On… hanging in there

Okay, gang. The psychological pain is bad. I know. You’re probably not sleeping. You might have chest palpitations, like, a lot. For anyone with a brain, a sense of moral decency, and a conscience, it’s genuinely painful to imagine that this lovely country is now led by all the very very worst values. It’s shameful.

I actually wrote a whole other blog post about my horror about the election, and how the results simply don’t reflect the thoughtful, open-minded, open-hearted, empathetic, brilliant, highly moral and exceptionally kind Americans that we’ve met in the past four years. But then I deleted it because, you know, I was pretty pissed off, and that’s not always a good time to write. Then I didn’t know if it was wiser to shut up, or braver to speak up… But every time that I’ve read something about refusing to normalize this rhetoric, about standing together, I felt a thrill of powerful optimism run through me. And I figured the least I can do is offer you guys something powerfully optimistic, too.

Honestly, I’m trying to figure out how to survive right now, just like everyone else is, without going absolutely crazy with worry and rage. My brain is on an exhausting what can I DO what can I DO what can I DO loop, and then every now and again something deep inside says dude, you can’t be this anxious all the time or you’ll have a fucking heart attack. I’m profoundly glad that my kids are too young to understand the election.

So here’s what I’m trying to do: first, act, then, relax, then persevere.

My lovely friend Joanna has a blog that had a great post on what to do now (her blog is generally a very calming, kind thoughtful place to hang out). There are also great suggestions here. And here. And here. And here. We give money to Planned Parenthood, the ACLU, the Southern Poverty Law Center, Emily’s List and Fund Texas Choice. Volunteering is another great way to help some of the people who will be the most in danger of persecution by the new administration. Bonus: giving your time and energy to someone else, without expectation of anything back, really calms your brain down. I don’t know why it works that way, but it just does. I joined New York Cares, a New York City volunteer group that’s sort of an umbrella for dozens of charities, about three years ago. Volunteering is not entirely altruistic – to misquote Friends, there is no such thing as altruism because helping other people makes you feel good. Volunteering helped me with grief; gave me an escape from the intense writing/baby cycle that has been my life for the past five years, and was emotionally rewarding and satisfying in ways I never expected.

The barriers to volunteering are, I think, mostly mental: you don’t know what it’ll be like. What if the people are mean? What if it’s depressing? What if it’s stressful? What if I’m no good at it? What if I don’t have time and have to let them down? Can’t I just give money? And all I can say is – it is lovely. People are warm and funny, sometimes a little weird, but fuck it, I’m probably kind of weird, too, and so are you. It’s not depressing, if anything, it affirms my belief (so battered by the election results) that people are essentially good and kind. I mostly volunteer with underprivileged children and Arab-American immigrants; my husband volunteers with a charity for the homeless – he drives a van around NYC every Wednesday night, handing out food to the homeless. In the last week I’ve also signed up here, to be a child advocate to unaccompanied immigrant children who have to navigate the US court system alone. (Seriously, that’s how it works here. WTF.)

Now, give your poor psyche a break.

Stop reading everything. No, really, I mean it. Don’t get me wrong – I am not going to put my head in the sand – I want to be informed, I want to read the news, and I will read analysis by smart, measured, thoughtful people… but so many ‘news’ sites are opinion sites angling for clickbait. Those articles are designed to elicit a reaction (panic, fear, rage) so you email them to your friends and they get more clicks. That’s how they make money. They are emotional self-harm: reading them is the equivalent of taking a pen knife to your arms. No one knows what’s going to happen. That is scary, but it is also reassuring.

Exercise. I go to ToneHouse, and I love it, even though it is getting harder and harder (no SERIOUSLY it is getting so fucking hard). Meditate if you can, I can’t, but my mother and sister love it. Do yoga. Again, not my bag, I know it should be, particularly since my mother is a teacher, but it’s just not my wheelhouse.

