Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Dedicating My No-Trump Vote

This summer, on a cross-country road trip from California to Vermont, we stopped in New York City to drop off our oldest daughter at a ballet program. After our tentative and tearful goodbyes, we left her and went to Brooklyn to stay with friends before the last leg of this very long trip. In the middle of the night, I got a text from my twelve-year-old daughter in the other room. She’d had a nightmare. (Long gone are the days of her navigating her way through the dark and curling up with us in our bed.)

I figured she might be missing her sister, who would be gone for the next five weeks. Or maybe she was simply disoriented in our friends’ son’s room. Regardless, the texts were full of sad emojis and pleas for me to come to her.

She’s twelve now. Not quite child, not quite teen. Twelve: that precipicial age for girls, somewhere between playing dressing-up and worrying about dress codes. With an older sister, she straddles the realms of childhood and adulthood, always walking that precarious tightrope.

She’s just now coming into consciousness of the world beyond her own imagination. She’s bright and beautiful, sensitive and strong. She’s the only vegetarian in the family and an outspoken feminist. She is a fierce and loyal friend, a lover of animals, and an artist. She will, one day, be an incredible woman. 

But that night, she was a child. Scared and sobbing.

“What’s the matter?” I asked, curling up with her on the bottom bunk.

“I had a really bad dream.”

I nodded and yawned, snuggled in deeper, waiting for the nonsensical musings about dream monsters. But she was silent.

“What was it?” I asked.

“At school, we’re learning about times in history, when things were terrible. Like for a hundred years. Do you know about that?”

“Sure,” I said, thinking of the Dark Ages, the Holocaust, the Plague, slavery.

“I feel like we’re in one of those times, Mom.”

My heart thunked in my chest.

“And I’m scared. There’s so much suffering. People are poor and sick and hurting. And he doesn’t care.”


Donald Trump.”

Damn it.

“What if he becomes our president, Mom?”

I am a writer. My words are my only strength. I use them to argue, to persuade, to explain, to comfort. And so I spouted off something about the limited power of the executive branch, explaining to her that those things she feared couldn’t possibly happen. (“If he builds that wall, I’ll never see my friends who live in Tijuana again,” she cried.) I found myself treating Donald Trump like any other bogeyman. Something to be dismissed. Something unreal. Something conjured by a child’s vivid and awful imagination.

But none of it was registering with her. Nothing could persuade her. My words were rendered impotent by whatever portentous dream she’d had.

“I need you to think of kindness,” I tried instead. “Of all the goodness in the world. Of all the love. Because it’s bigger than he is.”

Together we talked about the good hearts we knew. And finally, exhausted from the long drive and the emotional goodbye to her sister and that horrible dream, she started to drift off to sleep again. But I returned to bed, still trembling.

It is my job as a mother to keep my daughters safe. To empower them. To teach them independence and self-reliance. It is my job to slay the bogeymen with my words. But he is real. And I am also scared.

And so it is with these humble weapons I dedicate my #notrumpvote to my daughters. 

To Dedicate Your No-Trump Vote, Click Here

Saturday, January 16, 2016

My Aching Body, My Aching Pen

I realize I haven't been on here for a VERY long time. By way of explanation, 2015 was a super challenging year in so many ways, and it still seems I am trying to drag myself up from the murky depths it left me in.

In April of last year, I thought I had injured my knee. It ballooned up like an elephant's, and I couldn't put any weight on it. After several doctor's visits, I had some fluid drawn to check for infection etc... Meanwhile, my shoulders began to ache. Then my hips. Then my wrists and my fingers. My husband said it's like I went from 45 to 85 practically over night. Whatever had me in its grips had spread like a wildfire throughout my body. I was terrified, and even the smallest tasks felt daunting. I kept teaching, but the mornings (when I normally would be writing) were excruciating and exhausting. Finally, the results came back that whatever was happening in my knee was a rheumatoid response, and after several more visits I was finally diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis. It's an autoimmune disease which causes an inflammatory response in the joints. My body was essentially attacking itself; I was literally self-destructing.

Suddenly, all of those prescription drug commercials on TV were aimed at me. I had never even heard of this thing before. But despite the prescription promises, the drugs I was prescribed took almost four months to kick in. And what this meant for me in the interim was that I stopped writing. Sitting at my desk was difficult, typing hurt. And I was absolutely and completely distracted by a very uncertain future. For a long time, I began to wonder if this was just the way my life was going to be from now on. I tried to envision a daily existence where I was in too much pain to sit at my desk, and wondered how on earth I would ever write another book. And then, finally, miraculously (though hardly over night), I started to feel better. The magic pills (which apparently are used in chemotherapy treatments -- um, seriously?) started to kick in. And slowly but surely my life started to come back to me.

But the novel that was due in October was hard work. I managed to complete a draft, but every single word was difficult to write. I have never thought of writing as work before this novel. Just as I'd never appreciated the ease with which my arms rose to put a glass away in the cupboard, or of my knees bent so I could climb stairs, I never thought about how readily stories came to me. How easily sentences seemed to craft themselves. In the strangest way, it felt like I was writing a novel for the first time.

And now, even as my immune system has been put in check, I am still struggling with this novel. Every morning I sit down and stare at the voluminous notes from my editor and want to cry. And then I look at the book itself and DO cry. It is hard work, and it hurts. BUT, slowly, incrementally, it seems to be getting better. The edits seem just a little bit easier to make. As with my body, there are good days and bad days. Days I'd really just rather go back to bed and hide.

So, that is where I am. Struggling. Just in case anybody was wondering.