Three weeks ago I slept in a vacation house with bedbugs and it was the kind of experience where I'm going back to friends who dealt with bedbugs in the past and apologizing to them for not being sufficiently sympathetic at the time. It was one of the top five most painful physical experiences I've ever had, and I'm including in that list both childbirth and the time when, as a kid, I was balancing on top of a metal bike rack and lost my balance, and fell not off the rack but on it, one leg on each side, my vulva being the part of me that caught my fall.
I was pretty sure that I managed not to bring the bedbugs home but I needed assurance--the idea of getting more bites was intolerable to me, not to mention that I have a 4 year old and a 1.5 year old and couldn't imagine them having to deal with this. A friend who'd had bedbugs recommended a service where trained dogs come and sniff your house for bugs--it's cheaper and safer than having an exterminator come and fill your house with poison. So, yesterday morning, a nice little beagle named Sherlock came to our house, sniffed all around, and proclaimed it safe. That is, probably. She is certified up to 98% effective, but I am satisfied. Finally, I'm no longer itchy, I've started putting my hundreds of dollars' worth of steroids and antihistamines and emollients and soothing bath accoutrements away and with the threat of the bugs gone, I think the worst is behind me.
It's only a coincidence, but the bedbug thing came to a head right after the election. Yeah, I was--am--one of those heartbroken people who was in shock after Trump won. As I scratched and slapped at my skin I was also sent into distraction by senses of post-election doom, anger, sadness, hopelessness, impotence and disbelief. If I'm being disgustingly realistic, the world as I know it, my actual life, probably won't change a lot in the immediate short term. But I don't find that acceptable. I have two little boys. I want them to inherit a world where, at the very least, the planet is not falling apart, where their friends that don't look or pray or love like they do are legally entitled to and are expected to receive the same treatment and rights, where the values we're trying to teach them now about being kind and thoughtful and peaceful doesn't mean they're doomed to be derided as candy-ass special snowflake delicate flowers. I mean, are we supposed to start teaching our kids to be bullies now, is that how it's going to be?
So anyway, for a week or so I wandered around my house itching and scratching and slapping at my angry roiling skin and reading the news and reading the comments on the news and just raging, grabbing my safety pins, calling my Congressmen and occasionally flinging money at charities to see if that would make me feel more in control, more optimistic. It didn't, not so much. Finally, after ending a temporary gig that required I spend a lot of time trolling the news and on social media, I decided to cut back--on social media, on stories about what might happen, on comments, on hitting the "news" button on my iPhone mindlessly to see what fresh hell was coming down the pike.
And now, I feel much better. Physically and emotionally. For the short term, I'm okay with glossing over the news and reading headlines only, trying not to get sucked into the Swamp of Sadness like Artax the horse from The Neverending Story. All that election anger and fear that accompanied my nonstop scratching and slapping and salving and bathing and doctors visits and trips to Walgreens--it's exhausting. Also exhausting? Being a working mother with two little kids. I can only take so much.
In some ways I could be accused of sticking my head in the sand but also, politically, it is useless, not to mention enervating, to flap and flail and endlessly react. We all need to rest, find some joy in life where we can, and then move forward. I'm working on a story right now about freedom of speech on college campuses and I have a new appreciation for why it's so important for us to hear those with whom we disagree. I think a lot of us, pre-election, figured "If you're not voting for my candidate I don't even want to listen to you" and for some reason that did not make everyone want to vote for our candidate! Yeah, there are a lot of loud-mouth bad-guy hate-filled people out there right now I want to punch in the nose, but not everyone in the country who didn't vote the way I did is like that. If we want to swing things back around in time, we can't just wish they all die and hope things turn out better. We're going to have to have conversations, listen, in order to get more people back to our side. Having conversations and listening doesn't mean implicit endorsement or giving in. However, I think--I hope--by now we've realized that it's very foolish and dangerous to close ourselves off and only engage with those who reflect our beliefs.
So what does this have to do with a little beagle coming over to my house to sniff around and declare it free of parasitic hell-raising bloodsuckers? Just that, with this particular chapter of bedbug-induced physical and emotional trauma being closed, I also hope a related chapter of unproductive post-election sturm und drang comes to a close, in my life anyway. I'm doing some volunteer work, political and not. I'm cherishing the professional opportunity to educate myself on large, important issues that aren't directly related to the election but are related to our rights as Americans. I'm going to let my kids drive me singly crazy instead of blending current events craziness with parenting craziness. I'm not accepting or dealing with or getting on board with shit. But I'm also not going to waste my energy if I can avoid it. I need it at home, and I'm going to need it in 2017 as well.