Day 42. Follow the Witches
The recount failed to stop him, the Electoral College raised our hopes, but the darkness of his presidency continues to descend. What can we do with the ache of it, the anger, the grief and the fear? Follow the witches! Go to the ocean, the plain, the mountain, a place where you can watch the sun set into the longest night. Sing to it, cry to it, whisper to it, dance before it, ask it to return to help us through the darkening paths ahead. And then watch it rise tomorrow, climbing just a little higher, staying just a little longer each following day. The great wheel has been turning since the beginning and it will not stop now. Nor will we.
Day 43. The Dollar and the Penny
The dollar is the sun rising after the longest darkest night. The penny has dyed orange hair and is a mean-spirited bully. Happy Solstice to all!
Day 44. A Piece of Hose, a Pair of Gloves and a Telephone Book
How to release the anger, frustration, grief and fear which are lodged in our bodies, flooding our dreams and our interactions with one another? In the years before HIV medications arrived and the dying wouldn’t stop, I attended an Elizabeth Kubler-Ross workshop in San Francisco. I arrived late to find the group, mostly men with AIDS, sitting around a mattress. The facilitator was finishing her opening remarks and asked me to kneel on the mattress; she asked me to put on some gloves before handing me a piece of garden hose. “Hit that,” she said, pointing at a telephone book laying on the mattress. I stared at her. “Just hit the book,” she whispered, “and say no!” I began slowly, but quickly I was screaming, tears pouring out, snot running down my shirt; “No! No! No! No!” over and over again. When I was done I felt incredibly open and lighter; I was able to continue working on the AIDS unit for another year. We need to find ways now to scream it out, cry it out, get it out, over and over and over, until we are emptied, and thus prepare for the big work that is coming.
Day 45. Go together
As the year winds down and our work in the next becomes clearer, we need to increasingly find ways to meet, to reassure, to brainstorm and console. Be open to all the possibilities. Remember the old adage: “If you need to go quickly, go alone. But if you want to go far, go together.”
Day 47. See Nurse Before Entering
We survived the longest night and forced holiday encounters with Trump voters, but January looms with the departure of the Obamas and the installation of His Awfulness. I’m being encouraged to expect the unexpected and I will. I remember a patient on the AIDS unit whose mother arrived too late; she was travelling by bus because she was afraid of flying, but he died before she could get to San Francisco. We put a sign on his door, “See nurse before entering.” When she arrived, a doctor took her into the room and sat with her and the body; we could hear her cries. Afterwards, she walked down to the visitor’s lounge. Ricky, already homeless and only 18, was on the couch watching tv; he was the youngest patient with AIDS I’d ever met. The mom sat down next to him and they began to talk. After a few hours she left, but she returned the next day and the day after that. By the end of the week, funds had been raised for two airline tickets. Ricky had assured her that flying was safe and she was taking him home.
Day 50. The Year That Will Not Die
A friend says this is the year that won’t stop taking and I can feel it too, a deep sadness, like more than just the year is ending. When I worked on the AIDS ward, I had a constant heaviness in the center of my chest; it was always there and it was difficult to know what to do, what to say, where to go. Sometimes, when patients were feeling it too, we’d go upstairs to the unit directly above: Labor and Delivery. We’d stand outside the nursery window and watch the new arrivals. Years later, when AIDS finally came into my house and Bob had only a few months left, my nephew Tommy was born. We drove out to the East Bay so Bob could cradle him in his arms. On the way home Bob wept so deeply. “What is it?” I asked. “I wanted to hold someone,” he said, “who has just come from where I am going.”
Day 52. Back into the closet
It’s been 52 days since the election and the year is almost done. Donald is bringing his racism, sexism, xenophobia and homophobia to the White House; it’s all too much to comprehend. It leaves no other choice but to go back into the closet. Somewhere in mine are my old activist tee-shirts, left-over sign-making materials and my hiking boots. When I marched in the sixties I wore a size 15 boot. After I got Rolfed in 1981 I went to a 16. And now that I’ve had my knees replaced, I’m up to a 17. I won’t be able to go as far or as quickly as I used to, but I’ll be there. Trump may bring out the narrow-minded hate in other people, but he’s bringing out the best in me. See you in the streets!