Disasterous Dreary Doldroms of Despair

22 Nov

I doubt you want to read this, because I don’t even want to write it. I wish that I were writing about something else, but I’m not. I can’t. I can’t think about other things, still. I’m spending way too much time reading articles and scrolling facebook, trying to understand how this happened, and what to do from here. I don’t think things will ever “go back to normal.” The veil is lifted and it just gets uglier and uglier. I know this sounds melodramatic. I can only hope that I will look back later and think that I was being excessively dramatic. Based on what I’m reading and hearing, though, my anxiety being overzealous seems improbable at this point.

The day after the elections in my home country, I couldn’t mask my despair, even in the classroom. It was all over the news here, but I asked my students to give me time before we could discuss it. Silent tears betrayed me in one class, despite my best efforts to put on my mask. My dear, sweet students kept wondering out loud why their ever-enthusiastic teacher was gray and dreary.

I was extra ashamed about election results with my students because I am always trying to share a different image of the US with them. I’ve even made a powerpoint about Kentucky to give them an idea about something more real than Hollywood and some of the blond folks they see on the beach. (You can see it here: My Kentucky Heart, Sautéed, Not Fried) I always discuss what we have in common, how Oaxaca and Kentucky are among the poorest states in each nation, but both are rich in cultures and histories. I tell them about all the immigrants and refugees who are improving my city, how that is such a big part of what makes my home a good place to be. I’ve missed my community in the US so much that I finally plotted my return. And then this happens. And I am shattered, and unsure whether my dreams of home can come to fruition like I planned.

Nobody around here seems to understand just how devastated I am.* Yes, I knew before this that there was still major racism, sexism, ableism, homophobia, etc. to fight against. But I’ve been here for four years, and the people I keep in touch with in the states are activists and artists and teachers and inventors and peace-makers and other amazing folks. So it seemed so improbable that the current political situation could ever possibly happen. Two weeks later, I still feel like surely this is some kind of sick joke someone is playing for the next dystopian novel. This cannot be a reality in my country. But it is.

It’s impossible to explain to “outsiders” how betrayed I feel. And by “outsiders” I mean folks who have never been blissfully surrounded by wonderfully social-justice-focused, beautiful, talented, brilliant people that I know and love in the USA.** If your image of the US is based on Hollywood, or the tourists at the beach here, you don’t know my people! You don’t understand the life I had in Kentucky (yes, poor “backwards” little Kentucky) and how lonely life has been here the last four years without a community to anchor myself in. Without mentors and surrogate big sisters and second mothers.

It’s not just my students who don’t get it. Other immigrants, folks from more civilized nations, are giggling at the prospects of gringos fleeing their homeland. And understandably, to an extent- the US is probably the most arrogant nation on Earth, as a generalization, and so to see its citizens potentially desperate and fleeing- as a generalization- could seem like a good comeuppance. But only if you don’t mind the context. Because the reality is that it probably won’t be those arrogant rich white tourists fleeing the country. It’s going to be the same folks who have always been shit on by the establishment, only more so now. The folks who have always been comfortable will probably continue to be okay, for the most part. Nothing righteous will come from this, in my humble opinion.

“Teacher, you’re in Mexico. No problem!” One of my students tried to console me. They don’t know about my hopes and dreams of going home. Even more importantly, even if I weren’t trying to go home, it affects me. It affects everyone I love in the US. I’m worried about all the hate crimes and extra hateful words amongst children. I’m worried about the proposal for a Muslim registry and hints about internment camps, and so much more.  And of course, there are all my concerns about global warming, about nuclear war, about human rights abuses- I could go on, but let’s not. If you’re reading this, I’m sure you’re probably freaking out about the same things. And it’s not like it won’t affect everyone here in Mexico, too- wall or no.  “If the US sneezes, Mexico gets a cold,” as Paulina says.