Listen to Hamilton very loudly. Fox and I were unbelieeeeeevably lucky to see Hamilton back in May. It’s really as exceptional, as touching and funny and brilliant, as everyone says. And it reminds me, every time, about the democratic optimism that this country was founded on. Also, I feel fucking cool, in the lamest way, when I realize I know all the words to the songs.

After you’ve finished Hamilton, then watch the following shows, because a) they’re brilliant and b) there’s no rape (we have a rape-free viewing policy in this apartment. Here’s my reasoning: rape is never entertainment. End of reasoning). Many of these I’ve ranted joyfully about before, but they’re worth recommending again:


Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

Timeless (seriously, this show is popcorn fun and has at least three genuinely funny lines in each episode)

Brothers & Sisters (strangely hasn’t aged)

The West Wing (also strangely hasn’t aged)

Grace & Frankie


Bad Behavior (it’s a little darker than my average bear, but it’s also rape-free!)

Catastrophe (we’ve covered this in previous sessions)

Fleabag (sigh of envy: SUCH a perfect show)

UnReal (both the female leads are psychotic in the best and most relatable way, and I don’t know how the creators didn’t get the ‘more likeable!’ note that I always get for my female leads, even though every leading man on television is an total fucking sociopath, whoops sorry wrong soapbox)

Difficult People (season two is better than season one)

Outlander (hummina hummina)

You’re The Worst



Silicon Valley (although I have a whole speech about how Silicon Valley, Ballers and Vice-Principals are all essentially the same fucking show about man-boys competing with each other, and meanwhile, will HBO make three shows at a time about women, will it, fuck, and no, Divorce came out after VEEP ended, whoops sorry, wrong soapbox again)

And most of all, watch RuPaul’s Drag Race. My sister and I watched it last night and it truly, truly made us laugh.

This is what I keep telling myself at 2am: Don’t despair. Most people are good. The vast majority of Americans voted for her, or didn’t vote at all, and frankly, the way he snaked through the electoral college is so fucking sketchy that I hope some Jason Bourne/Woodward and Bernstein type-person is currently tracing a giant hacking scandal straight to Russia. Next time, or sooner if possible, the lovely people who make up the majority of this country will get a president who deserves them.

And I also keep telling myself: Don’t shrug. Don’t accept it. Don’t normalize it and rationalize it and say ‘hey, I guess all those people who voted for him can’t be bad, I mean, they must have had their reasons’. No. We are human, we want everything to be okay… but it is not okay. So never accept that voting for a failed businessman who sexually attacks people and calls them rapists and wants to deport or incarcerate people on the basis of their religion and ridicules handicapped people and lies about everything – everything! – is okay. It is an outrage. But you can’t think about it all the time, either. Because you’ll be miserable.

I also, somehow, think about the people who emerged as the heroes, all around the world, during WW2, McCarthyism, the civil rights movement, the suffragette movement, during abolition… People who spoke up for everyone, who were patient and strong and wise and vigilant. They protected the people who needed protecting, they fought the bullies who needed fighting. Now it’s our turn.

Lastly, a quote from a Bill Murray interview. “You have to hope that (good things) happen to you. That’s Pandora’s box, right? She opens up the box, and all the nightmares fly out. And slams the lid shut, like, “Oops,” and opens it one more time, and hope pops out of the box. That’s the only thing we really, surely have, is hope. You hope that you can be alive, that things will happen to you that you’ll actually witness, that you’ll participate in. Rather than life just rolling over you, and you wake up and it’s Thursday, and what happened to Monday? Whatever the best part of my life has been, has been as a result of that remembering. Who hasn’t woken up thinking, “God, nothing good has come to me in a while,” right? When I feel like I’m stuck, I do something — not like I’m Mother Teresa or anything, but there’s someone that’s forgotten about in your life, all the time. Someone that could use an “Attaboy” or a “How you doin’ out there.” It’s that sort of scene, that remembering that we die alone. We’re born alone. We do need each other. It’s lonely to really effectively live your life, and anyone you can get help from or give help to, that’s part of your obligation.”


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