2018: It’s Here, It’s Blear and Full of Sneer

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2018 burst out of the gate spraying bizarre and unpleasant phenomena like so much buckshot. At the national level, it’s fairly clear that our President is an unstable, corrupt, half-literate, white supremacist. Understated facts seem to pass for fashionable dissent this year, as congressional cynics and ignorant voters pretend this is patriotic American status quo. So here goes. Donald J. Trump is bad for the country in every conceivable moral, secure and rational sense – 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365. He needs to be removed from office while we still have a country left.

At the regional level, Chicago has been so uninhabitable this first week of January, our famous rats are freezing to death. Back in the late 1990s, there was a joke making the pop cultural rounds (memes were not yet a thing): in the end times, we’ll still have rats, cockroaches and Cher. With the ex-Mrs. Bono/Allman strutting through a 2018 concert tour while Windy City rodents give up the fight, she is now the likeliest of resilient species to survive deadly climate change.

The first week of the new year has also presented a variety of personal challenges for me. Some of these were consciously chosen, for example selecting January as the month to simultaneously give up carbs, sugar and alcohol. Others hurdles are happenstance, like my estranged, mentally ill father bombarding my inbox with four senseless Yahoo! E-cards in five days.

All I can tell you is that the confluence of crap that flew this week (which assuredly includes the national and regional stressors) resulted in a cleansing Friday morning sob – catalyzed by a missing sock. Equilibrium is in short supply.

Perhaps this week’s jarring, frigid threats have adopted a heightened intensity because they follow the most mellow and unstructured 10-day accord in recollection. Online and in real-life, I rarely stop moving. Depending on which day you ask, I’ll say this is because I’m hustling to create community and opportunity, or that I’m the victim of my own subconscious dysfunction. A darker self addicted to achievement, operating in perpetual fight or flight mode to avoid some undefined danger. Either way it’s productive.

This way of life also produces acute periods of burnout. And when I bid my day job a 2017 adieu on Thursday, December 21, I felt fully particularly singed by the following events:

  • Bob and I married on August 19, an only-in-the-movies perfect summer day that was nonetheless the culmination of a three-month engagement and planning gauntlet.
  • We took exactly one day off after the wedding weekend before I was asked to leave the husband to deal with a monthlong, international corporate crisis. The trip was canceled three days before boarding owing to a separate, more acute, local panic that lasted until Thanksgiving. In between there were rush immunizations, a flurry of shopping and packing, and much hand-wringing over a long separation from the man to whom I’d just said “I do.” All that adrenaline for naught.
  • At the same time post-wedding employment chaos unfolded, I co-wrote a non-fiction book and met an October 1 manuscript deadline. Anyone who’s ever completed a long form work of journalism, which requires interviewing, transcribing and developing coherent, connected stories from numerous sources, knows the unique mix of excited rush and sheer terror.
  • The #MeToo movement. I don’t need to explain to women what this season-long and still unfolding sociopolitical movement has asked of each of us – publicly and privately. The grappling with the horrors large and small that dot our pasts, the pre-holiday thrill of watching ensconced, menacing, powerful perverts topple like so many fetid dominoes, even as we wondered if there would be real, lasting change after the purge.
  • Did I mention Donald Trump stubbornly remains the humiliating, heartless and vacuous President of the United States?

By contrast, during the last glorious week between Christmas 2017 and New Year’s Day 2018, time and cold reality suspended. For the first time in years, languishing through unplanned, relatively news-free days (by deliberate choice), I rested. I lived in the moment. I had an indoor honeymoon with my best friend and the love of my life. I read the most recent issue of The Atlantic cover to cover; binged watched quality television while Bob and I held hands. We were an island of simple pleasures, removed from winter’s assault and the frenzied business of an exhausted mind in perpetual motion.

The peace was so – to use an incongruous word that is no less accurate – intense, that 2018’s opening sprint of national, local and personal madness still assumes manageable proportion. I’m clinging to the shards of a zen hangover with everything I’ve got.

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Saying Yes to Less (January 3, 2014)

So it’s a New Year and I’ve been nursing a broken heart for a month. It’s getting a little easier everyday to wake up alone and accept the fact that my ex-partner was, in many ways, not who I thought he was. I knew enough to be wary of the drinking when we first got together (though ultimately, that spared me nothing) but he caught me by surprise in other areas where I expected more maturity and personal responsibility, perhaps wrongly. The losses I’ve been mourning are related to those disillusionments as much as his actual flight.

I am also coming to terms with the idea that when a relationship fails, there is always shared blame. I wanted to control and fix where letting go and letting be would have been healthier and saner. Furthermore, the Al-Anon meetings I am now attending do not solely revolve around my experiences with my ex – not by a long shot. Co-dependent relationships with addicts began in childhood but somehow, long after I had other choices and the cognitive ability to recognize the patterns of attraction, followed by self-esteem crushing rejection of me and my “help,” I stayed the course. Al-Anon is helping me figure out why, and since I’ve decided I no longer care to define insanity (performing the same action over and over, yet anticipating different outcomes), how to fortify myself against the natural draw to “projects.”

It is owing to this drop of self-awareness and insight that my loyal and faithful therapist suggested that it was time I start casually dating. I know. I was as surprised by the recommendation as you are. But her thinking went like this: I’ve only been on dry dock for a month, but there’s a fine line between reflection and taking time for yourself, and becoming a hermit who stays in bed watching marathons of Law & Order (original recipe and SVU). She also theorized that I haven’t really ever done casual dating, at least not very well. Usually some form of pressure (self-inflicted or external) has led to quick decisions about whether or not to hitch myself to another’s wagon. I remain an undetermined length of time away from relationship-ready, but Dr. T challenged me to really make a go of disinterested acquaintance. See a bunch of new people. Enjoy fresh neighborhoods, places and activities. Maybe there is a second date, maybe not. Be ok with that and keep the mind focused on an individual’s potential compatibility with me, rather than fixating on intractable personal flaws that could lead to repudiation of my company. Historically, I have been famous for Sally Albright logic: “I knew [so and so] was all wrong, but why didn’t he want ME?!” That, as the great Saturday Night Live character Stuart Smalley might have said, is stinkin’, pointless thinkin’.

Well ok then. I am ready to cause a fulsome breach with the old habits of my past and to that end, what feels foreign and uncomfortable might be completely necessary. Challenge accepted Dr. T. So when I haven’t been working, at the gym or spending time with the fabulous circle of friends and family I’ve no desire to short change, I have gone on two very brief first “dates” with men I might have rejected in the past for various, self-defeating reasons. A couple of cocktails with a former U.S. Senatorial press secretary here, a cup of coffee (tea for me) with an environmental project consultant there. No immediate sparks flew and the best part was, I didn’t feel compelled to create them or cross the guys off the list for eternity. 2014 is all about the slow build.

I am being treated like a lady, enjoying diverse and enlightening conversation with…get this people: no internal or external pressure to turn the experience into more than a satisfying moment. Who knew? It still feels weird but a girl could definitely get used to this.