“‘Take your broken heart, turn it into art.’” ~ Meryl Streep, quoting her recently departed friend Princess Leia at the Golden Globe Awards (January 2017)
My Conscience: Why are you sad?
Me: Because there’s no hope.
Me: Us. People. Humans. And probably most everything else.
C: So, you’re saying we’re all doomed?
Me: Pretty much.
C: And when do you expect this will happen?
C: You know saying, “The end is near!” makes you sound crazy, right?
Me: I suppose.
C: Is this like the Y2K thing?
Me: That was a possible computer glitch. This is the actual melting of the polar ice sheets.
C: So, we’re being done in by global warming?
Me: It’s called climate change now.
C: You know talking about climate change makes you sound crazy, right?
C: So, you’re sad global warming is going to wipe out the human race?
Me: Unless a nuclear explosion does it first.
C: And you’re worried Trump will push the button?
Me: Unless he pisses someone off and they beat him to it.
C: So, you’re scared of a terrorist attack?
Me: Please. This is America. I’m more likely to be gunned down on a Ferris wheel at a school carnival by a virgin with a suicidal case of acne.
C: So, you’re sad because humans are about to be wiped out by climate change, nuclear fallout…and virgins?
Me: And asteroids.
Me: Well, asteroid; it only takes one.
C: Vaporize the entire planet? Now you’re talking crazy. We’re far more likely to get hit with a continuous bombardment of mega storms that take out isolated regions, one at a time. Like tsunamis in the Philippines.
Me: And hurricanes in Florida.
Me: I feel so much better.
C: Wait. That’s not what I mean. You know? Come on: a monster hurricane isn’t going to chase all life out of Florida.
Me: No, our water supply will do that long before the Category 8’s come along…
* * * * *
At the end of my last semester at Pensacola Junior College, I recall sitting in the Dean’s office, begging him to save my GPA after a substitute for the Econ II professor who’d mysteriously vanished two weeks earlier on a “personal leave of absence” gave me a B as a final grade. But, he wouldn’t fix it. Earlier that year, a teacher was fired for changing a student’s grade. I think the school was sued, too. While my circumstances were different, and my coursework clearly demonstrated I deserved an A, a grade change wasn’t happening. The Dean told me to let it go.
I was a young wife and mom, community volunteer, PTA officer, and a student who worked hard for that 4.0 GPA. I felt I deserved it. The substitute teacher made an error, and I wanted it corrected. The Dean said my anxiety and aggravation served no real purpose; in the end, my Associate of Arts degree would look the same as everyone else’s, even the guys who showed up without pencils and squeaked by with C’s and D’s. There were surely other moments like it, but that one in the Dean’s office is especially vivid. I can still taste the injustice.
Lately, for reasons too numerous to mention, I can not only smell injustice, I feel I’m drowning in it. It’s like sitting in the Dean’s office all over again. Call it a funk, menopause, depression, anxiety, PTSD, grief, paranoia – whatever the diagnosis, I am NOT okay. And, believe me, I know when my world’s not right: We had to fix our townhouse after hurricanes broke it in 2004; Scott and I came close to calling it quits more than once while I penned my first novels from ’04 to ’06; in 2007, the first year I was in print (so exciting!), a young family friend committed suicide, we gave our only son to the U.S. Army, my writers’ group kicked me out, and my mom died; Colitis and Chronic Fatigue, et al., brought me literally to my knees in 2008. I was on the mend and feeling hopeful when we bought “The Campground” in the spring of 2009. Things have gone both up- and downhill ever since.
My dad died somewhat unexpectedly in November 2015. In a bit of a morphine haze, one of the last things he said was, “The doctors and lawyers get it all.” For a while, I refused to believe him. Today, the hilltop farm he gave us is deteriorating, a 10-acre pawn in the process of falling victim to pig-headedness, greed, and God. My sister and I haven’t spoken since July. Throughout the never-ending dump that was 2016, I searched the world for souls whose struggles were far worse than mine; in learning about them, I thought I might find the inspiration to let go of my heartache and get back to life, writing, and family. But, while I have indeed found inspiration, hope remains in amazingly short supply.
I’ve decided, then, to do my very best to ignore the end of the world and make this the year I learn to fiddle while Rome burns. That’s not saying I think The Donald’s thumbprint on the climate change denial button won’t inevitably kick us in the asteroid, I’m simply saying I intend to be fiddling when it does. (It’s either that or cry hysterically, and I’m SO tired of waking up with puffy eyes.)
I’m also not saying I have any idea where/how to start this quest. I just can’t be sad anymore. Sure, my original goal with this shtick ten-plus years ago was to write novels, but few these days have an attention span beyond the size of a cat meme, so… I’m thinking there’s no better time for a reevaluation of purpose. And why not?! The end might be near, but I still have stories to tell. They just need to be short and have pictures. And I’m certainly not deleting my Facebook and Twitter accounts. Removing myself from social media won’t make the big, bad pipelines go away. Flint’s water will still suck. Ice will still melt. Tiffany’s dad will still be sworn in.
Nope, reality won’t go away. But, there’s nothing that says I can’t greet it brandishing a feather from atop a beat-up speaker blaring show tunes.
When you’re finished crying, I hope you’ll pull on your tutu and join me.