The Masking Drain (Poem)

I am an autistic adult.
I spend all day at work masking.
When I come home, it’s a relief.
No more masking.
But all that masking means
When I get home, I melt.
I collapse from lack of energy.
I can’t do chores –
No more executive functioning.
Some days I cry.
Others I stare at my book
Or take refuge in my phone.

I am a teacher.
I spend all day wondering
How many of these kids
Feel the same way I do?
How many drain themselves
To or past their limit
Every single day
Just to fit in?
Do the neurotypical kids?
Maybe the introverts.
But the kids who are disabled
I feel sorry for.
I try not to ask too much of them.
I cringe when the teacher yells.
I see their struggles.
I know when they go home
They melt down
They have no more energy
They can’t do chores
They can’t do homework.

I am an autistic adult.
I see your disabled kids.
Do you see them?
Do you see me?

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Why Interactions With Disabled People Are Important

I am autistic, ADHD, bipolar & have depression, PTSD & anxiety. My own disabilities have not stopped me from having ableist beliefs and being uncomfortable around visibly disabled people. In fact, my ableism has contributed to a large amount of self-hate around my disabilities.

I have been around “high-functioning” (adept at masking) disabled people, primarily neurodivergent or with common mental disorders similar to my own, most of my life. However, I have spent very, very little time in the company of people with less masking ability or with physical disabilities (excepting my mom – hearing impaired and Meiniere’s Disease).

With such little personal exposure, I was uncomfortable around obviously disabled people.

I started a job as a paraeducator in a high-needs classroom in late August. Suddenly I was surrounded by students who represented both my greatest fear for myself and a source of extreme discomfort. I initially was sure I would be unable to handle it and considered quitting.

But I didn’t quit. I learned about each student’s needs, I got to know them as people, and I gradually became more comfortable with them. In two months, I have gone from slight revulsion towards these students to a deep caring for them. And it’s not just them. Instead of steering clear of people in wheelchairs or visible mental impairments, averting my gaze, I go out of my way to open/hold the door for them, smile at them, and treat them like *people,* not diseases.

The students who work with my kids do the same thing.

Isolating disabled people doesn’t just hurt them – it does EVERYONE a huge disservice. Integrating them into gen ed classrooms, even just for electives, makes a huge difference. Making accommodations for them in the workplace is absolutely worthwhile.

I’m so grateful I didn’t just give up on my kids. I know that I can be a powerful advocate for them and I am doing my best.

I hope that, if you feel a similar discomfort, you’ll examine why – and consider how you can be a better community member to disabled people around you.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Facing Down Mental Health Stigma

A short story about mental illness and medication stigma.

I don’t remember when my mood instability really became an issue. I know it was by the time I was a preteen, but it might have started before that. My depression got really bad by the time I was in double digits, and I was suicidal when I was 12. I tried to act on it but chickened out when I was 14. Against my vehement objections, I was put on antidepressants, which helped – a bit. My mood was still volatile and I was a nightmare to live with.

It seemed to be cyclical and linked to my menstrual cycle, so at age 16 I voluntarily went on the pill and stopped getting my period regularly. Again, it helped somewhat. I was still having extreme mood swings, but I didn’t have hormones adding to the problem.

My moods were still extreme, and could change in the blink of an eye. I never had stereotypical manic episodes, so no one suggested bipolar. I went through several different antidepressants, now desperate for a solution.

When I was about 20, my psychiatrist at the time suggested mood stabilizers. I balked. I was just depressed, wasn’t I, that was growing to be a common and accepted condition, I wasn’t ~crazy~. I continued to experiment with different antidepressants and new combinations, finally finding one (my current 100mg sertraline/60mg duloxatine/100mg trazodone) that mostly worked.