Folks here are much more accustomed to going about their life no matter what happens in politics. In general, they’re much more resigned to politicians being bad for them, to the system destroying them, and doing the best they can in life anyway. A taxi driver the other day assured me that my president-elect can’t be any worse than the current Mexican president, who was elected via fraud.“You have to work outside of the system anyway,” one of my other immigrant friends, who’s lived here much longer than I have, reminded me. Which is both true and yet not enough. The system affects us all, to some extent or another, no matter what. You can work outside of it but even that is a privilege sometimes- and what happens to all the folks who can’t work outside of it? And will I be putting my children directly into harm’s way if we move back now? And is the potential extra danger to them worth it- to have a community again, to be with my family again? Isn’t that part of what I’m teaching them, to stand up for what’s right, danger or no? Will there be a community for us to be a part of? Millions of questions about my priorities in life are on constant shuffle in my mind now. ***

I don’t have any answers- about anything. I’m having another existential crisis. Maybe the election is just one root cause of the rumination and contemplation that I’d be experiencing anyway with this life-altering move back to the US on the horizon. Regardless of why, I’m dumping my drama and doldrums on the rest of you. Sorry- a little. But I’ve got to get all this off my chest or I may never write anything fun or interesting again.

Meanwhile, telling me to cheer up or to quit thinking about it is not particularly helpful and not something I’m willing to do. Obviously, I am trying to cheer up, by continuing my gratitude practice, and trying to be more in the moment. But this is major, and I am not going to pretend that a crisis is not happening in my country. I need to stay informed, but I suspect that I’m going to have to put myself on strict time-limits and schedules for looking at Facebook and reading the news. (As some genius said, my desire to be well-informed is currently at odds with my desire to remain sane.)

I also suspect that I need to quit looking outside of myself for answers about major life changes. I need to sit with the fact that we don’t know exactly what will happen, or just how bad it will be. We don’t ever get to really know these things. Even if I make what seems like the best decision in the moment, of staying here or going back to the states, will it be the “wrong” decision if it has severe, negative consequences later? There will be positive and negative consequences either way, and many consequences on either side of the border will either be not forseeable or not preventable. So why am I in fight-or-flight mode about it now, 24 hours a day?

And that’s the definition of anxiety, right? Buying into the illusion that you have much more control over life’s outcomes that what you really have. Your control is probably nothing, or at least next to nothing, in the grand scheme of the universe, right? So how does one make any decisions in light of that?

Obviously, I’m having major anxiety and grief issues. I need to find some ways to manage that, but that cannot ever translate into doing nothing or ignoring the problems. Thus, I’ve taken on emailing my representatives on an issue, for example. I am signing petitions out the wazoo. How much will this help? Probably not much. What else can I do from here? This is a sincere question, not a rhetorical one! Beloved folks in the US, how can I support you from here? Please let me know!  I’m on the look-out for things to do in my own backyard, too.  I need to have some faith in humanity and I need to feel less isolated. So please let me know about opportunities to do something for someone else (that can happen from here with almost no money and not much internet access), especially as part of collective action,  or in a way that brings positive human interaction. Please and thank you.

I’m also appreciating my family, meanwhile. I’m thanking the universe daily for them. (And thanks, mom, for calling me to let me freak out about something or other almost every day.) My kids are doing their part to remind me to smile and enjoy the moment. That first week after the election, when my despair was a thick cloak that was slowly smothering me, I kept crying at random moments. I tried to explain to Lucia, in 4 year old terms, why I was so sad. Finally, by the weekend, she told me, “Mommy, I’m gonna make you laugh, so you’re not sad. I’m gonna talk to you about poopies!” Poop is better than the political situation, for sure, and an apt ending to this piece I wish I weren’t publishing.


*I won’t go in to all the details about why I feel like this, because so many other people have already said it so much better. This is one good example: about despair and such

**Yep, I was totally living in a bubble of awesome people. Sorry, but there it is.

**We will absolutely be moving back at some point or another. So if you’ve donated to our family unity immigration fund, rest assured that the money will still be used for the intended and express purposes of moving our family back to the US. We’ve already paid for the first step in the process thanks to your generosity, and we have the start of the next steps. It just might be longer than we planned.  We will keep you updated.

Also, Y’all: In case you weren’t sure about the racism and racist policy that is happening and is going to be a bigger and bigger part of our government and our lives under Trump, here’s one of many recent examples.  About how all racists are more and more excited and inspired by this election and Trump’s staff picks- from NPR

Another good, quick read that I’m not alone in my panic: from Dan Rather (not some radical person)

Also, here’s something elso to do and read about- which is an example of how there was already plenty of justice work to be done BEFORE this crazy election. AAAHHH! about sacred water- celebrate Thanksgiving by taking action!

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