Yesterday the world as we knew it ended with the conclusion of an ugly, divisive election, asking us to redefine what it means to be America. The long faces in the coffee shop reflected a world that had been untethered, swiftly vaulted into the orbit of uncertainty.
Today, for the first time in months, my TV has not been on. Social media has been limited to sending birthday wishes, and thank you tweets. Scrolling past the gloaters, the gloomy and the "hug somebody" positive thinkers, I felt no need to validate my sorrow in the great collective, dilute my experience through distraction. There was no draw to continue a conversation that I've longed to be over. It's over. I don't want to talk about it, I've gone Fight Club. And we know the first rule of Fight Club.
When shocked- Newtown, 911 or the death of Princess Diana, I've glued myself to cable news watching for days as if the continuous loop of visual and commentary would somehow bring the unbelievable into being, parsing reality out through repetition. Over the year watching the pending train wreck in slow-motion has brought many nights on the couch in a restless half-sleep, TV on, disrupting my REM and my spinal alignment. That ended at midnight with a click of the remote, before the speech that would make this all too real.
As the dawn broke, I remembered that the world had changed and that time would reveal just how much. Friends called, I did not answer. A text came rousing me out the door and to the gym where I could at least have control over the treadmill; the pace and incline I was willing to traverse. Driving, I switch from NPR's election recap to the classical station as they played the waltzes of Strauss and Tchaikovsky, an irony which didn't go unnoticed. For the rest of the day I keep the iPod on shuffle as I work, paying attention to the message of songs as they roll out randomly. My sons, 18 and 22, are visibly heartsick as life has plunged them once more into the unknown. They told me there were protests in the night and I believed them, happy that others are not silent as I withdraw, pull my sons close and stay uncharacteristically silent.
Today is the day to redefine what it means, not just to be American, but to be me. Life is what I have from this breath until my last and I am no longer willing to squander it with the things that will diminish it, things I don't respect. Rather than chastise the fear in others that drove us off the precipice, I make a vow to gently deal with the fear within, the uncertainty, and see where it leads me.
When I was in Paris this spring, shortly after the bombings in Belgium, I wandered my beloved city, not knowing if I would take a right or a left, dipping into cathedrals, museums and cafes as the spirit or the spirits called. And I was happy. So happy in fact, that if a bomb went off under my table as I was having my tea and macaroons, it would have been...fine.
How will I fill all that time without Facebook? Where will I vent my anger at what I cannot control if not through Twitter wit? Who will fill my nightmares once the visuals of the elect and his newly minted crop of hatefuls? I turn to the unfettered days and nights of Paris where I walked, read, wrote and stood staring at Basquiat without a sense of time. With no rush to fill my newly quiet heart, lean into the eternal calm, protect it from the noisy crush of the external moment.
Opening my tablet, I avoid Twitter and redirect to the bookshelf of my e-reader; Arianna Huffington's Thrive and The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich seem appropriate. I search TED for relevant topics, Google "best countries for ex-pats", pour over images of far off rocky coastlines and set course on acquiring an international real estate license.
Dawn breaks once more. I have, through denial, minimized trauma, booked a staycation and begun my escape from America. I know that I am not alone, that the fight for what is good will continue. For now...The second rule of Fight Club.