Healing Takes Time, And Healing Is Painful

This morning, as Donald Trump left the White House for (*knocks on wood*) the last time, it was snowing outside. Just a light sprinkling of little sugar flakes, sticking to some surfaces but not to others. And then as he took off, the sun poked through for a moment — a patch of blue sky amid the gray. Half the sky is turbid gray gunmetal. The other half a cornflower blue.

Which feels about right to me.

I kinda thought this day would come and I’d just be pure elation. Blue sky for miles! It’d be Champagne corks-a-poppin’ and mimosas, it’d be hooting and hollering, just 100% unrefined, uncut bliss. Electric schadenfreude. Freedom glee. But it’s not all that. It’s not all the way there. I’m also sort of sad, and exhausted, and feeling a little frizzled out. Don’t get me wrong. I’m also happy as fuck. Fuck that guy. We’ve been trapped in the man’s mind for four years, all part of a human centipede chain connecting to his mouth, which is also his asshole, as he steadily forced us all to contend with his hot piping bullshit. Him being plugged into social media like he was meant we never had to wonder what he was thinking, because there he sat, on his golden toilet, petulantly rage-tweeting his every hateful, lackwit impulse right into our skulls. You could mute him, block him, but someone would screengrab it and show it to you. Or the media would unceremoniously just grab whatever false, inane claim he made and use it as their headline without context or clarity. We lived inside his head. It’s nice to have broken out. We beat him. We cracked open his forehead, kicked past the curtain of his naughahyde flesh, and ran for the goddamn hills. We won. Let’s run.

So, yeah, I’m happy. It’s good to see Biden rise to meet the challenge. Day one, he’s showing up with a laundry list of priorities and plans, and further, actual actions to start turning this big-ass ship around. That takes time, but he’s doing it, and I commend him. I also feel bad for him, because what a fucking shitpile he’s going to have to clean up. (Not to mention the smell he’s going to have to get out of the White House. Hamberders, body dye, and exuded human greases. Shudder.)

But I’m also just feeling fucked up, and on examination, I think that’s pretty normal, and I wanted to talk about it — because maybe you’re feeling that way, too.

I feel like a hollowed-out pumpkin. A jack-o-lantern with the candle blown out– my eyes wide, my grin manic, but my middle all empty. And in retrospect, how could we not feel that way? We have been in a war for four years. We’ve been fighting misinformation, disinformation, and cruelty in every direction. We’ve secured considerable political victories at every election since, but their sweetness never lasted long because some new fuckery was always on its way in, a rolling sewage wave crashing down on our beaches.

The parade doesn’t come the day you win the war.

The parade comes later.

Day you win the war, you lay on the sand, you look up at the sky.

You laugh, maybe. You probably cry. You curl up and kick at the ground. You go through it — you go through all those emotions, round and round, a carousel of feelings whirling too fast inside you.

Because here’s the thing:

We’re traumatized as a nation.

We’re experiencing a sociological, widespread version of a complex trauma reaction from chronic exposure to feeling… under assault, to feeling captive. And please be aware, that whatever it is I’m feeling is going to be felt a thousand times worse by those who were truly in Trump’s crosshairs: anybody not white and male and of some wealth. He fostered an environment of hate and restriction against transgender and non-binary Americans. He pushed the racial divide, especially for Black Americans, who are literally standing in the sights of police weapons. He mocked disability. He increased wealth disparity and punished the poor. And his threat against women was profound, too — they were his targets, his prey, his tools. Grab them by the — well. He was a bigoted, rapey piece of shit who should be rotting in an oubliette somewhere.

He stole so much from us. He stole our peace of mind. He stole lives, jobs, a sense of hope, he stole some of our actual democracy — he basically opened the castle gates to COVID-19, which further came in and stole friends and loved ones, it stole work, it stole productivity, it stole our sense of self, it stole our time and our sense of time. He has taken so much.

And now he’s gone. Gone from the White House, soon gone from the presidency. Taking all that he stole with him, carrying it away with him, the fucking loser.

And I think it’s okay to feel fucked up about that. Not sad he’s gone, of course. Fuck him. Fuck his feelings, as sure as he fucked ours. I just mean it’s okay to feel weird. This is healing. We haven’t had that chance to heal yet. It hasn’t begun until… arguably, right now. And healing is rarely comfortable. It’s a good thing, healing — but it’s not a pure thing, a perfect thing. It’s stitches, it’s resetting of bone, it’s relearning how to walk, it’s a limb in a cast, it’s the itch of cells rejoining. It’s uncomfortable. It hurts. It feels strange. That, I suspect, is where we’re at right now. At the point just past trauma’s last mile marker, and onto the healing road. But healing takes time, and healing is painful.

We’re still in COVID-19. We’re still at the cusp of true, dangerous climatic change. We’re still going to contend with all the demons Trump released. We’re still pickling in GOP treachery and the stain of the insurrection they incited. Many of us still have family members whose rational minds are literally lost to this guy, to FOX, to the GOP. So, it’s okay to feel fucked up. To feel sad and angry and not just happy. To be clear, it’s also okay to feel happy, because for real, fuck that fucking loser. It can be all of those things. We can hold many emotions in us. They often compete.

That’s what makes us whole, and human.

You still might wake up anxious.

You still might feel uncertain.

You still can feel happy one minute, and angry the next.

That’s trauma. That’s loss. That’s healing.

We’ll be okay, I hope.

But we’ve learned a lot, I think, about how… well, everything is a garden. Democracy is a garden. Empathy is a garden. Civilization is a garden. And gardens do not just grow on their own — there are invasive species that can take root, there are thieves looking to steal the fruits, the fence can rot, the wind can blow. All of this requires cultivation and curation. It requires a collective effort and if there’s one huge positive, it’s that we figured that out. Trump is gone because of all of you (and Stacey Abrams gets special note, here). He’s gone because our democracy held — barely. It’s the classic American situation: we get ourselves in a bind, plunging the plane toward the ground and then at the last minute we figure out how to pull up on the stick. It’s not a great way to be, but we did it, we made it. And at the risk of continuing to mix my metaphors (settle down, it’s a blog, you’re not paying for it), the garden will grow anew, and it will require our effort to keep it going and growing. We must commit ourselves to that vigilance, to stewardship over this country and its democracy.

That’s how we heal, too.

But committing, and recommitting, to that fight.

That’s how we fight the trauma, I think. By acknowledging it, seeing that it’s real, by mourning what was lost — and then getting to work, the constant work, the diligent work.

Walking that healing road.

Anyway, thanks all for being here, still, and for enduring… whatever this is. It’s hard not to be angry and raaaaar all the time, but I tried to do it in a way that was… at least funny and entertaining, if nothing else. It’s been a hard row to hoe and I appreciate you all doing it with me. We’ll keep walking this road, together, I hope. And finally we can maybe talk about something else for a little while.