When I was 24 I was diagnosed with ADHD and went on guanafacine and for the first time, I could get my scattered thoughts under control. This, too, was voluntary – I was familiar and comfortable with ADHD and medications for it. But still, my moods were volatile. We were now in lockdown and I wasn’t tutoring and my home life was a mess and I’d just dropped out of law school and I became emotionally dependent on my then-girlfriend and had meltdowns and ended up pushing her away even as I clung ever tighter. Then she broke up with me and kicked me out of the home we’d made together and I attempted suicide and went to inpatient for the second time in a few months.

There, in inpatient, my life a mess, need for answers finally outweighing social stigma, I was evaluated for and diagnosed with bipolar and borderline personality disorder. I was put on mood stabilizers. They waited for the medications to kick in, and sent me home.

I have accepted the medications and the bipolar diagnosis. I’m skeptical about BPD and disinclined to embrace it, both because of the stigma and out of a reluctance to fall into a self-fulfilling prophecy based around the statistics associated with the disorder.
Tomorrow is a year since I went to inpatient. My moods are mostly stable and I’ve been on the same meditation (500mg naltrexone) for most of the year. I’m getting my life together, somehow. I have my cat and a job and two girlfriends and savings and a plan to move out over the summer if not sooner, and I’ve paid off my car.

All I can wonder is, how different would my life be now if I had started on mood stabilizers five years ago? If I had been recognized as bipolar as a teenager, when my symptoms first appeared?

I share all this because stigma around mental illness and medications is why I refused medications and why I didn’t pursue a bipolar diagnosis much earlier. My manic episodes are masked by my post-viral chronic fatigue issues; I’m simply not capable of the typical high energy mania. Awareness of these kinds of comorbidities is about to become an even bigger issue as long-haul COVID diagnoses spike.

I hope my story helps someone, somewhere, get the earlier diagnosis, the earlier and more appropriate treatment, that they need.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Identity Introspections

I am a queer, Jewish, autistic, disabled, gifted woman.
There is a lot to each of those identities, and I have unpacked some of them in previous blog posts. Each one of them shapes how I experience the world, but they also change how people perceive me.

Being queer isn’t a big deal in the Seattle area, but being a cisgender femme lesbian means I am not always seen as “queer enough,” and so I have been witness to the so-called Oppression Olympics. Just because I “pass” as straight doesn’t mean I haven’t experienced oppression, but that doesn’t seem to matter. My experiences in the queer community have been mixed, and my interactions one-on-one with queer people even more so; some have been great and welcoming, while others have judged me for my privilege, real or perceived. For a group that has fought so hard for inclusion and equality, the exclusivity and hierarchy I have seen and experienced was wholly unexpected.
Growing up in rural southern Oregon, being

Jewish meant I was excluded from the area homeschool groups (all Christian) and I couldn’t always find matzo or latke mix at the grocery store. People asked to see our horns when they found out we were Jews. Now it means that I am assumed to be pro-Israel and pro-Netanyahu, and I find myself having to defend the existance of the only Jewish country on the planet and explain the problems with BDS and other anti-Israel actions. I believe Netanyahu is seriously problematic and disagree with many of his policies, but I am still proud to be Jewish – just as I am vocally anti-Trump and oppose many of his actions, but still believe in the potential of the United States as a country.
Autism is a disability only because it is misunderstood and unaccommodated. I think differently, see creative solutions to problems, and perceive the world differently. Loud noises bother me and I have trouble with auditory filtering; sometimes my communication isn’t very good and I struggle with things other people find easy. That doesn’t make me broken or damaged; it only makes me different, unusual. I have written about bullying before; I know why people treat autism like a disease. But… it’s not. I am who I am because I am autistic; and while it has certainly presented its challenges, I also have found accommodations that work for me, and I am learning where I can fit into the broader world and make a positive difference. (Autism is certainly better than dying, and it’s not caused by vaccines anyway. Vaccinate your kids!)

