This is how I feel:
I feel like I’m the fucked up one. I feel like I’ve gone cuckoo bananapants, because I look out into the world and I see people who think the pandemic isn’t real; I see them not wearing masks anymore; I see people who somehow think Trump is doing a good job, or that believe he’s accomplished anything at all; I see people who live in a reality where blue state cities are places Snake Plissken would have to escape from; where Democrat Pedophiles are shipping children in furniture; where scientists are traitors peddling climate change coronavirus fantasy but Jesus Christ was a white man with an AR-15 who fought to make sure corporations were people, the poor got fucked, and nobody raised his Dad-blamed taxes. I feel like I’m trapped in some Hellraiser puzzle cube, some mirror universe trap where on my side of the mirror there are still things like common decency and empathy and shared reality, and on the other side are people who think that wearing a mask in a store is the same thing as being a Black man summarily executed in front of his family for writing a bad check.
I feel like I’m sitting in a living room and in the middle of the room there’s a toilet on fire, and nobody else will claim to see the toilet, or the fire. And if I push, they tell me, “The fire toilet is antifa propaganda, just eat your fuckin’ Spaghetti-Os.”
It feels like my brain is misfiring.
And once in a while, this brute force attack on our collective psyche, it works. I think, maybe I’m the broken one? Maybe I’m the partisan asshole? Like, is it even remotely possible that Trump is no worse than any other president, that life under Obama was some kind of nightmare realm, that COVID-19 isn’t real? It’s just a moment. And then I remember the people I know who got sick or died from it, and I look at the facts, the actual (sing it with me) facts of life, and I yawp again into the void THERE ARE FOUR LIGHTS even though they want me to admit that I see five.
Maybe you feel that way too.
But your brain isn’t misfiring.
I’m not okay. You’re not okay. And it’s okay we’re not okay.
Your response is that you’re not okay because things are very much not okay. It is perfectly acceptable, normal, and expected to feel fucked up in a fucked up situation. Broken politics, Zoom school, gender reveal forest fires, Patriotic Re-Education, Herman Cain tweeting about the hoax virus that he actually died from — in this endlessly scrolling set of brand new WE DIDN’T START THE FIRE* verses, it’s easy to feel like you’re the broken one. But you’re not. You’re just responding to a broken world. And not just broken in a normal way — but broken in a way that’s hard to parse, that doesn’t form clean fractures. The difference between a snapped femur and someone who stuck one hand in a blender. We’re tip-toeing across a tightrope, and on one side is a chasm of Absurdist Incompetence and on the other is a pit of Active Malevolence and we’re just trying not to fall.
I mean, I barely go anywhere, right? But last week, I went to an ice cream place to pick up a couple pints because in this Epoch of Fuckery ice cream is medicine, and in the place, everybody was masked, everybody was good. And then the next day I went to the doctor’s office to get a flu shot and two people who worked there were not masked. In a doctor’s office! A DOCTOR’S OFFICE. Aaaaa dooooooctooooor’s offffffiiiiiice. Where if anybody (!) should be cleaving to good mask protocol (!!) it should be in a god damn d o c t o r ‘ s o f f i c e. Sometimes I’ll drive through town and I’ll see a group of people where some of them are masked and some of them aren’t and I’m like, how’s that even work? What’s the fucking point? And then you see a parade of dicknoses who I guess believe that AIR does not come out of their NOSEHOLES only their MOUTHPITS and then you get on Facebook and you see some ding-dong relative sharing a screengrab of a spectacularly fake tweet where Joe Biden said something about how he’s gonna raise your taxes and turn your kids into dogfood and change the name of the country to the United Socialist States of Berniecratimerica, and you start to scream? You just scream. You scream into a pillow, into your clenched fists, into a box, into the hollow of an old tree where the Earth takes your scream and nurtures it into a flock of hungry winged things. I’m screaming right now! Just screaming.
Just fucking screaming.
And it’s okay.
It’s okay if you’re screaming, too.
It’s okay if you’re worried and sad and mad all the time and it’s okay if brushing your teeth feels like a heroic moment and if you can’t stop doomscrolling the Apocalyptic Stock Ticker that is social media.
It’s okay if you’re not okay.
I’ve no answers how to make it okay. (Except, obviously, vote, give money to charities and politicians, raise a ruckus, eat ice cream, try not to bite your phone.) Try to secure some peace and pleasure for yourself away from this Hell Realm. I try to put down my phone. I walk and listen to birds and high-five pine trees and it feels a little better. Not okay, but closer to it.
(And I note that even going outside is a privilege right now, with many places experiencing ash and smoke or bad weather. I only mean to suggest you put down the phone and try to steal some moments of peace away from the maw of the maelstrom.)
I don’t know that we’re going to be okay. Individually or collectively. We are under not one but… at least three existential threats I can count. But we can try despite everything to care about ourselves and each other through whatever comes — and that can be our true north, a star to chart the dark.
The things you see are real.
There is a toilet on fire in the living room.
I see it too.
It’s okay that you’re not okay.
And I hope we get to find moments where we are okay, and that we can take it, and hold it, and sustain it. And that we come out of this better than we were before. But it’s okay to be afraid that’s also not what’s going to happen, too. Whatever happens, we’re in this together. We can have a shared reality, a shared empathy. We can rage and scream and we can vote and we can do what we can and what we must to endure.
These are fucked up times.
It is normal to feel fucked up in response to them.
May you steal moments of peace from the jaws of chaos.
p.s. wear your fuckin’ masks for chrissakes
(This is based off a Twitter thread I did the other day that seemed to resonate, so I’m letting it live here, too, in a more blog-flavored format.)
* I used to think that our current reality is broken because of that weasel that fucked the Hadron Collider, but now I fear that Billy Joel pissed off a wizard somewhere and now he’s locked in a tower, forced to write increasingly horrible new verses to WE DIDN’T START THE FIRE that the wizard makes real with his shitty wizard magics. We need to find and free Billy Joel from the wizard trap! Before all of reality is doomed by his songsmithy! We’re coming, Billy Joel! Just hold on! Don’t write any more! For the love of god, Montressor, don’t try to rhyme anything to “gender-reveal forest-fire!” Wait no Billy Joel what are you writing oh god you’re writing SLENDERMAN WALRUS SPIRE what the fuck does that mean oh god oh shit oh fuck