I could not sleep the night of the 8th. On the morning of the 9th, when I stumbled from bed to try and go to work, I was the sickest I’ve been in years. I was also covering for someone at work, so I couldn’t stay in bed, I couldn’t do anything with my despair and my grief but get up and act like it was any other day.
It is now November 20th, and I am still sick, and I’m starting to wonder when I will feel truly well, if ever.
I have been alive long enough now to feel tired. Tired of inching forward with what I consider progress only to be knocked back by fear. I think it always boils down to fear, in the end. There is safety in condemnation, in walls, in us vs. them. There is safety in circling wagons and raising bridges. There is safety in yielding to fear.
And I know a bit about that fear. My family has gone from stealing coal off the El tracks to counting a lawyer and a few business owners among our number; we are a mix of working and middle class, and we have made a veritable mythology out of our relatives’ early struggles. There is still that fear, among us, of losing what we have. It’s hard to describe how that fear seeps into your everyday life, how it touches everything. But I know it, and I know how quickly it can slide into protect-mine, into not-them, into leave-me-alone.
For a long time I fought that fear with anger: I took protect-mine and turned it into fuck-you and raged against the system. I believe in anger; I find a beauty in anger, especially a righteous anger, an anger that craves betterment in the world.
Yet now? Now I am sick and tired and I keep thinking back to this essay, which drifted past me on Twitter some weeks ago:
There is some food for thought there for all artists, but for me it resonated on multiple levels. I believe in anger, but anger drains, it wearies, it carries you so far and then it drops you in a mucus-y heap in the same damn chair you started in. I love genre, but I am tired of the pacing, the twists, the shocks that I find in so many works. I no longer want my heart to race throughout a novel; I have started putting books down when I sense particular forms of violence just around the printed corner—violence against children, against animals, against the unarmed and defenseless.
That is where I am. That is not where many are, and I am thankful for that. There is talk about a Fiction Fights Back anthology, and I will help that book into the world any way I can—save to write for it, because my anger is a worn and tattered thing and I am wondering if there is not another way to go forward, to make it a little further, to perhaps cross some rubicon past which there is no more return to leave-me-alone and not-in-my-backyard. I may find my rage again (I’m sure I will, considering how events are unfolding) but right now I am thinking about caring, I am trying to practice caring, I am remembering what it means to care.
This, too, feels like a kind of fighting.