This is what happens with a diluted drop of peanuts or tree nuts lightly placed on my skin (no scratch, not ingested). If you can't tell... those are hives. The biggest was larger than a quarter (peanuts); the smallest was about the size of a large pinhead (almonds?).
I am disabled. I have life-threatening food allergies that place limits around places I can go, activities I can participate in, things I can do. In some places, it’s no big deal – people just say “oh, okay, let me know what we need to do.” My current workplace handled it by simply banning peanuts and tree nuts from the office. But in others… I have been excluded from activist organizations, left out of events, and on one memorable occasion a classmate deliberately gave me cake with walnut oil in an attempt to “prove” my allergies were made up for attention. (Nut oils contain very little of the proteins, so fortunately I was mostly fine. Had he put actual walnuts in the cake, I would likely have had to go to the hospital. Some people call that “attempted murder.”) Additionally, I have unidentified chronic fatigue, immune system, and gastrointestinal issues that leave me exhausted at the end of each day. Each of these things on their own would probably not be a big deal; but combined with my autism, which makes interactions more difficult, I have to be careful about managing my spoons.
Being gifted doesn’t mean you get straight A’s in school. It means, like with autism, that your brain works differently. One of the most significant differences for me is that I constantly crave new input and always want to learn new things – right up until my brain is full, at which point it needs time to digest. As a result, my to-read pile never shrinks and always includes some non-fiction books. I started college at 13 years old

because I was bored and wanted to learn more new things. I needed accommodations in college, though, and I have a long-standing struggle with perfectionism: “If I’m so smart, why can’t I ______?” Only recently have I begun to feel that I can perform to something close to my own expectations; perhaps my asynchronies are starting to even out. In the meantime, my brain is as hungry as it was five years ago – though I have at least learned some executive function skills, which is fortunate, as I am now considering law school.
I am a cisgender woman. I have grown up being treated as female; I have experienced female puberty; and I have lived with the expectations, stereotypes, and representation of women in society. Several women have been wonderful mentors to me over the years, and support me in the ways I try to support other women. Even so, I daily find myself conforming to society: smiling at strangers, interrupting less, withholding my ideas as being “less valid,” taking up less space in public, making room for men to pass me on the sidewalk. Sometimes I catch myself doing these things and immediately do the opposite, as a quiet form of rebellion. I get taken less seriously in professional settings because I am female, and I see other women (including my mom) be taken less seriously than their male counterparts or even their male staff.

I have watched Hillary Rodham Clinton – my heroine since age 11 – come within 70,000 votes of the White House, and lose to a misogynistic sexist with multiple credible sexual assault and rape allegations against him. He has proceeded to fulfill all my worst fears and more. Hate crimes are up; sexualization of women and normalization of harassment have continued. Meanwhile, we are still waiting for a woman to break the final glass ceiling.
This all is not to say “oh, woe is me, look how oppressed I am!” Rather, as I become more familiar and comfortable with who I am, I become more aware of the different lenses through which I perceive the world. My hope in sharing is to enable all of you to try on each lens and see how the world changes shape around you; and to inspire you to think about what perspectives shape your perception of the world.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

When Inner Clouds Are Real

 

DarkandDying

Grey, dark, dying…

Thinking about the world makes me sad. So many people starving without access to food, dying from lack of medical care or even simply not having access to clean water, killing each other instead of working together. Wars, constant wars; seeing a threat before our shared humanity. Environmental damage everywhere, deforestation, pollution, carbon emissions causing devastating climate change, loss of species before we even have the chance to name them. People being bullied by those in power, discrimination taking shape even in the roles played by characters in children’s books. Believing the accused over the accuser. Shaming people for their bodies, preferences, beliefs, fears, experiences. So much hate and violence and fear and hunger and pain…

 

When I am depressed, this is my train of thought. I do not struggle with self-image because of who I am, but because I can only do so much. My occasional suicidal thoughts are not “I do not deserve to live” but “I do not want to live on this planet/in this society.” 

I live with existential depression: that is, depression with existential causes. 

