Hope and Change and Fear and Cynicism

Note: When I opened the Word doc I type my blog posts in – never underestimate my laziness when it comes to capitalization – I was planning to write a post about hope, and the fear that accompanies and sometimes stifles it. And I am still going to write that post, but it may have a different, even more personally-reflective tone, now that opening the doc has prompted me to read the last post it contained, about moving the goalpost on myself and all the fear and anxiety that this second book holds for me. But let’s start at the beginning, or, at least, the beginning I laid out in the middle of the night when I couldn’t sleep.

Yesterday was an election day for much of the U.S. You might have seen my response to the most recent election we had, and sadly, in the past year, things have only gotten worse. Trump’s appointees have come from ever-deeper parts of the dank cave that is radicalized conservatism; the Tweeter-in-Chief has made multiple attempts (all blocked, so far) to ban Muslims from entering the country, trans people from serving in our military, and American citizens from having equal access to healthcare; white supremacists, emboldened by our hideous new government, have marched in the streets and killed those who oppose them. And that’s just the political news (and not even the half of it)! It’s been a pretty awful year.

But then, yesterday, so much changed. Virginia went from red to blue, electing a democratic governor over an overtly racist republican. New Jersey did the same, replacing Chris Christie. The self-described ‘Homophobe-in-Chief’ of 26 years (the author of the trans-phobic bathroom bill) was replaced in Virginia by a trans woman – poetic justice if ever there was such a thing. Women and people of color and different faiths won small elections all over the country. No, we didn’t win any house seats or get a chance to shift the senate, but for the first election after Trump it was a resounding win, and all over social media and the news (everyone besides Fox) there’s a common thread of excitement and hope – something most of us haven’t felt since mid-2016.

And I…well, I’m very excited, thrilled, even, but you know how they say some smiles don’t reach your eyes? Yeah, this hope hasn’t reached my heart. I think I’ve been too beaten down by all the hate we’ve seen in the past 18 months…but it also might just be me.

See, hope requires vulnerability, and while that’s my bag in so many ways (see: memoirist) it’s also something of which I never knew I could have finite reserves. But lately I can feel myself running on fumes; there’s just so much going on in my life that requires hope to fight against all the fear and cynicism that’s accumulated in my heart. Political hideousness is only part of it – the personal makes up the majority.

I met a man, and gave him what was left of my heart; he’s been helping me reassemble it, and that’s been refilling my hope tank, but now we’re engaged and I while it’s exactly what I wanted I also find the old fear has fattened its ranks. I finished my second book, and the hope swelled, but then I didn’t get an offer of representation from one of the first two agents I queried (yes, I’m telling you this because I see exactly how stupid it is) and the fear and cynicism overpowered it. I’ve spent most of a year doing yoga every day, and while my body feels better for it I also haven’t seen any shift of the extra weight I put on while teaching (and I also beat myself up for wanting to see a shift, because what the hell is the point of anything if I can’t accept myself?); I moved to Bellingham, eager to start a new life, but then a couple of months went by without any career leads for either of us and I began to imagine a scenario in which we never find jobs again and have to live in our car. And now I’ve decided to apply to do an MFA at the university here, and I’m sickened by excitement and fear (that I won’t get in/funded) in equal parts.

Some of this anxiety is based in real life: the horrendous breakup that still colors my outlook on life; the decades of body and body-image torture I and society have put me through; all the hundreds of job applications that didn’t lead to an interview and make me even more reluctant to apply for new opportunities; the MFA program I was so excited about in 2014, from which I was rejected because I already have a British MA and they wanted newbies.

But honestly, none of that evidence for cynicism is anything special – we all deal with setbacks and rejection every day. Mostly it’s about me (see again: memoirist), about my mood and how it gets into ruts. I’m working on that with my therapist, and hopefully as my circumstances shift just a little bit I’ll be able to collect more hope and jettison some of this fear. After all, it’s a new day, and there’s some pretty great stuff happening out in the world – it’s not everything, but it is a start.