I had an encounter on the way home from zumba tonight. I can’t even tell you how silly zumba feels to me now, like fiddling while Rome burns. Still I tell myself, “Now is no time to be soft in mind and body” and heave myself in the direction of the gym. And then the whole time I’m doing light-hearted dance moves I’m thinking, “Later we’ll see ourselves as naive in these days. I guess this is our life now. Trying to preserve something of the U.S. from creeping autocracy. Trying to keep autocracy to a creep.”

At the end of summer, in sunnier times in these United States, I was walking down the street in my neighborhood in something that could only be described as a get-up. It was layers, and flouncy, and competing patterns.

I heard a cheery voice call out “Great eye for color!” and looked down to see a wizened, nearly toothless man in a heap of colorful rags, sitting cross-legged on the sidewalk and smiling at me. He seemed to be genuinely hailing me as one aesthete to another.

Tonight I saw him outside the drugstore. He asked me for a quarter because he wanted to buy a bottle of nail polish for his artwork. He had a feathery staff and a woven, feathery hat. No one would doubt that he really did need nail polish for an art project. So I gave him six bucks, which was all the cash I had on me.img_2742

In exchange, he gave me a card-sized print of a piece of artwork, and told me about himself. “I’m an artist,” he said, “but I have no patience for the academy. I would rather live in quietude in the woods than surround myself with rich people and their rabble.” He had dirt-blackened fingernails, fingerless gloves, and he swished his hands around artily while he talked. He smelled like tobacco and unwashed human. The card was a color photocopy pasted to a magazine cover for stiffness.

It wasn’t until I got home that I saw the words he’d written down in one corner: It’s better to die on your feet than to live on your knees.

And underneath that… arbeit macht frei.

(A gate at Auschwitz. It means “work sets you free.”)

Shrugging off the Mope

Some conclusions after Saturday’s shlumpy behavior:

  1. You can do all the actions without reading every headline and feeling every feeling.
  2. It’s going to be a long 4 years so preserve your strength.
  3. You deserve the blanket fort of personal okayness that exists in the present moment.
  4. You have to keep your job in order to keep tithing funds to the ACLU, NRDC, etc.
  5. In order to keep your job you need to be somewhat rested and able to focus.
  6. Pretend to be a ruthless businesswoman.
  7. Grow bigger. Get more shit more done. Apply this across your life.
  8. Leaders will emerge out of this chaos, and then we will start to feel better.
  9. More hope: the voices of Michelle and Barack come February 2017.
  10. People more scared than you (and with more reason for immediate fear) need steadying people about them.
  11. Times are sad. We’re in this together. Don’t feel so lonely.
  12. You can still feel gratitude.