Existential depression is different from what most people think of as depression. I should know – I have both. “Regular” depression manifests differently from person to person; for me, it manifests as feeling hollow, empty, cold, numb. I get no pleasure from activities that ordinarily give me joy, and things that normally upset me are brushed off. Existential depression is nearly the opposite, giving me a sense of anger, urgency, intensity. I feel driven to make change, to do something, anything, to make the world I live in just a little bit more bearable. Regular depression makes me want to hide myself in a book with my cat. Talking to people close to me helps; so does talk therapy. Fighting through existential depression often spurs me to reach out to friends who are struggling, write activist blog posts, attend marches and meetings and protests, and volunteer. 

 

HopePeekingThrough

Hope peeking out of the clouds.

Highly sensitive people, which includes a large portion of the gifted population, are especially prone to existential depression. They see the world around them as flawed, and are driven to fix it. Often they feel helpless, powerless, and thus hopeless. One of the most effective treatments for existential depression, then, is to take action. It doesn’t have to be big. Write to or call your legislators. Volunteer at a shelter once a month, whether it be for homeless people or animals. Go for a walk and pick up litter around your neighborhood. Even helping a friend with a small, ordinary task – cleaning, homework, a project they’ve been working on or putting off – can be enough to overcome the darkness of existential depression. The key is to actively do something to make the world a better place, one small step at a time. 

 

Posted in Gifted, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Cat Fell Down the Rabbit Hole

Rabbit holes and I go way back. Read more here!

Exceeds Expectations Learning

When I first heard that the September GHF Blog Hop was on gifted kids and rabbit holes, I burst out laughing. Then I headed towards my computer, my brain already on this blog post… and then I remembered I had to go meet with a couple tutoring students, so I reversed course. I have a long history of going down rabbit holes.

As a homeschooler, rabbit holes were never a problem: If I was curious about something, I read about it. Then I read some more, and maybe watched a video or two about it. (Smartphones weren’t really a thing until I was in my late teens.) Then I went to college, and promptly earned the nickname “Hermione” for my tendency to answer all the teacher’s questions – and to raise my hand and get the class completely sidetracked with my own queries, such as when I asked my chemistry professor…

View original post 688 more words

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Helping Homework Help

Homework is a learning tool. Students may need to be guided through one, two, ten, or twenty practice problems before they understand that they are learning; but in my experience, once they can do two or three problems without guidance, they are ready to move on. When they are asked to continue doing the same few types of problems, over and over again, they often become bored. They may fail to recognize the distinction between being bored by something and being bad at something, and so decide they are bad at a subject they have become bored with.

Homework

Homework is not a teaching tool. Students need guidance before they are ready to work on their own. Giving them homework when they have not been taught how to do it, or without first leading them through similar problems, causes frustration when they are then told to do the problems on their own. If this scenario happens often, the student may become convinced that they are stupid, or bad at the subject.

Boredom and frustration are the two most common obstacles to learning I encounter as a tutor, and they often go hand-in-hand. Bored students may tune out the teacher, and then miss something important for future homework or classes; then, when they discover that they haven’t learned something, they become frustrated. If a student is already confused or frustrated, they might be unable to follow what the teacher is saying, and so become bored.

The problems around homework, then, are twofold. On the one hand, the amount of homework assigned generally far exceeds the amount needed to reinforce the topic, causing boredom. On the other hand, the student often does not have a full working understanding of part or all of the assignment, causing frustration. In both cases, the student often decides they are bad at the subject.

Homework2Once students have adopted the mindset that they are bad at a subject, it can form a mental block that is difficult to move past alone. Parents and tutors can help a student work past that mindset and set reasonable self-expectations. They can also fill the gaps, taking students through practice problems until they are ready to move on. The one-on-one support provided helps build positive relationships as well, giving the individual attention needed to keep a student on track and encouraging student success instead of tearing down self-esteem.

Once students have adopted the mindset that they are bad at a subject, it can form a mental block that is difficult to move past alone. Parents and tutors can help a student work past that mindset and set reasonable self-expectations. They can also fill the gaps, taking students through practice problems until they are ready to move on. The one-on-one support provided helps build positive relationships as well, giving the individual attention needed to keep a student on track and encouraging student success instead of tearing down self-esteem.

