Survival guide for the Trump era

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I guess this is actually happening, this inauguration thing. Really, I have to give this guy credit. He shook me out of my delusions and made me understand how fragile it all is (and has always been) — this nation, this democracy. Yet, even as it feels like my country, and maybe the whole world, is crumbling around me, I have to get up out of bed and live each day. So here is how I plan to survive, and not lose myself, in the age of Trump.

(When you’re living on your knees, you gotta) Rise Up!

For the first time in my life, I am finding my voice as an activist. If Trump has made anything clear, it’s that we cannot sit back and expect this democracy to continue beautifully into the future. We have to fight for it — and not just from behind our computer screens. We have to go into the streets. We have to be willing to endure discomfort, willing to give something up for what we believe. Most of the time, I will be fighting losing battles, but in the process, I will remind myself that I have a voice, that I have the power to use it, and that even my suffering has power. Think about Martin Luther King Jr. and John Lewis, people who used their own pain to change history. I love this quote from Dr. King:

We will match your capacity to inflict suffering with our capacity to endure suffering. We will meet your physical force with Soul Force. We will not hate you, but we cannot in all good conscience obey your unjust laws. We will soon wear you down with our capacity to suffer.

Dive into art

How lucky are we to be the only species on earth capable of creating and appreciating art? Even when nothing else about humanity makes me feel good, I can take comfort in this. Great art reminds me of the beauty that humans can create on this planet, of what’s possible when we tap into that divine spark of inspiration. Art is our best intentions made concrete. Even as empires rise and fall and vanish from the earth, humans keep using their hands and their voices to express their truth. I’m going to drink in paintings and dance performances and musicals, turn the music up loud, read great books — and I’m going to write. Even when the words I’m putting on the page don’t feel anywhere close to art, I’m just going to keep writing, keep trying to create something true.

Meditate

Thich Nhat Hanh says, “There is no way to peace. Peace is the way.” We start by cultivating it in ourselves and then we spread it outward. If Donald Trump had done this work, we wouldn’t be where we are today. So I will sit on my couch and breathe. I will wish peace for myself, for the world, and for Donald Trump himself — especially for him.

Accept confusion

These are very confusing times. We have competing versions of reality in America right now. Even within my own family, we can’t agree on a baseline. Are we living in the End Times or the beginning of a new American Golden Age? Is Trump a dangerous, unstable bully or a scrappy outsider under attack from a powerful and corrupt establishment?

It’s not my job to figure it all out, to be right, or to convince others that they are wrong. My work is to accept that there are no solid or permanent answers, and to keep seeking my own inner wisdom: What do I know to be true? What are my most deeply held values? What am I willing or unwilling to accept? What do I refuse to give up?

Consume the news carefully

For many of us, the Trump news is toxic. It churns our stomachs, makes our hearts beat faster, releases black clouds of fear into our brains. We have to treat this stuff like the potentially poisonous substance it is. I’m so glad the press is out there doing its job. I’m going to keep paying for that work. I’m glad good, smart people are using social media to organize and to resist. I’m going to stay informed, but I’m also going to be very careful how much and how often I take this stuff in. I’m going to try to balance every reading of the New York Times, every scan of Twitter, with art and meditation and looking at the sky.

Look around

Lately, I’m surprised when I look around and find that it’s all still here: the gleaming blue sky, the fluttering birds, the kind and decent people, the warm blanket, the steaming cup of coffee. Even as power-hungry men threaten our future, as wars rage, as injustice persists, as hatred is unleashed, as the planet is threatened, as people die senselessly — the beauty and bounty of this world still exists. I’m going to keep reminding myself to open my eyes and see what is right in front of me. In this moment, I am here with the sun to warm me, people to love, books to read, and hands to do the work I believe in. The fact that it all feels fragile and threatened only makes it more precious.

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