This is not a poem. It’s personal, but so is everything. What else could it be? If we don’t try to tell the truth, what good are we?
I need to write this down. I’m frightened. I’ve had trouble with anxiety all my life, and it has been set off big time by the election of this madman. Several people have commented about how those of us who have had troubled childhoods in which truth was hard to find may be having a very hard time with this. Yes indeed. A flat-out conservative president, like Reagan or G.W. Bush was easier to deal with because they were more or less straight-forward. I know, I know—they weren’t really, but the quality of their lying was different than trump’s. His is personal in a way that theirs wasn’t. It’s crazy-making in a way that theirs wasn’t. Iran/Contra was dreadful. The Iraq War was/is dreadful. And yet, it didn’t feel like those presidents were in fact out to make me scared. Will Daddy be drunk on my birthday this year? Can I bring a friend over on Saturday? Of course my father wasn’t out to scare me, he was just doing what he had to do to get by, to deal with his dreadful childhood and his PTSD. I know that now. But the feeling of impending doom—I never, ever knew what was going to happen—is familiar (“familiar” having to do with family).
I want the Republicans in Congress to take charge of the monster they have created, just the way I wanted Mother to take charge of Dad, to make it all better, to fix things. When I was older, I thought Mother should have done something, at least she could have been honest about Dad’s drinking, and reassured us that it was not our fault—and that even if we were “good” we wouldn’t be able to stop it. But now I know that she didn’t know any better because she didn’t have any help herself. She thought she was alone. And now, the trick is—nobody is going to take care of us. We are the ones. We are the grown-ups. We’re all adult children of alcoholics now, or adult children of something or other, but we are adults. And naming our fear, instead of pretending we’re fine, thanks, or it will be all better soon, or we’re just overreacting, is exactly what we need to do. This is scary, yes. We’re not “overreacting.” We’re not fine.
The march in Montpelier on the day after the inauguration was heartening. It is always the best thing to know that I am not alone. Maybe it’s the only thing that matters.
Yes, it makes a great deal of sense for those of us who had difficult childhoods to be desperately anxious now. And maybe those of us who know the roots of that kind of anxiety can be of service to others for whom anxiety is new, or only occasional. It’s only anxiety. And even if it is rooted in reality—yes, there are real things to be frightened about—it needn’t cripple us.
Here’s Audre Lorde:
“and when we speak we are afraid
our words will not be heard
but when we are silent
we are still afraid
So it is better to speak
we were never meant to survive”
from “A Litany for Survival”
Read the whole poem.