An important note: don’t blame the teacher for setting too much homework. They may not have a choice in the curriculum they use or the pace they set. If you’re concerned, talk to the teacher and see how you, the parent, can work with the teacher to support your student. Parents and teachers – and tutors – should be part of a team, and good team members work together.

Posted in Education | 2 Comments

[Book Review] Writing Your Own Script: Struggling and Succeeding in Socializing

I last reviewed this book in November 2015. However, my perspective has changed significantly, and I wanted to revisit it.

Finding and making friends has always been really hard for me. My constant refrain as a child was “I don’t want to make new friends, I like the ones I have.” Even after an interstate move when I was ten, I tried to force my old friendships to stay the same as they had always been; I refused to make the effort to meet new people and make new friends. But, of course, that didn’t work in the long run: We grew apart, the distance made it hard to see each other, and after a while we didn’t really have much in common. I became lonely, and I resented my friends for changing – not realizing how much I, too, had changed. The problem, of course, is that friendships aren’t static – people change, move, grow apart, get into arguments… we are, after all, only human. Recognizing and accepting that was one of the hardest lessons I had to learn.

Once I entered college, I at least made an effort to make friends with my classmates, but I didn’t really know how. I had essentially been born into a friend circle, spending time with the other smart, quirky kids of the software engineers who inhabited the Silicon Valley in the late 1990s. Thus, as a small child, I didn’t have to work very hard to make new friends: I just played with the kids who got dropped off at my house, or whose house I got dropped off at. I also looked very much like the thirteen-year-old I was when I entered college, and that was likely off-putting for some of the classmates I approached and tried to talk to. As a result, the years after I moved to a small, rural, anti-intellectual community were filled with loneliness – and bewilderment, because why did I seem to be so different from the other kids at the various homeschool groups I attended? Why didn’t the other kids want to talk to me? What was wrong with me?

Writing Your Own Script, by Corin Barsily Goodwin and Mika Gustavson, MFT (co-authors of Making The Choice: When Typical School Doesn’t Fit Your Atypical Child), was the answer to those questions, and illuminated for me the efforts my mom went to for me all those years. There is nothing wrong with me. The other kids didn’t want to talk to me because I was different. I am twice-exceptional (2e) – gifted with other exceptionalities (in my case, ASD, SPD, APD, food allergies, and a variety of health complications). My brain is qualitatively and quantitatively different from those of the kids I tried to talk to – the neurotypical ones. We can even say in what ways gifted brains are different, as Corin Goodwin (one of WYOS’s authors), Sharon Duncan, Joanna Haase, and Sarah Wilson do in their Neuroscience of Giftedness article series.

Gifted brains develop differently from typical brains; and so gifted children develop differently from neurotypical children. Additionally, the more significant the deviation from the norm, the greater the gap between any two neurodivergent children. Writing Your Own Script explains why and how these differences matter, including overexcitabilities, asynchronous development, and obscure interests. Even more importantly for parents, Goodwin and Gustavson provide a guide for supporting gifted children in their social development.

Friendship for gifted children doesn’t always look like friendship between neurotypical kids. The adjective I have heard most often used to describe gifted people is intense. This applies to friendship as well. When other kids are looking for “play partners” with whom to share toys and play, gifted kids may already be seeking conversation partners; the other children may shun the “weirdo” who tries to talk to them about books, the history of fashion, or astrophysics. Finding people with whom your child can engage in those conversations can be a challenge. When I was about six, I became passionate about realistic historical reenactment. While my friends wanted to play house and be mommy and daddy, I wanted to play house and wash doll clothes by hand and have one-room schoolhouse lessons. As a result, the other kids rarely wanted to play with me – but my mom (after being rejected by several people) found a sewing teacher who could and would hold a detailed discussion of the effects of corsets on women’s physiology with a seven-year-old.

