When I first thought about writing on how to detox from this election cycle I also thought the outcome would be much different and detoxing would be all we need. The day after it became about coping, which is even more daunting. In between fits of tears, rage, shock, terror and a binge of This is Us (from Dan Fogelman, the writer and director of Crazy, Stupid, Love, it will revive some of your hope in humanity and make you feel good, I promise) and season two of Red Oaks on Amazon to distract from the nonstop nightmare (Hal Hartley, Amy Heckerling and Greg Araki direct the episodes and it has a lot of great music from the Reagan 80s, ironically enough), I realized I needed to get off social media and hit the road if I was going to survive.
Road trips are therapeutic; they give me time to reflect, breathe, be in my silence, remember the sun still quietly rises and sets, and everything will be ok. It’s not the end of the world yet, even though it really felt that way in the days after this election, the same way it felt the morning we woke up in NYC on September 11th to a different world, but I am trying not to give into that emotion because it’s not true or productive. There is work to do and for that we need our strength.
When I go on these solo road trips I meet so many strangers and am constantly reminded how divided we seem on the surface as a country yet how similar we are face to face. Full disclosure, I am a Russian Jewish immigrant, a woman and a lifetime progressive liberal democrat, with very strong beliefs on equality and rights for everyone, not just people who look like me in life or on paper. I believe wholeheartedly that when you have more than enough, life is richer if you create a longer table instead of building a higher wall. I am lucky to have a group of friends who I love and respect as diverse as this country and the world itself: every race, religion, sexual orientation and belief system, including Republicans. But this election was NOT about Democrats vs Republicans; it was a battle for our very right to exist and live free from bigotry, hate and sexual harassment and to feel safe and protected in our own country.
Obviously in the horrible days of the aftermath, we all needed time to breathe so I got on the road to Big Sur, a mecca of beauty and thought. I took a few of my favorite new albums of 2016: Moby, New Order, M83 & Yann Tiersen (the piano tracks are really soothing while weaving through the cliffs and mountainside). Once there, I spent a few days soaking up the solitude and peace at a cabin in the woods at Glen Oaks, where much to my happy surprise, each room comes devoid of TV or radio but is instead equipped with a copy of Henry Miller’s 1957 book of essays, Big Sur And The Oranges of Hieronymous Bosch. If ever there was a time to remind humanity that nature is God and we are all one, now is that time. Sitting alone devouring a book, existing without interruption from news or social media, and walking amidst 2000 year-old Redwoods (the second largest tree in Big Sur was a few hundred yards from my cabin), was the perfect momentary anecdote. The book references stories from World War Two, which my grandfather fought on the ground against the Nazis in, and my mom and her siblings all survived. Miller, who lived in Big Sur for 14 years, writes about Paris during the war, his friends who lived through it and those who didn't. Paris itself was demolished and rebuilt, the same way we rebuilt NYC after 9/11. He talks about humanity, and the ways we coexist in the world, as artists, as writers, as business people, as humans from all walks of life. In thinking about past generations, I realized there is a twenty year cycle of change in our culture and politics, which always feels apocalyptic as it’s happening but somehow progress is made even in light of great opposition and we manage to move forward to something better; look at the 50s/60s and the Reagan 80s and now the 20’s. On a lighter note, the best fish tacos I have ever had can be found at the Big Sur Taphouse in the center of town. Try the marinated mushroom sandwich from the deli next door too. Say hi to Steve.
Yes, I am still horrified and scared about the results of this election but what I found most helpful this week, is focusing on staying present instead of jumping into fear as I read or listen to the news. We can only control how we react to what is happening; we voted, that was then. Now, we can write letters, make phone calls, show up at rallies, and of course boycott the companies who supported him (boycotts are such effective tools, especially if we look at the margins Hillary won with, we have a LOT of power even though it may not feel that way right now). And most importantly, we can speak up, sit down or stand alongside anyone being harassed or threatened.
Staying present is an important self care method, so stop looking at social media, stop listening to the news and take care of yourself for as long as your schedule and life allows you. Sitting in the woods alone, or wherever you can find time for yourself, to meditate or read a book will not solve the calamity of national and world problems staring us in the face right now but it will revive your spirit, soothe your anxiety and remind you this too shall pass. Sadly, a lot of what has been unleashed on us will not go away anytime soon so we have to find methods of coping in order to be here for one another and everyone without the options some of us have, which means we have to take care of ourselves and find some peace. So take a day or two off from the news guilt free, not much will change while you do. We will hold down the fort and unfortunately it will all still be here when you return to fight the good fight. The one constant in life is change, and this moment in history will eventually pass.
Also, listen to the last interview with Leonard Cohen on KCRW. The new album is another classic. RIP Mr. Cohen. You are already missed.