I have no interest in the traffic report.
Rain or shine doesn’t concern me.
It really doesn’t matter what day it is, but I ask anyway, if it gets too quiet in the room or I have stared out the window for too long. I pause to consider the obvious differences between a Sunday and a Wednesday and take great pains to appear like I’m shuffling all the important upcoming meetings and appointments in my head, relieved to come to the conclusion that there is nothing on the schedule today. I knew it anyway. The calendar is white with monotony.
I am an indifferent hostage. This comes easily when you avoid world news and never leave the house except for doctors’ appointments. Political maneuvers are lost on me. Quick scrolls through Facebook posts that warn of the world’s end is all it takes to shield myself from the coming destruction. The TV is set to QVC and marathons of Star Trek: Voyager. Commercials touting the effectiveness of window cleaners and the softness of quilted toilet paper focus my thoughts on the mundane, everyday necessities that keep us all functioning. It’s enough for me. These things are all I need: olives, cheese cubes, clean clothes, a cane, leg braces, coffee, toothpaste, yogurt, protein shakes, quilted toilet paper, medication, dogs, love. And pork rinds. Can’t forget pork rinds.
Grad school is a large part of my day and helps to keep me directed towards a larger goal. Still, ironically, education on any level, for any reason, always forces me to acknowledge the extent of my own ignorance. And every single day I question my worth. What am I going to do with a master’s degree in nursing informatics when I am handicapped and stuck at home? Maybe I can be a telemedical pioneer and bring about great change with research and inventions that will change the face of healthcare. Maybe I will be known as the Keyboard Warrior for Telemedicine, paving the way into the future for enlightened, global healthcare, all from the cushy confines of a recliner chair.
Or maybe the question is moot. How much longer will we even have healthcare? It has been nine years since I’ve watched the news on TV. The only updates I get is through Facebook when I can’t scroll through the posts quickly enough…and those are just blurs, mostly biased by the scores of liberal Democratic armchair politicians that make up the bulk of my friends list. “War, pre-existing conditions, the wall, suspected presidential treason, North Korea, big ass bombs, collusion with communism, women’s rights, gay rights, human rights…” What is right? I’m beginning to wonder if avoiding the news is doing me any good at all. The further down in the hole of denial I go, the more room I allow myself to be buried by the shit I’m running from.
I keep myself busy all day long. There are papers to write for school. There is research to do. There are constantly forms to fill out and things to sign for long-term disability and state disability. There are doctors’ appointments. There is physical therapy. There is ongoing communication with academic and financial advisors at school. There is the never-ending battle to pay off old debts and increase my credit score. There is the active process of emailing and returning calls from nursing recruiters to find a telecommuting job where I can fully utilize twenty-two years of psych nurse experience. There is studying for the Case Management certification exam in August. And weekly home visits from my vocational rehab counselor.
And windows to look out of. And struggles to appear fully engaged in casual conversations. And screams to choke back. And tears to hide. And symptoms of depression and anxiety to deny. And scrolling, and scrolling, and scrolling…
You may say what you will about social media, but Facebook has often been the singular activity that has helped me get from one minute to the next without exploding. When I took statistics last semester, it was the only thing that stopped me from taking a hammer to my laptop. Puppies, kittens, goats in pajamas, babies, funny memes, poetry, music, announcements of birthdays and anniversaries, apes on motorcycles, cursing grandmothers, lost and found pets, family pictures, zodiac characteristics, posts about love and sex and food…and MOAB, immigration, attacks on the transgender community, discrimination, racism, excerpts about the latest Trumpian fuck-up…
Sometimes I’m not able to scroll fast enough.
“Can you believe what our elected officials are doing?”
What are they doing?
It is quite obvious I haven’t been paying attention.
The news makes me sick…sick enough in the recent past that psychiatric hospitalization was required. But the problem is that it can’t be totally avoided. I can close my eyes and ears to it. I can disconnect myself from social media outlets. I can refuse to engage in conversations about it. I can put all my TVs on the burn pile. I can even sequester myself in my house with limited social contact and spend most of my time in the basement conducting the most boring research you can imagine and it will still get in. It’s in announcements on the periphery of an internet search of doctorate programs. It’s on the TV at the doctor’s office. It’s playing out in full color in front of my favorite machine at the Y. It’s on billboards. It peppers nearly every conversation overheard in restaurants, at Walmart, at the dog groomers, in the neighbor’s backyard…
The dilemma for me has always been that I can be in it all the way, or not in it at all. But what if this is no longer a choice? I take stock of the characteristics that put me in danger: I am female. I am gay. My child is transgender. I am 53. I have pre-existing conditions. I am disabled. Did closing their eyes to the political environment save the Jews from extermination? The army came anyway. But this poses another problem (and I did not learn this in high school; I did not even learn this in a general college history course…I learned this in a college course specifically about the Holocaust): The Jews didn’t close their eyes to anything. They did not blindly follow the path that led to their deaths. They fought. They had riots, resistance movements, plots. They carried out assassinations. They engaged in espionage. They led movements to overthrow government power. If ever they stepped one foot on a train bound for a concentration camp, they did so with a gun to their heads.
And yet, they were exterminated anyway.
I know some people will think it ridiculous of me to compare our political stage with Nazi Germany, but if you are a woman you won’t. If you’re black or gay or Muslim you won’t. If you’re bipolar you won’t. If you have cancer or rheumatoid arthritis you won’t. If you’re handicapped or blind you won’t. If you’re poor or old you won’t. We are the people piercing our bodies for blood so we can rub it on our cheeks to look healthy enough…to appear viable as humans worthy enough to live. We are the people running naked circles before a government committee to prove we’re able-bodied enough to work, strong enough to participate in the world market and contribute to the economy.
I honestly don’t know how anyone can bear to watch it. Most days the only thing my eyes take in are the words on my computer and the green expanse of the backyard. And goats in pajamas on Facebook. Blind, deaf or dumb, however, doesn’t stop the vibration the earth makes with the approaching onslaught.