CamilleMeHSC Many gifted kids find that they get along better with older kids or adults, and so develop close relationships with teachers and mentors while having few friends their own age. Alternatively, they may become good friends with another kid their age who shares their interests through online classes or summer camps, and stay in touch via email or other online platforms. These friendships are valuable, and should not be discounted; what Goodwin and Gustavson don’t touch on, though, is the sorrow kids may feel at missing out on what they may perceive as important experiences for their age: sleepovers, birthday parties, dances, and other in-person social activities. While there is little parents can do to fill in those gaps, they should recognize the validity of their child’s feelings of missing out, and provide what emotional and other support they can.

Friendship does not automatically happen just because two people with similar interests are put together, however. While many people seem to pick up on social cues intuitively, gifted kids are not “many people.” Appropriate behavior, theory of mind, and social interactions can seem a mystery or a maze of pitfalls for the gifted child, and left to their own devices, they can be their own worst enemy when trying to make friends. The parent’s role, then, is not simply to find potential friends – they may also need to act as a guide or coach, explaining the unwritten rules of social interactions and providing insight into other people’s thoughts, feelings, and perceptions.

I was born in 1996. When I moved states in 2006, most of my friends had one or two desktop computers in their house; even if they had email, they didn’t check it very often. I got my first laptop about two years later; most of my friends didn’t have those yet. Facebook was just taking off as I started college in 2009. I made a few friends online, in the FooPets discussion forums, during those years – all of them significantly older than me. Since then, I have made friends through college, grad school, and volunteering; I’ve turned 21 and can now go to bars, though mostly I just go for trivia nights (I’m terrible at most pop culture questions, but have won every Harry Potter trivia night I’ve gone to). Some of the best friends I’ve made I met through (what are supposed to be) dating apps – where I get to chat with and get to know them before meeting in person.

I started teaching for GHF Online in 2015 and became the director in 2017. I also founded my own tutoring and mentoring business, Exceeds Expectations Learning. In my work with gifted and twice-exceptional kids through these two places, I have borne witness to the enormous changes the internet has made in enabling these kids to findfriends. Many of my students exchange email addresses before the end of class; geography no longer isolates as it did when I was their age. This summer I taught a class that included students from Ontario, Canada; Maryland, U.S.; England; and China. These particular students have taken many classes with me over the last few semesters, and it has been a pure joy to watch them become friends and hear about their email exchanges.

One of the main challenges to finding friends for your gifted child (or for yourself, the gifted adult) is the feeling of looking for a specific type of needle in a haystack. Not only do you have to find a needle – another neurodivergent person – they have to be the RIGHT needle/person for a friendship to form. The internet has shrunk the world, and provided something of a search function: you can reduce the odds of finding the right people if you find the existing gifted communities. This does not make Writing Your Own Script less relevant, however. Rather, it makes it more relevant, helping you find the right people for your child and guide their social and emotional learning and growth in the way that works for them.


GHFBlogHopAugust18.jpg

This post is part of the GHF August 2018 Blog Hop, The Scoop on Gifted, Homeschooling, & Education: Our Book Reviews

Posted in Education, Gifted, Social | 2 Comments

Exceeding Expectations in Tutoring and Mentoring

I’ve known I wanted to teach since I was a little kid. My dolls were lined up for lessons; my poor brother and cousins got roped into “playing school” with me. All through college and grad school, I would watch my professors, making notes of things I would and wouldn’t do when I was a teacher.

In undergrad, I started meeting with classmates to do our homework together. Then I offered to help students in classes I’d already taken. My tutoring business began!

I have always liked working with students and helping facilitate the learning process. In particular, I enjoy getting to know the people I work with, and using analogies and Image result for Cell biology embroiderystorytelling to make concepts more relevant. A star basketball player struggling to understand the physiological impacts of increasing global temperatures understands when I ask what would happen if the temperature of the basketball court went up. A budding seamstress baffled by cell biology can more readily conceptualize protein manufacturing when it is put in terms of cloth manufacturing. Students perplexed by the relationships between pressure, volume, and temperature often get a good laugh when I phrase the idea as cold children sitting quietly huddled together versus warm kids running around taking up lots of space.

