people are better at dealing with it, and unfortunately, I used to be one of those people but I’ve sort of backslid and now I’m trying to reclaim some zen for myself. The last 2 years have been years of major change in my life, and that brings stress. Also, watching the world slide into authoritarian horrible-ness is also keeping me up at night, especially as I watch it happen in this country. What passes for media in this country does nothing but doom-scroll, basically, and instill fear and horrible into every day.

Which is why I don’t watch news on major networks or cable news. Nor do I spread disinformation or misinformation, which has completely taken over most of social media.

I’m one of those people who takes on more than I should; I’m a “fixer,” which means I try to fix everything but myself. I have a long history of this, and it’s tied to dealing with chronic depression all of my life. When I’m in a healthier headspace, I have much better boundaries.

The last 5 years, especially, have made it hard to maintain those boundaries and left trauma among thousands of people in this country, given the proto-authoritarian who was in power here and the gutting of institutions that happened during that time and then the pandemic that continues to kill thousands — especially those who have been radicalized into extremist ideology.

There’s no talking to these people. And families and communities are suffering as people who have been radicalized deny the existence of covid, or deny that it’s anything worse than the flu, and continue to wallow in and spread conspiracy theories that endanger thousands more. This is also fueling authoritarianism and theocratic nationalism in this country, and it’s affecting every community, as the extreme right develops even more strategies to undermine democratic institutions. Those people across the country threatening public health officials and then showing up to school board meetings screaming about critical race theory? They’re probably the same people. And they’re dangerous to democracy and to the physical and emotional well-being of the people they’re attacking.

And then there’s the lack of resolve in this country to address climate change, which is exacerbating inequities just as covid has and will destroy a whole hell of a lot.

Everything is a shitshow and everything is uncertain, even as rights are being rolled back here as a result of Christian nationalist court rulings and legislatures.

So yeah. I’m stressed.

But I’m trying to get back into a healthier headspace. I went back into therapy last year and I do work out 5-6 times a week. I’m also trying to be more mindful about meditation (which I suck at, but I’m doing short guided meditations almost every day with the help of an app).

It’s hard, getting back into a better space. But if I don’t — well, let’s just say I had a bit of a wake-up call regarding managing stress better.

So, y’all, remember to do self-care. Try to find even a sliver of joy in every fucked-up day, and look beyond the media for stories of people surviving and thriving and working to build community rather than tear it down. Get involved in being one of those to feed your soul.

And please stay safe. This is a shitshow, but humans are remarkably resilient. I’m remembering that as I work on getting my shit better handled.

Cheers, all. Hope you have a good rest of the week.

Oh, and here’s an easy way to take a couple of minutes and do nothing. 🙂

Throwing props to the elders

Greetings, friends!

I’ve been thinking about age and the different social and political contexts different generations grow up in and I’m now of an age that usually requires younger people to mistrust me, view me with suspicion and/or frustration. Get the hell out of the way, old. It’s our time, now.

I remember being that age. But I also remember going into the activism trenches with a lot of people 10, 20, 30, 40 years older than I am. Some even older. They’d been around a while, and had seen a lot of shit, and they continued fighting, not only for themselves, but for youngs like me, and they shared their time, energy, resources, experience, and wisdom to do that.

I hadn’t gained the luxury of hindsight yet, but watching those older activists work, and their patience and fortitude in the midst of hell — I was lucky to have worked with them and to have learned from them.

It is possible to age in such a way that you remember who you are and who you were. I hope I’m doing this right, because I’m drawing a lot of strength and inspiration from younger people (and okay, maybe I’m proud that my generation is raising these young people I see as kindred spirits…ha!).

I’m reminded of a queer conference I attended soon after the 2016 elections. I went to an intergenerational panel, designed to foster discussion between olds and youngs. I came of age in the 80s, and I know the weight of political and social boots on your neck. I know the lack of resources and the lack of policies to support those of us who were marginalized then and who are marginalized now. I know that people have died in this fight, and they will continue to do so.

Some of what I fought for was the right to marry even though I figured I’d never see it and so it was never part of my personal world view.

But fuck, I wanted people growing up behind me to be able to have that right, to be able to make that choice if they wanted it. And I wanted younger people maybe never to experience the fear of expressing affection for their partners/spouses/baes in public. To just BE in public, in all the glorious, multitudinous ways queerdom expresses.

We’re not there, yet. We’ve made gains, but we’re not there yet, and all we’ve gained can be taken away. So my work’s not done.

My work also means that I’ve expanded my worldview, and educated myself, and my fight now is for all marginalized people caught in systems of oppression, to hopefully use the privileges I have to do whatever the hell I can.

The work is never done, and I see that now, at this age.

I listened to all those young people in that discussion expressing their fears about that 2016 election, and their uncertainties about what would happen, and what it meant.

I said that we’d been here before. We’d been facing opposition for decades, and we will continue to face it going forward, but, I said, a lot of us olds have organized, created space, fought shitty policies, and changed hearts and minds. We can do it again. I also said that I wasn’t going to sugarcoat things, because it’s bad, and it’s going to get worse, but they all had backup. I said this is, sadly, your time. You’re first string, now, but the cool thing is, people like me are on the bench and we have your backs. I’ll offer whatever wisdom I’ve acquired, whatever tips I can share that might be adapted to these times, whatever support I can. We’ll do this together.

And I will go into the trenches again with these new generations. I don’t know how not to do that, and I wonder if those older people who continued their activism when I was so much younger had that same realization.

They said the work is never done, but there was so much life in their eyes, and so many stories, and such strength in their smiles. There is beauty in a life lived in service to the work and to others, whether those others are alive, gone, or not yet among us. There is beauty in finding joy, love, and comradeship even in the worst of times. Working alongside those older people taught me that.

And I hope I can be as cool an old as they were, and that I know some of them still are.