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The world is ending, long live the world

San Francisco — September 9, 2020, 9:10 am

I’m struggling to adult today. Imposter syndrome about simply being. No one to turn to who has the answers, knows the way out of this mess. Virus, wild fires, rampant homelessness. I don’t see a way out. An election in 8 weeks, but we’re being led to doubt the process. Our nation is divided, this half thinks that half is brainwashed, and so do they. And so we cannot win. Forces at play that want it to be so.

Fight, flight, or freeze.

I’m frozen. I take the kids to childcare — add one part thankfulness, one part guilt, one part anxiety, shake well and serve over ice.

I’m frozen. At least the heat wave cracked, but out of it oozed a yolky haze. At least we can breathe, with the marine layer shielding us like a dome, with smoke from one, two, three, more fires, layering layering above it. But tomorrow the winds may change. 

(What is this ash that falls on our cars and eyelashes — ancient forests; homes; a sofa, safe enough when inert but now chemicals released and floating and falling. People, animals, death. Destruction is at our doorstep, falling from the sky.)

I’m frozen. A van parked across the street, the roof vent open or closed the only sign of inhabitants. Bike the kids to childcare, careful to avoid street-side encampments. I make eye contact to connect with human kindness, but I don’t want to stop, I don’t want to reach out. And masked, any smile is hidden. My city kids might make note of what they see — a man with no shirt or shoes, a tent just like ours! A cardboard fort! Why is her hair like that? They might make note, but this is their normal, a dystopian “I spy.”  I grip the handlebars, ready to zip when the light turns green. This is our city, our society. This is not ok. 

I freeze. Find a routine, make believe it’s ok. Tidy the house, do the work, raise the kids. Close the windows and breathe as we wait for this to pass and suppress fears that it won’t. 

Flight. Leave San Francisco? Leave the West Coast? Leave America? But where to? Jacinda seems nice; would New Zealand take us? Who would come with us? And who and what would we leave behind? Would guilt and shame follow us? If we stay, can we make a difference?

Fight — give the me orders, and I will follow. Show me the way to safety and security. It’s too much. Orange sky, purple air, falling ash. A mask to keep your germs away from me and my germs away from you. Can’t go out, can’t stay in. What can we do, at what level? 

Breathe. Take a minute. Find a breath. Cry the tears, and with them shed some fears. No, this is not ok, so don’t pretend it is. But it will be — because it always is. “It will be ok in the end. If it’s not ok, it’s not the end.” Trust a person and be scared together, compare your fears and set them down. 

Yes, tend your house and tend your children. Make dinner. That isn’t being frozen, that’s taking care of yourself and your kids, like you do.

Make a plan to stay safe, safe in your home, safe if you have to leave it. Collect the water and supplies and keep the tank full — the one in your car and the one in your being. The simple and the tangible are true. Put a paper map in your glove box. Make a plan.

The election. I have to believe we can make a difference. I have to believe the things we do matter. I have a stack of 200 postcards and stamps — I’ve adopted Pennsylvania, state of my birth and upbringing. I’m signed up to text bank for the DNC. I’ve signed up to work the polls on November 3rd.

Are you registered to vote? Do you have a plan to vote, by mail or in person? Can you help family members, friends, neighbors, elders, others — can you help others with their plan to vote? How else can you contribute — get educated on the local issues, volunteer with campaigns, get up, stand up. 

Post script: Writing out my thoughts helped. Sharing this on Instagram and connecting with others in comments and DMs helped. I’m posting it here on the blog a day later. The winds did indeed shift, rendering the sky a more earthly gray-yellow-white. The air quality is worse, thicker with ash, but the sky is not so scary to behold. It’s still not ok, but I’m more optimistic that it will be. xoxo Erika

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