For the past 3 ½ years, I have been working with gifted and 2e kids, teaching classes through (and eventually becoming director of) GHF Online. Simultaneously, I have continued working as a tutor, independently and through agencies. Now, I am combining my online teaching experience, my tutoring work, and my expertise in gifted, 2e, and homeschooling families to launch Exceeds Expectations Learning, which provides interdisciplinary and individualized tutoring and mentoring services for students around the world!

While you don’t have to be gifted, 2e, or homeschooling to benefit from my assistance – IImage result for ghf online have lots of experience with neurotypical public and private school students, too! – those are the populations I specialize in. I offer tutoring in a diverse range of subjects, and mentoring for students pursuing their passions or on the early college track. The best part? You also don’t have to live near me! Using Skype and Zoom, we can work together whether we’re across the street or across the planet from each other.

P.S. My political beliefs are my own and are not in any way reflected in my professional life. If you have questions, feel free to contact me at exceedsexpectationslearning@gmail.com.

Posted in Education, Gifted, Science | 1 Comment

Since the Impossible Happened

I never expected this to happen. I never thought it COULD happen. And yet on November 8, 2016, my world imploded. Instead of my lifelong dream14721549_1344021028943931_237385660179562321_n.jpg of seeing the first female president, and my dream since I was 11 of having President Hillary Clinton, I watched helplessly as a man who represented everything I hated, feared, and loathed because president of the United States of America. It has been almost a year and a half since that fateful night, and I am no closer to comprehending it now than I was then. I have not yet truly mourned what has been lost, because I have not yet been able to integrate this external reality into my personal truth.

KeepoffmyFacts

History had a path to follow. Hillary was supposed to win. She would give her victory speech in a white pantsuit, and Bill would beam with pride. She would appoint Merrick Garland or someone equally qualified and intelligent to the Supreme Court. Tim Kaine would be a less inappropriate version of Joe Biden. Foreign relations would flourish under Hillary’s experienced hand. Common-sense gun control laws, universal healthcare, student loan relief, strong climate action, equal rights and equal pay for all, paid family leave, poverty, sexual harassment, and racial justice would all be subjects of debate in Congress. We would still have the Blue Wave and flood of new women candidates, but driven by hope, not fear.

FearIgnoranceHate.png

But… that’s not what happened. Fear fueled by ignorance turned into hate, and a man who did not even want to win, despite running a brutal campaign, is now the so-called leader of the free world. I cannot comprehend how it is possible that such an atrocious man is our president – and yet I also cannot fathom how the situation could be improved, because impeachment would give us President Pence; even if both were impeached, we would have President Ryan; and I do not believe either would be an improvement, for despite their more stable temperaments, they have the same goals as Trump, and they have far more political cunning with which to achieve them.

I used to read the news every day, scrolling through headlines and diving into commentary, reports, and analyses. The further into the Trump presidency we get, the less I am able to stomach; these days I barely open Facebook or Twitter for fear of what I will see. Knowledge is the key to resistance, but what can I do? My senators have been among the leaders of the resistance to Trump, and I have too much anxiety to make daily (or even monthly!) phone calls. I can’t travel, protests have thus far been entirely ineffective, and I don’t have money or energy to donate to a campaign. I am disabled in ways that render me powerless. All I have is my writing and my teaching.

Meanwhile, people I know are being targeted for deportation, victimized by racial profiling, terrorized for going to school, sexually harassed at work, and forced to delay or forfeit school, parenthood, travel, moving, and job changes. I am queer, female, disabled, and Jewish; attacks on these identities are on the rise. I am white, college-educated, and from a middle-class family; the privileges afforded to me by these aspects of my life are hard to perceive from within, yet ensure that I am not targeted by racism (anti-Semitism is another story) or left without a roof over my head and food in my belly.

How do we improve the lives of ourselves, our families and friends and neighbors? Will we all perish in nuclear warfare? Can we foster empathy and compassion in a society that is fueled by fear and hate? Is there hope for a better tomorrow?

What can I do?

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment