Thursday, December 01, 2016

More thoughts on writing and living during the apocalypse, which is not going away

This article on Flavorwire, "How Do We Comfort Ourselves When Staying Vigilant (and Anxious) Feels Like The Only Responsible Option?," really spoke to me. Three-plus weeks into the Upside Down, I'm still mostly unable to concentrate on anything but scouring Twitter for any sign of hopeful news (occasional!), confirmation of my worst fears (frequent!), and concrete actions I can take (quite a few, though I never feel sure they are "helping").

I've also read several articles by members of marginalized groups saying something to the effect of: "Feeling anxious and voiceless, white liberal? Welcome to my world." This is very true. It's now clear that one effect of privilege is the ability to relax on a regular basis, to assume that everything will be more or less OK in the end--because it usually is, more or less, for most of us. So now we know. And it isn't fair or reasonable to expect sympathy for the shock and sadness and weariness we suddenly feel--though solidarity is a different matter. We can bond over these feelings, and channel them into collective action.

But what does it mean if I still want to relax sometimes? Is that a slippery slope to relaxing all the time, to assuming other people are taking care of it, to deciding that my daily phone calls to Congress or my petition-signings or my donations are too-small drops in the bucket anyway, so why continue? And what about when I'm called upon to do something larger--as I now doubt will be?

Is accepting the same as "normalizing"? No, this and other articles tell me. Accepting on some level is even necessary for action. We must know something is real before we can take real steps against it. But accepting also feels scary, because it means we really can't go back; the world and life we had are truly gone. Yet, can we recover anything of that old life? And what does it mean to try to do so?

This leads me to a problem I'm having with resuming my writing. My basic assumptions about the world I'm depicting--even if it's a not-quite-real world to begin with--have overturned. Everything now seems to require a dystopian frame, an overarching totalitarian menace above and beyond, say, the standard dysfunctional family or workplace. Something like the Eye of Sauron, perhaps, or Nazi Germany. Raise your hand if The Man in the High Castle now looks completely different than when you first watched it.

So in addition to not really feeling like writing (though I am getting there), I don't yet know how to write in this new (to me) world. But part of accepting--and not normalizing--means learning to do that.