I’m sitting on a plane, flying from Tel Aviv, Israel–– after visiting my daughter, son-in-law and my beautiful 17-month-old grandson. Leaving them is always brutal. While I’m there, I lose myself in a beautiful world of baby laughter, love and endless possibility. A daily reminder of the beauty in colors, trees, birds out our window, a tiny rock that fits in his perfect palm. When I leave, it’s like taking all that joy I’m feeling and having it ripped away. Stop. I know it isn’t actually ripped away. Don’t write to me and tell me that. I know. But it feels that way. For weeks I see this little boy, who has become the light of our life, and we bond and build something… and I take in all of his amazingness–– watch him take things in, and figure them out; watch him laugh at what he finds funny; it’s magic, just being with him. And then, I have to leave, and I know he will wake up from his next nap and wonder where I went. And there’s no explanation that he will understand or get. I will get on that plane and be taken further and further from him, until we can spend time again. And I know I will miss him so very much that it is a constant ache. I’ll have to be happy with Skype again. But it’s not the same. (Sorry, no pictures allowed)
This time, I was leaving in time to attend the Women’s March on Washington. I’ve been planning and waiting to do this for weeks; I have good friends, from high school, who are meeting me there. I have other dear friends, from all over the US, who are heading there too. I knew I’d have to leave my beautiful boy, and his parents to do this; I knew it would be hard. But I believe in this. I have felt so shaken, so shocked, so incredibly horrified, for many, many months, but it was clinched on Election Day, when the brief hope I felt was crushed. Crushed is not an over-statement. I haven’t cleared my head since. I haven’t really slept well, and each day, when I wake up and hear something about the state of things, I am dragged right back into that dark reality.
It’s not just that I think Donald Trump is a horrible person–– I do, with no hesitation or doubt, but far more troubling is the realization that there are so many people in our country who don’t care about the horrible things he has said or done, and who add fuel to that bonfire. They roast marshmallows ‘round the pain and humiliation of others. Each time Trump said something that I thought had crossed some line, that would require an accounting for: suggesting all Mexicans are criminals, and more incredibly that a wall should be build to divide us (can you even imagine if Canada said the same of us? I wouldn’t blame them); that women can be judged as fat, or ugly, or there for the taking– grabbed for that matter; that all of the brilliant scientists who have committed their lives to studying our fragile planet, but this arrogant man knows better than them–– each time, I thought “well that will wake people up,” things were back to usual, but with another piece of my faith shaken… Man, I am just repeating myself. I am just saying what everyone who feels like this is saying. But these are the things that make sleep hard.
And because this is a stream of conscious grief, I want to clarify: it’s not about whether I think Donald Trump will be as destructive as I’ve imagined, or as so many more intelligent people than me have speculated; I’ve seen other scary things come and go. I know we are a nation that has overcome, and that continues to overcome–– racism, prejudice, inequality, destruction of our Earth–– not always fast enough, not always the right way, but I hold onto the belief that we are capable. If Donald Trump is as destructive as I believe he is, then Americans will call him out. But for now, it feels bleak, and scary, and… hopeless, some days. On a very deep level, there have been moments when I’ve felt broken, by what feels like so much insanity.
So I was inspired when I heard about the March. I felt like there were others, and there was a place for my passion, shock, and angst. That word, angst, seems silly, but if you look it up, it’s exactly what I’ve felt. I was inspired and excited; I’ve been waiting and planning for this March. I wrote about it; I shared it with others; I’ve channeled my passion in that direction, to stave off hopelessness. I left that beautiful boy early, so that I could go to Washington, DC and stand beside so many other disillusioned and shaken people, who want to stand up and express these things. I wanted to be part of something bigger than my angst. I want to feel the light and love of those people who are willing to stand and say: NO, this is not acceptable. This is not what we are.
I got to the airport, sad to be leaving the lights of my life, energized to do something bigger, and my flight was delayed by 90 minutes. Ninety critical minutes, thrown in my face, after weeks of waiting. The airlines, in their concern for my ability to make the connection, rescheduled me on a flight tomorrow; they assured me that I’ll arrive in Washington, DC by 9:30 the day of the March. The March starts at 10am. And as I finally departed Israel, watching the city below me move off–– knowing that my joy is temporarily ripped from me, and my passion is now delayed, that I am thwarted, I feel such grief. I feel so alone, on this plane full of people, knowing that in a time zone that I’m moving toward, a man who represents everything I’ve spent my life believing was wrong, will represent the country I love.
I have my headphones on. I’m listening to music that means something to me, played in a random order. But right now, This Must Be The Place by the Talking Heads, a song that always brings my children’s faces to me and feels like… home–– right now, it crushes me. I’m surrounded by hundreds of strangers, wondering how many of them hate Mexicans; and don’t trust Blacks; and think that as a woman, I am less; and believe that our Earth is a limited source of whatever makes them rich; and that all Muslims are terrorists; and that Donald Trump will really make us Great Again. And I’m horrified at what that Great might look like, if it means all of these other things. One of my very favorite songs, Peter, Paul & Mary’s The Kid comes on. None of the music feels random today. Of the several hundred songs in my library, why these ones? The Kid has always seemed written for me, but in these moments of grief, it only makes me feel naïve and foolish, even as the beautiful vocals remind me of all that I believe in: I’m the kid who has this habit of dreaming. Sometimes gets me in trouble too. But the truth is, I cold no more stop dreaming, than I could make them all come true.
More music mocking me: Eddie Vedder, Society; Aimee Mann, One; Beethoven; Sia, Breathe Me; Joan Baez, Diamonds and Rust (the original, really!?), and Peter Gabriel, In Your Eyes and I Grieve, back to back. I have tons of dance songs, and happy tunes in my library. Really, I do. Stupid “random” setting.
For these hours and hours, where all that is waiting when I land is suspended, the grief washes over me. I can’t shut it out. When I arrive in Toronto, I’ll run through the airport. My 53-year-old, out of shape legs will burn. I’ll hope that my original flight to DC is still there–– that the weather that has thwarted me today, will have held up that flight too. I’ll run to the Canada Airlines desk and fight to get back on the original flight. If it’s gone, I’ll make my way to a hotel near the airport, and not sleep well, because jet lag and restlessness will thwart me further. For these hours, flying high above the dark Atlantic, this is my conscious stream of grief.
But if I don’t make my connection, then tomorrow I’ll be at the airport by 5am, and I’ll make my way to the March when I land in DC… at whatever point it’s marching. I will try to find my friends, who are also coming from all over, for this. I’ll play music that fires me up. I’ll remember what is important to me. I will March, and I’ll re-channel all of this grief into a mighty NO, THIS IS NOT ACCEPTABLE TO ME. THIS IS NOT WHO WE ARE! THIS IS MY AMERICA TOO.
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